Vox Populi Gets It Right

Only in Thoroughbred racing can one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport share the same stage with a former $5,000 claimer from Penn National.

The first two recipients of the new Vox Populi Award, Zenyatta and Rapid Redux, were perfect examples of what the award, created by Penny Chenery, represents – the melding of popularity and achievement and bringing attention to the sport. This award is all about the place a horse holds, not in the record books, but in the hearts of the fans.

Here are two horses who put together unforgettable, history-making winning streaks, but did it on two distinctly different stages. There was Zenyatta, master thespian, performing in front of packed houses on Broadway, and Rapid Redux reciting his lines in a 50-seat theater in the West Village. The Zenyattas of the world will bring people to tears and win the Tony Award. The Rapid Reduxes also will touch people in a profound way, just on a much smaller scale.

The Vox Populi Award, unlike the Eclipse Awards, strips away the theater marquee and jam-packed lobby and focuses only on the actor’s performance and his or her ability to reach deep inside the audience and stir the emotions. Add to that the ability to showcase the sport in the brightest spotlight.

So it was that this year’s nominees for the award consisted of an array of talented horses, all of whom are leading contenders for an Eclipse Award. It did not, however, do justice to the integrity of the award to limit the inductees to Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Jack Nicholson when you have someone equally as talented, but less accomplished, who infiltrated people’s hearts like few before him.

This is the quality that separates the Vox Populi Award from other awards. Therefore it was reassuring to see the list of nominees expanded to include Paynter and Shackleford following a flood of protests from the public, especially those who became so emotionally involved in the life and death struggle of Paynter, who overcame overwhelming odds to battle back from colitis, laminitis, and surgery to remove an abscess from his colon.

The son of Awesome Again proved to be one of the most brilliant horses in the country following his stunning victory in the Haskell Invitational and gutsy second in the Belmont Stakes, but it was his miracle recovery when most everyone had given up hope that earned him a place among the most popular horses of his time.

Not only were Paynter and the crowd-pleasing Shackleford added to the list of nominees, the voting was opened to all horses, allowing the brilliant Australian heroine Black Caviar to receive votes, which is only appropriate, considering the presence of the freakish English star Frankel on the list. They could not make a case for Frankel receiving votes without also including a filly that had become such a renowned global celebrity as Black Caviar, who captivated an entire nation and then brought English racing fans to their feet at Royal Ascot.

Credit must be given to Penny Chenery for conceiving this award. Chenery realized that she not only owned one of the greatest racehorses of all time, but one of the most popular as well. Here was this golden mythical-like horse who came along and raised the equine genus up several notches at a time when the sport was going through a 25-year drought without a Triple Crown winner. There have been a number of great horses since Big Red, but none of them have become a part of the English vernacular as Secretariat has. After 40 years, he still is the barometer by which all great horses are measured.

Even as recently as this past October, we had Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland comment after taking out his star pitcher Justin Verlander in the ninth inning. “Normally, you don’t take Secretariat out in the final furlong.”

Chenery said of the Vox Populi award, “Horse racing already has established avenues to award outstanding accomplishments, and we certainly should honor superior performance. But achievement can be measured in many ways, and fans occasionally feel a disconnect when the horses who most impacted the public are not recognized through the traditional equine awards. The industry is long overdue in annually acknowledging the star horse who brings the most excitement and attention to the sport.  It is my hope that the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award willbe an honor that reflects the heart and soul of racing and will help build upon the devotion the public has for a horse they love.”

Chenery has always had a close connection with the public and handled Secretariat with the class and sportsmanship befitting a horse of such stature. After four decades of memories, a full-length motion picture, an informative and entertaining website, and now the Vox Populi Award, Secretariat and Chenery continue to give back to the public and expose new generations of racing fans to the beauty of the sport, while reminding everyone what true greatness is.


Leave a Comment:


Great article, Steve! I got teary-eyed reading it. I feel so grateful to have been at Santa Anita when they celebrated Zenyatta's Vox Populi award. Penny Chenery, along with all of Zenyatta's connections were there for a poster signing and it was just one of the greatest moments I spent at the track. I love what the Vox Populi award stands for and seeing Rapid Redux win it last year was satisfying. Three cheers for Penny Chenery for coming up with a great idea. And always, three cheers for you Steve, for another great article. Happy holidays to you and your family.

07 Dec 2012 3:36 PM
sally in indy

Beautifully stated, as always. Thank you, Steve. And many thanks to you, Miss Penny.

07 Dec 2012 3:44 PM

Yes!!  Another class move by Penny  Chenery and very good for racing to value more than just the money earned and races won.  My vote is for Paynter.  

