JC / Railbird

Eclipse Awards

Perry Martin’s HOTY Speech

Perry Martin, co-owner of California Chrome, took the podium to accept the 2016 Horse of the Year award at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park on January 21, 2017. His speech is transcribed below.

We only have a few of our group up here tonight, so it’s not quite as bad as our winner’s circle pictures.

We won the older horse of the year award earlier tonight and everybody told me I did a wonderful job, so I’d just like to say, “Ditto.”

Also, when I rented this tux, I looked in the pocket, and there was this little packet of stuff in there, and it had three lines of writing on it, and the first line said, “Desiccant.”

Guy over here doesn’t know what that is.

Excuse me, sir, do you do the Beyer numbers for the Daily Racing Form?

Let me help you, the second line says silica gel. Still no clue? Now I know what the third line was for.

The third line said, “Do not eat.”

So now we know why that third line was on there. I was thinking, you know, I know babies like to put stuff in their mouths, but babies don’t know how to read, so it would be ridiculous to put that on there for them, so we know, I knew there was some segment, some segment of the population that needed that on there, and now I know it’s turf writers.

Turf writers are great. I learn a lot about myself reading the articles about me. I read at least three articles that said I had a dry sense of humor, and that’s why I had to go with a desiccant joke.

Turf writers really care about me. I can tell they care about me because they’re always asking me how I feel.

“Perry, how does it feel to win the Kentucky Derby?”

“Wonderful.”

“Perry, how does it feel to lose the Pennsylvania Derby?”

“Terrible.”

“Perry, how does it feel to win the Dubai World Cup?”

“Wonderful.”

“Perry, how does it feel to lose the Breeders’ Cup Classic?”

“Which one?”

“You pick.”

“Terrible.”

Does anybody see a pattern developing? Before I go too far — I actually have, since — you said we had a lot of time, right? — turf writers, at least three articles I read recently said that Denise and I live in Yuba City, California.

We haven’t lived in Yuba City, California since September of 2014. We moved to the beautiful, picturesque town of Alpine, Wyoming. Every morning I get up, have a coffee, look out my kitchen window, and the elk just look at me. It’s a lovely place.

But Yuba City is a special place. People ask me why we left Yuba City. Basically, the answer is, because we could.

Let me tell you about Yuba City. In 2014, Denise, me, my son Perry, Jr., and my daughter Kelly, who’s up here, we took the train to Churchill Downs, to the Kentucky Derby. People say, “Why did you take the train?”

What I do is failure analysis for the Air Force, I did a lot of crash investigation, and every night at the dinner table, I’d tell the family stories about what goes wrong with planes. So for some reason, my son won’t fly. I don’t know why that is.

So we took the train. And we were on the train — it’s an interesting story — one of our coworkers texted us a message saying you have to go to this link, there’s a story about you that the local news did.

The local news — we lived in Yuba City at the time — the local news stations were in Sacramento, California, and a lot of people in Yuba City don’t breed and own Kentucky Derby winners, or favorites for the Kentucky Derby. I don’t know why that is. But this was a unique thing, so they sent a camera crew out.

We were on our way to the Derby, on the train, and we watched this video. And here’s a reporter standing in front of our house, interviewing our neighbor.

And first thing I did was look at Denise and said, “I knew I should have mowed the lawn. I knew it.”

But the next thing I said was, you know, “They don’t seem to be able to separate us from mass murderers. Because that’s what they do for mass murderers, they send reporters to their house and they interview their neighbors. Well, people who have the favorites for the Kentucky Derby are treated the same way.”

So they rounded up our neighbor. She came out, and a reporter said, “How does it feel to live next door to the owners of the favorite for the Kentucky Derby?”

And she said, “The city of Yuba City animal control just cited me for having chickens in my backyard. If I can’t have chickens in my backyard, why can these people have a horse? That’s what I want to know.”

[Music begins playing.]

Chrome never lived in our backyard. He was at Harris Farms the whole time.

But that wasn’t enough for the camera crew. They went on their phones and they found a local hot spot, it was the Happy Viking bar. And they took the crew to the Happy Viking and interviewed everybody on the bar.

Is that music for me to get off?

Clinched?

Bill Finley:

I’ll Have Another has likely clinched Horse of the Year, but there may be an alternative to him in Joe Hirsch Turf Classic winner Point Of Entry.

I admit, I’m a little confounded that anyone thinks I’ll Have Another is a leading Horse of the Year contender, much less that he’s a lock. You have to go back to 1999 to find a Kentucky Derby winner who didn’t race past Triple Crown season named Horse of the Year, and that was Charismatic, honored:

… after a season that was so lackluster some felt no one had done enough to deserve the award. In fact, 11 voters abstained in the Horse of the Year category. Another apparent protest vote was cast for a steeplechase horse named Saluter, the winner of the four-mile Virginia Gold Cup.

This season isn’t over, but it hardly figures to end that badly. Game on Dude, Ron the Greek, Wise Dan, and Point of Entry all have strong claims to the title if any of them win their Breeders’ Cup races.

