The People's Horse: Saginaw

November 18, 2013 01:16pm
Saginaw 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA / Adam Coglianese
Last night on my Facebook page I shared the link to the page on’s website that contained the ballot for this year’s vote for the Vox Populi award. I tagged my mom in the post because even though she isn’t really a horse racing fan, I can always count on her to vote for things like this. In the post I also encouraged everyone to vote for Saginaw, so when my mom saw the post, she asked, “Why Saginaw? Why not Mucho Macho Man? You know Mucho Macho Man is Charlie’s horse (Charlie of course being my 3-year old son who loves Mucho Macho Man [almost] as much as I do).” So I went on to try to explain to her the intangible reasons why Saginaw deserves this honor over Mucho Macho Man.
My mom did vote for Saginaw even though it was difficult for her to vote against Mucho Macho Man, but afterwards, I was not entirely satisfied with my explanation. Everything I had said sounded empty, devoid of feeling, especially when you think about the fantastic tale behind this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. There is no doubt that Mucho Macho Man has one of the best feel good stories in the business. Any other year and he would be my votes, hands (or hooves) down. But this year is different. This year his story does not trump all.
So why Saginaw? What is it about Saginaw that sets him above the horse that as a foal that was 3 weeks overdue, was thought to be dead at birth, was called “Lazarus” for seemingly rising from the dead, and has been trained into a champion by a woman who was almost dead herself just a few short years ago? What sets him apart from the miraculous comeback kid Paynter, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll who also came from nothing, the gallant Game On Dude who once again fell short of BC Classic victory, the daring filly Princess of Sylmar who ruled the 3-year filly division and beat a champion, or the sure to be repeat Horse of the Year Wise Dan? It is not a simple explanation, but I made a promise to Robert Hachemeister, Jr. the night Strapping Groom won the Grade 1 Forego, just 24 hours removed from Saginaw’s tragic death. That night I promised Robert that I would do everything in my power to ensure that Saginaw was recognized as the Vox Populi recipient for 2013, and I intend to keep that promise.
By Peruvian and out of the Devils Bag mare Devilzene, Saginaw did not necessarily boast a pedigree that screamed big time winner. Though Peruvian was a graded stakes winner, neither Devilzene or her dam Bellazene had won a race before or after breaking their maidens. Peruvian hasn’t exactly been a hot sire himself, and none of Saginaw’s 5 full siblings have done much on the track. In short there just wasn’t much there pedigree wise to suggest a champion. The gelding’s early career did not do much to bolster expectations. It took 4 tries for him to break his maiden, and from then on out he was just plain out inconsistent. He would throw out a win immediately followed by a dull as unpolished silver effort. That was until he was claimed by Drawing Away Stable.
From the moment Saginaw joined Drawing Away Stable to the moment he crossed the rainbow bridge, he was a whole different horse. Under the tutelage of David Jacobson, Saginaw became a win machine. All together Saginaw won 11 stakes races while wearing the blue and orange silks of DAS and won another 4 races for his connections. He was, in every sense of the phrase, a Cinderella story. From 2011 to 2012, he turned from being an allowance/claiming type runner in one season to being a stakes winner and named the New York-bred Champion Older Male the very next season. In a sense, he lived the American Dream.
Perhaps it is that rags to riches story that sets him apart from the named Vox Populi nominees. After all, that is a story a lot of people can relate to, particularly in the horse racing industry. We may love the King’s Sport, but only a fraction of us have a King’s purse. So when a former claimer starts winning stakes races, people sit up and take notice. In fact, Saginaw became such a regular in the New York circuit’s winner’s circles that he ignited the state’s passion for all things horse racing, particularly if it had anything to do with the People’s Hero himself. He drew in old timer railbirds and new, young fans alike. Children adored him, and adults wanted to enter into a partnership like DAS in order to perhaps one day have a stake in a horse just like him.
He could win by daylight or he could just get his nose on the wire in the nick of time. Whether it was a listed stake, a graded stake, or just a regular, run-of-the-mill race, he gave everything he had for trainer Jacobson, regular jockeys David Cohen and Junior Alvarado, and all the DAS partners who loved him. He overcame poor breaks, traffic, duels, and high imposts. He had the drive and will to win of a champion, but the one thing he could not overcome was the fragile nature that is the thoroughbred. Even after his bad step during the third race at Saratoga on August 30, his heart still shined through as he did his very best to stay on his feet so that he would not throw pilot and friend Junior Alvarado. He ultimately was humanely euthanized so that he would not have to suffer pain and discomfort due to the injuries he sustained that day.
So why Saginaw? Because in doing what he loved, he became the people’s horse and hero. He proved that you do not have to be a Grade 1 winner to have the heart of a champion. He showed that you don’t have to be a Grade 1 winner to attract masses of fans and the adoration that comes along with a large fan base. He embodied the American dream of coming from nothing and becoming something. He was everything intangible that we wish we could explain but words can never fully express. Penny Chenery created the Vox Populi Award to annually recognize a horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the general public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year. There is no doubt that Saginaw was as popular as they come, and while he was not a big name, he did gain recognition for our beloved sport.
It truly is a shame that his name was left off the ballot and that those of us that want to see him recognized have to write in his name on the ballot. Yet again, I believe that the Vox Populi committee failed to choose nominees solely based on what the award was created for. Last year we all campaigned to get Paynter’s name added to the ballot, and our campaign was an overwhelming success. Not only was his name added and the write in section created, but he was also ultimately the recipient of the award last year. Like in 2012, I hope to have a successful campaign for getting a worthy horse recognized. So go to and cast your ballot. I strongly encourage you to write in Saginaw’s name and then share both the link and Saginaw’s story. Turning around the famous lyrics of Helen Reddy “I am woman, hear me roar,” I will leave you with this: I am writer. Watch me campaign.  


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Older Comments about The People's Horse: Saginaw...

I voted for Mucho Macho Man, but looking back, I think I should have voted for Saginaw. Just because he is not well known, doesn't mean he couldn't make an impact on someone's life.
This is my problem with the award: if you are going to call it Vox Populi, the voice of the people, then it should be exactly that. Instead of having a slate of names decided by a committee with a write in, you should solicit names from the fans. Then take the top five and offer the fans a vote based on those selections. To me if Penny Chenery wants to direct the award to a feel good story like MMM (whom I like very much and this is no criticism of him at all), then call the award the Penny Chenery or similar award and give to whom ever she or her committee wants. If you solicit different opinions, clearly you will get them. If you don't want those opinions, then don't ask for them.
I loved Saginaw and appreciate his voters. But I voted for Paynter. To go through what he went through and to make it successfully back to racing is just amazing and he really is a special horse. He represents all of those we have lost
I can understand why someone would vote for Saginaw, and I would not be disappointed if he won, but I have to agree with Ms Chenery. The Mucho Macho Man story is pretty amazing and has a very positive ending, which racing really needs. I voted for Mucho Macho Man.
ekindy, you hit the nail on the head for one of the reasons why Saginaw was left off the ballot. Straight from the horse's mouth, per se, Saginaw was left off because they felt he was too regionally based, his 2013 body of work was incomplete, Ms. Chenery did not want this to become a sympathy award, and she was concerned that his winning the award would call attention to the wrong aspects of the sport. With all that being said, though, if he wins the fan vote anyway via write in, then he will have won it fair and square. So please vote for Saginaw!
To me a vote for Monzante only casts a spotlights the dark side of the industry. I'm not saying that's a bad thing or that shouldn't be done, but I don't think the committee in charge of the Vox Populi is interested in using their award to do that. For that reason I don't think they'd want to award it to Saginaw either, but at least he was winning races and garnering fans before his fatal injury.
I voted Monzante for the Vox Populi award.
I wouldve preferred that the candidates be Spicer Cub, Monzante, Saginaw... remember when thwy screwed this up last year too, with not having Paynter on the poll and then we petitioned them enough yhat they fixed it?
Interesting that on Paulick report in the comments about the Vox Populii Spicer Cub has support. Looks like most of the fan support is for a write in candidate.
Paynter: another in a very long line of three year old "flashes in the pan."
Probably the only one but I had to vote for Paynter. For him to come back after what he went through. Even though he couldn't get back to what he was- the fact that he returned to any racing form at all is nothing short of amazing. He definitely deserves it. Not saying others don't. But Paynter definitely deserves my vote.
Voted for him. If I am not mistaken, when he was walking off the track, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He was such a lovable horse who ran his heart out everytime. Voted for Saginaw :D.
just voted for Saginaw :)
you got my vote!! Cheers love love and miss you.