07 Dec 2012 4:09 PM

Ms Chenery is a wonderful lady. She is a true horsewoman, a classic.

When I attend a meet, I am there for the first race and I don't leave until the last horse has crossed the finish line in the last race. To true lovers of the sport and the horse, we hold the champion and the claimer equally in our hearts. This is what the Vox Populi award means to me, champion or claimer, royal blood lines or common, it matters not--for this is one that did not just win a race, this one won hearts.

07 Dec 2012 4:13 PM

Right on, Steve! ........ and my vote went to Paynter!

As much as I wanted another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, as much as I regarded I'll Have Another and was rooting for him, as much as I still regard him .... I view this award in another light and as my heart went out to Paynter and his connections, as I was so touched and moved by their story as were so many others, I believe the spirit of this award is best served with my vote for Paynter.

Shackleford - You never quit! You race with honor and guts and effort! Integrity is your other name! We love you too!

07 Dec 2012 4:27 PM

By the way Steve, another Secretariat comment - during the 2008 Presidential campaign .... one of the political pundits talking about Barack Obama, called him

'the Secretariat of Speechmaking'

(the remarks were made on CNN by- "Summing up GOP sentiment was prominent Republican media consultant, Alex Castellanos, speaking on CNN, who also said: "Last I checked this was not a speech-making contest, thank God."

07 Dec 2012 4:43 PM
Barbara W

Thank you, Mrs. Chenery, for conceiving and bringing this idea to fruition. It is so marvelous to let the people actually have a choice. The horses give their all for humans, so as you say, it is appropriate that their success be measured in ways beyond earnings figures. I love them all, and they are all deserving, but I have to admit, my vote goes to Shack. He stole my heart.

07 Dec 2012 5:14 PM

Thank you, Steve, for putting into words, everything I was feeling earlier this week, when Paynter and Shackleford were left off the ballot.  I'm sure you received hundreds of tweets, and messages and I appreciate you answering mine.

Thank you to Ms Chenery, who truly understands what fans feel.  We may not own the race horses, but we love them fiercely, whether we have met them, or not.  And when one stirs our emotions, it's nice to know that we have a voice.  

Paynter's saga was especially dear to my heart. As a veterinary technician who works with horses, I knew how grave his situation was, how slim his chances were and yet, that didn't stop me from being one of thousands who prayed with the Zayat family, whose tears of despair at every setback, were mirrored with shouts of joy at each step forward. And in the end, that marvelous Thoroughbred heart, strength and will (along with an army of "angels" in the form of doctors, techs, fans, and incredibly awesome owners) allowed him to beat the odds, and recover.  I eagerly await the day that Paynter returns to training.  

So, to all the fans, no matter which horse you vote for, be sure to vote, because this is OUR chance to be heard.

07 Dec 2012 5:23 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Anyone can vote at secretariat.com.  It was my honor and privilege to be able to vote for Paynter. His amazing year was no less unforgettable than Zenyatta's heart pounding and thrilling victories. Both were counted out many times, and both rose to the height of courage and greatness with astonishing come from behind triumphs. On or off of the track, the will to win under dire circumstances is greatly admired and cherished. Another superb and timely article by the marvelous Steve Haskin.

07 Dec 2012 6:08 PM

And you got it right, as well, Steve! I was very much involved in actively promoting Paynter to be nominated, and when he was left off the initial ballot, I was part of the "firestorm of protest and indignation" at his, as well as Shackleford's, omission! What a classy and lovely lady Miss Penny is, and how brilliant to step up and in all humility, embrace the fans and open up the process to allow more input from "the people"!! Our political leaders should take note on how to turn a negative into a positive in a 24-hour period! The language in the revised press release was pure Penny, and hats off to her!  Brava!

Ann Maree

07 Dec 2012 6:09 PM

Excellent article Steve.  I voted for Paynter on the Secretariat.com website.  It's simple, just click your choice and submit your vote.  Great idea by Mrs. Chenery.

However, I am having trouble with the "meaning" of the award, though.  It recognizes the horse that "generated the most fan response." Why does it seem somehow diminished in the industry's eyes compared to the other Eclipse Awards?  Paynter did so much more than "generate fan response," he dug deep and found resolve and fortitude and intelligence to know how to go on living.  Not many of them did that.  It's complicated to choose between a Frankel, whose athletic accomplishments dwarf those of others, and a racing beauty like Black Caviar, the almost TC winner IHA, and a Wise Dan or Royal Delta and the never say never give up Shackleford.  But Paynter came down the stretch of life with Colitis and Laminitis breathing down his neck and he fought hard to steer clear of them and win the race of life.  I don't know, I still say Paynter gets HOY.  If the criteria is you have to win just one Grade I, well he did that and so much more.  If it takes a former owner to organize such an award as the Vox Populi and the industry cannot do this on their own, then isn't there something sad about that?  Thanks to Mrs. Chenery for creating this award though, it kind of feels like a pseudo HOY award, like it's us vs. the industry? Depending upon the year and the accomplishments, I can forsee the Vox Populi Award at times overshaowing HOY.

