SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 11, 2012—For a game that makes progress at a snail’s pace, when it makes any progress at all, things sometimes can change quickly.

A fortnight ago, we wrote that we couldn’t understand why Bodemeister was rated over Union Rags in the weekly NTRA Poll, reasoning that two runnerup finishes does not equal one classic victory in the world of accomplishment.

In my view, opinion as to which is the “better horse,” or which has the better chance to earn a divisional or Horse of the Year title at year’s end is not germane: Opinion is not fact; accomplishment should be the barometer.

I asked an NTRA representative about voting guidelines and was informed that the only hard and fast “rule” is that a horse must have competed within the calendar year and that the organization did not want to impose restrictions on its voters.

Recently, Steve Haskin of wrote that I’ll Have Another, retired last month, ranked #1 with on his list because no horse in 2012 accomplished as much as he did. I for one certainly can’t argue with that line of reasoning.

As a result of Haskin’s comments, the Twitterverse came alive with opinions that came in all shapes and sizes, from voters and non-voters alike. This prompted an e-mail response to voters from NTRA with suggested guidelines, which we’ve culled below.
“…Votes should be loosely reflective of who might be voted Horse of the Year. Voters are to select their top 10 choices on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. First-place votes will appear in parentheses, as well as year record, total points, age and sex…

“Voters are to select horses that have raced at least once in North America. Horses can be of any age or sex. The vote should not be based purely on how much money the horse has earned. A vote can be cast for a horse who may have retired during the current calendar year.

“Ultimately, the last NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll of the season should be representative of who may be selected as Horse of the Year,” concludes the advisory.

Final results from the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll – July 9, 2012:

Chart includes Rank-Name-Age-Sex-Starts-1st-2nd-3rd-Points-First Votes-Previous Week

1 Game On Dude 5 G 4 3 0 0 415 (18) 3
2 Ron The Greek 5 H 4 2 2 0 394 (10) 1
3 Mucho Macho Man 4 C 4 3 0 1 360 (4) 15
4 Shackleford 4 C 4 2 0 1 337 (4) 2
5 Royal Delta 4 F 3 1 1 0 252 (5) 5
6 Wise Dan 5 G 2 1 1 0 209 4
7 I'll Have Another 3 C 4 4 0 0 164 (8) 6
8 Acclamation 6 H 1 1 0 0 115 7
9 Bodemeister 3 C 6 2 4 0 106 (1) 10
10 Union Rags 3 C 4 2 0 1 70 11

Other horses receiving votes:

Alternation (66), Caleb's Posse (52), It's Tricky (36), Successful Dan (27), Groupie Doll (23), Hymn Book (17), Nates Mineshaft (17), Awesome Feather (15), Richard's Kid (14), Fort Larned (9), Awesome Maria (8), Musical Romance (7), Turbo Compressor (7), Amazombie (4), Caixa Electronica (4), Paynter

To illustrate, and for the record, my top six horses this week were: Game On Dude; Ron The Greek; Shackleford; Mucho Macho Man; Royal Delta and I'll Have Another. (I will rank I'll Have Another #1 next week).

The guidelines provided this week were a bit different than what I was led to believe earlier; no harm, no foul. The recent clarification gets us all closer to truth, the meaning of what a “Top Thoroughbred Poll” should be.

Parenthetically, the NTRA Poll shouldn’t be simply an interesting list for mainstream sports consumption but also a guideline for horsemen into the thought process of most voters; an approximation of where their horse’s rank in the championship picture.

Serious questions remain, of course: Shouldn’t It’s Tricky, e.g., the presumed leader of the 3-year-old filly division, be ranked somewhere in the Top 10 with the likes of I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister and Union Rags?

An orange shouldn’t suffer discrimination because it’s not an apple and, in my view, accomplishment trumps opinion every time.

Should Acclamation’s one victory this year, albeit a big one, count more than Alternation’s winter and early spring campaign? Shouldn’t all divisional leaders somehow be acknowledged in any compilation of top American Thoroughbreds?

Unfortunately, that must be taken as a “no.” Mainstream media doesn’t care about 3-year-olds after the Triple Crown, and it will only provide space for one list.

On Monday, 50 media members voted in the NTRA Poll. Haskin and seven others ranked I’ll Have Another #1. But others, however, left him off entirely which seems completely unfair because not including him in any Top 10 list apparently is more an indictment of the trainer than the horse.

And, sorry, until there’s some kind of evidence that I’ll Have Another won any or all of those Grade 1s with a performance-enhancing substance coursing through his body, this terrific race horse does not deserve to be disrespected in such a manner.

In the future I will vote accordingly, with a “loosely reflective” on the Horse of the Year leader in the clubhouse and whose accomplishments on the racetrack get him/her closer to that goal.

Right now, and until season’s end, opinion and perception has an edge on accomplishment, as that barometer can only be known when all the year’s racing is done. It will still be opinion, of course, but backed by the record.

Besides, even non-fans know it’s a difference of opinion that makes a horse race.