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.

blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Jay , I've got you beat. I voted for a Commie from Frisco that I can't even remember the name of , when they tried to give us a choice of Skull & Bones Kerry & Bush. When Arnie pulled his bloodless coup with 25% of the vote my default position (I voted no on recall ) was ANGELINE. Who in my opinion was the perfect figure & head LOL to represent the Golden State as well as LA. I didn't vote for Gray Davis in the real election , I voted for the leader of the Hookers Union in Frisco .I forget her name but at least she was a good Union man, er , woman. I've voted for Pat Buchanan(protectionism anti-nafta) & Alan Keyes(a little strict but the smartest guy in the room when it comes to a debate) twice each . I couldn't vote for McCain a war monger & Laura Welch Bush's cousin and wasn't about to vote for Bush & Cheney's COUSIN OBAMA say what ? (on his mom's side of course) or their cousins Hucklebuck or Romney or Howard Dean. Yep ,they're all cousins and I don't mean back to Adam & Eve. The only human subgroup more inbred than the horse racing elite are the Presidents and candidates for President of the United States. LOL,but I'm not joking, you could look it up. Ask yourself why there is a rule against the P & the VP being from the same state ,but no rules about them being relatives. HUH ?(I voted for Buchanan before I knew he was those guys cousin) I vote by the Hippicratic oath system . FIRST DO NO HARM. I pride myself on my record of having never voted for someone that got more than 1. something % of the vote. Ryan, LOL. If you're the same Ryan that I've been reading since I started reading these blogs . You better find a horse trough to take a dip because your pants are on fire big fella. LOl It really doesn't matter who wins HOY as the award has no credibility anyway . Its a vote of 230 something insiders mostly from the east. Mostly that show up at the track a couple times a year. Half of whom don't bet more than a few hundred dollars a year if that. The players that make the game go are not afforded a vote. Until there is universal suffrage for the players the award will be the joke that it is presently. Its not for the best horse nor is it for the most popular horse . Its for the horse with the most connections to the 230 something. GhostZapper won because he was trained by Frankel. Simple as that . The horse raced 4 times at least 2 of which were against 3-4 horse fields of nobodies, but GZ won the BC classic . A tremendously difficult schedule .LOL. Its doubtful that he ever graced the front page of any paper save the DRF or maybe the West Texas gaZette. Meanwhile Smarty Jones was a household word and on the cover of every sports page in the country several times. Contrast that with Point Given (baffert) over TiZnow . Nearly identical situations with different outcomes. The deciding factor Frankel & Baffert. Thats why HOY is a joke. Claiborne Farm had this thing wrapped up no matter the result of the race. If Z would have won the bob they would have done what they did last year and said Blame had a tougher overall schedule.Blah Blah Blah
Jan Wineman Barrett More than 1 year ago
Happy New Years to you too Jay! Here's to a fantastic 2011!
Tom More than 1 year ago
To me, the whole Horse of the Year vote is nothing but giant strokes for the human ego. That is not meant as a slap at the Mosses...what they did to return Zenyatta for another campaign after winning the BC classic in 09 will be forever remembered and appreciated by SoCal racing fans. I am a big Zenyatta fan, but I know that Zenyatta will niether know nor care if she is voted Horse of the year. If she fails to get the award it will be no reflection whatsoever on her accomplishments on the track. Her record is there for all to see.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hey Jay, You are right on the decade thing. You are not 1 yr old on day one, it takes 365 days. And while on numbers - why would the readers of your Baron story be considerering luck of any kind with ONLY 950 words!!! 1982 was a heck of year. Nice tale, thanks as always.
The Cold Hard Truth More than 1 year ago
Do you mean that Curlin that lost to a filly going a mile and a half in the "Test of Champions"?
MaryAnn More than 1 year ago
I do hope you let your daughter influence your vote Mr. Hovdey. If I remember correctly, from another blog, she loves Zenyatta. However, the DRF voters do seem to prefer Blame. Thank you Virgil for the link to the SI Top 10 Female Racehorses of All Time. Zenyatta looked so regal in her photograph.
Virgil More than 1 year ago
Sports Illustrated Top 10 Female Racehorses of All Time: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/1011/top-10-female-race-horses-all-time/content.10.html
emkay More than 1 year ago
Right on! For whom you vote is your own business. There has been too much agonizing, soul searching, self-agrandizement, and loudly proclaimed justifications based on erroneous beliefs and half truths. As in all politics, HOY votes are are based 90% on bias and 10% on factual and not-so-factual data. It's the old saw of "my mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts!" The HOY award is supposed to be the ultimate award in thoroughbred racing. If so, it should not be based on the winner of this race or that race, race A this year but not race A next year, etc.. It should always go to the horse that has done the most to promote the sport and help build the fan base during the year. Last year that horse was indeed Rachel Alexandra, this year it is indeed Zenyatta.
Simon More than 1 year ago
News flash: the prior decade began on January 1, 2001, and ended on December 31, 2010. Remember, there was no year Zero.
Ryan More than 1 year ago
Im going to read between the lines and say that I think you voted for Blame. Congratulations, you made the right choice. On a side note, once people are no longer prisoners of the moment with regards to Z, they will or should realize she was not horse of the decade. Give me Curlin for that mark and probably a few other horses until we get to Z. And just to show I am not biased against her, I wanted her to win HOY last year.