Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surprise, surprise, Zenyatta by a nose

Should we be surprised that Zenyatta won Horse of the Year? Nope.

Should we be surprised that she won the award by a nose? C’mon. That would be like being surprised that Count Dracula loves blood. Or being surprised to find out the moon was made of cheese. Trust me. It is.

Out of the 238 votes cast, Zenyatta received 128. Blame took 102 and the others went to Goldikova (possibly the most deserving of the three between the fences). Fitting that such a close vote came in the state of Florida. Not since Bush v. Gore had there been such a close election. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor may have voted for Blame in a 5-4 decision.

I’d wager that of the 102 voters whom chose Blame over Zenyatta are happy Zenyatta won. It was practical to vote for Blame. He had a slightly harder campaign. He beat Quality Road, but he lost to a New York-bred speedster in Haynesfield. Quality Road’s downward spiral started after his smashing Donn Handicap effort and, at last, finished farther back on Breeders’ Cup weekend than Life At Ten.

Blame beat his only true rival for the award head to head.

Zenyatta’s beat her best rival by keeping her off the same surface: Rachel Alexandra. Remember the 1971 movie “Duel”? A businessman passes a tractor-trailer truck on a desert highway. The truck driver angers and aims to kill the businessman by tailgating him worse than a soccer mom in a Suburban texting on her Droid.

Zenyatta was the truck that scared off Rachel Alexandra.

What if Zenyatta had lost this award again? Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Dwyer aptly writes that this one was for the fans. But 102 voters weren’t happy enough to give this one to the fans. The fans shouldn’t feel like their victory was unanimous. Winning just 54 percent of the vote doesn’t exactly rattle the rafters with resounding confidence. Looks like 46 percent of experts didn’t care for the fans. Come to think of it, that may be in line with industry standards.

This is great, too. What could this have said about this sport if its darling wasn’t thought to be its best? Dwyer writes, “The general fan, especially a new legion of females who had come, seen Zenyatta and were conquered, didn't know or care about Blame, even after the Classic. Zenyatta had grabbed their hearts, convinced them that hers was a sport worth watching.” Now, in their eyes, Zenyatta is thought to be the most popular and the best. Fans love a frontrunner, and the irony is that she is the deepest of closers.

Was Zenyatta the best horse in 2010? That was probably Goldikova who beats the boys worse than a Catholic school nun. If you erase her unbeaten record from the previous three years, does she win the 2010 Horse of the Year? The award ended up rewarding her for her career, not her 2010. If ever there was a year she could have won Horse of the Year it was 2009, but Rachel Alexandra’s campaign was more deserving. Same with 2008, Curlin’s campaign was simply awesome.

The Horse of the Year Eclipse Award just got a little muddy. And, perhaps, it has always been so, but especially this year. This year sentimentality and fan pressure were bigger influences than Zenyatta’s win in the Apple Blossom.

Thankfully the fan’s voice can be heard with the Secretariat Vox Populi Award (created by Penny Chenery), which goes to the country’s most popular horse.

Blogs, Web hubs, Twitter, Facebook engage their users. The wall between writer and reader, television and viewer, sport and fan crumbled worse than bleu cheese . The writer is no longer on a holier-than-thou pedestal. He is in the peanut gallery and I, for one, welcome this (just don’t touch my suit jacket with greasy hands, all I ask).

With this Berlin Wall of sorts torn down we are exposed to the passions and vitriol. These days fans seem to be more knowledgeable than ever? If you filter through some comments on blogs you find some incredible research done. That is, of course, if you can dispel of the ones who call you a douche bag, say nasty things about your wife, and say the most vile and baseless drivel.

The Eclipse Awards should be fan free, but thanks to Penny Chenery’s award the fan has in its hands bricks from its own Berlin Wall, tossing it up and down in its hand, waiting to hurl it.

They will be heard. No more shattered glass. Give them the proper bullhorn and lets be done with it.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of the forthcoming book "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. You can learn more at The Blog Itself, follow @BrendanOMeara, or go to his web site

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (14)

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Of Tweets and Takeout

A new year squats on us, the weight of twelve unwritten months. What better words are there than those spoken in 140 characters or less?

The Twitter banter between horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners in 2011 promises, to put as lyrically as possible, to rock. Especially interesting will be the venom between horses. Anything can happen and the @replies start now:

Zenyatta19-1: How my Eclipse Awards taste @RachelAlexandra?

RachelAlexandra: @Zenyatta19-1, Nag.

UncleMoMoney: @Zenyatta19-1, What you doin’ in Jan. 2012?

Zenyatta19-1: @UncleMoMoney, Win the Derby ... THEN we’ll talk.

BoysatTosconova: @UncleMoMoney, @Zenyatta19-,1 @RachelAlexandra, What about me?

Zenyatta19-1: @BoysatTosconova, Perhaps if you were named MenatTosconova.

Blame: @Zenyatta19-1, tell me, how does that ‘1’ feel, baby? Sorry to crash your party #kickedyourbutt.

Zenyatta19-1: @Blame, If I had your trip I would’ve won. My jockey choked! They should add that to his Hall of Fame plaque #kickedyourbutt.

LifeatTen: WTF???!!! Have they resolved this ordeal yet? What has Ray Paulick written about me today?

RachelAlexandra: @LifeatTen, something about you once being named Unreadable. Girl, you got dissed! Thaz cold, sistah!

LifeatTen: Hey, @RachelAlexandra, where were you in the Beldame?

RachelAlexandra: @LifeatTen, where were you in the Personal Ensign?

LifeatTen: @RachelAlexandra, where were YOU in the Personal Ensign?

