JC / Railbird

Eclipse Awards

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 …

Zenyatta Feminista?

I’ve tried to stay away from the 2010 Horse of the Year debate. I don’t have a vote, and if I did, I might have been tempted toward the same conclusion as Alan Shuback before narrowly landing on Zenyatta as my pick for the honor. That would seem to put me on the same side of the debate as most female fans and voters. Steve Davidowitz, opening up his HOTY vote to fans for the second year in a row, reports quite a skew in the responses he’s received:

Get this: The actual tally of 147 fans that sent me E-mails and posted comments on this website was an astonishing 132 for Zenyatta and only 15 for Blame!

That imbalance of opinion similarly was skewed by the presence of so many female voters in my poll, as only 24 men voted, while 123 women participated.

The male vote was split down the middle, 12 for Blame and 12 for Zenyatta.

Looking at this another way, only three of the 123 women in my poll voted for Blame!

Turf writers’ ballots revealed so far are running along similar lines: Four of five women* have voted for Zenyatta; nine of 19 men for Blame, nine for Zenyatta.

12:00 PM Addendum: *Four of six, with Alicia Wincze casting a vote for Blame.

1/6/11 Addendum: Wow, Jennie Rees — who said she was going to vote Blame HOTY in a blog post a couple weeks ago — didn’t vote for either leading contender. “Very late in the game, I decided just to not vote in the Horse of the Year category — I made the decision not to make a decision.”

The Way It Is

Gary West on the Breeders’ Cup Classic results deciding HOTY:

Zenyatta’s 14 victories before this year, and all the goodwill and inspiration she has meted out, and all the publicity and attention she has brought to the game and all her brilliant charismatic flashes probably won’t trump what happens when the latches of the gate spring open a few minutes after sunset on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. That’s just the way it is.

If Zenyatta loses to another leading HOTY prospect, it’ll be a crisis.

Awards Trivia

Goldikova has surpassed Canford Cliffs in the running for this year’s Cartier Awards Horse of the Year. A record third win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile will clinch it, just as a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will assure Zenyatta of the Eclipse Awards Horse of the Year title. If both win, it’ll be the first time in the 20 years that the European and American awards have existed concurrently that mares are named HOTY in the same year. It’ll also be the second time in three years for both the Cartier and Eclipse awards that a female horse is named Horse of the Year. Not quite two years after Foolish Pleasure dubbed 2008 the first “Year of the Chick,” distaffers are still on a roll.

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