Results for the HRI Readers Choice Awards


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, February 08, 2010--It took some time but the votes for the third annual HRI Readers Choice Awards have been tabulated. As you might suspect, some of the results were formful, some were not, but many interesting in their own way.

If you study the results, two things become apparent: That fans of thoroughbred racing are among the most passionate in sports, and that the attraction is both the athletic prowess of the horses and riders and the participatory nature of parimutuel wagering.

Unlike most sports, horse racing is year-round and not seasonal. That means racing’s fan base stays engaged 24/7/365, making them among the most knowledgeable fans in sports.

Here, then, is HRI Readers Awards III, celebrating the storylines and saluting individual achievement in 2009 with a few predictions of what’s in store for 2010 sprinkled in, listed by category. (Some categories may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding).

HORSES & HORSEMEN:

The Retired Horse Readers are Going to Miss Most was, who else, the Un-Retired Zenyatta, by a 65 percent majority. After the late January announcement that she would return, that honor now belongs to the redoubtable Einstein, by a 17 percent winning margin over Ventura.

Will Rachel Alexandra run in the Classic if Summer Bird and Quality Road show up in top form? And, now, Zenyatta, too? Readers believe that Rachel will, including 44 percent of yes voters, 28 percent who don’t think so, and another 28 percent who are not sure.

The Big-Race-Rider of 2009 was Julien Leparoux, who attracted 45 percent of the vote. Just over 28 percent thought it was Calvin Borel, while only 9 percent voted for Garrett Gomez.

Thirty-two percent of HRI Readers believe that Rachel Alexandra will win the Breeders’ Cup Classic--but that was before Zenyatta jumped back into the fray. Summer Bird attracted 23 percent of the voters, nine percentage points more than Quality Road. Over 32 percent thinks it will be none of the above.

The HRI Readers Choice for Trainer of the Year 2009 is John Shirreffs, by a majority of 54 percent. There was a dead-heat for place between Steve Asmussen and Linda Rice, each garnering 21 percent of the vote.

The Sprint Performance of the Year 2009 went to Quality Road’s Amsterdam narrowly over Vineyard Haven’s DeFrancis Memorial, 35 percent to 30. Gayego was third with one of every five voting for the Ancient title winner.

The Best Effort in a Losing Performance in 2009 was Mine That Bird in the Preakness Stakes by a comfortable margin over Lookin At Lucky’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, 47 percent to 32. A number of horses combined to comprise the remaining 21 percent.

HRI Horse of the Year 2009 was conducted in a separate poll and was the most popular public opinion exercise ever conducted on this site: By a significant margin, 52 percent of the HRI voters preferred Zenyatta to Rachel Alexandra.

Considering that 14 percent of the voters thought that there should have been co-champions this, the margin was effectively 59 percent to 41 percent, a Zenyatta landslide.

THE RACES:

In keeping with the prevailing trend, the Fantastic Finish of 2009 belonged to Zenyatta for her Breeders‘ Cup Classic, doubling up Mine That Bird’s 27 percent for his furious Derby finish. Several others received support, accounting for the remaining 19 percent.

Early returns on the possible Derby winner are that Lookin At Lucky is most likely to succeed, so said 38 percent of HRI readers. Buddy’s Saint was next at 12 percent after Take Command, which attracted 23 percent but is off the Derby trail with bucked shins.

The Most Memorable Races of 2009 were conducted at Saratoga last summer, followed closely by Oak Tree-Santa Anita meet, a two venue race, 48 percent to 40.

Best Races to Bet On: An overwhelming majority of readers prefer betting on classy horses, stakes races attracting 79 percent of the vote and allowances, 21 percent. Surprisingly, there was no support at all for maiden or claiming events.

The Best Surface to Race On was a dead-heat between Dirt and Turf with each getting 43 percent. Only 13 percent of HRI Readers preferred an All-Weather surface.

The Best Race Story of 2009 was Zenyatta’s Classic at 47 percent over Rachel Alexandra’s 41 percent Woodward victory. Calvin Borel’s risky Derby ride finished a distant third.
 
THE WOMEN OF 2009:

Rachel Alexander Over/Under for number of 2010 starts was set at 5-½: A clear majority believe Rachel will run far less often this year, by a margin of 59-to-41 percent.

HRI Readers do believe, however, that she will make at least two starts vs. males in 2010, by a 77-to-24 percent margin.

