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.

Ralston Headley More than 1 year ago
Winning an eclipse award should mean the horse or the person had the best performance during that year,simply put the best of the best.however this year there was a big push for Garry Stevens and Mike Smith .I am very happy to see that good sense prevailed J Castellano got the award. When the test of the racing world see the Us horse of the year ,they must conclude it to be a joke.
mikey More than 1 year ago
They were not confused at all....they just cannot find hardly any thoroughbred to vote for...they are basically sprinters and milers....lol
JeanK More than 1 year ago
There is no criteria to define what Horse Of The Year should do to get that honor, and it is an honor. Same thing for all other championship categories. When there is no criteria, no rules and no accountability we end up with unduly votes for undeserving horses. I hope and pray one day we will have such criteria and if no horse fulfills the agreed upon criteria then there should be a no vote for that category.
Ian King More than 1 year ago
It is just as shameful to abstain like last year rather than give a honest opinion as asked by the BC! Any one who disagree with a fellow voter for honoring the fastest miler all year, who beat the best (not Dan), only let down was outside new NY is missing the point! A voter who believe all their decisions are just because of majority opinion and dismisses Flat Out as a unworthy candidate should also be question...!
Lydia Williams More than 1 year ago
Interested to know why you overlooked the dirt males in the Older Male category and went with a turf horse. Wise Dan was the best turfer. He was an excellent choice for Horse of the Year. Isn't Older Male usually an older male dirt horse and the turf horse, the best on turf? What happened these last two years? Is a 7-5-1-0 on dirt so horrible that it is no longer thought of as being championship material?
Jon Turcotte More than 1 year ago
Yes, Older Male TYPICALLY goes to dirt runners, but when the only viable dirt contenders have HUGE flaws on their records, that leaves it open to other runners. It starts at dirt routers but then trickles down to turfers, sprinters, etc. There can be no hard and fast rule. Denying Wise Dan the older male championship would have been a travesty. He was, by far, the best older male running in the country. MMM only had two decent starts, and Game on Dude won GI's against weak fields (label-only GI's) and had ZERO excuses in both the Classic and Clark. Bottom line...older dirt routers have preference but lose their place in line if that's what happens on the track.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
HUGE flaws. Wins in 3 of the 5 open GR.I 10 furlong races in the entire country. A narrow defeat to the Champion 3 yr. old while giving him 3 lbs. and running on cracked feet with plastic shoes at least one of which was slipped off 3/4s of an inch. Beating the JCGC winner that beat Wise Dan and MMM twice. At least once while wearing plastic shoes because of cracked feet. Yep HUGE flaws with ZERO excuses. ROFLMAO.
jttf More than 1 year ago
fyi...acclamation, gio ponti, and wise dan have won older male champion four out of the last five years. these horses prefer turf surfaces. please dont confuse synthetic surfaces as a dirt surface. these act more like a turf surface. game on dude only has one grade 1 victory on dirt in 2013. the eclipse awards should have a dirt and synthetic champion if there is a turf champ.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Spewing BS about synthetic being the same as turf is weak.... but okay lets run with that. In that case Game on Dude won two 10 furlong Gr. I races on turf. As well as a Gr. I 10 f race on dirt to go with two Gr. IIs and a Gr.I place on dirt. That should make him Turf Champion over a turf miler that got drubbed by Silver Max a confirmed Gr. III turf horse.
jttf More than 1 year ago
dirt horses were zero for 43 at the pro ride synthetic breeders cups in 2009 and 2010. why are you thinking that 10 furlong races are special anymore ? the last five horse of the year winners never won a 10 furlong race that year. this includes rachel, zenyatta, havre and wise dan. where have you been living the last five years ?
mikey More than 1 year ago
And therein the biggest problem in thoroughbred racing and the biggest reason for it's decline in popularity.... None are worth the label thoroughbred..... We are breeding towards speed at ever shortening distances.... It's breeding towards quarterhorses....on top of that they are bleeders and mostly unsound with ever shortening careers....You get a Wise Dan whose territory is the mile.....No one breeds for the triple crown anymore....I agree the last 5 hoty never won a open G1 at 10f or longer ON DIRT...Zenyatta did it on synthetic but for all the whining from the east...there is not a single 2 turn open G1 10 furlongs race in the east coast either....The breeding has to change cuz once the casinos pull the plug on horse racing say babye.....
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta won both years [2008, 2009 ] Midnight Lute , Informed Decision, Albertus Maximus , Furthest Land just to mention a few of the DIRT horses that won over the Pro Ride that you say no DIRT horses won over. WRONG again jttf . Time for you to try to make up some more phony stats.
jttf More than 1 year ago
this is a good example of todays society. of what happens when humans and horses are so dependant on meds.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Hello LAW ;) Still have my beautiful pic of Artax right next to Go for Wand. Hope all is well Sincerely, Rob
Ralston Headley More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan horse of the year or joke of the year. No chance against mucho macho man or will take charge .
edb More than 1 year ago
It's horse of the year. MMM had 2 wins and WTC didn't run a lick in TC races. A lick. Sorry you don't like milers
mikey More than 1 year ago
You have a point! it's HORSE of the year NOT Thoroughbred of the year!! WD is a horse...thoroughbred eh...meh....no not really....
Jon Turcotte More than 1 year ago
When you said joke of the year, you must have been looking in the mirror pal. Get a clue please. If you think that horse is a joke, you are not a fan. His last effort in the BC, after the horrific break and unusual situation he found himself in to still win, sealed his trophy. MMM and WTC lost PLENTY last year, so I'm not sure how you assume they are somehow unbeatable, especially by a horse as classy as Wise Dan.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
He's a turf miler ! The funniest thing is Mort Fink spewing the same bull this year as he did last year about WD running longer & on the main track again this year. He ain't going to run in any Gr.I 10 furlong races on any surface let alone on the main track. Za Approval & Silentio are not going to be mistaken for Game on Dude , MMM, WTC, RTG , Flat Out or any other good main track horse EVER.
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
Yet he's still HOY two years running despite your bizarre and rather obsessive hatred of him. Really, having such nasty feelings towards a horse? That's pretty sad.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
I don't hate the horse. I just said he's a turf miler. A specialist in a category that never won any of the 3 Awards he has won over the past two years previous to him being voted the Awards. That's what is bizarre .
Rosemarie Cola More than 1 year ago
I agree, Mucho Macho Man shouldn't go to Dubai, the Dubai Bounce is real! As far as Shakin It Up, I have been a big supporter from the beginning. I hope they both go on, since I hope Midnight Lute becomes a great a sire as he was a racehorse.
Lefty More than 1 year ago
Mucho Macho Man should stay in the States! It's not being selfish, it's being thoughtful and quite frankly sensible!
Sidman More than 1 year ago
Voters for these awards (and most any other similar thing) should have to attach a description of their rationale to each vote. Only by looking at the rationale, can you determine whether someone should really even have a vote. I suspect that some voters (and not just the crackpot votes) can not even lay out a rationale for their choice.... and if forced to do so may reveal illogic or bias sufficient to question their inclusion on the voter list.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Not "no" but "Hell No!" to Dubai!!!! We need Moochie here in the U.S. Thanks for saying what many of us feel, Mike. I have posted and re-posted your words and this article to my FB sphere, and if they are tempted, I'm hoping they get over it very soon. There was added a new category to the eligible Eclipse voters recently. I'm wondering if most of the wrong-headed votes you mention came from the "broadcasters" group, or was this a general typical small ill-informed group from across the spectrum of all voters.