Happy News Year? Although it feels like this should be a quiet time of year in the world of horse racing, I'm actually a bit shocked to find my email Inbox swelling up with news stories.
Is Zenyatta the Horse of the Year?
Photo by Alex Evers / Equisport Photos
For instance, many writers are contemplating the Eclipse Awards.
John Asher of the Voice Tribune correctly selected Woodbine Apprentice Omar Moreno
Trainer – Todd Pletcher had another great year and he finally won the Kentucky Derby. He should take the award after watching Steve Asmussen, who again leads the nation in wins in 2010, take the honor over the past two years.
Jockey – Ramon Dominguez gets my nod over Garrett Gomez in a close one.
Owner – I’ll give the nod to Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, for their decision to keep the big girl in training for another year, which was a very good year for their entire stable.
Apprentice Jockey – Canada’s Omar Moreno has won nearly $5.5 million in purses and 150 races, the top numbers in North America.
Could Omar Moreno win an Eclipse Award for Canada?
Meanwhile, the DRF's Steven Crist released his popular The Ballot, version 1.0 which lauded some popular choices but strangely hedged on Goldikova.
Turf female: I'm probably just stalling here by not committing to Goldikova, but it sticks in my craw that Proviso won four Grade 1's, including the Kilroe against males, and won't get rewarded. It was much easier to vote for Goldikoa last year off one U.S. start because there was no plausible alternative. In any case, the ill-fated Tuscan Evening, who topped the nation by winning six graded stakes in 2010 -- all by July 17 -- richly deserves to be the third finalist.
Some writers were writing about awards and other writers were winning awards.
Wright Thompson won the 2010 Media Eclipse Award for Writing in the Feature/Commentary category for "The Legend of Zenyatta". To read the complete piece, click into this link:
We are driving to Costco to buy beer for a horse. Not just any beer. It has to be Guinness. The horse likes Guinness, likes it room temperature, likes it at a certain time of day. So assistant trainer Michelle Jensen and I are taking the truck to a strip mall.
This is my introduction to Zenyattaland.
We get into the store and I'm laughing. I have friends who write for Esquire, and they get sent to catch glimpses of Penelope Cruz. Me? I've flown west to buy drinks for a 1,200-pound mare. That's like 12 Penelope Cruzes.
"You almost have a master's degree," I say to Jensen, "and you're buying beer for a horse?"
"Not just a horse," she says. "It's Zenyatta. She's a person. She's a living legend."
Bill Finley picked up the 2010 Eclipse Award for outstanding writing in the news/enterprise division for his story, "Do We Need a Sturdier Racehorse?". To read the complete piece, click into this link:
Allen Jerkens’s list of feats is a mile or two long, but none is more impressive than his dismantling of Secretariat. He didn’t do it just once, but twice, and did it in the span of eight weeks.
First Onion beat the Triple Crown winner in the 1973 Whitney at Saratoga. Fifty-six days later, Jerkens got him again, this time with Prove Out in the Woodward. They were different races,won by different horses, but each had one thing in common, besides their trainer: Both were running back in a week or less. Onion raced four days before the Whitney; Prove Out ran one week prior to the Woodward.
Thirty-seven years later, with seemingly every owner and trainer in the sport convinced the animal is no longer sturdy and must be pampered, no one would dare try something like that.
Onion Peels Away From Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney
The NTRA also announced that HRTV wins Television Feature Media Eclipse Award for Swale documentary; and that ESPN wins Media Eclipse Award for Breeders' Cup and also that Michael Clevenger wins second Media Eclipse Award for Photography.
All Hail Swale! Winner of the 1984 Belmont
Not to be outdone, the USTA announced that H.A.N.A.,the Horseplayers Association of North America, and driver Yannick Gingras will receive President’s Awards:
Horseplayers, both Standardbred and Thoroughbred, have long been the lifeblood of the equine racing sports, but they and their concerns/suggestions have usually received short shrift from the sports’ organizations and racing officials. The self-formed H.A.N.A. is trying to change that: “H.A.N.A. is committed to giving horseplayers a voice” reads the very first sentence of its mission statement.
