While I agree in principle with nearly all the Eclipse Award nominations announced last week—the inclusion of one-time U.S. running Euros including Raven’s Pass, Conduit, and Goldikova I have railed against previously—I take serious exception to the “other” female turf candidate, Cocoa Beach. For the life of me I can’t understand what voters were thinking, as that one ran exactly one race on turf, the G1 Matriarch in November—which was a mile race. Contrast that with the achievements of Mauralakana, the five-year-old mare destined for the breeding shed early in the year, but kept in training after rattling off an amazing string of eight turf races from 9f to 12f, including five wins (one G1, two G2, one G3) and two seconds (one G1, one G3), a record which surely eclipsed (pardon the pun) Cocoa Beach’s ONE victory on turf.
Then again, should I have expected more considering who votes for these awards? All too often impressions of quality are misguidedly distilled down to a single race, and the adage “what have you done lately?” appears to dominant voters’ minds. After all, they are yearly awards, not just for one or two races at the end.
Additionally, when it comes to the owners’ and trainers’ categories, the issue of quantity doggedly drives voting rather than a more reflective analysis of true excellence. The nominations of the obnoxious IEAH Stables and two ethically-challenged trainers Steve Asmussen and Rick Dutrow further substantiates the widely-held impression by outsiders that the industry is in denial about momentous issues regarding the integrity of the sport. How proud we should be if any of them win!
In all sincerity, don’t voters get it? These entities represent everything that is wrong with racing—and the world—today. Overblown, over-the-top, more-is-more, win by all means possible. As for those who argue IEAH’s many G1-victories with various horses (Big Brown, Kip Deville, Frost Giant, Ariege, Benny the Bull, Court Vision and Laragh) trumps their distasteful persona, I would suggest it doesn’t take much skill—just a whole lot of money—to purchase excellent horses that have been developed by others.
If true sportsmanship (or is that showmanship?) were to be rewarded, then Jess Jackson should have been in the final three, as Curlin’s campaign this year was an anomaly in an age when good male horses are rushed off to stud at ages two and three, barely time to establish a career that proves their abilities. As for quality trainers, Bob Baffert, John Shirreffs, and Larry Jones immediately come to mind for the fine jobs they did in 2008.
Oh, well, maybe they will get it right next year...