07 Dec 2012 6:35 PM
Karen in Texas

Thank you, Steve! The Vox Populi committee did indeed get it right by listening and responding to the voice(s) of the people after releasing the first five candidates' names without those of Paynter and Shack. I was one of those who quickly sent a note of protest to secretariat.com and was quite pleasantly surprised when the omissions were acknowledged within 24 hours. Shack has been a warrior on the track and is deserving; but my vote was for Paynter, who showed us all the meaning of the words "Power Up"!

07 Dec 2012 7:57 PM
Mookie's Hero

It is understandable that Paynter is a fan favourite but as a real I'll Have Another fan I don't see the rationale for him. Why not Lava Man? This horse garnered a lot of attention for off the track and retire race horses. Some retired race horse is having a better life because of him. So what is this award. Most popular winner? Most popular racehorse?

Mookie's Hero

07 Dec 2012 8:37 PM

Paynter gets my vote as well.  Good article Steve.  

07 Dec 2012 8:55 PM
Steel Dragon

No problem with Mrs. Chenery getting her well deserved accolades but Mrs. Wolfson (who raced Affirmed) and the late Mrs. Gerry (who raced Forego) had every bit as much charm, class and sportsmanship. Their horses were no slouches either.

07 Dec 2012 9:01 PM
steve from st louis

Those of us who have a love for the "blooded horse" do so for the heart they show during their races, something which is seemingly passed down through generations. When a horse shows us he's "game" we'll back him with our money even when he is in over his head quality wise. Heart is the characteristic for which we most scour the past performances. In Paynter's case, we admire the heart he displayed in the vet's barn, not that he showed on any racetrack. The will to survive is rare, more so than any "blooded horse" who can run a quarter-mile in less than :22 seconds. Paynter's will to survive is more impressive than anything Black Caviar showed on the racetrack, a spirit every bit the equal to Frankel's unblemished record. Paynter's will to survive is truly remarkable.

07 Dec 2012 10:15 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I was hoping you would write about Paynter and the Vox Populi Award! Like many others, I voted for Paynter because of his extraordinary courage and also, because of his connection's exceptional compassion, decency and refusal to give up on him. To me, this is the very best story to come out of 2012. Thank you again Steve for bringing it to the forefront. P.S. I found out that my husband has bought me two of your books for my Christmas stocking. The Triple Crown book and the John Henry book.

07 Dec 2012 10:26 PM

BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE BUT IT IS YOU STEVE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED FOR THE VOX POPULI FOR YOUR "ability to reach deep inside the audience and stir the emotions." AND ..."the ability to showcase the sport in the brightest spotlight."


07 Dec 2012 10:38 PM

@Paula Higgins,  I've read the book Steve wrote on John Henry. It is a great book , you'll enjoy it.  

The Eclipse Awards, the Cartier Awards all the other countries HOTY Awards will award their race horses respectively for their achievements on the race track, but how many horses can we praise for their achievements for living?  None, other than the Vox Populi Award.  Paynter deserves this award more than any horse this year. Any horse (and his connections) that fought this fight and won...certainly deserve this award.  NO other horse has showed the WILL  to live as this one.  This is a horse that has showed more WILL  and courage and most of all HEART to live as Paynter has. Lets all hope that this horse and his legacy show us mortals not to give up on a horse just because he's been afflicted with these two deadly diseases.

08 Dec 2012 6:59 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone for your comments and kind words. I think each person can interpret this award in his or her own way, depending on what they are feeling about a particular horse. I believe it represents several distinct qualities -- ability on the racetrack, bringing public attention to the sport, and the place a horse holds in one's heart. A horse who can combine all those attributes is a true champion in every sense of the word; one who goes beyond just wins and stastistics.

Eyeswatching, you said it as well as anyone could.

Paula, I thank your husband and hope you enjoy the books. Have you read "Dr. Fager" yet? That one is close to my heart.

Linda Marie, that was beautifully put. Thank you.

Just to let everyone know I will be on vacation for the next three weeks. I have neglected my vacation days and need to take some of them now. I'll start concentrating on the upcoming 3-year-olds when I return. Thanks for your support all year and Happy Holidays to everyone.

