01/19/2014 12:46PM

Eclipse Award Voting, Mucho Macho Man, and the Strub


Only a few weeks ago, a sportswriter and commentator had his baseball Hall of Fame voting privileges revoked for life for giving away his vote to the website Deadspin in protest over what he called the “sanctimony” he believes currently pervades the exercise.

But no matter what you think about Dan Le Batard’s methods, at least he had a reason. You might not like or agree with his actions at all, and you might think his reason falls woefully short of justifying what he did. But Le Batard at the very least had an explanation

Unfortunately, once again this year, Eclipse Award votes were cast for which there can be no satisfactory explanation. I’m not talking about honest matters of opinion. Sure, Beholder crushed Princess of Sylmar when everything was on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. But I won’t get worked up over the fact that 42 people still voted for Princess of Sylmar over Beholder for champion 3-year-old filly because before the Breeders’ Cup, Princess of Sylmar put together a campaign that would have made her 3-year-old filly champion nine out of any other 10 years. No, I’m talking about bizarre stuff, like:

Tamarando for champion 2-year-old male. I guess the person who cast this vote was more taken with Tamarando’s win in the Del Mar Futurity and unconcerned with his third, beaten seven lengths, in the CashCall Futurity behind Shared Belief, who did get the championship.

Two voters out there were apparently so taken by Flat Out’s wins in the Cigar Mile, Suburban, and Westchester that they voted for him to be champion older male over Wise Dan, Mucho Macho Man, and Game On Dude.

Kitten’s Dumplings finished a soundly beaten ninth of 10 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but one voter thought she was more deserving of the female turf championship than Dank, who won the F&M Turf, as well as the Beverly D.

Immortal Eyes is a very cool old horse who last year as a 9-year-old won six of 10 starts. Five of those six wins came in stakes, but not one of them came in a graded stakes of any sort. Yet someone voted for him to be champion male sprinter.

How about Dance to Bristol, who finished a soundly beaten sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and New Year’s Day, upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, each receiving second place votes for Horse of the Year? How about Ria Antonia, who was placed first at 32-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and whose only other win on the year was a maiden tally at Woodbine, getting a third place vote for Horse of the Year?

There are many others I could mention, but my “favorite” was the champion older female vote for (and thus against Royal Delta) a horse named Brandys Secret. Brandys who? That’s what I said, too, so I had to go look her up.

Brandys Secret won six of 11 starts last year. All of her wins were in starter allowance or starter handicap races at Gulfstream, Keeneland, and Parx. She made only one start in a race with a name on it, that being the Claiming Crown Tiara, in which she finished a tired and soundly beaten third. But Brandys Secret won an optional claimer at Gulfstream last Friday, launching, at least for one person, yet another championship campaign.

Obviously, these are just a few isolated crackpot votes that have little impact on the overall Eclipse Award voting process. But that’s not the point. The point is, do the three blocs that comprise Eclipse Award voting – Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association – want as voters people who exhibit such disrespect for an important process?

And for the record, my Eclipse Award ballot agreed with all of Saturday night’s winners, both human and equine, with the exception of the steeplechase category. I attribute my high rate of agreement to a year when many divisions, both human and equine, were unusually clear-cut.

A few quick Saturday stakes notes:

That was a pretty sensational public workout by Mucho Macho Man in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic. I know the Dubai World Cup was mentioned as a possible target for Mucho Macho Man after Saturday’s race, and a $10 million purse has to be an enormous temptation. But selfishly, I hope he doesn’t go. I’ve always maintained that the majority of U. S. –based horses are never the same after Dubai, and I have the past performances that I think prove it. Although, in fairness, advancements in long distance shipping and the switch to a synthetic surface I think have improved the chances that U. S. horses can return from Dubai and still be effective here.

In regard to Mucho Macho Man, however, he’s a big horse who requires a lot of time between starts even when everything is going right. My fear is, if Mucho Macho Man goes to Dubai, we might not again see the Mucho Macho Man we’ve seen since last fall, if we even see him at all. And U. S. racing needs all the Mucho Macho Mans it can get.

I thought Govenor Charlie would run well in the Strub off the long layoff, and he did. The trouble for me was, Shakin It Up ran better. Shakin It Up surprised me as I had him incorrectly pegged as a closing sprinter. But even though Shakin It Up’s victory Saturday over Govenor Charlie was a decisive one, Govenor Charlie feels like the one to take going forward.