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HRN Original Blog:
Dead Heat Debates

Eclipse Awards Extreme Makeover

Championships, Year-End Awards…..they always create so much drama. Why is that? You’d think there would be clear cut winners, clear cut rules to help determine such winners, right? Wrong. In Eclipse Award Voting the rules are far from clear. They are muddy and leave too much room for individual interpretation. The award should go to the best horse, we all agree on that, but what defines the best? The most talent, the best record, what?
 
I think the best way to determine which horse is the leader of each division is by taking a page from Churchill Downs’ book and creating a point system.
 
First thing’s first, award points based on the grade of each race. For instance a grade one is worth 100 points total. 50 to the winner, 35 to the place, and 15 to the show. A grade two be worth a maximum of 50 points, 25 to the winner, 15 to the place, and 10 to the show. A grade three to be designated 25 points, with 13 to the winner, 7 to the place, and 5 to the show. This rule should go for each start made by any horse within its own division.
 
Now you ask, what about those horses that go over and beyond? What about a filly taking on males or a 3 year old taking on their elders, or horses trying a new surface….Bonus points. Bonus points should be awarded to any horse who takes a swing at something greater than their own division, and run top three. Say that a filly decided to run in the Derby, she should get 20 points extra. What if she tried her elders? I say 10 points extra, unless she were to test elder males and then she gets 25. Any horse going from the main track to dirt, should also get 10 extra points.
 
Now you say, well, all grade ones aren’t created equal. You are correct, so we assign those that are already considered more prestigious, more points. The Triple Crown is a biggie, the Preakness and Belmont get 120 points, while the Derby is 130. The Travers should also be given 120. Points will be broken down by 60 to the winner, 40 to the place, and 20 to the show. The Kentucky Derby would give 70 to the winner, 40 to the place, and 20 to the show. The Kentucky Oaks would also receive 130, and the “Filly Triple Crown” of the Mother Goose, CCAO, and Alabama would give 120. The Met Mile, the Big Cap, the JCGC, would also get 120, with 50 extra to any horse who could sweep either coasts big three. The same would go to any three year old cold or filly who could perform the hat trick in their division. The one set of races that would be weighted above all would be the Breeders Cup Championship Series, with each race being 150, giving 80 to the winner, 50 to the place, and 20 to the show.
 
Now that we have some set rules, let us test this out on a division…say the glamour division and its “Big Three.” Orb is considered by many, to be the leader. Based on this system, he has a total of 185 points. Palace Malice would have 130 and Will Take Charge would have 125. As of now this system has Orb in a very clear lead, and deservedly so, his body of work is easily superior to Palace Malice or Will Take Charge.
 
Right now, it looks as though Will Take Charge’s only shot to jump up in the division is an outright non placing by Orb and Palace Malice in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Classic, followed by a big performance in the Classic, from him. If Orb is his consistent self, and say, runs second in the Gold Cup and third in the Classic, he would end up with 265, meaning Palace Malice would need to win both the Gold Cup and the Classic to steal the championship.
 
As you can see, the system is complex, but it gives every horse a chance to shine in their division, and rewards a good body of work, over a flash of brilliance, or simply taking the easy road out. If the connections of a horse want the hardware they will have to go where the points are, and if they want the ultimate  honor they will have to step outside of the box  to get it.
 

 

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Older Comments about Eclipse Awards Extreme Makeover...

