Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Zenyatta, Rapid Redux, Paynter, and Mucho Macho Man. In only four years of existence the Secretariat Vox Populi Award has done a marvelous job of reflecting the collective heartbeat of racing fans from coast to coast. The Vox Populi, or Voice of the People, was the brainchild of Penny Chenery. Secretariat’s beloved owner created the award as a vehicle to recognize the horse that most resonated with, and created the most excitement for a nation of racing fans. As a new Vox Populi committee member in 2014, it is of paramount importance for me to make sure the voice of the fans continues to be heard. Because of this, I believe it is time to get the ball rolling. Let’s start talking Vox Populi...
Are you a Chromie? In a short amount of time, California Chrome climbed the thoroughbred mountain. Win the Kentucky Derby, and you instantly become a household name. Add the Preakness, and you move towards the edge of immortality. Do it all while on a big winning streak, after coming from modest beginnings, and your popularity soars to heights the connections of most horses cannot even imagine. The stylish copper-colored chestnut did nothing to embarrass himself when denied a Triple Crown in the Belmont, and now the racing world eagerly awaits his return. Is he the most popular horse in America? Maybe, but this is far from a one-horse race.
Already a back-to-back winner of the Horse of the Year award, I honestly believe that Wise Dan has never been more popular than he is right now, and for good reason. Making his first start since the beginning of May, and just over three months removed from emergency colic surgery, the champ returned yesterday to the delight of racing fans everywhere. He did not dazzle us with a daylight win in the Bernard Baruch, but in many ways his tough as nails victory, with countless things against him, was as career defining as any of his countless graded stakes wins over the spectacular past five seasons.
What’s not to like in an undefeated champion? Impressive enough to win the Juvenile Championship last year after only three starts, Shared Belief has been even better this year. His sixth win without a loss, coming in last week’s Pacific Classic, and against older horses, captured the imagination of race fans young and old. We are always on the lookout for that next great champion, and this son of Candy Ride would seem to have all the potential in the world. Just how good is the three-year-old gelding? Will he maintain his spotless record against the likes of California Chrome? I, like most, cannot wait to find out.
Then there is Ben’s Cat. At eight-years-young, the timeless gelding has demonstrated no signs of slowing down yet. Campaigned by the King himself, Ben’s Cat and King Leatherbury have not chased the Breeders’ Cup dream despite having the horse to compete with any turf sprinter this side of Black Caviar the last several years. Still, his legend has grown as he’s prowled the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with ruthless precision. Versatile, with a real nose for the finish line, Ben’s Cat is already a three-time stakes winner in 2014. The tough old cat will face his next big challenge in tomorrow’s Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx.
Or for a real long shot, consider Stopshoppingdebbie. The four-year-old daughter of Curlin is the pride of the Pacific Northwest. The Tom Wenzel trained filly is a perfect nine-for-nine for her career, with all of her victories coming at Emerald Downs in Suburban Seattle. An eight-time stakes winner, Stopshoppingdebbie most recently accounted for the Emerald Distaff last week while zipping the nine furlongs in 1:47.45. While she is not yet a household name outside of her region, that could change very soon as it is expected that she will be heading to Southern California to take on the big girls as soon as her next race.
While hugely popular to their respective fans, I realize these five are only the tip of the iceberg. I want to know who you think should be included in the Vox Populi ballot, and which horse most stirred the horse racing fan within you. Now is the time to stand up and have your voice heard.