12/14/2012 3:59PM

Hovdey: This Eclipse voter knows all the issues

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To my knowledge, there has never been any evidence of voter fraud or flagrant miscounts in the 41 Eclipse Award elections that have been held since 1971, unless you are among those of us who still maintain that Exceller was robbed blind in 1979. But never mind.

Instead, when it comes to choosing the Eclipse champions of 2012 there is more of a chance that confusion will reign rather than long lines and voter supression.

A total of 268 individuals have been sent passcodes to electronic Eclipse Award ballots this year. Whether or not all of them have active email accounts and access to working computers is a detail the voting officials presumably have taken into consideration. Voters become eligible through membership, employment, or professional attachment to either the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, the Daily Racing Form and Equibase, or the member tracks of the National Thoroughbred Racing Associations. The deadline for voting is Jan. 3.

Among the handful of new voters added to rolls this year, through her freshly minted membership in the NTWBA, is Marcie Heacox, a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared primarily in the Thoroughbred of California Magazine, which is the house organ for the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Heacox, 25, would appear to fit the profile of what it takes to get a toehold in what can be loosely described as racing journalism in the modern media universe. (For a dispassionate look at the issue, I would refer the reader to a recent piece written by Ray Paulick on the disappearance of the horse racing beat writer.)

She lives in the high desert California community of Apple Valley, a place where horses and movie stars once roamed.

“Growing up as a kid, I could see a horse farm from my house,” Heacox said. “I didn’t find out until it was already razed and being turned into tract homes that it was once a Thoroughbred farm, and they had a Big Cap winner standing there.”

It was, in fact, the Clear View Ranch of the late California owner and breeder George Warwick, and the stallion to which Heacox referred was Interco, winner of the 1984 Santa Anita Handicap.

“Now they’ve named the streets there after famous Thoroughbreds,” she noted. “Like Secretariat.”

Heacox is that classic racehorse lover from afar whose passion for the sport was hooked by televised events, leading her to do whatever it took to be close to the show. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, she worked for Hall of Fame trainers Ron McAnally and Jerry Hollendorfer, learning the horse from the ground up. This could only help, for in addition to her writing and her photography, she is rapidly becoming an accomplished equine artist. Heacox describes herself as self taught, although she has drawn the line at horseback.

“The last time I truly rode a horse was my dad’s friend’s old Arabian that hadn’t been ridden in a month,” she said. “They warmed it up quite a bit before I got on, and I started walking figure-eights in an empty lot. Then the saddle started slipping, and I fell off at a gallop, although I think I kind of halfway bailed out because I didn’t want to get my foot caught in the stirrup.”

This is quick thinking, which leads one to believe Heacox won’t have any trouble on her first Eclipse ballot figuring out who, for instance, should be the champion 3-year-old filly. Certainly the most impressive single performance of the season was Questing’s thorough dismantling of the Alabama, although there was nothing wrong with My Miss Aurelia’s stubborn pursuit of that machine called Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.

It may also help that Heacox has a judgment unimpaired by years of second-guessing and self-doubt when it comes to casting her vote for champion male turf horse of 2012, given a tough choice between the charismatic gelding who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Arlington Million, and the Woodford Reserve, or the charismatic gelding who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the Woodbine Mile, and the Shadwell Turf Mile.

“I have friends who’ve been voting for years,” Heacox said, “and they read everything in the PPs before they vote. I don’t know if all voters do that, but I think that’s what you should do. And I’ll wait to vote until the last race is run on Dec. 31.

“I’ve been complaining for years about some of the results,” she added with a laugh. “So now I get to do something about it.”

Heacox was front row center to watch a lot of the championship contenders perform at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. When she wasn’t taking notes or snapping the shutter, she was posting a regular videoblog of what she witnessed, morning and afternoon, at her website, Gallopout.com.

“It was a great opportunity being there,” she noted. “But I don’t think seeing the horses first hand makes a difference in how you vote. It’s the PPs that tell the story.”

There are, praise be, more than a few versions of Marcie Heacox coming forth despite the shrinking opportunities to translate the love of the game into food on the table. It would be a shame to lose them.

“I haven’t been able to get a full-time job since I graduated, so I’m doing as much freelance work in as many areas I can because I can do it, and I love to do it,” Heacox said. “As long as the horse racing industry is still there for me, I’ll be there.”

Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
Hey, Jay, how many Eclipse awards do you think the "Academy" has gotten right and how many wrong over the years? There can't be too many that were way off. The ones I've disagreed with have usually been ones that left room for legitimate disagreement. Josh and Steve Wise: Why not both? Why should it be the fans INSTEAD of the "pros?" Maybe the fans' choices should factor into the awards or they could have their own, special, separate category.
B More than 1 year ago
Exceller, as talented as he was and as tragic as he turned out, was not robbed of an Eclipse Award in 1979 for what he did in 1978. He just happens to be one of those great horses, much like Alydar in that same era, that slipped between the cracks for this award due to fierce competition.
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
This is the new generation of Horse Racing and I for one embrace the young lady to make a competent vote based on her qualifications and her up bringing as a racing fan first then a hands on approach to the Sport of Kings itself. Good luck in your future in Horse Racing and continue to grow the sport and do it justice.
Steve Wise More than 1 year ago
I agree with Josh.....What about Guy's like us that Read the Form EVERY day, I spend at least 2-4 Hours EVERY day watching the Races on 2 different stations,then at night I spend another 2 or 3 Hours reading on the Internet.....Jay,you do a GREAT Job at what you do,but I'am doing alot of research everyday myself.....Plus I even go to alot of Big Races,Derby,Breeders Cup,Travers,Rebel
Josh More than 1 year ago
At least someone else on here has the common sense approach.
Molly Rosen More than 1 year ago
Kudos to Jay for writing about an amazing gal ~ honored to call Marcie a friend!
Josh More than 1 year ago
The fans should vote. Not these so called "Writing and Broadcasting Professionals" I am older then Marcie Heacox, and been way more involved in racing then she ever will be. Yet, she gets to vote. What a shame.
BALOK CHUGS TRANYA More than 1 year ago
Caleb's Posse was robbed last year and everybody knows it. I felt so sorry for his connections. I lost alot of respect for the awards last year because of that. What more could that horse have done? I won't be watching this year that's for sure.
Carole Andreen-Harris More than 1 year ago
Great story on Marcie - also a friend of mine! She's a wonderful representative of the new generation of racing enthusiasts! I always look forward to spending time with her at the SoCal tracks - and love picking her brain about the racing scene!
ThorobredInfo More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Jay, for this profile on my good friend Marcie Heacox. She is indeed an attribute to the Thoroughbred industry, and a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes to her journalistic ethics: a forward-thinking member of the "new media" who believes firmly in old ideals, such as getting all the facts straight and reporting the news with conviction and truth, both through her written words and through her camera lens. This is why my husband, Rudi Groothedde ("California Thoroughbred" editor), and I recommended her for membership in the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters this year. She will be a responsible voter who will take all the facts into account, regardless of sentiment. I doubt we'll ever see Marcie turn in her ballot until after January 1, when all the racing results are in for the year. We are proud to have her as the official photographer for our "Photo of the Week" feature at www.thoroughbredinfo.com, and we can't wait to be there at the ceremony when she wins her first Eclipse Award someday! -- Lisa Groothedde
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
The PPs tell the story... That's a winner.