02/13/2009 12:00AM

Ginger Pop part of good feeder program


The movement to renovate the information provided Eclipse Award voters is admirable, and embarrassing. If, after 12 months of paying attention to the sport, an intelligent decision can't be made without numbers to back it up, then perhaps it is time for Eclipse Awards by decree.

There was predictable outrage over the results for champion owner, when winner Frank Stronach beat the runner-up, IEAH, by just one lousy vote. No fair, said supporters of the Alydar in this drama. The idiocracy merely pulled the lever for the name on the top of the statistical table, and the table was not complete.

If it comes to pass that the Eclipse Awards statistical package will now expand the data to give partnerships and syndicates credit for the earnings of horses in which they have less than 100 percent share, fine. More information is always better. Rest assured, though, that unless strict, transparent standards are applied, this new information will be just as effectively misinterpreted as the old.

As far as the 2008 Eclipse Awards data package was concerned, a simple turn of the page from the owners' earnings brought the voter to the table of Grade 1 races run through the end of November. In the owner column, IEAH could be found 10 times, Stronach Stable three times. That should have been enough to tip the scales, but it wasn't.

There seemed to be no parallel protest in the breeder category, where Stronach's Adena Springs won for the fifth straight year. Adena Springs got twice the votes of the runner-up, Stonerside, which bred two Breeders' Cup winners.

Stronach's breeding operation benefits from sheer numbers, and from the fact that they spread horses of potential around the market place, primarily through the Adena Springs sale of 2-year-olds each spring. One of the 2007 graduates was the filly Ginger Pop, who for the last year has been doing business in Southern California for trainer Dan Hendricks and the Thor-Bred Stable of Pavla and Erik Nygaard, who bought her for $150,000.

"It's a great way to buy horses," Hendricks said, referring to the Adena Springs sale. "They just two-minute lick 'em, and breeze them lightly, training them like you would your own. You're buying horses that you can easily come right out of the sale with and go right on. You're not surprised like you are with some of the horses coming out of the training sales."

Hendricks, of course, meant surprised in a bad way, referring to the frighteningly fast quarter-mile trials that 2-year-olds are subjected to in those springtime sales. It can be argued that if a young horse can survive a training sale, he might have a future. He might also be The Green Monkey, or worse.

Ginger Pop is a 4-year-old daughter of El Prado, descended from the female line that produced major stakes winners Mitterand and French Deputy. She is not to be confused with Ginger Punch, the older female Eclipse champion of 2007, or Ginger Brew, the Canadian female champ of 2008. This one is her very own flavor.

After finishing second in the Flawlessly Stakes last summer, Ginger Pop jumped into the Del Mar Oaks, but emerged with a bruised foot. She came roaring back in late December with a good second to Indian Blessing in the La Brea Stakes, then turned in a disappointing fourth in the El Encino.

"That was a little dull, coming out of the big race she had in the La Brea," Hendricks said. "We thought we had her right, but she could have used another week or two. When you have these races in a series, just for the age group, it's sometimes hard to pass them up."

On Sunday, Ginger Pop will run in the La Canada Stakes, completing the series for 4-year-old fillies, and facing impressive El Encino winner Life Is Sweet, who was making her first start in California for John Shirreffs.

"We've got to respect her," Hendricks declared. "But we're not scared of her."

Runaway Dancer done racing

No conversation with Dan Hendricks is complete without an update on Runaway Dancer, the 10-year-old war horse who was a player in California's best long-distance grass races for most of the past six years, winning the Murray, the Sunset, and the Burke along the way. In his most recent start, he was fifth in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 12.

"A couple weeks after that race we decided he just wasn't on top of his game," Hendricks said. "He'd been so good to us that it was time to retire."

Runaway Dancer won $852,040 in a career of 44 starts. According to Katie Kennedy, who owns Runaway Dancer with her brother, Michael Kennedy, their horse is having a grand time at a facility in the Portola Valley, not far from Stanford University, along with another stakes-winning Kennedy retiree, Hoovergotthekeys.

"Hoover plays varsity polo for Stanford, and he marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade with the San Mateo sheriffs department," Katie Kennedy said. "So who knows what Runaway will end up doing?

"A few trainers out at Golden Gate have told me we should bring Runaway back," Kennedy added. "But you hear those stories all the time - just one more race. And how many times can you retire a sound, healthy, 9-year-old? He gave us six years of director's room lunches and stakes races. All he ever asked us for was carrots."