Interesting, Puzzling Year for Eclipse Award Voters
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., January 2, 2017—In a recent online poll, roughly three out of every four respondents thought that 2016 was a good year for racing. In light of what happened between the fences, I agree.
There were many great performances and memorable moments. As for the rest of the year, we have chronicled the game’s shortcomings here too much already, so we’ll await another time, another day for that.
Please note, however, I must disagree with those who posted that a good number of categories with respect to making cases for 2016’s Eclipse champions were open and shut. Far from that, in our view.
Either way, here is what one final ballot looked like for the racing year 2016 and the thinking process behind some of our choices. But first, our annual disclaimers that all folks who care about such things should know.
As one of the late, great founding members of the National Turf Writers once counseled, there are no rules: “The Horse of the Year can be anything,” said Joe Hirsch. The same applies to other categories; some champions are obvious, others in a beholder’s eyes.
But what it shouldn’t be is a popularity contest or a predictor of who will win. It should be about voting your conscience in the face of peer pressure and regionalism. To wit:
When one California-based horseman was polled on Horse of the Year, his response was: “California Chrome, Art Sherman’s my man.” Friendship and loyalty are wonderful things but Sherman could have gotten this support on the merits: Superb management!
Here, then, is one man’s ballot. [Voters must cast a 1-2-3 vote in order for the category to count or he can abstain].
Handicapping Great Dr. Harris Never Stopped Learning
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., New Year’s Day, 2017—Upon hearing of the passing of Russ Harris at age 93 earlier this week, I took to Twitter and wrote: “Must confess that as a competitor in the same market, Russ Harris made me a better handicapper. RIP Mr. Harris, my friend.”
Twitter might be all that’s needed for discussing world affairs but it doesn’t begin to tell the story of public handicappers, their trade, or their history.
Back in Harris’ New York Daily News heyday, everybody’s world was simpler. Life was good growing up in Queens and, if memory serves, I believe there were 13 daily newspapers available in the five boroughs, including morning and evening editions.
The Morning Telegraph broadsheet, the East Coast version of tabloid Daily Racing Form, was 25 cents, a nickel more than the today’s Rainbow Six or Canadian superfecta.
Returning home from high school and later from my first job at a bank, I always bought the afternoon edition of the New York Post where the early results from Aqueduct or Belmont, sometimes four or five race, were right there on the back page.
The results of the daily double, the only multiple wager at the time, was the big news, however. Even if it weren’t, the great columns of turf writer Bill Rudy and those of two of the best columnists of their time, Pete Hamill and Larry Merchant, were more than worth the effort.
By the time I traveled 17 stops on the GG local from Clermont Ave. in Brooklyn to 74th Street in Queens, and after four more stops on the #7 train 103rd St. Corona Plaza, my world was complete.
Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end.