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Sports Fans Love Polls ... Why Not Racing?

Sports fans love polls. During the college football and basketball seasons, discussion is never very far from the weekly Top 25 polls.  Every win or loss starts a conversation about strength of schedule or RPI and what kind of change will occur in the polls.
 
This week marks the return of the NTRA Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old polls. I think that horse racing needs to do more to use these polls to bring attention to our sport. The football and basketball polls are prominently displayed across the country in print and online sports sections. How many websites and newspapers post horse racing’s polls?
 
There is plenty of opportunity with horse racing to have the same kind of discussions that occur in college basketball. In basketball the voters use RPI to help make their decisions. This definition of RPI comes from the RPI Wikipedia page, “The Rating Percentage Index, commonly known as the RPI, is a quantity used to rank sports teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule.” In racing we also carefully watch wins and losses. Racing relies on the graded stakes system as basketball uses strength of schedule.
 
When I put together my poll vote each week I pay particular attention to the number of grade one, two, and three stakes that each horse has won. I look for head to head match-ups between the horses just like in the team sports. We also have to deal with horses that don’t run against each other, as in 2009 when Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta did not meet and that led to some of the most heated debates in the history of racing. Similarly, this past season in college football, highly rated Notre Dame did not play most of the other top teams and that provided great fuel for debate.
 
With baseball and football the final goal of the polls is to predict the National Champ.  This is also the mandate in the Top Thoroughbred poll, “Ultimately, the last NTRA Top ThoroughbredPoll of the season should be representative of who may be selected as Horse of the Year.”
 
March Madness provides a definitive resolution to the basketball season, but how often do the polls predict that winner? College football is still trying to figure out how to clearly crown their national champion. In racing the best that we have is the Breeders’ Cup Championships, but there are many races over the two days. The Classic has not crowned our Horse of the Year since 2007 with Curlin. Wise Dan won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2012, and he did head into the Breeders’ Cup atop our poll and, of course, Wise Dan was named Horse of the Year.
 
The two polls in horse racing provide plenty of opportunity for interest. At this time of the year the three-year-olds are the focus as the Derby Trail draws a great deal of attention.  The wins and losses in the graded stakes races shape the top 10. The poll tries to predict success in the Kentucky Derby and later in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
 
After the Triple Crown ends the three-year-old poll shuts down and those horses become part of the Top Thoroughbred poll. In the second half of the year some of them will begin to compete against older horses as they vie for end of the year honors.
 
Horse racing has important races almost every weekend, just as there are big basketball and football games throughout their seasons. Be sure to join the conversation about racing’s top horses and spread the word.  Check out the weekly poll and cast your vote for the top horses here at Horse Racing Nation's polls

 

What the Nation is saying about Sports Fans Love Polls ... Why Not Racing?...

And a horse doesnt have to race or "play" for his or her rankt o change based on other horses. There are races everyweek so the poll will change.
WPS -- Sports teams have different conferences which keep them apart, but if top horses want to face each other there is plenty of opportunity.
I'm all for a 3 year old poll & I think more visible polls may help a little, but basketball & football teams play at least once a week, whereas you may not see a horse for a few months. Plus, horses may not face each other like sports teams but its tough to compare when horses compete on different surfaces at different distances. At least teams place on the same sized field & length of game is same. Just too much apples to oranges with ranking horses.
I think visible polls could bring new fans to the sport. If they see the polls, it might pique their interest enough to look further into it. I know when I run across something I find interesting, I don't just say, "Hey, that's interesting!" and move on. I take the time to look into it further.
not alone but if racing ever decides to start to market itself, it would be a useful tool.
IHATC, polls will not under any circumstance bring fans to the sport.
Is there a list of the NTRA poll voters?
those are good categories for most us, but if the idea is to appeal to the masses those are too many.
Easy: stayer, sprinter, dirt female, dirt male, turf miler, turf sprinter.
If that's the purpose>>I too Completely agree, cocoa> but would stop after *accurate*
Cocoa2, you have a point but if the purpose of the poll is to appeal to a wide range of casual fans you'd need to limit your categories to maybe turf and dirt or filly and male or what not.
travel vic, there would definitely be debate over the changing times. But this is true of any sport: Marciano vs. Ali vs. Tyson or Russell & Wilt vs Bird & Magic vs Jordan vs Kobe or Bradshaw vs Montanna vs Aikmen vs Brady or Ruth vs Aaron vs Rose vs Pujols.
Completely agree, cocoa.
I would much prefer that there be multiple categories. Polls are not accurate when you are comparing Eldaafer to Mizdirection
IHATC: the problem with that is the CHANGING nature of the matruing three year old.
IHATC--Go for it!
I completely AGREE. Also, my friend and I over a few cold ones created a seeded 68 horse bracket like the NCAA of the last 68 Derby winners. It was fun arguing the 1 seeds, the 2 seeds and so forth. Almost thought of doing a summary on turf writer for the day.
I'm with you, Matt. I know not everyone gets in to them like me, but I love checking the polls each week. Racing could certainly make more use of them, and I'm glad that our fan rankings are a big part of HRN.

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

 

Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

 

The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

   

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