08 Dec 2012 7:04 AM

This is a great example of how you can turn an inadvertent error into a tremendous positive. The decision to add Paynter and Shackleford brings truth to the award's name "Vox Populii." The people have indeed spoken and Ms. Chenery and team have heard and responded. Congratulations on getting it right!

08 Dec 2012 8:49 AM
Love 'em all

Paynter got my vote a couple of days ago.  Cheers to all his wonderful connections!  

Thanks to all and especially to Ms. Chenery.

Enjoy that well-deserved vacation, Mr. Haskin.

08 Dec 2012 11:07 AM
Carrot Thief

Hey Steve...Paynter and Shackleford and both worthy additions to the nominees for the Vox Populi Award. But as to "the star horse who brings the most excitement and attention to the sport" I would have to suggest Zenyatta's colt - Z12. The excitement generated by the news of his impending birth was palpable!

08 Dec 2012 11:39 AM

It's nice this award was allegedly created to honor a popular horse but isn't it really about Secretariat?  I agree with a comment I read about Patrice Wolfson being a classy woman owning and racing Affirmed, why are we not remembering Affirmed or Spectacular Bid with an award for a so called popular horse???  It's really a Sham (pardon the pun).

08 Dec 2012 1:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, No I did not know you did a book about Dr. Fager, one of my all time favorites I knew the human Dr. Fager when I was in my early 20's. He practiced at my hospital. He was a very, very nice man, always kind to the nurses, and a brilliant neurosurgeon. I will get that book myself.

08 Dec 2012 2:20 PM
Steve Haskin

Paula, Charles Fager is still a very nice man and still brilliant. He lives outside Boston. He came to John Nerud's birthday several years ago and there was a lot of reminiscing.

Cin, if Patrice Wolfson had created the Vox Populi Award, we'd remembering Affirmed. I dont understand what your gripe is. And this is not about Secretariat, it's about the award and whoever wins it.

08 Dec 2012 4:29 PM
Karen in Texas

Mookie's Hero----"Vox Populi" is Latin for "voice of the people"; it means that Penny Chenery wanted to give the people/fans a chance to vote for a special horse that might not have otherwise garnered an award in the traditional way(s). (Think Eclipse) If you want to vote for I'll Have Another or Lava Man, you can do so by casting your vote at secretariat.com. IHA was on the original ballot, but you may "write-in" any horse you choose, including Lava Man. This award was not in existence when Lava Man was racing, or he may well have won it then.

08 Dec 2012 4:57 PM

The voice of the people has been heard. Thank Goodness. TY Steve for a

yet another fine article and agree maybe some 'people' should be considered for the award as well for the hearts you have touched and the tears you have brought with your wonderful writing. I was disappointed when I saw the original list, with the exception of Frankle, all in line for Eclipse Awards. While Frankle and Black Caviar are both outstanding racehorses, neither have raced in the US. My vote too will go to Paynter even though Shack holds my heart for his consistency in graded company over 2 year period. Fell in love with him when running 2nd in FL Derby and hope Dale Romans gets the Trainer Eclipse for an outstanding year. Having lost a horse to colitis, I know how difficult this condition is to battle back from, without the added surgery and laminitis. Certainly Paynter won a following of fans from his track exploits and deservedly so. To win over his conditions showed us another side of his 'heart' and makes him a worthy recipient of this award. The whole Paynter family deserves this for keeping us up to date on our guy and hope he makes it back next year but if he doesnt, I am confident Zayat family will do right by him. This year wish could vote for 2.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you Steve and your family as well as all the friends here. Enjoy the holiday and cant wait for Derby Dozen!

08 Dec 2012 11:05 PM

All of the horses who's names are "in the box" for the Vox Populi are deserving of recognition. Each left their mark in the books and in our hearts. That being said, Paynter's race was for the gift of life and he fought like a warrior to hold on to that gift. Everything else was just part of the game, the sport of kings, mere races with monetary rewards. They paled in comparison to Paynter's prize. Zayat's pony held horse lovers hostage for weeks on end. I could be wrong, but I think this reward belongs to him.

09 Dec 2012 2:30 AM
Paula Higgins

I am very happy to hear that Dr. Fager is still with us and you met him Steve! So you know what I am talking about. He must be up there in age as I am 59 (today as a matter of fact) and I was 22 when I worked at New England Baptist Hospital where he practiced. It was a Lahey Clinic Facility back then. If I am not mistaken, the AMA in Boston wanted to censure him for having a race horse named after him, which was just craziness. I don't know if they ever followed through with it. Amazing how hide bound and insular medicine was back then. Thankfully, times have changed in that respect. Just to give you an idea of what it was like for a nurse, if a M.D. entered the nursing station, you had to give up your chair to him. We were all in awe of Dr. Fager but he was not pretentious at all, and as far as I know, he never expected a nurse to give up her seat. Have a great vacation Steve.