For those who would like to remember Saginaw, here is the tribute video that we made in his honor and memory...
write to those on the committee if you can as it states in the rules the committee input is given the same weight as peoples votes It was a letter campaign that changed things last year so that we,"the people" could cast votes for who we wanted to vote for
last post was too long... here's the end of the email. :)... As usual, Saginaw faces bigger and faster and richer foes -- but in his honor and memory, it is important that those who loved him do not quit and - refuse to lose. Saginaw the Song=> Saginaw (early tribute)=> Saginaw (most wins in North America) tribute => TVG Network (2012 Year end story of the year) => Saginaw TVG Network in Memoriam=> Saginaw Farewell Memorial Tribute (MUST WATCH) => Thank you so much. Ed Robins
last post was too long... here's the end of the email. :)... As usual, Saginaw faces bigger and faster and richer foes -- but in his honor and memory, it is important that those who loved him do not quit and - refuse to lose. Saginaw the Song=> Saginaw (early tribute)=> Saginaw (most wins in North America) tribute => TVG Network (2012 Year end story of the year) => Saginaw TVG Network in Memoriam=> Saginaw Farewell Memorial Tribute (MUST WATCH) => Thank you so much. Ed Robins
Here is an email that I sent to one of the Vox Populi committee members: Hi Mr. Wing, With voting open for the Secretariat Vox Populi award and Saginaw (known by many as "The People's Champion" or "The Saginawesome One" ) not being selected to the fan ballot, I just wanted to email to make a heart-felt plea for his further consideration. Saginaw became a folk legend in his final 2 years of racing. He had many adoring fans and followers across the nation and was the darling of racing fans young and old and was the hero of the working class - winning time after time, not with more speed than the others, not with more size than the others, and not with more talent than the others - rather with a heart and determination rarely seen in a thoroughbred. As Tom Durkin called in one of Saginaw's races - he was the REDOUBTABLE Saginaw. Saginaw's fan base was not garnered by high profile Graded Stakes races broadcast nationally, rather through word of mouth (and social media) as he captured the imagination of so many as he ran and won with his "refuse-to-lose" determination. His popularity reminiscent of Rapid Redux - but without the publicity. Saginaw gained his popularity, race by race, fan by fan - people identified with a $30K claimer that simply refused to lose - a trait that his fans face every day during these bad economic times. Saginaw became a modern day Seabiscuit - showing that if one dreams, if one does not quit -- one wins! Saginaw not only provided inspiration on the track, but loved all who came to visit him with a carrot, an apple or simply a pat on the neck or a kind word. He was simply adored by all who knew him. On Hudson Stakes day this year, I brought a replica saddle towel from last year's race with Saginaw's name embroidered on it. A little girl (no older than 7 years old) stopped her mother and said "look Mommy, Saginaw! I loved Saginaw! Can I take a picture of that!!" I later, found the little girl and handed her a Saginaw button that I was wearing to honor him. The little girl's smile was as wide as the Belmont stretch and her parents cried with happiness. Another little girl (who we gave a velcro name plate from one of Saginaw's wins last year) wrote to her aunt (who shared with me). "Is Saginaw in Horse Heaven?" Her aunt replied, "Yes Mariah". Mariah asked, "Will there ever be another Saginaw? I loved him very much". Her aunt replied, "No Mariah, there will never be another Saginaw" to which Mariah said, "Then I am so glad I got to meet him and I will sleep with his name tag every night so that he knows I loved him". Saginaw was not just loved in NY as evidenced by the coverage he received upon his tragic passing (including a feature on TVG - a California based network) as well as being chosen by one TVG analyst as 2012 year end story of the year. Saginaw left this Earth far too soon - and seemingly at his peak on the track and increasing in his popularity as he compiled a 5 for 5 record in 2013 prior to that fateful day in August. I am including a few videos (a tribute to when we first acquired Saginaw, one from when he tied for most wins in North America, a song performed for him that many people came to sing before his races and most important a tribute memorial video that pretty much sums up what Saginaw was all about to so very many, and a couple of others). Please take some time to watch and to consider Saginaw for this award which he not only deserves but exemplifies and defines. Please, if you can, forward to the other committee members and to dear Ms. Chenery for their consideration. Saginaw may have raced on NY Tracks, but he lived (and lives) in the hearts of everyone from coast to coast. There is nothing that can bring Saginaw back, but his memory should be honored and commemorated as the "People's Champion" that he was -- and still is. The Secretariat Vox Populi award seems to be an award that one would create for a horse like Saginaw. As usual, Saginaw faces bigger and fas
I was in the granstand when he broke down, and the gasp from the crowd... absolutely unforgettable. I hope he wins this one.

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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