Somewhere, someone actually wrote down on an official Eclipse Awards ballot that Rock of Gibraltar should be North America's Horse of the Year for 2002 even though he lost his only start here.
Is this a great country, or what?
The son of Danehill deserved the Horse of the Year title in Europe, where he rolled to five consecutive group I victories in 2002. And few would dispute he was the best horse in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington Park Oct. 26. The fact is he got beat. That's why they run the race.
Using that same logic (a word that really doesn't apply to the Rock of Gibraltar Horse of the Year supporters), it makes sense to vote for the University of Miami as the NCAA football champions, even though they lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. They looked like the best team, right?
The 71 voters in the final Associated Press poll all marked Ohio State as national champions on their ballots. Perhaps there is more accountability in college football's year-end ranking than there is in Eclipse Awards voting.
Ballots are sent to three groups: National Turf Writers Association members; employees of Daily Racing Form; and racing secretaries at member tracks of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, along with certain employees of Equibase, the industry's official record-keeper. The Turf writers are the only ones whose individual votes are made public, but that hasn't stopped some of them from making indefensible selections on occasion.
Do some voters have potential conflicts of interest? Of course they do. Several years ago, a track owner with a champion in his small stable got one vote for outstanding owner from an unnamed racing secretary.
A number of leading owners and breeders are directors or trustees of racing associations, and several are on the board of trustees of this publication. If every racing secretary at Magna Entertainment-owned tracks wanted to help their boss, Frank Stronach, win an Eclipse Award, they could do so. If every NTWA member writing in this magazine wanted to boost the chances of a Blood-Horse board member's horse winning an Eclipse Award, they could vote as a bloc.
Only a true cynic would believe that actually happens. The vast majority of Eclipse Awards voters take their assignment very seriously, and, it is hoped, without regard to biases involving geography or personalities. Nevertheless, it would not hurt to have an ombudsman monitor the balloting to ensure voters are not making frivolous, obviously biased, or completely uninformed decisions. Anyone doing so should be tossed out of the voting process. Leading Sires
The inquiry sign already is blinking in two of the extremely tight year-end sire races. It was previously pointed out here (The Blood-Horse of Dec. 14, page 7175) that first-crop leader Elusive Quality may lose enough in progeny earnings from an English drug case to be stripped of his crown.
Closer inspection shows several sires in the hotly contested first- and second-crop races to have progeny earnings in Canada, where a dollar is worth roughly 64 cents in U.S. currency. However, Equibase and The Jockey Club continue to treat the Canadian and U.S. dollars as currency equals, thus inflating the earnings of purse earners in Canada.
If a horse wins $100,000 in Canadian funds, that is the amount The Jockey Club puts into its computer database. In reality, the converted dollar amount should be roughly $64,000--a big difference. With the first- and second-crop races as tight as they were, the absence of a true dollar figure from Canada may very well have made the difference in either or both sire races.
Breeders deserve better from The Jockey Club on this issue. It's time to look at the Canadian dollar as a separate currency.