09 Dec 2012 2:52 AM
Paula Higgins

Cin, Penny Chenery did a very nice thing by creating this award for the fans. It allows us to have a voice too, especially in a sport that needs to widen its fan base. It is very fitting that the owner of possibly/probably the greatest horse of the 20th century created it. Penny Chenery is a gem.

09 Dec 2012 3:04 AM

Steel Dragon: This award has nothing to do with accolades for Secretariat's owner, Mrs. Chenery. She did, however, create the Vox Populi award when she felt that Zenyatta was getting short shrift from the Eclipse voters 2 years in a row.

And she does deserves kudos for her foresight.  I thought last year that Rapid Redux was more deserving of HOY than Havre de Grace.  (just my opinion).  So garnering the fan's attention, he won the Vox Populi deservedly.

While it is a popularity contest...so are the Eclipse awards. (THEY just don't bother to consult the fans on that one.)

Mookie:  Amen....Lava Man was the star of the Triple Crown series, and he's one of my favorites.  You can write in his name if you go to the voting website. (Why haven't we seen THE MAN leading O'Neil's promising 2 year olds to the track? I'm getting a bit worried about not seeing him.)

All of the candidates for the VP are more than deserving.  I'll not be disappointed with whoever wins.  I've already voted, and I urge you all to do the same.

And Steve...great blog...and your book on Dr. Fager was awesome.  (And John Henry and Kelso weren't too shabby either.)

09 Dec 2012 8:26 AM

To be honest, I'm not understanding some of the griping that's going on here. If your favorite horse isn't here, just go to the website and write him - or her - in. As for Penny Chenery getting accolades and some other owner/s not - well, she DID create the award, and was gracious enough to open up the list and add several more names when racing fans complained that some deserving horses were not on it.

I voted for Paynter - while others on the list are probably sure-fire winners of Eclipse Awards, I felt his courage and heart in the face of a life-threatening situation was the epitome of what we all love about the Thoroughbred horse. The fact that he won, and is thriving, is all the more satisfying.

09 Dec 2012 11:50 AM

The reality is...Is we shouldn't even be discussing Paynter right now. Why??  because as history has shown us over and over Paynter should be dead.  Yes, dead,  just like so many before him that was afflicted with this deadly disease. The world's most beloved horse , Secretariat lost his battle with Laminitis. Just suppose Secretariat had had a veterinarian like Paynter had, now of course that was years ago and treatments have come along way,but the fact is is horses are normally euthanized with this after normal treatments have been given. Paynter's situation was different. He had an owner that ask Paynter's fans to pray for him and best of all and the most important,  he found the right vet. I believe those prayers is what led Paynter's connections to the right

vet.  How many connections ask that you join them and pray for their horse?  None in this day and time. Most just see the disease as it is and the way it's always been and have the horse put down.  Paynter had two diseases plus an ulcer in his stomach. Wow, should we really be talking about him now in his physical presence? NO, by history's fate , Paynter should be dead.  But he's not, he's getting better by the day and is on his road to recovery. So, who more deserves this award than Paynter and his connections.  I believe Secretariat himself would award this to Paynter.

09 Dec 2012 9:42 PM
Uncle Smiley


How about a Grade I stakes called the Riva Ridge!

We can have it here at Delpark, right after our newly elevated Grade I Delaware Handicap.

Happy Holidays to all...


09 Dec 2012 10:27 PM

You know who infiltrated my heart? Secretariat. Not Lassie, not Bambie, not Nemo. When is racing going to get a better story than what these also rans in the VP can provide? They're not worth the breath, when what we desperately need is a great race horse who actually races all year and mostly wins. Imagine that! That's why Wise Dan deserves this award, he alone did his job this year. I don't need the sentimental slop when the main course is missing. Ban trainers who don't race their horses, like the idiot who owned IHA. I want another Secretariat, a male looking horse with a thick neck and muscles and tremendous length. That's the solution to all the racing baloney  where we're supposed to like and admire race horses for their personality and sensitvity. What bullcrap, and inaccurate to boot. The fiercest horse is also the best of friends, not some attention seeking, light weight, lightly raced horse that doesn't pull his racing weight. Only Wise Dan performed this year. To me that's lovable beyond personality stories.

10 Dec 2012 12:36 AM

And one more thing, you can be sure betting doesn't revolve around sentimental nonsense. They keep your money if you lose. Come on people, there would be no racing if there was no betting and betting is merciless. Bring on a fiery, merciless steed and dump the fake attention getters like Paynter who hasn't proven anything other than an ability to get attention. Someone is making money on all this sentiment and it ain't you.

