Eclipse Awards and the NHC--Rewarding All Those Who Matter

January is a busy month for the NTRA staff.  The Eclipse Awards and the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship – two of our industry’s biggest occasions - both fall in the first month of the year.  Making sure that these important events happen each year in a professional, well publicized way, is one of our top priorities as an organization.   

Both the Eclipse Awards and the NHC are expensive, labor-intensive events that demand a lot of the staff members at the NTRA who, like so many others working for non-profit associations these days, are forced by economics to do more with less.  We host these events because both are important to the marketing of Thoroughbred racing at the national level.   Equally as important, each event provides unique opportunities to reward those who are invaluable to our business.     

The Eclipse Awards are given to the horses and people who represent both the pinnacle and the foundation of horse racing.  The casino competition has bells and whistles, cards and dice.  We have flesh and blood, heart and soul.  It’s the biggest thing we have going for us as an industry.  Our competitors can’t stir real passion like the zeal that was so clearly on display Monday night when Zenyatta was named Horse of the Year.  

If I live to be an old man, I doubt that I will ever witness a more spontaneous eruption of pure joy and happiness than the one displayed by that crowd at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach after I opened that envelope and read Zenyatta’s name.  The crowd went absolutely wild. Slot machines can’t compete with that.  

Before the announcement Monday night, the Internet blogs and social media sites had been on fire for weeks with passionate debate on both sides of the Horse of the Year question.  The discussion engaged new fans and core fans like never before.  I fully understand those who are calling for more fan involvement in the Eclipse Award voting process, but from my perspective, it was fan involvement that clearly influenced the voting this year.  Three years ago, Blame would probably have been voted Horse of the Year.  But with the explosion of social media and the undeniable voices of horse racing fans coming at the industry from all sides to support Zenyatta, the Eclipse Award voters could not help but be influenced by their fervor.  That is no slight to Champion Blame or his connections.  It’s just a simple observation of how the world is changing, and how horse racing is adapting to this new reality.

A less public but no less important display of that same passion is the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held January28-29 at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas.  This event will draw 304 of the best horseplayers in North America to one of Las Vegas’ best race and sports book facilities.  For two days, the players will vie for over $1 million in prize money. All who compete at the NHC will have qualified at one of 109 local tourneys held at racetracks, OTBs, casinos and Internet sites.   These men and women love the intellectual challenge offered by handicapping horse races.  They also love the rewards of picking winners.  This year’s NHC winner will take home a minimum of $500,000.  In 2012, the total prize money will go to $2 million estimated with the winner’s share set at $1 million.  Not bad for two days of work.

At the NTRA, we believe in honoring horseplayers at the NHC every bit as much as we believe in honoring owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys and horses at the Eclipse Awards.  If horses and horse people are the foundation of our game, players are the economic engine that fuels it.  Both segments are vitally important and without one, there would not be the other.  That’s why it’s fitting that we honor both at this time of the year.  

How about you?  Did you feel your voice was heard by the Eclipse Award voters this year?  How about the NHC?  Have you ever entered a qualifier?  If not, why not?   Let me hear from you.


Leave a Comment:


We were watching the award show and thought Z was gonna get her third consecutive 2nd in this category. I think a lot of people in the audience, especially the Moss's, were thinking along the same lines. The outburst of applause was of SURPRISE and JOY. Surprise because most Z fans thought it was going to happen again. Joy because it didn't.

19 Jan 2011 5:35 PM


I completely agree with you about the fan involvment in this year's HOY "crowning"; even though I believe Zenyatta richly deserved the award and I am a huge admirer of all things Zenyatta - it was the social network (especially Facebook fans) with their massive influence creating a groundswell of support that put her over the top. She was by all accounts the "People's Racing Queen".  It was interesting looking at the voting breakdown that only DRF went for Blame, the other two voting blocks went decisively for Zenyatta.  As you said, Blame was a worthy recipient of the award as well and would probably have won in previous years.  And yet were it not for my admiration and fascination with Zenyatta, I would not have become the passionate and educated racing fan I am today. Pre-Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra I would usually only watch the Kentucky Derby and sometimes the Preakness and Belmont (when Smarty Jones was in the running for the Triple Crown).  No matter who you believe is the better horse, Zenyatta did transcend all of that and had a very positive impact on the "future" of thorougbred racing!

She is definately the Queen! And one other item of note, the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture went to "The Social Network" (the story of Facebook).  I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't also win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

See a trend here?

19 Jan 2011 5:53 PM

First of all, let's acknowledge that Goldikova ran more races against tougher horses that either Zenyatta or Blame. She was virtually ignored in the voting. We need to admit that a turf horse will NEVER get HOY in the US ( see English Channel for instance). Secondly, we need to rename the awards of this week to be US HOY. Canada does that and Europe does that so it's time we do that also.

As far as Blame is concerned, his retirement before he cooled out after the BC Classic said sometinhg to a lot of people like his soundness is in question. That would also be reflected by his limited and selective campaigns over the past two seasons. One of the racing TV commentators said over the weekend that we need to get back to having good horses run 15 or 18 times a year so the public can get to know them. These abbreviated and selected race schedules will not bring the public back to racing and they are leaving at an alarming rate.

