(The Pressbox Guest Columnist Dan Liebman)
Opinion: When the results of the year’s final major race (G1 American Oaks) became official Saturday night, I sat down to fill out my Eclipse Awards ballot, my 34th to date.
There are very few “rules” for voters, other than the deadline and that a voter may abstain in a category but if he chooses to vote in a division he must choose a one-two-three, sort of a win, place and show.
Other than that, your decision-making is your own.
For all 34 years I have voted, I have taken exception with allowing those that cast ballots to choose runners who make only one start during the year in the U.S.
My firm and unwavering belief is I am voting for a body of work that occurred in 2017. One race does not make a body of work, no matter how impressive the performance.
In a similar vein, I do not consider races run outside North America. Hearty congratulations to a horse that ships from the U.S. and wins in Dubai or Europe but those races are irrelevant to me when making my decisions for champions.
There is an inherent difference in being asked to choose a divisional champion and being charged with selecting the best race of the year within that division.
If the exercise is to choose the best race, one could simply pick the Derby winner every year, or the Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, or the horse with the best speed figure.
Racing occurs over 12 months and we do not, as some other sports, award points for wins throughout the year, or have a playoff system or championship event.
It is not possible with horses the way it is with professional sports teams. The team that wins the Super Bowl is the champion of that year.
Though the Breeders’ Cup is a grand event and is as close as we come to championship races, they cannot, and should not, be seen as the races to determine championships. There are horses that do not compete for various reasons and horses that ship in for only that one race on our shores.
Yes, this absolutely means I must ignore horses I like, whose races inspired or awed me.
(Miesque / Photo Courtesy of HorseRacingNation)
I will always feel Miesque was one of the most brilliant racehorses I have seen, yet I did not vote for her either year (1987 and 1988) as champion.
Countless others I could not bring myself to vote for because of one good race. And this year is no different. I excluded Talismanic, who won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Wuheida, who took the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, from consideration.
In addition to a love of hockey and the brilliance of having coins for one and two dollars (commonly called the loonie and toonie), the Canadians have it right in regard to divisional champions for Sovereign Awards.
Their rules state: “… a horse must race in Canada at least two times as a 2-year-old and three times for all horses 3 years old and up, during the year in which the Award is earned. This rule applies to both Canadian-bred and foreign-bred horses.”
It would be refreshing for the Eclipse Awards Steering Committee to consider a similar rule for our champions.
On another Eclipse note, a recent TDN story discussed the letter written by Liz Crow on behalf of Sol Kumin, who is involved with various partnerships and thus doesn’t show on the list of leading owners.
This issue is quite old and involves not only ownership partnerships, but breeding partnerships as well.
Years ago, I had a conversation with Will Farish of Lane’s End Farm regarding breeding partnerships. Farish bred countless top horses with partners (for example A.P. Indy and Summer Squall with William Kilroy and Bet Twice with E.J. Hudson). He, too, wondered why partnerships with a common interest were not somehow combined.
Bluntly put, it is impossible, and impractical, to do so.
How do we know what percentage is owned by each person? Say Kumin owns parts of 100 horses, but 5 percent of one partnership, 2 percent of another, etc. For statistical purposes the horse doesn’t have 5 or 10 owners, the partnership is the ownership entity. If that partnership has 20 horses, they will be grouped for earnings, wins, etc.
It isn’t right for Kumin, or anyone else, to be leading owner because he owns pieces of numerous top horses all owned by different partnerships. Each partnership is judged separately.
In a case such as Farish, where his name showed with one or two partners, one simply has to give voters credit to figure such things out. (It should be noted Farish was the leading breeder of 1992 and 1999).