10 Dec 2012 12:43 AM
Steve Haskin

Paula, Happy Birthday.

10 Dec 2012 7:24 AM

Equinefan. You needn't worry about Wise Dan not receiving his rewards, after all I expect he's going to receive horse racing's highest honor,  Horse Of The Year.

10 Dec 2012 7:32 AM

Eyeswatching saying Paynter should be dead is 100% correct. Colitis has 90% to 100% mortality, usually in less than 24 hours. Even with AGGRESSIVE treatment mortality is still 75%. The cause of colitis is a disruption of the normal flora and bacteria in the digestive tract. One of the microbes over runs the digestive tract. Severe diarrhea usually results. Dehydration, lack of nutrient absorption and irritation of intestine wall which causes bleeding and low blood pressure further compromise the horse. Finding the culprit bacteria can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Blanket use of antibiotics can cause further damage by killing the wrong bacteria and may be the triggering reason for the flora disruption in the first place. Shock from pain, dehydration and leaching of matter into the bloodstream (anaphlylactic) add to an already bad situation. If the horse manages to survive the first 24hrs, laminitis usually shows its ugly head somewhere along the line. To say Paynter beat the odds is an understatement. I was not so lucky. My horse never had the diarrhea which is a major telling symptom. He died of anaphylactic shock while we on our way to Cornell for what appeared to be a weird case colic. He was gone in less that 12 hrs even with early detection of illness and repeated vet care. Its a nasty piece of business. I've read that Slew also beat the odds and went on to race at 4, which hopefully is a good omen for Paynter. Some here question the inclusion of Paynter as a nominee stating his racetrack efforts were not enough as compared to others selected. The award recognizes a horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the general public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year. Paynter won a G1 and almost upset one of the best 3YOs in training with his front running effort in the Belmont S and became very much a public horse in that race. 6 sts 3 wins 2 seconds and a 4th place effort clearly is a decent race record and if not for his illness surely would have improved for this late developing colt. And he has what several others don't have which is a huge fan following and public awareness with his Power Up Paynter, Pray for Paynter FB, tweets and other media updates. Fans which spoke up and got Paynter included as a nominee. With the exception of Shackleford, all are assured an Eclipse Award, so its not like they wont be or already have been recognized for their on track performances and this is supposed to be a voice of the people award. Frankly I was surprised that I'll Have Another made the list after the comments made by Mrs Chenery in the spring in regards to J. Paul Reddam and Doug O'Neill. Kudos to her for listening to the committee and the public and shows once again how classy she is.

10 Dec 2012 12:27 PM


You and I are of the same mind on the good DR FAGER.....wish i had seen him in the flesh....but your book REALLY painted him to life for me.    As fot the Vox Populi awards......i love ALL of the horses listed but HAD to cast my vote for PAYNTER.   His owners have been so gracious to the fans and have shown the quality of their ownership in the care they have given this horse with the idea in mind to always give him a "chance" but to never let him suffer if it came to that.   As someone who lost a beloved horse to the dreaded diagnosis of LAMINITIS, I take it as a great victory that PAYNTER not only survived this, but seems to be recovering nicely.    It gives hope to all of us who own horses, that one day, this will be a disease of the "past" and not the great killer it often becomes despite money & treatment.  SO, hooray for PAYNTER, he's already a WINNER in my book!  :)

10 Dec 2012 4:50 PM

Steve have a wonderful vacation the next few weeks.  I wish all the best for you and your family for the holidays and for the New Year.  We'll all muddle through without you for awhile and look forward to your return when all the 2 yr. olds have turned 3 and your initial Derby hopefuls list!

Paula Higgins,

A very Happy Birthday to you!  I did not read this over the weekend so I hope you had a wonderful day.  Enjoy your 2 new books for Christmas written by none other than Steve.

And to Paynter.  Keep going buddy, you are amazing and an inspiration to all.  There is so much love here for you.  You are our Vox Populi winner, our HOY, you mean so much to us here.  Continue on your road to complete recovery and may your days be blessed with health, happiness, and green pastures always whether you race again or not.  You've got the Power, buddy, don't ever forget that.  PowerUpPaynter!!!!!!!

10 Dec 2012 5:24 PM

Equinefan: I responded to your Paynter bashing on the blog about Paynter, but since it didn't post I'll try to remember it.

You're crying foul, that Paynter's not good looking, that he is effeminate, and not deserving of the fans' support.

The pix are of a recovering Paynter, who had the will to fight off a sure death sentence.  He has a long way to go to get back his former looks; right now he's still fighting to hang on to life.