The HRI Female Trainer of the Year was Linda Rice, so said 53 percent of responders. Place and Show was close between Helen Pitts-Blasi (25 percent) and Kathleen O‘Connell (19 percent).

HRI Readers selected Rosemary Homeister Jr. as Female Jockey Of The Year by a surprisingly wide margin; 69 percent compared to 16 percent for Anna Napravnik. Chantal Sutherland got 14 percent of the vote.

The HRI Readers’ Choice for Horsewoman of the Year was extremely close, jockey Homeister edging out trainer Rice by a margin of two percent, 37 to 35.
 
STATE OF THE GAME:

The On-Track Disappointment of the Year was no contest. Rachel’s non-appearance in the Breeders‘ Cup attracted 60 percent of the voters. Zenyatta’s non-appearance on dirt was next at 20 percent.

The Boardroom Disappointment of the Year, according to HRI Readers, was the failure of the industry to work together, said 58 percent of responders; 25 percent believed it was back-to-back Breeders’ Cups over a synthetic track.

The Best News We Could Read in 2010 provided another statistical dead-heat. Lowering the takeout to 10 percent and Hialeah becoming the future permanent home of the Breeders’ Cup each received 38 percent of the votes tallied. A sport AND gambling vehicle, indeed.

The award for Biggest Challenge in 2010 was not even close, according to HRI Readers. Sixty-two percent said racing must reverse its current slide in popularity; 38 percent think that finding homes for retired race horses is the industry’s biggest issue.

The HRI Readers Choice Award for Owner of the Year goes to Jerome and Ann Moss with 47 percent of the vote, compared to 40 for Jess Jackson.

The Best Division of Either Sex Overall surprisingly was extremely close, the 3-year-old division nosing out older males, 40 percent to 39. Older turf horses received backing from the other 19 percent.

And, finally, the HRI Readers Choice for Biggest Story of the Year 2009 was a landslide: The Horse of the Year Battle between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta was the choice of 62 percent of the responders.

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2009 HRI Readers Choice Awards Voting


Perhaps at no time in the long history of thoroughbred racing have females distinguished themselves, whether they were of the quadruped or two legged variety. If there was a two-horse Horse of the Year battle in the history of the game before, it probably came before any of us were born.

And never has the class of female race riders, or trainers, been as strong as it was in 2009. So this will be our chance to see whether you agree with HRI's assessments of so many talented horsewomen.

Further, you'll a chance to play owner-trainer and think about how you would map out a campaign for Rachel Alexandra's upcoming four-year-old year.

It was a year of individual achievement by our equine athletes, and the two legged stars, the riders and the coaches without whom there would be no greatest show on turf. We have listed the horses and horse persons we deem worthy of your consideration. If you disagree, you can write-in another.

The year 2009 won't soon be forgotten for events, the good and the not so good, that took place in the boardrooms, in the headlines, reflecting how racing's public faces and how the nature of the game has changed. This is in recognition of those.

HRI's Readers Choice Awards reflect the opinions of our readers about the state of the industry, now and in the immediate future.

We have broken down the HRI Readers Choice Awards voting into four different categories. We hope you'll go through them all and have some fun with us.

Use the below Categories and your voting process will have begun.

2009 HRI Readers Choice Awards Categories
The Races of 2009 Racing Women of 2009
Horses & Horsemen of 2009 State of the Game

Or if you want to have all the voting options on one page, Click Here (a little more scrolling involved). Voting will end on January 31, with the results posted soon thereafter.

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On-Track Disappointment of the Year - 2009:



Maybe it really happened off track, after all. Chip Woolley couldn’t help but to skip the Travers. And I’m sure that Jess Jackson truly did the right thing by his filly. How serious do you think John Shirreffs really was about running in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs on Derby weekend?

Mine That Bird
Mine That Bird
Rachel Alexandra
Rachel Alexandra
Zenyatta
Zenyatta
 



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Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Boardroom Disappointment of the Year - 2009:



Plenty of blame to spread around, from state legislators, to selfish track owners, to bloated racing executives that won’t deal in good faith. But when’s somebody going to show some guts and emerge a leader?




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Best News We Could Read in 2010:



I can dream, can’t I? But there’s plenty of support to tear up the synthetics in California, a surface that caused a reverse gold rush. Hialeah would be perfect; the turf course, the many track, the beauty shots. Then there’s dealing with John Brunetti.




