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Eclipse Awards (2009) final ballot on p4

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  • Eclipse Awards (2009) final ballot on p4

    Likely best to create a devoted thread to the topic of the HOTY as opposed to folks passionately rooting for one interest over another on a particular horse's thread

    For 2009's Horse of the Year the options likely will be:

    A - Gio Ponti (4-yr old colt); 2009 record: 7 4-2-0
    His starts were all Grade 1 save for the Strub Stakes which was a Grade 2; he won coast to coast with Belmont, Arlington Park and Santa Anita. Earned $2.3M this year

    B - Zenyatta (5-yr old mare); 2009 record: 5 5-0-0
    4 grade 1 races and 1 grade 2 race; save for the BCC all races against fillies/mares. All 2009 starts were on California tracks (DelMar, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita/Oak Tree); first filly/mare to win the BCC. Earned $3.3M this year

    C - Rachel Alexandra (3-yr old filly); 2009 record 8 8-0-0
    5 grade 1 races, 2 grade 2 races, 1 ungraded race; raced seven different tracks and 6 different states; defeated older males; defeated males of the same age twice; multiple historical records. Earned $2.7M this year
    Last edited by Glimmerglass; Jan. 6, 2010, 05:03 PM. Reason: finalists announced 1-6-2010

  • #2
    I LOVED the way Zenyatta beat the boys in the Breeder's Cup Classic, but I have to say that Rachel Alexandra is the clear winner. Like you indicated, she has won 8 out of 8 races over 7 different tracks. I would say Rachel is the clear winner, hands down.

    Either way. Go GIRL Power! They are both really magnificent!


    • #3

      The Eclipse Awards
      Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon the Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective divisions. The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age 5 and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.
      Voting Overview
      In voting that concluded Jan. 5, 2009, Eclipse Awards voters cast their ballots to rank the top three horses and individuals in each championship division on a 10-5-1 point system basis. This voting established the top three finalists in each division, the names of which were released on Jan. 8, 2009. Eclipse Award winners, however, were determined by first-place votes only.
      My (very subjective) vote came down to who do I think is the best of the three:

      1 - Zenyatta, IMHO breaking Personal Ensign's win record and retiring undefeated after winning the Classic was the biggest, most outstanding achievement.

      2 - Rachel Alexandra (phenomenal 3 YO filly)
      3 - Gio Ponti (4 G1's, but he lost to Zenyatta)

      It's hard to believe there are no 'dirt' males in the mix. Grass horses aren't popular choices for HOY in the States.

      It's been a great year for racing.


      • #4
        Here are two published summaries of the battle between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta for HOTY: one from the AP and the other from ESPN.

        I'm sure there will be more . . .


        • Original Poster

          A bit obvious but worth stating is that all three horses - plus Summer Bird - will all earn at least one Eclipse:

          1 - RA will win 3-yr old filly
          2 - Zenyatta will win older mare
          3 - Summer Bird will win 3-yr old male
          4 - Gio will win older Turf male

          So none are going home empty handed.

          Einstein could get older male horse just because he was run on so many different tracks, surfaces, distances, and found success.

          I'm not really keen on factoring in a lifetime - e.g. 2008 & 2009 efforts - record to garner a single year's achievement. The Hall of Fame induction is what culiminates in that recognition and Zenyatta will be a first year inductee.

          Dallas Star Telegram's Gary West has Steve Asumussen's remark:

          Contacted in New Orleans, Steve Asmussen, Rachel Alexandra’s trainer, kept to the high road, too.

          "A very deserving horse is going to win it," he said about horse racing’s highest honor. "Rachel Alexandra is incredible, and she did everything asked of her. Zenyatta is incredible, and she did everything asked of her."
          West for the record (and I believe he is an Eclipse voter) gives HOTY to Rachel Alexandra but gives huge props to Zenyatta for her win in the BCC. From Gary West:

          While Zenyatta raced exclusively in California this year, Rachel Alexandra traveled from Arkansas to Louisiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. While Zenyatta won five stakes, including four Grade I events, Rachel Alexandra won eight stakes, including five Grade I events. And, by the way, while Zenyatta defeated Summer Bird by three lengths, Rachel Alexandra beat him by six. On dirt.

