01/21/2010 3:23PM



There was a lot of bother about the fact that the announced result of the older filly and mare category in the Eclipse Awards was 231-1, with Icon Project, a darn fine mare, getting the one and Zenyatta the rest. The lone holdout was identified as being among the voters accredited by the Daily Racing Form, which of course caused a great storming of the offices in downtown Manhattan by inflamed Zenyistas. Because the culprit -- supposedly exercising his or her voting rights -- was not specifically named by NTRA spokespeople, out here in the West Coast branch office I was subjected to harsh verbal attacks in the local mall, my colleague Jay Privman had his nice new car egged (thank goodness for the rain), and Steve Andersen was refused service at his favorite pub. Furthermore, when visiting publisher Steven Crist headed home for NY after attending the awards dinner, a TSA official at LAX who happened to cash in the Breeders' Cup Classic forced him to submit not only to a full body scan, but also a stern psychological grilling and confiscation of his Swiss Army hairbrush.

Orange3 We were all ready to launch an internal office plan for enhanced interrogation (see photo at left), but then it was learned, through more conversational methods, that it was veteran editor Duke Dosik, DRF's vice-president of custom publishing, who inadvertently topped the older filly and mare selection boxes with "Icon Project" instead his intended answer. There was even a press release from the NTRA explaining how it happened (http://www.ntraracing.com/content.aspx?type=news&id=44415). We will now pause while Duke enjoys his 15 minutes of fame.

I suppose everyone feels better. But three things bother me:

--Who cares if someone might have voted for Icon Project anyway? To my mind, given the climate of controvery surrounding synthetic surfaces, there very easily could have been a voter out there who refused to consider any horse without traditional dirt form for one of the traditional main track awards, and Icon Project, a runaway winner of good races at Belmont and Saratoga, was a viable alternative once past Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet.

--What does this mean in the future if someone would like to submit a protest vote, or tab a sentimental choice? Will they be rooted out and their choices held up to similar scrutiny?

--And when will the NTRA devise a user-friendly electronic ballot that both mirrors the simplicity of the old paper ballots and eliminates the touchy quirks of so many digital forms. Dosik was guilty of a typo, on deadline, after having filled out his ballot once (with Zenyatta on top) and having the submission rejected. He was not the only voter who had to make more than one submission before a ballot was accepted.

The whole idea that there are still three voting "blocs" seems to persist as well, like a nagging infection, long after bloc voting was dropped and all votes counted on an equal basis. NTRA officials continue to issue a vote total breakdown, though, with separate sub-totals for the National Turf Writers' Association, the Daily Racing Form, and the NTRA (which includes racing secretaries and Equibase chartcallers) as if they hail from separate Balkan states. Of the three groups, only the turf writers eventually go public with who voted for whom--a prurient display of transparency, if you ask me. But the point is, either a voter is qualified to cast a vote or not qualified. If there are unqualified voters in the pool, there needs to be a way to weed them out. Public ridicule is not a good way.

The worst fallout from the whole affair, though, was the fact that in assuring the people from the NTRA he meant to vote for Zenyatta in her category, Dosik pointed to his vote for Horse of the Year as proof. It was for Zenyatta. He did not have to admit that, but now he has outed himself as an East Coast guy who voted for the California mare. Such an admission is sure to cause Duke more grief than his ballot misprint. Maybe he should have just stuck with Icon Project.