JC / Railbird

Eclipse Awards

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?

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