I did not
grow up in a horse racing household, so I never had anyone teaching me the
ropes or instilling a “this is how it should be because that’s how it’s always
been” mentality in me. Everything I know about this industry, I taught myself,
which gives me a unique perspective. Couple my unique perspective with the fact
that I’m a young woman and you can see how the way I think may be cause for
shaking things up. In a sport dominated by men, it is easy to see how that
would cause quite a stir. Even though men do still dominate the Sport of Kings,
women have been making inroads into the industry, but the more things change,
the more they stay the same. However, the last time I checked, the calendar
read 2013, not 1913.
changed, but the mentality of some has remained stuck in a different century, a
century in which the “Old Boys’ Club” way of doing things was perfectly
acceptable. Bearing all this in mind, it should have come as no surprise that
there were a few out there that did not like the Top 10 choices I selected for
my first NTRA Poll. Comments ran the gamut from “two female sprinters in top 8.
Wow. Unbelievably bad” to “hate the voter not the poll” to “Listing Dance to
Bristol & leaving Cross Traffic out says to me you're treating poll as a
personal popularity contest” to “No hate for her, she just isn't qualified to
have a vote at this point in her racing career.” Ah yes, the Old Boys’ Club
mentality is still alive and kicking and rearing its ugly head…even in the 21st
easy to compile a Top 10 that encompasses every division rather than
restricting a poll to one division. As a voter, I tried to be as objective as
possible, but sometimes it is the subjective qualities that decide a vote,
especially when there are so many factors, in this case horses, involved. The
task becomes even more difficult when there is not a clear cut leader in a
division (That is why both Groupie Doll
and Dance to Bristol along with
three 3-year old colts were in my Top 10). Voters all look for different things
when deciding their Top 10, and not all voters will think or vote alike. I tend
to think outside the box, and some of my selections reflected that tendency.
classic winner is obviously still the crème de la crème of American racing, but
because I did not grow up being instilled with that mentality, I give as much
credit to brilliant sprinters or milers as I do to classic winners (just ask me
who I thought should have gotten 3-year old honors in 2011). Furthermore, the
guidelines state that the NTRA Poll should be “indicative of who may be crowned
a divisional Champion in their respective divisions and ultimately reflect
Horse of the Year.” I explained in yesterday’s piece why I voted the way I did, but I find that it may also be
helpful to explain why I left off some of the horses others felt I should have
Big Blue Kitten—As good as this Ramsey Kitten has
been in winning two consecutive Grade 1 races, Point of Entry’s superiority is
such that I feel Big Blue Kitten will need to do just a little bit more to
dethrone him. However, if this year’s Eclipse voting goes the way it did last
year, it won’t matter what Big Blue Kitten or Point of Entry do or do not do
because Wise Dan will sweep all the awards for which he’s eligible.
Obviously—The reason I left off the West Coast’s
top turf miler goes hand-in-hand with why I left off Big Blue Kitten. Obviously
has dominated the West Coast, but Wise Dan has been better. The Titan of the
Turf has 3 Grade 1 wins this year to Obviously’s 1, plus he set a course record
in the Woodbine Mile and did so while hardly breaking a sweat.
Cross Traffic—I took a lot of flak for leaving
Cross Traffic out of my Top 10, even more so when I stated that I just hadn’t
been wowed by him this year. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate what he
has done. He just began his career this year and has amassed a 5:3-2-0 record,
including a win in the Grade 1 Whitney. He lost two heartbreakers at Big Sandy,
but by all accounts he should be at the top of the division. However, it is
hard to see anyone else at the top of the older male division when Game On Dude
has been so dominant on the West Coast and all of the East Coast’s top players
have been trading blows.
Sahara Sky—The 5-year old son of Pleasant Tap
is one that I am actually beginning to regret leaving out. The more I think about
it, the more I am beginning to believe he will end up being the one to beat in
the Breeders’ Cup Sprint should he go that route. He has raced primarily on the
West Coast, but he did travel east and ran a very solid second in the G1 Carter
Handicap before winning a nail biter over Cross Traffic in the G1 Met Mile.
Plus, he beat some very good sprinters while racing on the West Coast.
Graydar—The health troubled son of the late
Unbridled’s Song is perfect this year, and he beat two very good fields in his
wins. If not for being sidelined due to having an ankle chip removed, it is
quite possible that he would be giving Game On Dude a run for his money.
However, as talented as he clearly is, he still remains a question mark for me
due in large part to his relative newness to the division.
Flat Out—The “Baron of Belmont,” as HRN’s
managing editor Brian Zipse calls him, is just that. He is superb at Belmont
but not quite as good at other tracks. A third consecutive win in the Jockey
Club Gold Cup would put him in elite company, but his losses to other movers
and shakers in the division caused me to pass over him, again in large part due
to Game On Dude’s West Coast dominance.
Verrazano—I believe Verrazano to be the most polarizing
three-year old at the moment. Much like Tim Tebow, people either love him or
they hate him. Those that love him think he should be included because he is a
dual Grade 1 winner and has six wins this year. However, with so much emphasis
on winning at the classic distances in the 3-year old division, I left him off
my list because he does not have a classic distance win. Furthermore, when he
faced the Triple Crown winners, he finished behind them, and he only beat Oxbow in the Haskell because the
Preakness winner exited the race with an injury and was not pushed to run his
best during the race.
Discouraging as harsh criticism might be, I will continue to vote the way I see fit. Contrary to what some seemed to believe, I didn't just pull names out of a hat or choose one horse over another because they were a personal favorite. This vote is something I took (and will continue to take) seriously, and I provided sound reasoning for why I voted the way I did. People don't have to agree with my vote to respect it. I stand by
my first vote, but I will be the first to admit that how this week’s vote and
next week’s vote look will likely be vastly different in light of the huge
weekend of racing coming up. Things change so quickly in this industry that by
next week, this week’s vote will likely be forgotten.