20 Jan 2011 9:05 AM

"  We host these events because both are important to the marketing of Thoroughbred racing at the national level.   Equally as important, each event provides unique opportunities to reward those who are invaluable to our business."  Mr. waldrop, if what you say above is true, kindly explain how NTRA and the vioting press can overwhelmingly elect a trainer who's unethical actions at the BC were disclosed on national television  as trainer of the year.  I refer to Pletcher and Life At Ten.  Important to the marketing of the industry?    Shame on you!  I've said it before, I'll say it again:  the man should not have been on the ballot.

20 Jan 2011 10:25 AM

With all due respect, to say that Blame would have won if not for social networking sounds like another version of the argument that Zenyatta won merely on the basis of her popularity. It also implies that most voters were swayed by public opinion. You cannot "manufacture"the kind of sentiment that Zenyatta inspired. While her charisma played a role, her fame and respect are based on her incredible, unprecedented talent ON the racetrack.

20 Jan 2011 11:16 AM

As I sat at home watching TVG waiting to hear your announcement of the 2010 Horse Of The Year, I honest to God expected to hear Blame's name. I heard "Zenyatta" and the tears came. Happpy tears. Tears that finally, FINALLY, Zenyatta got the Horse Of The Year that she has deserved for three years now. You've probably figured out by now, I'm a HUGE Zenyatta (and Team Zenyatta) fan. I've posted comments at several websites, throughout the Zenyatta/Blame debate, especially various Facebook pages. If the connections that be want to allow their stars to meet with the fans of horse racing like the Mosses and John Shirreffs have so generously done with Zenyatta, I say BRING! IT! ON! I can now say I got my picture taken with and touched the 2010 Horse Of The Year. No matter what, it was a thrill to meet Zenyatta before she went off to Kentucky, but when I she's HORSE OF THE YEAR, it just brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. God bless Ann and Jerry Moss, Dottie and John Shirreffs, Mikey Smith, Mario, Steve, Carmen, Michelle and everyone else at Hollywood Park's Barn 55 who worked with Zenyatta. I have nothing but love and respect for each and every one of them. And God bless Big Mama Z! She's magical.

20 Jan 2011 2:15 PM
Soldier Course

Earlier this week I posted on another thread in the Blog Stable that I believe Zenyatta's fans made the critical difference in the outcome of 2010 Horse of the Year. I'd like to think we "influenced the voting" in the best sense, by touching the voters' conscience rather than threatening their process.

21 Jan 2011 11:41 AM
Zen's Auntie

I have to say this and in looking for a place to say it this looks good to me so here goes Alex.

I’m off-put by the fact that the continuing Life at Ten Breeders Cup investigation drags (with no resolution time frame) on while we see the Jockey who said she was off and the Trainer who ran her at the Breeders Cup recieve ECLIPSE AWARDS.  

Even though I knew it was going to happen, it turned my stomach a bit more than I thought it would.

It made me ask; Is it possible to be the best and the worst at the same time?  

Apparently the answer is yes.

Do I think the people’s voice was heard in the outcome of the Eclipse Awards? In the case of HOTY absolutely, also common sense and fairness came into play. Polls of the public had Zenyatta winning 70% - Most blogs looked like 80% for Z. Still in the actual voting it was significantly closer than that and lots of folks (mostly deep industry folks) disagree with the award - not me at all but some.  To them I say - suck it up. We've all lost 49 to 51 at one time or another and you just have to be ok with it. Still in good sportsmanship we all should at least admit Zenyatta Horse Of the Year 2010 is good for Horse Racing.

I have not entered a qualifier nor do I plan too.  I'm all for betting. But for me, Handicapping and Thoroughbreds in general are a relaxing distraction that brings me joy.  Not cash - then it would be a job. I have a job. I don’t want it to become my job, so I rarely wager - but LOVE pour over PPs and evaluate, handicap and pick.

Perhaps when I retire. 500K does sound like good pay for 2 days work!

21 Jan 2011 12:52 PM
Zen's Auntie

Alex, excuse my error. I meant John V was only nominated and not that he recieved the award of course that went to very deserving Ramon Dominquez

21 Jan 2011 1:13 PM
Nancy L

At first I thought your statement concerning social media was implying that this modern influence was a bad thing and that Blame was the horse who should have gotten the recognition as Horse of the Year. As I reread, I prefer to believe that you were simply making an observation about the racing fans of today and how influential they are thanks to the social media. Hopefully the fans who made their opinions known will remain loyal to racing despite the retirement of Zenyatta. Hopefully the racing world will follow the example set by Team Zenyatta and consider the fans as an integral part of their world. Yes, they made good use of a website and Facebook, but they did more than that. They opened their world to the fans through barn visits, signing autographs for fans, posing for pictures when asked and always having a warm smile for Zenyatta's public. It is no accident that Mike Smith rode Zenyatta past the winners circle so the fans in the grandstand could get a good look at her after a race. All of these things combined created the fan base for Zenyatta. The racing establishment cannot survive by pretending that it is a self-sufficient elite sport of kings. The wise owners and trainers and racing managers will use the social media but will also open their hearts to the people who make racing possible on a more personal level also. They must give of themselves.

23 Jan 2011 3:13 PM


28 Jan 2011 4:49 AM

Recent Posts

More Blogs