10/6/12 Addendum: Another vote for IHA as HOTY leader heading into BC. Clearly, I’m out of step. Must be my bias toward whole-year campaigns.

Odds and Ends

Is Wise Dan the best American horse in training? Sure, why not. He’s certainly one of the most versatile and interesting. You could call him freaky.

And this is a year in which there are several very good elite horses, but no standouts running historic campaigns.

The message is not that “the all-weather is a messy sandpit of intrigue and skulduggery,” but that the BHA is watching.

At Keeneland, all-weather means full fields. For the first three days of this October’s meet, the average field size is 10.8 (on both surfaces).

Of course, connections have many reasons to run at Keeneland. It’s competitive, and it draws a great crowd — that devours 6,000 pounds of bread pudding with 50 gallons of bourbon sauce per week.

[C]alls for medication transparency are not going away.” And they shouldn’t.

Racing’s economic indicators: Things are looking up.

Weekly IHA update: He’s not drowsy, like the other stallions.

Awards Speculation

Filling in the post-summer meet, pre-fall championship season lull …

Steve Haskin on the unsettled awards picture:

One thing we should all be in agreement with is that it is going to take a victory in the Classic and possibly one other race or two spectacular performances by Questing or Point of Entry to take Horse of the Year honors away from I’ll Have Another.

That should be easy. At this point, I’ll Have Another seems barely in the Horse of the Year conversation — there would have to be chaos coast-to-coast over the next eight weeks for him to be a factor — and even 3-year-old champion honors hardly seem assured — both Alpha and Dullahan are well positioned to claim the title, if either manages to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup (A)* or Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (D), and then win in the Breeders’ Cup.

*Never mind, re: Alpha and the JCGC. He’s going to Pennsylvania.

Feeling Recognized

Trainer John Shirreffs on what Zenyatta winning 2010 Horse of the Year meant:

“Historically, it was just so important that she got that credit next to her name, I think. It just stamps her as one of the elite horses,” Shirreffs said. “No matter what emotions there are, I mean I’m emotionally tied to her, but when the industry recognizes a horse as Horse of the year, that is the ultimate compliment.”

Expert Opinion

John Pricci on the DRF bloc voting Blame as Horse of the Year:

The shocking portion, however, was Daily Racing Form’s tally, a margin that looked very much like a third judge at a heavyweight title fight who was looking the other way while a battle was joined.

Joe Drape on the same subject:

Not surprising, but how un-expert. (via @raypaulick) DRF block went for Blame 38-21. How can DRF say it’s the authority on horse racing?

The argument could be made that the DRF bloc made the least shocking, most expert pick, going for a male winner of multiple Grade 1s over main track dirt with a narrow edge in speed figures (five triple digits to Zenyatta’s four) — a horse who beat the other the one time they met in the race that everyone said would decide the title (before the race was even run). They voted the dogma, which, most years, nicely aligns with what happens on track. That it didn’t this year says much more about how ultimately unsatisfying both leading HOTY contenders’ 2010 campaigns were than it does about DRF voters’ judgment.

Based on the rancorous debates of the past couple years surrounding the HOTY title, Todd Lieber argues in the Thoroughbred Times that Eclipse voters should have set criteria to guide their votes:

It would be up to others with far more knowledge and greater standing in the industry than this correspondent to determine what those criteria should be, but since I’ve raised the issue I will at least hazard a suggestion. The honor should go to the horse with the most consistent record of achievement at the highest level of racing during the year. To be sure, this will not stifle debate, but it would at least focus the questions.

Well, that’s awfully vague. How about a points system for HOTY?

Congratulations, Ramon

Ramon Dominguez’s 15-year career as a jockey has been more journeyman than money rider. Before moving his tack to New York in 2009, where he swept the leading rider title at every NYRA meet that year and scored his 4000th career win at Aqueduct last March, he dominated the mid-Atlantic circuit, only occasionally breaking through nationally, as he did when Better Talk Now won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf or Scrappy T collided with Afleet Alex at the top of the Pimlico stretch in the 2005 Preakness Stakes.

In 2010, hard work and talent not only made Dominguez one of the most consistent and capable jockeys in the game, it also made him one of the most successful, with earnings of $16,911,880 and 369 wins, including 43 stakes, five of those G1s. Last night, out-polling Garrett Gomez 124-60, Dominguez won his first Eclipse Award. Of the honor, NYRA handicapper Andy Serling said it best: “Glad to see Ramon Dominguez win the Eclipse for Jockey of the Year. People like him make me proud to work in this industry.”

More Dominguez! Here’s a Flickr gallery of the jockey, with stakes winners Better Talk Now, Gio Ponti, Haynesfield, Fabulous Strike …

More Eclipse Awards: Steve Crist counts votes, Claire Novak recaps, Bill Dwyre celebrates with Horse of the Year Zenyatta’s connections (“I’m so happy for the fans”), Foolish Pleasure lists. And even more reactions via Raceday 360 …

← Before