01/03/2011 12:07PM

New Happy Year


It's Jan. 3, three short days and long nights into the New Year, and I have yet to fail in keeping any of the sincere and necessary resolutions that I made at the dawning of Two-Oh-One-One.

That is because I made no resolutions. Not a single one. Nor did I compile a Top Ten List of Best Things That Happened in 2010, or a Worst Things etc., as if the numbers 11 and 12 were poison, or a list of predictions for what is surely to come this year, but end up not happening at all. Neither did I inflict upon readers a transcription of my Eclipse Awards ballot, other than to assure them that in keeping with past resolutions (oops!) I did not vote in the category of Steeplechase Horse because I am not qualified, and I did not vote in the category of Apprentice Jockey because I do not think the award should exist at all. As my colleague Jay Privman noted the other day, if an apprentice jockey deserves such pomp and circumstance, why not a first-year trainer? 

I did not list my choices for Eclipse Award champions because they are my business -- unless I voted under the auspices of the National Turf Writers Association, which I do not, but in which case my votes would be published in the organization's newsletter in the name, I assume, of rigorous accountability. I am not Roman Catholic, so I am not familiar with the rules of the confessional, but I presume they are at least thinly related to those of the voting booth, to be disclosed only on a voluteer basis, and not as part of the fine print related to the privilege. In private life I pretty much wear my politics on my sleeve, when I wear sleeves, so it would be no surprise for friends and family to learn that among the candidates receiving my vote through the years, in elections both national and local, have been Edmund Muskie, Gore Vidal, John Anderson, George McGovern, Mo Udall and I think Warren Beatty, although that one might have been a protest write-in. To my knowledge, so far no one in the Turf Writers organization has been expelled or censured for his or her Eclipse Award vote, although there has been audible snickering.

Racing writers who feel the need to both publicize and agonize over their Eclipse Award votes are growing in number. As surrogates for their readers, they feel an obligation to engage in at least the semblance of dialogue -- even actual dialogue when it comes to blogs -- and for the most part, their arguments are insightful and sometimes even entertaining. My favorite this season was submitted for public sympathy by the indispensible Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier Journal, who confessed that she was voting for Blame but rooting for Zenyatta, then begged readers to assist in her therapy. The talented Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Times Picayune, a man who can make me laugh with just the tilt of a bushy eyebrow, went diligently and at length through the pros and cons of the Horse of the Year question before settling finally on Blame, when really all he had to do was report up front that for nearly half the year he's got to look Al Stall Jr. in the face.

My favorite twist came from a number of writers who declared that their hands were tied by tradition (presumably of voting for horses like Favorite Trick, Charismatic and Azeri) and that Blame was the only way they could vote and live with their consciences (a well-targeted New Year's resolution would take care of that). Then in the next breath you would read something like this: "But Zenyatta without a doubt should be declared Horse of the Decade!" Oh really? The last I checked, the first decade of the current millenium ended on midnight, Dec. 31, 2009. We're into the Terrible Tens now, gang, and have been for a year, a whole new ballgame.

The Horse of the Year ballots are cast and sealed. Wondering who won at this point is a fruitless pastime, akin to my naive musings over the gender of my first child, when this dad was much, much younger. Turns out it was never a girl, in spite of our daydreaming both ways, but always the boy who grew into the fine man he is today.