i don't think this will work. the eclipse awards are racing's oscars. we're deciding who the people of the racing world think is the best horse is, not which horse wins the most big races.
Ruffian, sorry, just came back to this one. I have the mentality that the award should be won by the best "season." So a horse that is hurt or retired midway through the year would be hurt, if another rose above them. I don't think an award should be given out of speculation of talent or potential. What could of been is not the same as what is.
What about horses that get hurt and retire?
I have read up on the British Champions series. A format similar to that would be good for racing. http://www.britishchampionsseries.com/about/qipco-british-champions-series.html
Racing has a lot of problems, drugs, breakdowns etc but another problem is that racing today is just not as good a sport as in the past. Horses race so few times and the top horses rarely face each other on the track. This is one reason why the Breeders Cup has become so dominate, it is one of the few times when horse from all parts of the country come together on the track. Look at all the big races this year with 5 horse fields and a 1-5 favorite. Racing need to find a way to bring horses together and one way would be if only a few races had points that counted for year end awards. This is why Grade 2 and Grade 3 races should not count in a point system. Look at this weekend, big races in New York, Santa Anita and now a big race for older horses in Kentucky. The Gold Cup, once one of the greatest races in the world, is now just the eastern prep race for the Breeders Cup, while the California horses prep at Santa Anita and the Kentucky horses prep in the new Homecoming Race. What a great field if you combined the fields for the Gold Cup, Awesome Again and Homecoming Stakes. Racing needs to find a way to encourage the connections to point to the same races, a point system with only a few major races, would be one way to start.
Jmac500, I think they mean more than a lot of people give credit for. If they meant nothing than many would not chase them the way they do, or have such passionate feelings for losing. One Eclipse is a feather in the cap, but multiple awards, definitely helps define a horse, defines how dominant they were. Anne, I do not think that would happen at all. Connections like to go for prestige, and a three year old who has run well during the TC would not be forced to run more, especially if a stud deal has already been reached because of winning races with said prestige. Older horses are far from over raced, some may think that many of their campaigns are lacking. For Instance Blame, I think he ran only 5 times....That is not a full season, I'd consider 7 and above a full season, but anything less than that is far from it. Buds, you bring up an excellent point...I often wonder why the SM series is not graded, since it often draws so top horses and is a signature event. Is it because a horse needs to be FL bred? If thats the case, then that is a broken senario. However, I would like to note, that i left out many races. Each Division would have it's own races that would be signature, and worth more points, simply because of the fields that typically are drawn and the prestige involved. Just because I did not include it doesn't mean I wouldn't like it seen. If I had included every race, I would have been writing an article over 2k words. On the Dubai issue, if the race is graded or grouped, I feel it should get the same points as a grade over here, along with the bonus i mentioned. IMO the races in Dubai should be equal to what our BC is, with again the bonus. Mike, not sure I understand you. IMO if a grade three just has one major horse, that doesn't make it a grade three. Sullivan, why don't you share some ideas you think would work?
I don't like the idea of the points system. I think Mike in SB put it best- winning 3, 5 or 10 G3 races are not as important as winning a big race (like the Kentucky Derby or Breeders' Cup). I don't like taking emphasis off of the Breeder's Cup and the other big races. I would leave it the way it is. Honestly, there have not been many awards that I disagree with, only a couple a year.
Eclipse Awards mean nothing honestly it doesn't define a horses career.
I think a points system would only increase trainers/ owners trying to find soft graded spots for their horses sort of like what a lot of us that showed dogs attempted to do. Late season contenders could be over raced for their physical needs in order to get more points.
In the show jumping world, as I am sure buckpasser can tell you, there is a points system. It's no fun seeing it done like that. Rather, purge the voters. Kick Mr. Frankel Voter the hell out and name it the American Eclipse Awards. There are edits that could be made but a point system isn't it
The main problem that i have with a points system is the fact that G1 horses often dabble between G2 and G3 races as preps for their major starts. Now take into account that there may be a few G1 winners in the field of a G2 race. At this point would we give G1 points to a G2 race? It just seems odd.
Laura- I would like to start by saying thanks for taking the time to come up with a point system, looks like you put a lot of thought into it. But… it would never work. How can you compare a 3rd place finish in the Belmont with a field of 7 horses, maybe 3 horses that don’t belong, to a 3rd place finish in the Arlington Million with 12 starters all accomplished Graded stakes winners? You Cant. Or a Grade 3 at Golden Gate to the ungraded Sunshine Millions stakes win? You cant. What about a horse that gradually improves all year from sprints to routes, from allowance to G1’s, from surface to surface. What do you do for a horse that runs a prep in dubia and wins, and then a win in the world cup? How do you give bonus points for horse that switch surfaces once, twice, 3 times? How do you not deduct points for horses that lose? How could a horse that wins the Belmont and loses every other race have more points than a horse that won 3 grade 2 and 2nd in the BC classic? These are the reasons why they vote, too many variables for a point system.
