01/18/2015 10:30AM

Watchmaker: Few surprises in Eclipse voting

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Given the finalists, I don’t think anyone could say there was even one mildly surprising winner in the 17 equine and human Eclipse Awards announced Saturday night. In a 2014 racing season that had some controversy – the running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and PETA’s unfounded allegations against Steve Asmussen, to name two matters that immediately come to mind – it is almost a relief there were no controversial outcomes in these Eclipse Awards.

However, that is not to say there weren’t some surprises in the vote totals because, in my view anyway, there were. For example, although I thought California Chrome’s body of work in 2014 was a bit better than Bayern’s and voted as such in the 3-year-old male division, I’m surprised California Chrome outpolled Bayern so easily, 193 first place votes to 56. I thought it would have been closer than that. And California Chrome’s surprisingly decisive victory in the 3-year-old male division explains why he won the Horse of the Year title as surprisingly easy as he did – 143 votes to Main Sequence’s 53.

There were a couple other categories I thought were won in surprisingly easy fashion. I voted for Javier Castellano for champion jockey, but I didn’t expect him to win by a 169-vote bulge over John Velazquez. And while I thought Main Sequence was the only acceptable outcome in the male turf division, it’s interesting he won by an overwhelming 225-vote margin over Wise Dan. I expected, incorrectly as it turned out, Wise Dan, who did win three Grade 1 races last year despite illness and injury, would receive more support than only 18 first-place votes.

Conversely, I was surprised two divisions were as close as they were. American Pharoah’s 15-vote margin of victory over Texas Red in the 2-year-old male division was a closer call than expected. I can only surmise that the 111 people who voted for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red must have had Breeders’ Cup blinkers on because that’s the only way they could have missed American Pharoah’s thrashing of Texas Red in the FrontRunner in their only meeting.

Main Sequence’s 24-vote edge over Palace Malice in the older male division also was surprisingly close. I understand Main Sequence is a turf specialist, and the older male division traditionally has been the property of main-track horses. But Wise Dan won this division in 2012 and 2013 as a turf specialist, signaling a change in the philosophy of the Eclipse Award electorate. And Main Sequence’s four Grade 1 victories in 2014 dwarfed Palace Malice’s one.

Unfortunately, there were some votes that were just downright bizarre. Look, the Eclipse Awards are an example of democracy in action, and as long as voters treat the process with the respect it deserves (a very important point), no one should be so presumptuous as to tell someone else his votes are wrong. But it is clear some voters have no respect for the process whatsoever because there were, as always, a few votes that just defy reasonable explanation. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

Living the Life finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but someone thought she still was championship worthy off her win in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters and voted for her over Filly and Mare Sprint winner Judy the Beauty in the female sprint division. Judy the Beauty took the division by 260 votes. That was the second biggest Eclipse Award vote margin behind Untapable’s unanimous selection. Yet someone thought Living the Life was better than Judy the Beauty.

That’s OK. Someone voted for Secret Circle for champion male sprinter despite the fact he did not win a race – not a single race – in 2014.

Two voters thought California Chrome’s two-length victory over Lexie Lou was better than Main Sequence’s victories in the United Nations, Sword Dancer, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Breeders’ Cup Turf and voted for him over Main Sequence in the male turf division.

Nine voters – count ’em! – concluded that Goldencents’ victories in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Pat O’Brien Stakes were champion older male material.

And then there were two single Horse of the Year votes. One voter cast his or her Horse of the Year vote for Take Charge Brandi. Before that makes you lose your lunch, note that at least Take Charge Brandi was the 2-year-old filly champion. Another voter cast a Horse of the Year vote for Adelaide, whose lone win on this continent came in the Secretariat Stakes on the Arlington Million undercard, in case you forgot, which you might have.

I have one question for that Adelaide voter. What did you do with Mr Speaker, who beat Adelaide fair and square in the Belmont Derby in their lone meeting?