Then, of course, the jockeys. What could they possibly say to one another?

JavierCastellano: Hi everybody! Como estan?

CalvinBorel: @JavierCastellano I’ll #%$&^*# kill you!!!!!!!!

BC2010_Marathon: This never would have happened if I weren’t a race. I hate myself!

BCClassic: @Marathon, Here, here!

I’m not sure what to think of 2011. On the surface there’s absolutely nothing to look forward to. The main beef with this 2011 — and it’s only eight days old — has everything to do with takeout.

Takeout needs to be on the conscience of everyone. When Santa Anita president George Haines tells Daily Racing Form that, “Maybe the top point-one percent of the handicapping world has that in their equation — what the takeout is — but for the most part, people are looking at handicapping winners.”

People need to know about this, everyone from the $2 bettor to the “point-on percenters.” Otherwise positive change for the engine that drives the sport will always play understudy to indifference.

I get that the ones in the one percentile, those who make a living playing the races, really give a damn about takeout, but isn’t this a slight to all horse players when takeout figures creep up even it is by one or two percentage points?

There are libraries books to read about playing the races, of which I have read few. I’d encourage anyone to read “Exotic Betting” by Steven Crist. There’s a well-done chapter on takeout within its covers that taught me a lot about and how the horse player gets jobbed by the business.

Let’s give horse players a holiday this year: Takeout Free Day to make some cash and raise awareness to this ever-growing ignored elephant in the room. Who will step up? What say you?!

To be swallowed by this sport is to own it and more people should learn its nuances so that when Santa Anita bumps takeout it’s not merely skimmed over for the next video of Zenyatta dancing.

Zenyatta19-1: I can dance if I want to! ... Cuz ur friends dont dance and if they dont dance well theyre no friends of mine!

MenWithHats: RT @Zenyatta19-1, I can dance if I want to! ... Cuz ur friends dont dance and if they dont dance well theyre no friends of mine!

Brendan O'Meara is the author of the forthcoming book "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. You can learn more at The Blog Itself, follow @BrendanOMeara, or go to his web site

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (0)

BallHype: hype it up!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Not in the Giving Mood

Maybe the worst idea proposed by anyone anywhere at anytime is this: give fans a vote for the Eclipse Awards.

The word fan gets tossed around like angel hair. The problem with fan is the four letters that are omitted: atic, as in fanatic.

Listen to the callers who phone in on daily sports radio. Fans are myopic and slanted by emotion. As the saying goes, they can’t see the forest for the trees. I root for the Red Sox and should I ever listen to Red Sox fans talk about the Sawx, my stomach turns worse than Donovan McNabb's. The year after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, a local television program invited a “professional” homer and he said, in effect, that “I don’t see why the Pats can’t go undefeated this year.” Uh, huh. They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2002.

My point is that when you fail to detach yourself you bring an obvious bias to your already ingrained and unequivocal bias to everything that is.

Go on. Read any comment thread about Zenyatta. Go on. You’ve got five minutes.






Done? Okay, good. How did that go?

What you often see is virulent, venomous zealotry. This deserves a vote in the awards that matter to a horse’s commercial appeal and legacy? If fans voted in 2006 Barbaro wins Horse of the Year, champion trainer, and champion older filly or mare ... and champion steeplechase.

This is why I find it upsetting that there are advocates for fan voting on Eclipse Awards. Even HRI’s Vic Zast. But like everything he writes, he makes intelligent points pro and con:

“Anytime a result is determined by human subjectivity instead of by direct competition, an element of interpretation enters in. With the exception of Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, each US president since John F. Kennedy ascended to office for reasons primarily cosmetic. The electorate liked the way they looked and found comfort in what they said. An electoral majority formed from the participation of disparate elements, ranging from individuals who knew the issues completely to those who couldn’t tell you which of the parties each candidate represented.

“It is understandable why the vote for the Eclipse Awards is restricted. Like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, the program is an industry property. As hard as it is for fans of the sport to comprehend the difference between how a professional employed by the sport faces his responsibility and how they might if put in the same place, a difference exists. Moreover, when something’s been done the same way for a long time, changes to that way don’t come easily.”

To his point there are ways to engage the fan that exclude the Eclipse Awards. Look at baseball: that sport allows fans to vote for All Stars. There’s no reason why racing can’t create categories on which the fans can vote and reward whatever horse it is they feel is deserving. Seriously, how did Cal Ripken, Jr. get to be starting shortstop in the All-Star Game several years after his prime? Have horsemen vote for awards too. The 2010 baseball season saw Seattle's Felix Hernandez win the Cy Young while Tampa Bay’s David Price won the Players' Choice as Most Outstanding Pitcher. Interpretation: there’s more than one answer so why not denote another subset of awards: the Fan's Choice where they can vote for Zenyatta all they want.

If another branch is allowed to vote for Eclipse Awards it should be a league of horse players, those who have skin in the game and are ludicrously taxed by takeout. No taxation without representation!

Baseball fans don’t have a say in the year-end honors such as MVP, call it baseball’s Horse of the Year. Throw the fans something, but keep them away from the awards that will have a ripple effect into the post-racing life of several of racing's Select.

I know that the American Colonists fought a Revolutionary War over “freedom,” whatever that really meant (greedy landed gentry!). Let’s just say it’s 1775 all over again and the fans are trapped on the island of Manhattan and there’s no way they’re sneaking off this time.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of the forthcoming book "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. You can learn more at The Blog Itself, follow @BrendanOMeara, or go to his web site

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (5)

BallHype: hype it up!

Page 49 of 62 pages « FirstP  <  47 48 49 50 51 >  Last »