Popularity contest

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Writing about something someone else is writing about and writing about the Eclipse Award ballots and/or the process of selecting Horse of the Year are two things that will rarely be seen under this byline.

The reasons are simple. For the former, it’s bad form to insult or criticize your colleagues and their work. For the latter, it’s kind of boring and predictable. Roll out your annual diatribe about who you voted for and why. On and on and on.

Wait, maybe I just insulted a whole group that does just that year in, year out.

Oh well, moving on.

Saw something earlier this month from a colleague who mentioned their Horse of the Year choice was a horse that people outside of the racing industry would know. A vote like that, at least to me, indicates that voter was compelled to single out a horse that transcended racing. The general public knew about this horse, so some how, some way, that horse is Horse of the Year.

Since when are excellence awards popularity contests?

Since when are they about style over substance?

Since when are they paybacks for a job well done, for being “good for racing,” or attracting new fans to the game?

And while we’re at it, since when are they lifetime achievement awards? Such sentiments were written and spoken about in recent years about that, how one horse did this and that, and was rewarded for those efforts. Zenyatta, deserving of many honors, was frequently mentioned in this manner.

Perhaps that’s where folks get it wrong.

They’re called the Eclipse Awards.

Awards, not rewards.

There’s nothing wrong with voting for the popular horse mind you, so long as said popular horse was the kind that was supported at the betting windows.

Nothing says excellence like horses who are favored, or close to favored, in many of their starts. The odds board usually doesn’t lie and favorites are just that for a reason. They’re often faster, more talented and more accomplished than the opposition.

Let the fans vote in the Eclipse Awards? In a way they already do, it’s the voters that need to pay attention.

But let’s get back to the other type of popular horses, the “fan favorites” if you will.

Some argue that they’re the deserving winners of racing’s highest honors, because they’ve suddenly morphed people who had little or no interest in racing into die-hard fans. Thousands pour out to see these horses. That makes them worthy or year-end recognition?

Hundreds of thousands, millions even, turn out to see movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Captain America: The Winter Solider, The LEGO Movie (with apologies to my nephew Owen) or Transformers: Age of Extinction. Millions watch reality television shows involving housewives in suburban areas, so-called celebrity chefs who insult people and so-called talent shows where marginal talents do the same to contestants.

Those movies and programs are certainly popular, but nobody is confusing them with being worthy of the highest recognition possible.

Racing’s highest honors should be no different. To cast a vote for any other reason but for the most accomplished horse in the most significant races does the game a tremendous disservice.