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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Biggest Challenge in 2010:



Let me count the ways. God forbid anything untoward occurs at Churchill Downs, or Pimlico, or Belmont Park. And finding more human homes for thoroughbred retirees would give pause to the overzealous wing-nuts of the PETA principals. And, Art Fleming, I’ll take Uphill Battles for $100. Ding, ding, ding…the Daily Double!




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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Owner of the Year - 2009:



All deserving but for disparate reasons. It’s one thing to have money, another to accomplish your goals. Sheikh Mohammed needs to win more races than ever after maxing out his American Express card. And given the way owners duck competition these days, what Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick did are indeed worth of your recognition. And perhaps Jerry Moss is a gift that will keep on giving.

Godolphin Racing
Godolphin Racing
Jess Jackson
Jess Jackson
Jerome Moss
Jerome Moss
 



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Best Division Overall of Either Sex:



How deep the ocean, how high the sky? Lookin At Lucky might be a very serious racehorse that makes the competition look bad. I think the three-year-olds are better than the bashing they have taken. And, OK, if you vote for older horses, you have Zenyatta and Gio Ponti in your corner.




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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The HRI Readers’ Choice Story of the Year 2009:



Or would you rather forget 2009 entirely? But that wouldn’t be really fair. What happened between the rails at Pimlico, Monmouth Park, Saratoga, Del Mar and Santa Anita, just to name five racetracks, was truly extraordinary.




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Horse We’re Going to Miss Most in 2010:



Is Einstein and Zenyatta still retiring? We know Ventura, the late Bobby Frankel’s top filly is. The Woodbine Mile is no easy race to win. That would be like some filly or mare winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, are you kidding me? But it seems at the moment that Frank Stronach and Mr. & Mrs. Jerome Moss are not sure what to do.

Einstein
Einstein
Ventura
Ventura
Zenyatta
Zenyatta
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Will Rachel Alexandra run in the Classic if Summer Bird and Quality Road show up in top form?



Knowing Jess Jackson, I say yes. But trainers Todd Pletcher and Tim Ice probably would welcome the challenge. On second thought…

Rachel Alexandra
Rachel Alexandra
Summer Bird
Summer Bird
Quality Road
Quality Road
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Big-Race-Rider of 2009:



Lots of big spots, lots of big wins for this crew. Calvin Borel won the race EVERY rider wants to win, the Derby. Plenty of big wins for Garrett Gomez in Southern California, but Julien Leparoux made a big impact almost everywhere else. Mike Smith? Can you say p-r-e-s-s-u-r-e?

Calvin Borel
Calvin Borel
Garrett Gomez
Garrett Gomez
Julien Leparoux
Julien Leparoux
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
 



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Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Winner of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic Will Be:



Will the Europeans even run in this race at Churchill Downs this Breeders‘ Cup or await the next synthetic surface? Quality Road made a serious debut as a Gulfstream Park four-year-old. Summer Bird is expected to make a full recovery from a minor injury. And who will the next Aidan O’Brien disappointment be?

Rachel Alexandra
Rachel Alexandra
Summer Bird
Summer Bird
Quality Road
Quality Road
 



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Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Trainer of the Year - 2009:



I don’t envy having to make a definitive choice here. Steve Asmussen kept Rachel happy. Christophe Clement won as many Grade 1s with Gio Ponti and would have won a sixth if not for Zenyatta. Other trainers have the ability to dominate turf sprints, but only Linda Rice truly has. John Shirreffs. Can you say p-r-e-s-s-u-r-e?

Steve Asmussen
Steve Asmussen
Christophe Clement
Christophe Clement
Linda Rice
Linda Rice
John Shirreffs
John Shirreffs
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Sprint Performance of the Year - 2009:



On balance, like a sparkling year for sprinters. What say you here? I never knew Gayego had that kind of turn of foot, did you? I thought Pyro did, and he proved it at Saratoga. Quality Road is just simply what racetrackers call a “freak.” Godolphin Racing practically owned the second half of 2009, but Vineyard Haven accomplished the impossible.

Gayego
Gayego
Pyro
Pyro
Quality Road
Quality Road
Vineyard Haven
Vineyard Haven
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Best Effort in a Losing Performance 2009:



As we said, a great year between the rails, even for the runners-up.

Lookin at Lucky
Lookin at Lucky
Mine That Bird
Mine That Bird
Quality Road
Quality Road
 



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Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Horse of the Year - 2009:


 
We created a separate page last month for Horse of the Year voting, please vote there if you haven't already



Comments (0)

 
 

Rachel Alexander Over/Under number of starts in 2010 is 5-½:



Will they take a Zenyatta-like path to the Classic? A lot of that probably might depend on how the Horse of the Year vote goes. So it is four races before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or five?




