01/20/2011 8:45PM

POTUS and HOTY

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How close were the last two Horse of the Year votes? Not very, when compared to the last 50 years of U.S. Presidential elections.

Here are the percentages of the popular vote garnered by the top two candidates for President of the United States (POTUS) since 1960 and Horse of the Year in 2009 and 2010, ranked by the size of the winner's margin over the runner-up. Only three Presidential elections --  Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 -- were decided by wider margins than Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Zenyatta in 2010, while the other 10 showdowns were all closer:

 

Presidential elections, as we were reminded in 2000, are decided by the electoral-college system rather than the popular vote. That was the situation with Horse of the Year as well until earlier in this decade: The winner had to win a majority of the three former voting "blocs" -- DRF, the National Turf Writers Association, and the NTRA -- and a horse theoretically could lose the popular vote but prevail by narrowly carrying two of the blocs. This was changed, properly so, to a one-person/one-vote system. (It wouldn't have made a difference in either of the last two years since Rachel Alexandra was the choice within all three groups in 2009 and Zenyatta carried two of three this year.)

Only one of the 15 elections above was truly a two-horse race: either Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta was named on all 229 ballots in 2009. Goldikova got five of this year's 235 votes, which put her in the middle of the pack of third-place finishers: