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Zipse At The Track

What if Racing used the BCS?

College Football is on the television, and the Daily Racing Form is being read … It must be Saturday afternoon. They are two of my favorite sports and they have one big thing in common. Especially in recent years it has been, in a word, chaos. It makes me wonder if I am somehow attracted to the disarray. Neither sport seems to know how best to decide on a yearly champion. In racing, Horse of the Year debates have been nothing if not contentious of late. The heated discussions, over which horse most deserves the award, have many wondering if the triumvirate of voting bodies that currently decide things, is the best way to crown our champions.
 
It has been theorized that racing needs to adopt a more formulaic system. Maybe one that uses a statistical computerized compilation that measures tangible results during the year, mixed with a more subjective voting on the horses. Sound familiar? Maybe racing should go to the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) used in College Football. This is what the BCS might look like in this year’s Horse of the Year race:
 
 
Rank Horse BCS Average
1 Havre de Grace .9454
2 Game On Dude .9094
3 Royal Delta .8952
4 My Miss Aurelia .8604
5 Acclamation .8234
6 Cape Blanco .8097
7 Tizway .7966
8 Hansen .7744
9 Drosselmeyer .7558
10 Wise Dan .7232
 
 
Just like the BCS, I used a statistical rating system to determine the horse that should be named Horse of the Year consisting of three components that each count as one-third of the final result - subjective polls of the NTRA and my own industry straw poll, as well as, the average of six theoretical computer rankings.

OK … you caught me, I didn’t actually do all of that, but you get the idea. Would racing be better off with such an approach? Would it force connections to run their horses in more of the big races, and create more match-ups among the nation’s top horses? Food for thought, but just as the BCS is inherently flawed, or worse yet lunacy; you can see it would be the same for racing. Horses like Havre de Grace and Hansen would never race each other in 2011. A meeting of Cape Blanco and My Miss Aurelia would have been even more farfetched.

So what’s the answer? Maybe we should do it like a democracy, and have the popular vote of the people decide, just like we decide our nation’s presidency. Yes, that has to be the best answer.
 
What’s that, our president is elected on an outdated system called the Electoral College?

 

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Older Comments about What if Racing used the BCS?...

