Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eclipse Awards a Chalky Affair

It was a chalky Eclipse awards last night in Miami. There were no real surprises during the evening – including Kenny Rice’s horrible jokes – leading up to the Horse of the Year coronation of Zenyatta. That moment was a surprise for me. Racing has always had an “old school” mentality and art of that mentality is that awards and champions are decided on the track. Be it a nose or nine lengths, Blame won the battle on the track and I suspected that would carry over to the vote. As close as I thought the vote would be, it really wasn’t. Blame finished with 102 votes, Goldikova with 5 but the queen smoked them all with 128.

Some takeaways for me on the evening:

- Acceptance speeches for the most part were God awful with the connections of Dubai Majesty taking the cake;

- Omar Moreno was sincere and heartfelt when he said that winning the Best Apprentice award was the best moment of his life;

- Kenny Rice needs to go. His jokes were not only flat, but in several instances sexist. I’m not easily offended (I’ve been in racing and gaming for 12 years!) but he managed to do it. Second bad year in a row, time to move on;

- The Moss’ were as gracious in victory as they were in defeat;

- Al Stall, Jr., while clearly disappointed, gave an equally gracious interview at the end of the night.

- Marylou Whitney pinning the responsibility for OTTBs on the owners was only about 40% correct. As Teresa Genaro pointed out during the Thoroughbred Times live chat during the ceremony, Breeder’s play a large role in the proliferation of horses as well (percentages were mine).

I can’t let Mrs. Whitney’s comments go untouched here. I am sure that from her perspective owners should care for their horses from birth until death, but that is easier said than done. She deals in the blue bloods. It’s not often that you’ll find a Whitney horse running in a $5,000 claiming race at Beulah Park. When you are talking about claiming horses that may change hands a dozen times over a career, they are much tougher to keep track of. While you can stipulate on a horse’s papers that you want to be contacted if the horse is going to be retired/sent to slaughter, you are also relying on the integrity of that last trainer/owner to honor your request. As hard as it is to believe, there are some unscrupulous characters running around the racetrack and the draw of money now versus maybe a few bucks later is too much for many.

Breeder’s need to step up and more minor fees need to be assessed that go to the retirement of racehorses. Hopefully the recession has stopped the practice of overbreeding racehorses. The decreasing foal crops should at least allow the supply to start running more in line with demand in a few years.

In addition, support your local retirement charity whether you are a fan, owner or just plain horse lover. So many wonderful groups exist around the country from CANTER to ReRun to Neigh Savers, Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue and even right here in Minnesota where we have the Minnesota Retired Racehorse Project. Pick your favorite and lend a hand.

Finally, there are some Blame fans that were clearly not happy with the outcome. As I mentioned yesterday, I would have voted for Zenyatta but I can certainly understand the sentiment: when you win on the track, that’s supposed to be enough. As many of Zenyatta’s other opponents have found out, against her your best is rarely enough. She is a deserving champion.

Congratulations to all the winner’s tonight. Enjoy the after party!


Sharla Sanders, Founder, The Second Race said...

I agree Ted, there is plenty of responsibility to go around for all that make their living from the race horse. I was equally happy to hear Mary Lou Whitney and Jerry Moss mention race horse retirement, it was an important platform to use (the Eclipse Awards).
Hopefully donations will be made and research will be done on race fans local retirement centers.

Sharla Sanders
The Second Race

Jessica said...

Just found you via From Racehorse to Showhorse, great post.

I think what Zenyatta had to offer was a much-needed positive face to the industry. I know (from personal experience) that not all owners/trainer/breeders are evil, but the general public still sees Eight Bells in their minds eye. Or did until that big brown mare took the stage a couple years ago.

That is her gift and her legacy.

And if the Moss's can help foster responsibility, more power to them.

I love my OTTB. He has not been easy, but he has given me more joy than I could have imagined. More headaches, too, but in the end, he is well worth it.

They are smart, athletic, and versatile horses. Not trash for slaughter.