• Has the Breeders’ Cup Become Detrimental to Racing?

    POSTED Jan 11, 2014

    Since the Eclipse Awards were announced, many racing fans have been weeping and gnashing their teeth over the nominees.

    My friend Laura Pugh of Horse Racing Nation was so incensed by the Eclipse candidates that she even made a video about it… which, I suspect, will soon be screening at Cannes — only with Shia LaBeouf playing the part of Pugh.

    “It’s a list of Breeders’ Cup winners — literally,” lamented Pugh in her YouTube production. “If you won a Breeders’ Cup, you got nominated.

    “Is there something wrong with this?” Pugh continued. “No, if you had a good season to go along with it, of course there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    But therein lies the rub, according to Ms. Pugh and others. Some horses did not have a good season to go along with their BC success — horses like Ria Antonia, for example.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    “Why in the heck is Ria Antonia on this list of nominees,” asks Pugh. “… She won one big race — one big race! And it was by a nostril — nose — excuse me, it wasn’t even by a nostril, she won it by [disqualification] … all her other races this year were dismal. Tell me how she is on here over Sweet Reason?”

    OK, I will tell you, as well as the others who feel likewise, why Ria Antonia has been nominated for an Eclipse Award: It’s because she won a championship race. After all, the Breeders’ Cup events are dubbed “World Championships” (in typical American sports fashion, “world” has a distinct U.S. feel).

    Yes, Yes, I know — that is precisely what irritates critics of the BC.  There are, after all, other races run throughout the year. Still, I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging that certain events mean more than others.

    How else would one explain Orb being on the list of Eclipse nominees?

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Let’s be real, outside of a tremendous spring, in which he captured four straight races, Orb was a complete bust. He was spanked in the Preakness, slapped down in the Belmont (by fellow Eclipse nominee Palace Malice), beaten in the Travers and buried in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

    But he’s an Eclipse Award candidate thanks to one race — the Kentucky Derby, which, as it turned out, was his last win of his career (Orb has been sent to stud).

    And this emphasis on big-race wins is not just a U.S. phenomenon. Guess how many Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners have won a Cartier Racing Award (the European equivalent of an Eclipse Award) for Horse of the Year over the past 11 years?

    Try six.

    (during the year in which they were honored)

    2013 – Treve
    2009 – Sea the Stars
    2008 – Zarkava
    2007 – Dylan Thomas
    2005 – Hurricane Run
    2003 – Dalakhani

    In fact, outside of Frankel, who was European Champion in 2011 and 2012, all the other Cartier Horse of the Year honorees won either the Arc or — are you ready for this? — a Breeders’ Cup race.

    Granted, Ouija Board (Horse of the Year in 2004 and 2006) and Goldikova (2010) had other big wins on their resume in addition to the BC events that they captured, but it’s worth noting that the former won just three of nine races in 2006 — and two of them came against restricted (female) company.

    Personally, I have no problem giving (much) greater weight to the BC races and other races of historical significance. What do you think?
    How important should the Breeders' Cup races be to Eclipse Award voters?

    pollcode.com free polls 

    Anonymous said...

    Palace Malice won the Belmont, not the Preakness.

    Derek Simon said...

    Yes, thank you. I put that notation in the wrong place. It has been corrected.

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