The fact that Tizway is now within striking distance of being the NTRA’s top-ranked U.S. thoroughbred is so utterly ridiculous that it strongly calls into question the very existence of such a meaningless, utterly subjective poll in the first place. Jumping on the bandwagon of the latest G1 winner regardless of their body of work appears to be the modus operandi for industry voters—look how many Eclipse voters give disproportionate weight to Breeders’ Cup winners (Dangerous Midge, anyone?). So, in the long run, what possible benefit does such a blatantly biased poll serve the sport?
And it is extremely biased, favoring male routers (who are truly middle-distance horses, at best) over sprinters, turf horses and especially females. But five of the horses in the top 10 are fillies/mares you say? True—and rightly so, as their performances have so far outshone Tizway’s this year that we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. Both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace unquestionably belong in any Horse of the Year discussion, as does Turbulent Descent and It’s Tricky; between the four of them, only once (in a combined total of 20 races) has one of them finished worse than second.
Yes, Tizway won the G1 Met Mile and this past Saturday’s G1 Whitney—but his previous two races this year were hardly worth writing home about. And, yes, the Saratoga track was slowing on Saturday, but his final time (1:52.43) was by far the slowest time since Pilon’s 1:53 in 1959—surely the track wasn’t the slowest it’s been in over 50 years! Given the sad state of the older horse division—the lingering consequences of retiring male horses to stud way too early as has been the practice in recent years—his competition was about as good as it gets. Sadly, that isn’t saying much, but it should. Too bad the NTRA voters don’t have enough sense to consider that.
Among the horses better than Tizway that don’t appear in the top 10? Winter Memories comes to mind, as well as sprinter Sassy Image. Others that should be in the conversation: Courageous Cat and Inglorious, not to mention Euroears. If basing selection merely on G1 wins, Get Stormy should be there, and what about Zazu and St. John’s River, both of whom apparently received no votes at all?
Listen, I love Goldikova as much as the next person, but until a horse runs in this country during this calendar year, it’s seriously moronic to include her on the list. If you include her, why not Frankel, or So You Think, or Black Caviar, or Nathaniel, or...you get the point (I hope).
Bottom line: this poll is just one more dysfunctional thing wrong with how the powers that be approach “marketing” the sport, one more ineffective tool that distracts fans from fully appreciating truly stellar performances whenever and wherever they may occur. That also means we need to seriously rethink the current graded stakes system, since its definition of "quality" certainly appears questionable, not to mention disproportionate.