          How can she not be Horse of the Year?


          • #6
            For me, I have to factor in that Zenyatta beat better older males over a longer distance while being given less weight and winning beyond the theoretical margin of that weight allowance. RA on the other hand, while obviously VERY strong at her specialist distance, was always given a substantial amount of weight by her male opponents and in at least two cases her margin of victory was less than the allowance with the second-place horses closing, and has never been pushed outside her comfort zone in either surface or distance. She's also never really had a race that was a really bad trip, whereas in the Classic Zenyatta first had to load, stand while Quality Road flipped his $#!^, unload, and reload, broke on the wrong lead, and had to go very wide from nearly last around some of the best horses in the world.

            Also a big one for me is when faced with the choice, RA's connections opted for shorter against less-prestigious (though older) male company with a bigger weight allowance rather than asking her to step outside her comfort distance and go against the best three-year-old males at a longer distance. They played it safe instead of taking a risk (and no, I don't think just the fact she ran against males is a huge risk given how overwhelmingly dominant she was against her own sex and age--it would have been poor sportsmanship after the Oaks NOT to run her against males.) In that department, even Gio Ponti wins as his owners gambled (and almost won) by taking him off the Turf for the BCC.

            So overall--Zenyatta. Bigger winnings, all GI or GII, against better male company in more challenging circumstances and proved she can win at a longer distance with less of a weight differential, and we know she can run on poly or dirt. Second to RA for being unbeatable in her specialist distance against the best three-year-olds and good older males, but points away for not either going farther, carrying more weight, or changing surfaces. Third to Gio Ponti for dominanting his division and for stepping outside his comfort zone for the Classic, but I can't imagine he'll taken many votes away from either of them. Summer Bird for best three-year-old male, and next year I'd like to see him in the Marathon--time to start glorifying distances runners and not just on the turf!

            And yes, to a certain degree, it's rewarding the connections--all RA had to do to be a total lock is either win a longer race (the Belmont, the Travers) or even show up and manage top 3 in the Classic. Jackson can gripe about the poly all he wants, but two Breeders Cups in a row with no catastrophic injuries or breakdowns is a pretty strong argument that it was NOT a bad decision for the horses. The Mosses COULD have played it safe by either retiring Zenyatta with her record intact or kept her in the Ladies' Classic as she's had so much success against her own sex and at a distance they know she can do. Instead they gambled and put her at a distance she'd never gone against a lot of the top male horses in the world. RA's connections chose the lower-risk options, Zenyatta's took chances, which IMO makes for better racing.
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            • #7
              Yes, but

              RA had already beat all the 3 yo boys in the Travers except Quality Road. She trounced Summer Bird in the Haskell. Since she had beat the males of her year, the next step up for her was to beat older males. And she did in the Woodward, something that hadn't happened before, had it? The weight allowance shouldn't factor, since every female who runs gets it.

              As to distance, Zenyatta is two years older than RA. That extra maturity can make a huge difference when you're talking about horses as large as those two. AND Zenyatta didn't run longer or against the boys until her very last race.

              One race does not a HOY make.
              "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
              Thread killer Extraordinaire


              • Original Poster

                Just my opinion but I thought the comments by Jerry Bailey on ESPN post race were out of line when he suggested that Rachel Alexandra's connections somehow ducked "the" competition by opting for the Woodward over the Travers.

                My recollection from all the press at the time was that the Woodward was chosen as no filly had won that race ever (the Travers had been won by a filly), she had already defeated several horses pointed to the Travers in her Haskell romp, and her stablemate Kensei was thought to be better suited to the Travers over the Woodward. So they tried the divide-and-conquer approach.

                I have no reservations that she would've won the Travers had she been entered.

                In terms of distance not unlike Zenyatta, who only tried the 1 1/4 distance for the 1st time in the BCC, I suspect stretching out won't be a problem for Rachel when they try it as well.