Laura, great idea. But, with every idea should come counter points. For 3YO of the year, would it not be more taxing on a horse such as Animal Kingdom, who got hurt in mid-season? He might not have won the Eclipse if a point system were introduced. And, the fact that you are trying to eliminate the popularity contest amount human judges. There would still be the human element, in determining the Grade I, II, & III's. I remember it took quite a while for the Arkansas Derby to be elevated to Grade I status, depite the fact that there were numerous winners and contenders on the Triple Crown trail. Otherwise, I like your concept.
  • dani.pugh · Stay Thirst would have ended the year with 128 points to AK's 123. It was close, like it should have been, with accomplishment throughout the year prevailing. Caleb's Posse, by virtue of his placings in the Rebel, Ohio Derby, and Indiana Derby, and win in the BCDM would have been tied with AK at 123 points. In the sprint division, he would have won a total of 165 to Amazombie's 225. IMO he should have been champion in either on or the other, but that was my human opinion. Human judgement can often cloud facts, and in this case, for me, it did. · 428 days ago
Mark, not left out. I used these three colts because they are the "now" horses. As of right now, Verrazano would be second place in the points rankings, with 138, and IMO would still have a shot, but like the other three, he would need to win out. IMO, I think the mile is a middle ground for routes and sprints and should be treated as such, by counting points earned in a mile towards both routing divisions and sprinting divisions. Meaning that if Verrazano were to win the BCDM, while the other three no showed, he'd end up with 228, eclipsing the rest of his competion.
Ruffian, the system, does reward one big performance. I would love to know how you think that it does that. As i just mentioned it rewards body of work and accomplishment, or else Orb would not be in the lead. If it rewarded one shot wonders, then PM and WTC, who while on the improve, only have two big wins, would be much closer to Orb. Instead, they are quite a bit behind him. This system also may have led to the crowning of Zenyatta twice, depending on what you would score the DWC races. I'd score them similar to the BC, but again, would give extra points because the horse traveled half a world away. With this system she could have been a joint HOTY in 08 and HOTY in 2010, while RA would have won HOTY hands down in 2009. George, Many people don't like the guess work, and actually would like more structure to the rules, so I have a feeling that if this idea was ever brought up, it would be given quite a bit of consideration, as it does take the guesswork out of the equation. CFC, yes it would have taxed AK, and i would not have minded that. I never believed he should have been champion that year, since he did not accomplish much prior to or after the Derby, in 2011. Stay Thirsty, 2nd in the Belmont, winner of the Jim Dandy and Travers, while placing third in the Gold Cup should have won. He also won the Gotham Stakes as well. I haven't done the math, but i'm very sure that his points would have by far outnumbered Animal Kingdom's.
Once again, Verrazano is left out with 4 Stakes wins!
I like a point system, but I would reduce the number of races with points, winning 3, 5 or 10 Grade 3 races is not equal to winning the Kentucky Derby or Breeders Cup in my opinion. And racing needs to bring horse together on the track and one big way to do this is reduce the number of races that would have points. I would like to see a series of races in each division tied to the Breeders Cup. For example in the Classic division one race a month around the country, a race at the Fair Grounds in January, Donn in February, Big Cap in March, Oaklawn Handicap in April, Plimilico Special in May, Stephen Foster in June, Hollywood Gold Cup in July, Pacific Classic in August , Woodward in September and Jockey Club Gold Cup in October. Each of these races would get say 100 points then another 200 points for the Breeders Cup. This could be done for each division, the 3 year olds could have a simular series built around the Triple Crown races and the Travers. Since there are a limited number of races it would force the connections to face the other top horses and it would also increase the importance of many of the old traditional races that have been over shadowed by the Breeders Cup. And one more thing if there was a series of races for each division then it might be possible to set universal rules for medication etc and could be a first step toward a commissioner or single governing body for racing.
I don't agree with this system. Especially when many horses win the derby or Belmont and then go on to have an awful rest of their career. I think the most consistent should be at the top. Not the single performer in a triple crown race. Plus this didn't include the Haskell or Jim dandy. Also Florida derby is a huge one
This would probably take some of the importance off of the Breeders' Cup.
So no voting would be needed? Just count up the points. Opinions not solicited or required. As Seinfeld used to say, "Good luck with all that!".

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Meet Laura Pugh












 

For as long as i can remember I have always loved horses and writing. The first race I ever watched was War Emblem's Preakness Stakes, but I didn't really start to get into racing until the next year where watched and cheered Empire Maker through the Derby, and yes, the Belmont.

I didn't begin writing until a few years later, when I created my own blog Horsin' Around. It didn't take long for me to realize that my niche was stirring the pot and creating heated debates, especially during the time of Big Brown vs Curlin and Rachel Alexandra vs Zenyatta. I was a Curlin and Rachel fan.

Now I am here under the name of Dead Heat Debates, and hoping to live up to that name. Have fun and let the opinions fly!