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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

NTRA VOTING FOR TOP 3-YEAR-OLD THISCLOSE: EPICENTER AND EARLY VOTING DEAD-HEAT AT #1

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 23, 2022 — As most of our audience knows, turf writers are asked by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association participate in weekly polling in two categories:

One is for three-year-olds, the other Top 10 is open to all divisions. I’m making this public because my doctor was extremely  for an appointment and I missed the ballot deadline.

Like Eclipse Award voting, there are no hard and fast rules in the weekly NTRA poll, only guidelines and common sense.

Ideally, the ballots reflect of blend of recent accomplishments and opinion as to leading championship titlists, the ultimate being Horse of the Year.

Since there are no objective standards, you vote your conscience for those you believe are most worthy of recognition, or you can choose a runner that might not be as accomplished but one with championship upside potential.

One of the storylines entering Saturday’s Preakness is that the Triple Crown’s second jewel would likely establish the divisional leader. The sophomore category is open to both sexes.

Instead of identifying the divisional leader the Preakness result muddied the waters.

For those writers/broadcasters who take this responsibility seriously, the task is not as easy as one might think. When, for instance, Epicenter was marching through New Orleans, he was a near unanimous divisional leader.

But it’s seldom a clear cut choice, This is how our ballot might have looked had it not been for traffic on Route 441. Immediately below was our post Kentucky Derby ballot:

1   EPICENTER

2   RICH STRIKE

3   SECRET OATH

4   ZANDON

5   JACK CHRISTOPHER

6   SIMPLIFICATION

7   MO DONEGAL

8   TAIBA

9   EARLY VOTING

10   MATAREYA

But this week? A very good question. As for who the divisional leader is in one man’s view, I admittedly am uncomfortable with whichever horse I choose.

Should it be the unlikely but impressive Derby upstart Rich Strike and an unforgettable stretch run in which he raced past 14 of his 19 rivals?

But what of the fresh Preakness winner? Does Early Voting rule this division. This week, sure, but what are his prospects for the future which at this point is a known unknown.

Some of the division’s best and talented new shooters will return in the Belmont Stakes, but there is a talented late developer in there, impressive Peter Pan winner, We The People.

It seems not even Thoroughbred racing can get away for political themes.

So, with gun to temple, we’re swallowing hard and voting for Epicenter in the top slot despite a resume lacking a Grade 1 victory.

But he does own two Grade 2 wins and two Grade 1 placings in the most consequential three-year-old races run in this or any year.

Consistency at the highest levels of a division counts, especially divisions featuring young, still developing horses. His record in not overwhelming but, unlike others, he has nothing to prove. He’ll get his Grade 1.

There is no reason to move Rich Strike from the Second spot but every reason to lift Early Voting from #9 to #3. The filly Secret Oath drops a peg to #5, elevating both Zandon and Jack Christopher.

Yes, Chad “Turf” Brown has three members in the three-year-old top five in our view. #6 Simplification, who bled in the Preakness, should not be punished for that.

And #7 Mo Donegal gets a chance to make amends three Saturdays from now.

We were remiss in not including #8 We The People last week but will acknowledge the impressive Peter Pan prepster.

Taiba drops a notch to #9 and making his debut in the poll at #10, the promising Preakness show finisher, Creative Minister.

Below, just released by NTRA, is how our colleagues voted this week and many apparently were in the same quandary, as Epicenter and Early Voting finished in a dead-heat at #1 each accruing 311 voting points.

1T     EPICENTER

1T     EARLY VOTING

3       ZANDON   

4       RICH STRIKE

5       JACK CHRISTOPHER

6       SECRET OATH

7       MO DONEGAL

8       CREATIVE MINISTER    –

9       SIMPLIFICATION

10     TAIBA        

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