                • #9
                  Glimmer, I havent' read your take on the win by Zenyatta. If I remember, you didn't think she would win, did you?
                  Randee Beckman ~Otteridge Farm, LLC (http://on.fb.me/1iJEqvR)~ Marketing Manager - The Clothes Horse & Jennifer Oliver Equine Insurance Specialist


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by VirginiaBred View Post
                    Glimmer, I havent' read your take on the win by Zenyatta. If I remember, you didn't think she would win, did you?
                    Never rooted against her but I thought it was too tall of a task and no I didn't think she could pull it off. Frankly during the race at the top of the stretch I thought she'd never find an opening in time.

                    She unquestionably delivered on some rather high expectations and proved beyond a doubt that she could come through in the clutch. Deserving of the "Zensational" term. We were in celebration of the moment here as just as much as any household. While Gio Ponte wasn't blow away by her it was a true horse race to the finish which what I like just as much as a win by daylight and then some. I think Mike celebrated with a bit of risk too early IMHO but still he nailed the victory just fine.

                    One comment post race was most telling I think it was by Randy Moss: she appeared to be even better suited to 1 1/4 mi distance then the shorter ones she's been entered in to. If you couple that with the long standing opinion of her trainer that she actually races stronger on dirt it then opens so many "what if only they had entered her in ..." scenarios.

                    It does make you wonder why her connections didn't try - before the BCC and on a highly familiar track - a race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup this year?

                    Steve Asmussen said it right that this year a very deserving horse will win the honors of Horse of the Year.

                    If we replay the races that were "wow" unquestionably this BCC race is there but sad to say it none of the other Zenyatta wins were terribly special or memorable. All were good to very good and a win is a win. However Rachel had many races which are exceptional and would make for top replay races with 2009.

                    Kentucky Oaks - replay

                    Haskell Invitational - replay

                    Woodward Handicap - replay

                    Plus the Oaklawn and Fair Grounds races were nothing to sneeze at either. Reflecting her ability to run on muddy ground (as she did in the Oaks) and also on fast dirt.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Glimmerglass View Post
                      I have no reservations that she would've won the Travers had she been entered.
                      In terms of distance not unlike Zenyatta, who only tried the 1 1/4 distance for the 1st time in the BCC, I suspect stretching out won't be a problem for Rachel when they try it as well.
                      I disagree. She was all out to hold off a mediocre MTB in the Preakness and an average (at best ) older horse in the Woodward. An extra 1/16 to 1/8 is not going to help her. It's pretty clear based on Asmussen's strategy with her that he agrees.


                      • #12
                        What's going to be interesting is reading the criteria each voter uses to assess the candidates. I think it will come down to the value of an entire season's worth of work versus the Breeders' Cup Classic.

                        If we're looking at the full season, I think Rachel's accomplishments are more noteworthy. Look at the string of records or near-records, and the multiple historical moments. Gio Ponti's season was the second best, followed by Zenyatta's.

                        However, if you want to give extra weight to the Breeders' Cup, then Zenyatta stands out.

                        There's also the criteria of who you think would win a hypothetical race. I'm with Jay Hovdey who points out that there's no way to know who would win unless you put them on the track together, but I would probably put my money on the amazon five-year-old rather than the three-year-old.

                        What baffles me is the argument that Rachel's spots were "cherry-picked" while Zenyatta's connections took bigger risks. I'm trying to figure out how running in four of the same races she'd won last year against the same over-matched competition is at all risky. They rolled the dice by running in the BCC, and we're all grateful they did, but Zenyatta was far more protected over the course of the year than Rachel.


                        • #13
                          Zenyatta's connections took the risk when it counted--they knew to seriously contend for HOTY, they had to take a big chance. She's not had the DOMINATING margins of victory over her own sex that Rachel had. They decided to put her against the BEST males, closer to even weights, at a distance they had never tried her at, and for the first mile it really looked like they goofed.