Worth considering yet again
In the end to me, it doesnt matter who gets voted HOY....i look back at all the wonderful races run, i would not knock if a mare did not run against horses or fillies run against colts or turf horses ran on the dirt or synthetic.....go out there and put on the best show possible for the enjoyment of racing fans everywhere (even the West Coast)...just a jab at our ECB editor zipse
We don't need no stinking computer to pick HOY
Craig, I would say that would be a great idea, however, the BC is too intent on earning a butt load off of nomination fees. However, for arguments sake, lets say they would let go on, then they would need to make more challenge races. For instance have the Foster, Whitney, Woodward, JCGC, Big Cap, Holywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic and Goodwood, and some of the big 3yr year old races like the TC and Haskell and Travers. I would also include that let the second and third place finishers should be considered, since typically you have a dominating horse through the year.
if horse racing really adherred to a strict ruling that a horse has to win g1 challenge races to qualify for the classic, and then win the classic, then drosselmeyer could not have run in the classic this year.
Computers tend to just screw up many human endeavors that are not reliant on data-crunching, social exchanges, choosing national collegiate championship game and finding a Derby winner among them...
The American Horse of the Year also used to have to show the ability to actually winat the American Classic Distance of 10F. That is no longer the case. The award has been dimished as have a great number of former American Classic races which have been shortened to accomodate the current racing "stars" and what is now considered spectacular. As previously noted, barring injury, put up or ....... well just duck and hope. .
I do not think you should have to show up for the BC in order to be HOTY. If a horse is injured and out and was by far the best horse, has the most points becuase it was clearly the most dominant then it's not their fault they got injured. If a horse, such as Rachel has a spectacular campaign one should not ask more when a horse has set so much history thoughout a season. The BC is great but should not be valued more than anything else because then you just reduced it all to preps. It is not fair to creat one set of races higher than another. Before the BC this school of thought wasn't taken. There were races of prestige, but nobody saved their horses for one day. The had goals throughout the year, not just one big end of the year goal, and the former is how it should be.
That would be the whole point. A series of signiture races that would culminate with the BCC. If points are used make the BCC and it's accompanying races worth a bit more than lets say the Woodward, Bing Crosby or Suburban, but not so much as to invalidate a seasons worth of racing. If you don't show up for the Breeders Cup, sans injury, you should not be HOY period. As per your cite Curlin & Zenyatta were present for the big dance on multiple occasions.
The year end awards shoud NEVER be dependant on one day only. Just look at the Bid. One of the greatest TB's of all time had an off day in the Belmont. If everything were dependent on HOTY, Curlin, RA, and Zenyatta would have never won HOTY. If there are to be a series of signature races for each division, then sure, but to make everything depend on one day is just ludicris.
@Craig Bradshaw. Agree the BCS is a horrible way to decide a championship. As much as it sucks, you really need the human element to quantify quality of fields. As we all know some historic G-1 races have been somethig less than G-1 quality in recent years. Make the BCC the end all for points. The upside would be barring injury you would have to show up and play and if the Breeders Cup is billed as the World Championship then campaigns culminatiing there could be planned and there would be no excuse for standing in your stall if you expected to win HOY.
Mary, if a horse were to race out of their division at all I would say give them bonus points. It would be hard for males to do so, but if they were able to show that they could sprint in open company as well as route I would say that would be a big deal. If a horse tried what Curlin did in 08 and won, then I would say give them extra.
bcs is a terribly flawed system. it begs out for an 8 team playoff system. but, if horse racing wanted to fashion a similar system, it would have a trainer's vote ranking, a turf writer/voter ranking, and the computer ranking. each ranking would be weighted one-third. if need be, figure in a fan's vote ranking, and each would be weighted 25% toward hoty final vote.
Mary, if a horse were to race out of their division at all I would say give them bonus points. It would be hard for males to do so, but if they were able to show that they could sprint in open company as well as route I would say that would be a big deal. If a horse tried what Curlin did in 08 and won, then I would say give them extra.
I do like the idea of a points system, just working out the specifics to make it as fair as possible
How are deductions for bad losses calculated, and is that fair to males that females would receive bonus points for open company races? Should a turf horse that would normally be scratched from a race in which the turf was yielding or soft be given a bonus if it runs and wins on that surface as opposed to firm turf? How are ties in points broken? Would a points system be unfair to two year olds that just do not have the same grade 1 stakes opportunities?
I think a point system would do wonders. Assign point to stakes races, for instance grade ones are 10pnts, grade twos are 8, grade three is 5, and non graded races ar 3. The horse with the most points at the end of the year is your winner, no matter the division. Now if a horse steps outside their division, like Rachel did in 09 I do think bonus points should be given. I think that would be one of the fairest ways to do things.
Sorry wrong button, I think what is more important than than determining Eclipse winners, some sort of point system could help bring horses together to face each other on the track. this is what is missing in racing today. If only 8 or 9 Grade One races counted for the year end awards, then the top horses would be more likely to meet on the track Like mkstorm noted the old ACS brought the top older horses together in races in New York , Kentucky and California. Some series like this should be developed for every division in racing.
The current non-system for choosing the Eclipse Awards, especially the HOY, messy as it is, is probably better for the sport. A cold, calculated, accountant wearing green eye-shades kind of system would virtually take all the fun of the debate out of the awards process! Let's face it, messy as it is, those who are qualified to vote -- the DRF, the Turf Writers/Broadcasters, and the NTRA -- are very well qualified to make their choices based on whatever criteria they want to apply. If we relegated the awards to some dry point system, what's the fun in that! Actually, I happen to think that the debate, the differences of opinions is fun and good for the sport. It makes the process more messy, but who wants to have awards handed out by a computer? Nah, leave it alone. Right now the only requirement for HOY is that a horse has to have raced in the U.S. at least once during the year. Based on that St. Nicholas Abbey qualifies!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 
  
As Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Brian also serves on the the Board of Directors of ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
  
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra, where he is a professional golf instructor when he is not following the horses.