steve milgats More than 1 year ago
"nine voters-count 'em!-".....What's so wrong with a track record in the Pat Obrien against a solid field and a repeat in the BC Dirt Mile?
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
The above article points out some of the problems with the Eclipse voting! It appears to me that many of those who have been given the privilege to vote care very little about it. When 15 voters did not bother to return their ballots and some abstained in different categories, that is a problem to me. Then you have those who vote for a horse who is completely unworthy (Adelaide is a great example) and those who have not bothered to learn the history of the awards to understand that the Champion Older Male/Female awards were not intended for turf horses. The people in charge of the awards need to reconsider who is permitted to vote (anyone who did not return a ballot should not receive one in the future) and they need to provide some rules so those who can't be bothered with learning the qualifications at least have a guide to follow before making their selections! Just my opinion, but it is sometimes bordering on ridiculous these days!
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
How can you announce 3 finalist for a category yet they are not the only ones who can get votes? What's the point of having 3 finalists when the 3 who are suppose to be in the final don't even add up to the top 3? Weird voting.
Ceil Rock More than 1 year ago
One voter abstained in the 3-yr-old colt division - weird.
Chas More than 1 year ago
Seeing the final vote totals and having read nothing but how close the vote will be between Chrome and Bayern, and how Main Sequence was not even being considered for Horse of the Year, what a joke this yrs. eclipse turned out to be...clearly there are those who should be replaced as voters, many examples given by Watchmaker... If this award is so prestigous than it should not be that hard to know who to vote for as performance and winning graded stakes, namely G1's, is what it is all about...not voting like a fan for your favorite horse or trainer....
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
I hope those whose bizarre votes you pointed out are ashamed enough to wake up and smell the coffee. You are correct that these types of votes show no respect for the process nor really for the horses they voted for, because it just points out the deficiencies of the merits of those horses rather than flattering them. Also, perhaps the margins of victory for Chrome were affected by the fact that he will race in 2015. No matter how anyone voted, for or against him, I think all would say that is a wonderful gift to be able to look forward to seeing Chrome this year. While I totally agree it is not anyone's right to tell someone how they should vote, might I suggest that you and/or your fellow writers get together for a piece on some suggestions of things to at least consider for voters putting together their ballot. A "guidebook" if you will that covers historical precedent, explaining the differences in how the Turf awards were conceived to honor Turf horses and that to give Turf horses an additional honor of an award traditionally reserved for main track horses is not at all fair. I do blame, at least partially, the Eclipse Committee for not clarifying this issue. It would not break with tradition of keeping the awards subjective in nature to provide a further "division" if you will of the Male/Female categories.
Marvin Keene More than 1 year ago
The Goldencents voter probably also took into account a close second to Palace Malice in the Met Mile, Bing Crosby, and Santa Anita Sprint Championship. He likely had a bias against voting a turf horse in the older male category. Palace Malice, while supurb in the first part of the year, was not there during the second. Goldencents excelled both as a sprinter and as a miler and pulled off a BC win. I don't know if I would have voted that way, but it is quite understandable.
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
You say "voter." Goldencents didn't get just one vote for older male. He received, as noted in the story, nine votes. Far less understandable, in my view.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Mike, Goldencents was a very good older horse who fell between the cracks. The multiple votes show a few voters were unhappy with this group and thought Goldencents,who danced all the dances, deserved recognition.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
I agree!
cub1fan1962 More than 1 year ago
I agree as well. Seeing that Goldencents won BC Mile back to back, gate to wire.
steve milgats More than 1 year ago
Goldencents broke the track record at 7 furlongs in the Pat O'Brien...He won the BC Dirt Mile for the second year in a row...He was nosed out by Rich Tapestry in the SA Sprint...competed in only graded stakes for the year losing to Palice Malice after a six month lay up....Whats not to like? Jay Stone was spot on.
joseantoniocc More than 1 year ago
Finally Giant s Causaway gets his first champion in USA. He's been leading sire 3 times.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
mike why surprised of the margin of votes between cc and bayern?? the turf writers unlike the 3 blind mice at santa anita,made the right descision. bayerns win in the classic was not legit and ignored by the turf writers,take out the result of the classic as it never happened and cc gets both nods.mind you i am NOT a fan of cc but what is rigfht is right
Ffm Web More than 1 year ago
In agreement here. No suprise for most racefans and handicappers. As previously mentioned on some of the previous DRF.com discussion threads; last year's BC Classic was an insignificant event in terms of a metric for determining the HOTY Championship or any Eclipse Championship for that matter. "Black Saturday" for the 3 stooges at SA. Fortunately the BC transitions to a new location where hopefully the officiating will not impact the metric of the BC Classic as a championship event.
Nick Arden More than 1 year ago
How could you not be a fan of CC?
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Exactly .Congrats to the lucky and I mean lucky betters "Bayernies"who won thier bets on Bayern and his non-DQ,but the majority of voters should and did draw a line through the Breeders Cup Classic after Bayern made a rodeo out of it.Bayern should have finished 5th in the voting for Horse Of The Year after C.C.,Main Sequence,Shared Belief,and Untapable.