Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let's Compare

Every year in this space we have our own little awards. The purpose of these awards is not to have my own little awards. The reason we host these awards is to present a workable alternative format for the Eclipse Awards that is based on more than just the opinions and sometimes biases of a few journalists and officials. We've inserted clear guidelines as well as a statistical component to hopefully balance out the bias that comes with opinion.

Ultimately the proof has to be in the pudding. Do the Eclipse Awards work as they are or is change necessary? Here are the 2009 Award winners below.

2009 TCR Awards
Horse of the Year: Curlin
Main Track Older Male: Curlin
Main Track Older Female: Zenyatta
Turf Male: Einstein
Turf Female: Forever Together
Male Sprinter: Street Boss
Female Sprinter: Indian Blessing
Three Year Old Male: Big Brown
Three Year Old Female: Indian Blessing
Two Year Old Male: Midshipman
Two Year Old Female: Stardom Bound

2009 Eclipse Awards
Horse of the Year: Curlin
Older Male: Curlin
Older Female: Zenyatta
Male Turf Horse: Conduit (IRE)
Female Turf Horse: Forever Together
Male Sprinter: Benny the Bull
Female Sprinter: Indian Blessing
Three-Year-Old Male: Big Brown
Three-Year-Old Filly: Proud Spell
Two-Year-Old Male: Midshipman
Two-Year-Old Filly: Stardom Bound

There were only three differences this year. Turf Male, Male Sprinter and Three Year Old Female. We'll take a look at them one by one.

Turf Male
Conduit or Einstein? They had the same number of G-1 wins and the same number of wins in total but Conduit had a better winning percentage. To me it's a question of eligibility. These awards are supposed to be for American horses and Conduit was not an American horse. I think a rule stipulating a minimum number of starts in America should be immediately enforced. The TCR Awards have a rule to that effect and that is the primary reason that Conduit was not the TCR champion. I see Conduit's selection as a bit of a double standard as well since Goldikova was not given the female equivalent award. If Conduit's season was better than Einstein's then Goldikova's was better than Forever Together's. This award needs to go to an American based horse and the call between Einstein and Conduit was a close one anyway. TCR 1: Eclipse 0

Male Sprinter
This is one case where I think the Eclipse Awards outperformed. Benny The Bull was the rightful champion and I was pleasantly surprised that Midnight Lute was not voted champion. Benny had the best year overall and unfortunately Street Boss was made TCR champion. I think the reasons for this were two fold. The first reason is that Street Boss had a more full campaign and it exposed the weakness of a points system. The more you run the more points you get. Second of all not many people vote for these awards so even though Benny The Bull had the highest voting total it wasn't enough to overturn the point deficit. Even 10 more voters with Benny The Bull on top would have made him champion. This incident will inspire a change in the way the points are used for next years awards. Instead of using the straight TCR score the point component will be made up of 50% TCR and 50% Power Rankings. I've looked at the ramifications of this method through all my back data and found that it changes very little but one of the things it would have changed is this award. TCR 1: Eclipse 1

Three Year Old Female
This one will come down to a difference of opinion but I heartily disagree with giving Proud Spell this award. She did not deserve it based on the strength of her campaign. I think it was just a case of most people believing she was atop this division all year so the vote was a no-brainer. If you sit down and look at her the record beside that of Indian Blessing and Music Note she comes out third best. Proud Spell was inferior in every category you would use to decide between horses except for earnings. Her head to head record with these two was at best even. One could say though that Music Note beat her handily once while Proud Spell only managed to reverse that result narrowly. Proud Spell had fewer G-1 wins, fewer wins in total, the worst winning percentage of the trio and she even ran in the fewest number of G-1 races. She never faced older horses and managed to lose to some inferior ones her age. She also had the lowest average speed figures and the narrowest winning margins. I simply don't see a case for her as champion aside from the fact that she had a big reputation. There is some clamor over the fact that a sprinter, like Indian Blessing, shouldn't be eligible for this award. That's something to consider and I'm going to set about making clear cut divisional guidelines, but the fact still remains that both Indian Blessing and Music Note were more worthy than Proud Spell. TCR 2: Eclipse 1

I think the Eclipse Awards come out the loser again especially when you consider that IEAH did not get the champion owner award. That was flat out robbery and I'm surprised that IEAH was as gracious as they were in defeat. The NTRA clearly had a problem with IEAH that went beyond what they accomplished on the track and they decided to punish them at the polls. The NTRA voting block was the only one that favored Stronach over IEAH and they favored Stronach heavily. It's an absolute disgrace to racing from an organization that is supposed to be leading reform.

I do this every year but I want to ask again: Who in the world voted for Henrythenavigator as champion Turf Horse? How about Tale of Ekati for champion 3yo? Or Desert party for juvenile champion? These voters need to be exposed, ridiculed and put on probation for failing to take this process seriously. To the 40 voters who missed the one month ballot mail in window, you should excluded altogether and never given a ballot again. There is no reason why a person, who is supposed to be one of the true insiders of this sport, should fail to get their vote in aside from a lengthy stay in the hospital.

Eclipse Awards need to change, we need guidelines, accountability and a point system. It really isn't that hard. If a regular joe like me can create some guidelines that make the process better why can't the industry professionals do the same?


Jessica said...

What I found so disturbing about the 3YO filly division was that Eight Belles and Goldikova finished well ahead of Indian Blessing and Music Note in the final vote count, which makes no sense by any objective measure. Ah, but objectivity wasn't part of the process and so a filly whose greatest accomplishment was running second in the Kentucky Derby garnered 71 votes and another who made only one start in the US scored 41, while two fillies who ran year-long campaigns racking up graded stakes wins earned 20 votes apiece. How maudlin, how ridiculous. And just one example of why, as you write, year-end awards need some accountability and a point system.

Colins Ghost said...

Great job...interesting post. I think Proud Spell's connections who are very likeable and well respected helped her cause and likely got her some extra votes. I think Indian Blessing had the best season of the female 3yo's on paper. Wasn't her final win in 08 (g1 Labrea) after the Eclipse ballots were due? Another flaw in the system...

Kennedy said...

My understanding is that the ballots are due at the end of the year which effectively means that most if not all the ballots were sent in before the La Brea. I think it's a major flaw in the system. No voting should be allowed until AFTER the final races are run.

Megan said...

Overall, a wonderful post.

I'm glad someone is taking these irresponsible voters to task; some of the choices made were absolutely ridiculous.

You really should submit this to one of the racing publications; I think a lot of people in the industry are turning a blind eye to the biases of some of the voters.