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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Alexandra Over/Under number of starts vs. males in 2010 is 1-½:



We’re obviously figuring that the Classic is one. And since Jess Jackson’s and Steve Asmussen’s filly already has beaten males three times, what would be the point of that?




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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Female Trainer of the Year - 2009:



For the ladies of the backstretch, has there ever been a year like 2009? Presious Passion was a marvel on firm turf but his trainer had him fit for virtually and entire year. A woman won the training title at Saratoga? Really? And there are plenty of top trainers in South Florida, how did O’Connell manage that? And while it wasn’t this year, let’s not forget the Pitts-Blasi developed a first time starter named Curlin a few years ago!

Mary Hartmann
Mary Hartmann
Kathleen O'Connell
Kathleen O'Connell
Helen Pitts-Blasi
Helen Pitts-Blasi
Linda Rice
Linda Rice
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Female Jockey Of The Year - 2009:



Imagine if Julie Krone were still riding? I would have loved to see her go against some top distaff riders. As it was, she won over 3,700 races. And id you know that Homeister Jr. is going head to head with Daniel Centeno for the riding title at Tampa Bay Downs this winter? You could look it up.

Anna Napravnik
Anna Napravnik
Rosemary Homeister Jr.
Rosemary Homeister Jr.
Chantal Sutherland
Chantal Sutherland
 



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Horsewoman of the Year - 2009:



Not woman horse of the year; that’s tough enough to decide. But like Horse of the Year Eclipse voting, it would be nice of some of these fillies finished in a dead heat for the win. There is not a single one who’s unworthy.

Mary Hartmann
Mary Hartmann
Rosemry Homeister Jr.
Rosemary Homeister Jr.
Helen Pitts-Blasi
Helen Pitts-Blasi
Anna Napravnik
Anna Napravnik
Kathleen O'Connell
Kathleen O'Connell
Linda Rice
Linda Rice
Chantal Sutherland
Chantal Sutherland
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Fantastic Finish of 2009



A great year of racing with memorable finishers; you decide. Joe Talamo recovering from a poor start and bursting through a seam in deep stretch; Desormeaux guiding Summer Bird inside-out at Belmont Park, or Mike Smith weaving his way to the Santa Anita wire?

I Want Revenge
I Want Revenge
Summer Bird
Summer Bird
Zenyatta
Zenyatta
Mine That Bird
Mine That Bird
 



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Most Memorable Races Run in 2009 took place at:



The game’s more international than ever. Did we still stage the best race meets, or are you a died in the wool Europhile? Is it still Keeneland in the spring, best boutique stop on the good-horse circuit? How about the Oak Tree preps for the Breeders’ Cup, or handle leader Saratoga because it’s still the best extended race meet in the country?

Keeneland
Oak Tree - Santa Anita
Saratoga
 



Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

Most photos are taken from NTRA.com

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Best Races You Found to Bet On



Where do you make your best scores? Claimers moving up in class at Delaware Park? A newly turned three-year-old at Gulfstream in the winter? Or stakes races, where big reputation horses build the price on other logical contenders? Summer Bird, thanks to Mine That Bird, at $25.80 in the Belmont Stakes?




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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Best Surface for Horses to Race On



What kind of racing excites you most? When some speed horse goes wire to wire by 10 at Saratoga? When six horses finish under a blanket on Keeneland’s Polytrack? Or turf, where the last run sometimes can produce a six-horse photo finish?




Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.


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The Horse Race Story of 2009:



Some might even say that six-horse photo finish on turf at Saratoga. Rachel Alexandra was a marvel at Pimlico; Zenyatta was mighty as the Great Race Place, but I’ll remember the view of the blimp shot of Borel winning the Kentucky Derby after nearly getting put over the rail at Churchill Downs? Do they have an editor’s choice category here?

Calvin Borel
Calvin Borel
Rachel Alexandra
Rachel Alexandra
Zenyatta
Zenyatta
 



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Early 2010 Kentucky Derby Prediction:



Do you see making a Future Book play this year? Todd Pletcher has a million possibilities, Bob Baffert about half that, including Take Control. Did you realize he was by A. P. Indy out of Azeri, and that he won at first asking? Well, he did.

Buddy's Saint
Buddy's Saint
Lookin at Lucky
Lookin At Lucky
Super Saver
Super Saver
 



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Voting will run for a couple weeks, results will be posted afterwards.

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