BOYNTON BEACH, FL., January 10, 2016—One of the prime reason’s Gulfstream Park has become the premier extended race meet in the country is its state-of-the-art training facility 38 miles north of the Hallandale track.

Most of the East Coast horses on the “good horse circuit” are stabled here and on Sunday morning we had a chance to visit the stable areas of both facilities and we were surprised by what we discovered.

This week, most of the racing industry will descend on South Florida for the 45th annual Eclipse Award ceremonies at Gulfstream Park Saturday night.

From what we know, the only luminary not certain to show is Ricky Gervais and that’s too bad. Surely there will be enough practitioners to skewer next weekend as not all humility-challenged individuals are limited to a town where tinsels grow on trees.

What surprised then is that not all the horsemen we visited, including many who will be in attendance Saturday, are enamored of the Eclipse Award procedure, objecting to the methodology of the voting process itself.

The Eclipses are racing’s version of the primaries. There are three voting blocs; the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Association officials, and Daily Racing Form staffers.

The major complaint is that too many of the results often are capricious and arbitrary. As we state every year when making our choices public, the DRF’s late, great Joe Hirsch once counselled a young turf writer back in the day.

On the matter of Horse of the Year, Hirsch, a founding member of the National Turf Writers organization—no broadcasters were permitted to vote in those days—“the Horse of the Year can be anything."

Actually, that is the case in every category. Politics and provincialism, mostly the former, are at work and there are no objective standards. That’s what a majority of horsemen we spoke with Sunday had objections to.

Trainers are pleased that owners, most of whom are well heeled and whose support feeds the breeding industry, often in sizable amounts, are recognized. Accordingly, they should be acknowledged and allowed to bask in the reflected glory of the animals they support throughout the racing year.

Some of the trainers we spoke with admitted they are attending because their owners expect them to. The lament most often heard is there are too many voters who never see in the flesh the horses they vote as champions.

There is no true objectivity and what are the deciding factors: body of work, horse-by-horse matchups, number of Grade 1 wins, where the victories were compiled?

Speaking personally, it is all of the above. I was only of 265 voters, including one abstention, who determined that California Chrome was deserving of Horse of the Year honors.

But, controversy involving a compromised rival notwithstanding, California Chrome was defeated by Bayern in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, defined as America’s championship crowning event.

So does that make it the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in name only? The majority of trainers we spoke with believe that to be the case, just as, to keep it real, not all Grade 1s, or G2s or G3s, are created equal.

How, for instance, could an undefeated runner who many believe to be the best of her generation, Lady Eli, fail to be one of three finalists in the three-year-old filly category despite her limited yet undefeated season?

And for journalists, for instance, how could one classification be a so-called Features/Commentary category. Does the winner of this Eclipse finish first by collecting 100 apples compared to the runnerup amassing 50 oranges?

More than one horsemen mentioned that some objective standard(s) should be put in place so that votes are counted on a one-person-one vote basis.

As one suggested, designing a protocol that assigns two members from the three sponsoring groups compile a list of three--even five finalists--before allowing voters to cast ballots for one horse and one individual per category.

Voting for first, second and third in all categories when only first place votes designate the Eclipse champions is a creation that makes the announcement of three finalists possible. To what end, except to boost dinner ticket sales.

In a game correctly built on opinion, establishing qualifying standards and guidelines before voting would be fair to all and provides the best chance to acknowledge the most deserving recipient.

WEEKEND WRAPUP: Bob Baffert-trained runners Corrected and Let’s Meet in Rio finished one-two in Santa Anita’s G3 Sham Stakes and there likely is a Derby victory in their future, just probably not on May’s first Saturday…

Doubtlessly, Corrected showed class by overcoming a wide-throughout trip. Locked and loaded beneath Martin Garcia, he always looked the part of a winner. Stablemate runnerup came up with a very strong late run and rates to improve with seasoning and distance…

Indeed, Let’s Meet in Rio may prove the better of the two as the prep campaign lengthens, but the best performance by a three-year-old this weekend may have come 3,000 miles to the East…

Cherry Wine went from last to first, taking a Gulfstream Park two-turn allowances by six lengths for the team of Dale Romans and Corey Lanerie. Not many races are won at Gulfstream with that running style, especially lately.

Rallying strongly on the turn, Lanerie tipped the Paddy O’Prado-Unbridled’s Song colt wide at headstretch and inhaled the leaders, drawing off “handily.” Trailing a moderate pace, the time of 1:44.37 was solid enough.

Todd Pletcher
has plenty of good options with Hal’s Hope winner Mshawish. Not only did G1 Cigar Mile fourth prove his Donn worthiness, he could still opt for a G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap repeat…

Pletcher still would have three Dubai opportunities; a choice of two turf races, one at a mile, or go turf-to-dirt in the $10-million World Cup. Nice dilemma to have...

The remarkable La Verdad improved her career slate to (25) 16-3-0 taking Aqueduct's Interborough Stakes. The New York-bred six-year-old mare finished first in four graded stakes in 2015 and was second in the BC F & M Sprint, pushing her earnings toward $1.6M.

A worthy Eclipse finalist, La Verdad is scheduled to make her career finale in Laurel’s Barbara Fritchie before being bred to Medaglia d’Oro. She will reside at New York’s Edition Farm thereafter.