Horse of the Year Debate--Why Do We Care So Much?

This will be my final thoughts on racing's hottest current debate--Horse of the Year. After this, I'll let everyone else continue to drill on a subject that surely will not go away any time soon.

First of all, let me say that I am not in favor of having a separate "both" option on the Horse of the Year ballot. I say let the writers vote for whoever they feel is the best candidate. Like with any election or vote--whether it is the Hall of Fame, a political candidate, an all-star game, or in this case, Horse of the Year--the winner will be happy and the loser will be angry. That's the nature of a democratic process. I see no reason to change that now just because a few people believe it is the politically correct thing to do.

I also want to get this out of the way. If I vote this year, it will be for Rachel Alexandra. I'm sure I'll piss off the Zenyatta fans out there with this proclamation, but that is how I feel. I have absolutely nothing against Zenyatta (remember, I voted for her over Curlin last year). She had a phenomenal season and what she did in the Breeders' Cup Classic will be remembered forever. I give Jerry Moss a lot of credit for putting her in that race. He stepped up to the challenge and gave the Breeders' Cup a shot of excitement that it desperately needed. She is undoubtedly one of the best mares of all time.

I won't go into the accomplishments of each horse; they are well documented and we have covered them in earlier blogs. We could go back and forth until eternity while debating who is the better horse. Fact is, we will never know (more on that later). Simply put, I believe Rachel Alexandra had the more complete season, mainly for the fact that she raced at seven different tracks over a seven-month period and beat males three times. For Zenyatta to get my vote, she needed to race outside of California and for more than 5 1/2 months. It has nothing to do with whether she raced over synthetics or dirt, but she needed to race outside of the state in a campaign that began earlier than May 23. Again, the Classic was phenomenal, but it wasn't enough for me. As important as the World Championships are, they do not always have to decide year end honors--not in this day and age.

Now that I have put myself out there with my selection, let me get to the main point of this blog--the fervor and heated debate that Horse of the Year has caused. More than the actual vote itself, I am amazed how much people actually care about who wins the award. I want to know one thing--why?

If you've read the comments on this or any other blog, you must know by now that people have become obsessed and downright crazed about this thing. I don't get it. Of course, I understand that we all want to see out favorite player, candidate, or in this case, horse, receive honors. It's human nature. That I can comprehend. But when it comes right down to it folks, these are horses. Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra won't have any clue whether or not they will win HOY. As long as they get their carrots, oats, and hay they will be thrilled. So why do you care so much?

Really, the only ones who benefit from HOY honors are the connections of each horse. Sure, it would be nice for them to win, but I don't even think they care as much as the people who are campaigning for them. I'm pretty sure that Jerry Moss and John Shirreffs, and Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen, will be Ok if their horse doesn't win. They will live to race another day.

I'll tell you, it's downright nuts some of the emails I have gotten from people trying to make a case for their horse or to change my mind. Passion is one thing, but the profanity-laced and certifiably crazy emails are another. In one, somebody actually wrote a dialogue between "Jason's Brain" and Jason's Heart," attempting to pose an analogy of why my brain says Zenyatta should win, but my heart is making me vote for Rachel. I swear. I am not making this stuff up.

Anyway, here is the real thing I want to say about this whole HOY debate, and I really do mean this: It is a crying shame that this thing could not be decided on the racetrack. Here we have, by all accounts, two of the best female horses of all time racing during the same year and yet they never faced one another. Think about that. In my opinion, both parties are to blame for this. I won't get into the reasons, but to think that the final six months of 2009 went by with this debate burning the whole time, yet the powers that be could not find a way to make it happen, it is pretty sad.

In a nutshell, I believe this is one of the major problems that racing has today. Instead of letting millions of people watch for themselves on TV and having the sport grow naturally, we are reduced to debating about Horse of the Year on a computer screen. Before you start calling people " great sportsmen," remember that.

My dad, who is admittedly not a big racing fan, called me right after the Breeders' Cup and said something to the effect of: "I don't really care that much about horse racing, but if Rachel and Zenyatta ever met I would stop what I'm doing to watch that race. It would be amazing. Tell me again why they will never meet?"

I had to tell dad all about egos, synthetics surfaces, and the whole sordid story. But in the end, I was able to tell him that we would have a paper champion in January when Horse of the Year is announced. To which he responded:

"Who cares?"



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