                          RA has only run when she's given far too light an impost (it may be what's normal for a filly, but for RA, not a normal animal, it's a big-time advantage) at distances they know she likes. She has not beaten males outside the margin of that weight allowance--at even weights, she would have lost the Preakness. She almost got run down by a middle-of-the-road older male in the Woodward. She hasn't demonstrated she can go longer, and she has only beaten males when given a signifcant weight allowance. Zenyatta carried a much closer weight against better males at a longer distance and won going away.

                          Weight and distance matter where I'm sitting. Heck, that's why I will always hold Man o' War the greater horse than Secretariat. I would love to see a horse again like Phar Lap, who carried some truly staggering imposts and still won. And I wish the Breeder's Cup would move the Marathon to Saturdays and start giving it a marquee spot--1 1/4 did not USED to be a route.

                          Zenyatta this year. Let Rachel come back next year and if she can still beat the males and can do it going farther with more weight, then we can talk HOTY.
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                          • #14
                            I feel Zenyatta should get it. The reasons have been mentioned all ready. IMO I feel if RA would have run in the BC the results would have been the same. Zenyatta does what she has to and looks great doing it!
                            My horse of a lifetime!!


                            • #15
                              If I had a vote, it would go to Rachel Alexandra. Hers was the bolder campaign. However, Zenyatta is also deserving, and I won't be upset if she gets it. Great year of racing .

                              *OMGiH I Loff my Mare* and *My Saddlebred Can Do Anything Your Horse Can Do*


                              • #16
                                I watched all of her races this year, plus RA's, starting with Kentucky Oaks, and all the rest after.
                                As brilliant as RA was, she didn't give me the goose bumps that Zenyatta does.
                                As top class as Asmussen, Calvin and Jackson are, there is something truly special about the team of Mike Smith, Shirriffs and the Mosses.
                                Z's triumph Saturday was the MOST special I've seen in three decades of watching racing on TV.
                                BTW the early results of the Bloodhorse poll has Z about 60 to 40 against RA.
                                Plus RA has next year.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Tutt

                                  As brilliant as RA was, she didn't give me the goose bumps that Zenyatta does.

                                  It's probably that wild come from behind style that she has. Does it for me!
                                  Randee Beckman ~Otteridge Farm, LLC (http://on.fb.me/1iJEqvR)~ Marketing Manager - The Clothes Horse & Jennifer Oliver Equine Insurance Specialist


                                  • #18
                                    Zenyatta HOY
                                    Life is Sweet distaffer
                                    Rach 3 year old filly

                                    I have been Pro Rachel till this weekend. After seeing this performance by Zenyatta, I don't think Rachel could have beaten her. Not on this day.
                                    Z retires perfect. Rachel has another year to shine if all goes well.
                                    Yhis is the year of the girls, and the queen is Zenyatta.


                                    • #19
                                      To paraphrase my post in the other thread, I think Asmussen decided that if he won the Woodward he could sit back and they would hand him HOY. It was a good bet--the odds were definitely in his favor. The careful way in which Zenyatta was handled by her connections made a run in the BCC seem unlikely, and even if she ran she would have to win VERY impressively to unseat RA from her throne. And RA was the media darling; she had pretty much already been coronated. Unfortunately for Asmussen and RA, his gamble did not pay off.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by danceronice View Post

                                        RA has only run when she's given far too light an impost (it may be what's normal for a filly, but for RA, not a normal animal, it's a big-time advantage) at distances they know she likes. She has not beaten males outside the margin of that weight allowance--at even weights, she would have lost the Preakness. She almost got run down by a middle-of-the-road older male in the Woodward. She hasn't demonstrated she can go longer, and she has only beaten males when given a signifcant weight allowance. Zenyatta carried a much closer weight against better males at a longer distance and won going away.

                                        So the weight rules only count for little scrawny fillies? "Would have" doesn't count, remember?

                                        I hugely admire both horses. RA had the tougher year and rose to the occasion every single time. And I'm sure all of the owners of the colts RA raced against this year are glad to know they are mediocre as is being stated over and over.
                                        Seems I remember a time on this board when Mine That Bird was HARDLY considered "mediocre".
                                        We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.