If you wanted to see the fiery steed that his owner saw, go back and watch the Belmont Stakes where Paynter charged around those 12 furlongs with every rippling muscle he used to have, and led that pack for 11 + furlongs.

Not every horse is a war horse like Rock Hard Ten.  Some champions are small (16 hands) in plain bay wrappers, but their hearts are bigger than any 10 horses...one plain bay is the only undefeated Triple Crown winner...his name is Slew, and he's part of Paynter's ancestry.  And some are small and non-descript like John Henry and Seabiscuit...but they were Champions non-the-less.

And not all champions are male.  Consider Zenyatta, an Amazon who dwarfed her competition.  Many daughters of of Unbridled are 17 hand mares.  But Lady's Secret was small, and weighed only 900 pounds, had her sire's heart, and wasn't shy of the winner's circle.  She was always a fierce competitor.

You say only Wise Dan performed this year.  He ran 6 times and won 5, coming in second to Ron the Greek in one race.

Royal Delta raced 7 times this year, all 9 to 10f, all graded stakes, including Dubai.

Frankel remains undefeated.

But if you like Wise Dan, vote for him....but stop bashing fans who appreciate the struggles Paynter has been through.  You are totally missing the heart of this blog.  THE FANS appreciate all horses, for many different reasons.  

And Lava Man hasn't raced at all this year, but the 11 year old gelding has all the fiery temperment of 10 horses, and he stole the show during the Triple Crown, endearing him to even more new fans.

Per FB:According to O'Neil Racing Stable, Lava Man would love to decorate his stall this Christmas with cards from his fans.  The address is:

Lava Man

c/o 122-A E Foothill Blvd #300,

Arcadia, CA 91006

10 Dec 2012 8:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Thank you Steve and Alex'sBigFan for the birthday wishes!!! Steve, have a great vacation and Happy Holidays to everyone.

10 Dec 2012 9:07 PM

Those who are having trouble trying to understand the Vox Populi award, you might go to the Secretariat.com web site and click on the award tab to read the entire explanation there.  

My interpretation is this award is associated with the greatest "people's horse" ever, Secretariat, notwithstanding his feats on the track, he was ALSO a people's horse! I don't at all believe that a horse's greatness should preclude his qualification for this award, but, he definitely should have more than that, another dimension if you will, a la Zenyatta or a Rapid Redux!  Of the horses on the list, only a few of them transcended the sport itself: I'll Have Another, Shackleford, and for me, Paynter epitomized that "extra something" that made him more special than all the rest. I could have made a case for Shackleford, as I fell in love with him the first time I saw his big chestnut frame get down for his daily roll in the dirt!  His exploits on the track are certainly nothing to sneeze at, but there are many with better records.  Shack just grabs you somehow, with his personality and his joy.  Even before getting back to his winning ways, his trainer called him "the big horse in the barn!"  I could also make a case for I'll Have Another, the $11,000 yearling and the $35,000 bargain two year old who I believe with every fiber of my being that he easily wins the TC had he run. His humble beginnings reminded me of Seattle Slew, who had a similar experience as Paynter in January of his 4 yr old year, and he nearly died, yet, he and Affirmed gave us some wonderful moments of two TC winners racing each other, and will anyone forget the Slew in the JCGC of 1978?  Paynter's story also reminds me of Invisible Ink, or "Inky", which Steve has written about on a couple of occasions. He nearly died, and some said he literally came back from the dead as a two year old to run the race of his life and come in second in the KY Derby the following year.  These are the types of horses who qualify in my mind for the VP award.  They all had that "extra something" that is hard to define, but we easily recognize it when it's present!  Ann Maree

10 Dec 2012 9:57 PM

Dearest Equinefan, how can you possibly say that Paynter "hasn't proven anything". I'm sure the Zayat family would've preferred a different path to get attention. I don't think the horse enjoyed going through hell to garner attention either. However, attention does come to those who manage to come up with outrageous comments that most find offensive and flat out ignorant. Equinefan, really? I think you should change your name.

10 Dec 2012 10:32 PM

I voted for Paynter. The story of that horse, the Zayats love for him, and the remarkable advances in vet medicine that made saving Paynter possible are a real counterpoint to so much of what ails the sport.

10 Dec 2012 11:56 PM
Mike Relva


Seems like your agenda is seeking attention, not Paynter. Give it a rest.

11 Dec 2012 12:52 AM

Equinefan is giving me Draynay flashbacks!....

11 Dec 2012 8:19 AM
Age of Reason

Thank you, Slew. Well said.

