01/19/2011 2:41PM

Penny Chenery creates 'Vox Populi' award with Zenyatta as first winner

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Penny Chenery, the owner of two-time Horse of the Year Secretariat, has created a “Secretariat Vox Populi Award” that will annually “recognize a horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year,” according to an announcement Chenery distributed on Wednesday.

The inaugural award will be given to Zenyatta, who was named Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards ceremony on Monday. The award will be presented to Zenyatta’s owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, on Feb. 5 at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, according to the announcement.

Chenery selected the inaugural recipient herself, though in succeeding years “a committee of both distinguished racing personalities and industry representatives” will select the winner, “in conjunction with a national online vote,” according to the announcement.

The new award is being launched as racing fans and industry representatives continue to debate the merits of the 2010 Horse of the Year selection and the process by which the award is selected. The leading candidate for the 2010 Horse of the Year aside from the immensely popular Zenyatta was Blame, who beat Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, their only matchup on the racetrack.

Currently, Horse of the Year is determined by majority vote among members of three blocs, representing Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and a panel of racing secretaries and other industry officials put together by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Zenyatta received 128 first-place votes to 102 for Blame.