. . .
The horseplayers association, headquartered in Virginia, has Jeff Platt as its President, while its secretary has been Dean Towers, known to many harness racing participants, an Ontario horseowner who wrote his university thesis on off-track betting.
A hearty congratulations to Dean who pens the popular harness blog Pull The Pocket.
* * *
King Patrick keeping warm in the Caribbean
While I'm freezing my fingers off in Ontario (and not winning any awards), Woodbine jocks Patrick Husbands and Chantal Sutherland are enjoying some warm weather at Santa Rosa Park, Arima in beautiful Trinidad and Tobago:
FILCHER and De Jewel, winner and runner-up in last year's edition of the 1,100-metre First Citizens Sian's Gold Sprint on the turf, will renew rivalry in Saturday's running of the 12-horse feature at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
Filcher, who scored by a short-head, will start from the six-gate, while De Jewel is in the outside 12-gate.
Unbeaten two-year-old importation Signal Alert, who turns three years old on New Year's Day, will leave from the three-gate.
However, his trainer Glenn Mendez warned: "Unfortunately, because of the amount of rain we are having, Signal Alert has not put a foot on the turf and we are hoping it will be off the turf."
Five-time Canadian Sovereign Award-winning jockey Patrick Husbands will be in action on Saturday's card and will partner trainer John O'Brien's Bristling in the "Sprint", while female rider Chantal Sutherland, a two-time Sovereign Award winner as the champion apprentice in 2001 and 2002 in Canada, will be aboard trainer Sharon Ferreira's Trinity Fire. Stewards Cup runner-up Big City Diva will be loaded in the ten-gate with Ricky Jadoo in the saddle.
Imagine palm trees instead of willows...
* * *
Some good news for fans of western Canadian racing. Bloodhorse.Com reports Hastings to Offer Higher Purses in 2011:
Hastings Racecourse & Slots will offer a 71-day Thoroughbred meet in 2011 and increase purses double digits, officials said.
The meet at the British Columbia, Canada, racetrack will run from April 16-Oct. 2 with racing three days a week through most of the session. Racing will be held most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, according to the schedule released by the track in late December.
A 41-stakes schedule is on tap with purses totaling $2.57 million. The top allowance race purse will be $32,500, which includes a bonus for horses bred in British Columbia.
Last year, purses averaged $113,640 a day, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.
Also announced was the appointment of Raj Mutti as regional general manager of Hastings and Fraser Downs. Mutti appeared on the Thoroughbred Times Top 40 under 40 list:
With stints as an owner, breeder, horseplayer, marketing manager, and director of racetrack operations, Raj Mutti carried a unique perspective into his role as general manager of Hastings Race Course, even before his age came into the mix.
Mutti was 26 when he took the helm at Hastings in 2007. His background at the track, where he began working as a busboy at age 14, and his familiarity with the way people in their 20s communicate have triggered a different approach and different atmosphere.
* * *
And, of course, there are horses out there training and racing. Some familiar names such as Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish who will return to racing in 2011 for trainer Carolyn Costigan.
Roan Inish wins the 2010 Oaks in a fiery finish with Moment of Majesty
Mobilizer, who was an early favourite for the Queen's Plate, is working towards his return having notched a three furlong work at Payson Park Training Centre in 38:20 Breezing on December 24th. Another 2010 Plate contender, Giant's Tomb, went four furlongs over the Fair Grounds dirt in 52:00 Breezing on December 27th.
The massive Mobilizer is back in training
You can keep track of all the Woodbine-based trainers and their winter exploits in my Entries/Results "Sunbird" page.
* * *
Keep track of the latest horse racing news by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.
Still need more? Check out my archived posts including Feature Stories and Photo Essays.