11 Dec 2012 12:13 PM

Paynter NOT good looking or masculine???  Holy Haskell Batman!!!!  Equinefan, let me tell you, Paynter came out in that Haskell post parade more headstrong than Hurricane Sandy was and ready to "tear up" Monmouth Park and that he singlehandedly did.  Paynter is quite a gorgeous looking animal, I was only feet away from him in the flesh, trust me.  The very "ironhorse" you seem to be describing and yearning for is embodied right in the fortitude and physique of Paynter.  Take another look.  A Belmont second and a Haskell first is nothing to belittle, and even though Paynter could not continue his athletic prowess on the track it manifested itself in another way and gave him that fighting spirit, that spirit Steve told us is embodied in the great breed of thoroughbred, and a will to live.  I also credit Bob Baffert in the training of this animal, he was in his hands for awhile and well cared for.  That too in the long run I am sure helped Paynter.

And speaking of that Paynter must be thinking, gee I've come a long way from California, where's little Bode and that guy with the white hair?

11 Dec 2012 6:51 PM
Grande Fan

It is most wonderful to have this award and for all the enthusiasm it brings out in fans. The very innovative and creative Penny Chenery has always lead quietly by example. Such class is all too rare these days....but it is never too late to bring her style back to the forefront. I hope everyone in this industry is taking note.

12 Dec 2012 11:50 PM

The award is a good award ,the creator of the award a. Wonderful person.The meaning of the award is "The will of tHe people". I love SHACKLEFORD & so many other horses however My vote will have to be for PAYNTER because of how many all over the world prayed for him. The collective prayers (and a determined owner & skilled vets ) helped in his recovery and this really was a case of THE WILL...AND GOOD ENERGY OF THE PEOPLE !

13 Dec 2012 9:51 AM

Thank you, ksweatman9, for your defense of Paynter.  Paynter's courage and tenacity for life is a miraculous feat, and equinefan is very misguided in not appreciating that fact.  To say this incredibly brave horse has done nothing to prove himself worthy to win the Vox Populi Award, or that Paynter is not rightfully deserving of the accolades and admiration he has received from racing fans because of his inspirational courage, is ridiculous and flat out wrong.  Paynter's example of extreme courage in the face of the impossible odds against him reminds us all to never, ever give up, no matter the obstacles.

16 Dec 2012 8:19 PM

And thank you, Slew, as well for your defense of Paynter to equinefan.  And defending Royal Delta, Seabiscuit, Seattle Slew, Zenyatta, Lady's Secret, and the best "Assistant Coach" in the business - Lava Man.  I am a Lava Man fan, and I will be sending Lava Man his Christmas card.  Thanks for letting us know about the cards.  

Deltalady, I totally agree with you on which horses were the horses that transcended the sport in 2012:  I'll Have Another, Paynter and Shackleford.  I think Royal Delta, Black Caviar, Orfevre, Animal Kingdom in his BC comeback and Frankel can also be added to that list.  Great courage & tenacity seems to be the common denominator of most of these horses.  That Paynter is, happily, still among us and getting better every single day, is something I am very grateful for.

16 Dec 2012 8:43 PM

Invisible Ink!  His story still grabs my heart.  How his owner, John Fort, loved him - until the day Inky passed away, and still does.  Mr. Fort was crushed when his beloved Inky died.  How we all loved him.  What courage Inky showed.  Seeing him come in a fast-closing second to Monarcos in the Kentucky Derby was so heartwarming & thrilling. He didn't miss winning the Derby by very much - yes, it was the race of Inky's life.  Inky raced his best race in the biggest race of them all.  I still miss him.  

Thanks for mentioning him, Deltalady.  Paynter's story does deeply resonate with Invisible Ink's story of courageously battling back from almost certain death.  Rest in peace, Inky.  You're still missed and loved.

16 Dec 2012 9:08 PM

And the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Congratulations to you, Paynter. You've deemed yourself worthy of the people's choice award. California is waiting for it's home boy. Have a good trip darlin'.

28 Dec 2012 3:59 AM
marilyn braudrick

Well, the amazing saga of Paynter far out -distances the dream I had of him last year at this time when he was still named MC's Dream or something like that.  No, he has not "yet" won a "derby" as my dream seems to have foretold, but he has done more than that and has become a horse racing legend to all of us, his ardent fans.  May God bless him every second from here on in . . . I am still holding my breath or, i should say, praying for him every step of the way.  Little did I know what would happen when i wrote in to this blog about that dream last February and another blogger called "Point Given" supported my pre-cognition if it is, indeed,  a pre-cognitive dream . . . I"m still waiting and hoping.

Happy New Year to you all.  I don't write in often but I learn from you all every day. AND, thanks Steve, for

this blog and all the  wonderful photos -Marilyn

07 Jan 2013 2:16 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs