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Jan 26, 2007

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


This columnist has attended several Eclipse dinners over the years, with or without the black tie,
and I'll have to confess to a lack of positive memories.

In recent years, I have been content to observe the proceedings on TVG, and last night was no exception.

Actually, I managed to miss the first four hours of the telecast. I opted instead for my usual Monday night crawfish boil with some horsemen buddies out on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, where I currently am engaged as a press hound for Oaklawn Park.

I thought I'd catch some of the Eclipse event on TV there, but, surprise, the TV was blasting Big East hoops with Vitale.

I asked the host why no Eclipse awards.

His reply:

No interest.

I was kind of shocked. A houseful of trainers, some nationally prominent, and no one gave the proverbial you know what about the Eclipses. None of them seemed to know the event was going on.

The President's State of the Union tonight probably will draw higher ratings in the racing community than the Eclipse Awards.

After consuming enough crawfish, I returned home to watch the last two hours of the Eclipses, and the program was, what shall I say, difficult to watch.

The program was dull as dirt, the awards painfully predictable, and the production tasteless. A hip-hop guy from TVG, a Stephen A. Smith wannabe, tried in vain to inject some humor into the proceedings. Larry King talked about Viagara. Laffit Pincay Jr., one of my racing heroes, came on stage to present an award, and confessed he had too much to drink. And I had to wonder exactly was Julie Krone, also a presenter, was doing onstage.

And when Bernardini (spelled Bernardino by some headline writers) was announced as the 3-year-old champion (over Barbaro) you could feel whatever life sucked out of the room.

When it was announced about midnight that Invasor was Horse of the Year, it led me to think why don't they just announce that the Breeders' Cup Classic winner is the Horse of the Year in the winner's circle. After all, this is the third straight year -- following Ghostzapper and Saint Liam -- that the Horse of the Year was one who no one outside of racing ever heard of.

Can you believe that, starting in 2003, racing produced superstars Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Barbaro -- and none of the four got a sniff for Horse of the Year.

Also, folks like me have to wonder how can Barbaro be get second to Invasor for in the Horse of the Year
balloting, and yet finish a distant second to Bernardini in the 3-year-old voting.

What gives there?

Don't my colleagues in the media have a clue that awards should be for more than who has the most Grade 1 victories?

Don't get me wrong, I have no knock on Invasor. In fact, subscribers to my phone service (888 612 2283) may recall that I gave out Invasor at 6-1 in the Pimlico Special last May, and twice more at shorter prices.

I'm just wondering why media folks fail to recognize the horses who put racing on the map.

The voters also made the wrong call when they chose Fleet Indian over Round Pond. After all, if the Breeders' Cup is the endall when it comes to championships, how can the voters deny Round Pond the title?

Round Pond was the best 3-year-old filly in '05, and the best older filly or mare in '06, and she and her connections got shafted both times.

Mike Matz, who succeeded John Servis as Round Pond's trainer, made a good point.

Matz said that if Fleet Indian had finished the Breeders' Cup Distaff, instead of dropping out of the race with  a career-ending injury, Round Pond would have got the title. Some folks may think that was sour grapes from Matz, but I don't think so. His point is well-taken.

I was delighted to hear on the Eclipse telecast that Fleet Indian has recovered from her injuries, and will be bred to Storm Cat.

You were expecting Artax!

The only positive gleaned from the Eclipse telecast was the presentation of a special Eclipse to Team Barbaro for its accomplishments. The acceptance speeches by the owners, Dr. Richardson and the dean of New Bolton were exceptional and sincere.

I was also pleased that Prado was voted top jockey. 

And isn't it ironic the reason Prado beat out Gomez for the award was that Edgar won the Kentucky Derby on BARBARO and a Breeders' Cup race (the Distaff)  on ROUND POND, the two horses who were stiffed by the voters.

Since Gomez had the better numbers, it was obvious the voters leaned to Prado because of his Derby and BC
victories. 

In case you missed the Eclipse voting tallies, and you probably did, because the mainstream media doesn't find the room, here's where the votes went:

2-YEAR-OLD MALE

Street Sense, 229; Circular Quay, 13; Tiz Wonderful, 11; Nobiz Like Showbiz 9; Scat Daddy, 5; Great Hunter, 2; Day Pass, 1; Stormello 1.

Remarks: Hard Spun, 3-for-3 at 2, and the likely Derby winner at 3, was shut out. Tiz Wonderful is already off the Triple Crown trail with a tendon injury. Street Sense will try to make history by: 1) Becoming the first BC Juvenile winner to win the Derby, and 2) The first horse to win  the Derby off only only two preps.

2-YEAR-OLD FILLY

Dreaming of Anna, 265; Octave 3; Boca Grande, 1; Point Ashley, 1.

Remarks: Will Rene Douglas, currently suspended in Florida, keep the mount on Street Sense? Beware of an Oaklawn-based filly named High Heels.

3-YEAR-OLD MALE

Bernardini, 210; Barbaro, 56; Discreet Cat, 4; Jazil, 1.

Remarks: Please explain how Bernardini gets four times the votes for 3-year-old, and Barbaro finishes ahead of him in the Horse of the Year balloting.

3-YEAR-OLD FILLY

Wait A While, 138; Pine Island, 108; Bushfire, 18; Eermine, 3; Lemons Forever, 1.

Remarks: The voters are setting a dangerous precedent by voting for a grass filly.

OLDER MALE

Invasor, 262; Lava Man, 8.

Remarks: Lava Man deserved better.

OLDER FEMALE

Fleet Indian, 213; Round Pond, 48; Asi Siempre, 4; Gorella, 2; Ouija Board, 2; Pool Land, 1;
Spun Sugar, 1.

Remarks: If they raced 10 times, Round Pond would beat Fleet Indian 10 times. And why couldn't
Happy Ticket muster one vote?

SPRINTER

Thor's Echo, 213; Discreet Cat, 39; Henny Hughes, 15; Bishop Court Hill, 1; Bordonaro, 1; Proud
Tower Too, 1.

Remarks: Discreet Cat would be 1-5 against Thor's Echo. Bordonaro got shorted.

MALE TURF HORSE

Miesque's Approval, 74; The Tin Man, 69; English Channel, 63; Red Rocks, 21; Aragorn, 19; Showing Up, 12; Lava Man, 7; Ashkal Way, 1; Better Talk Now, 1; Collier Hill, 1.

Remarks: Where is Cacique?

FEMALE TURF HORSE

Ouija Board, 217; Gorella, 35; Wait A While, 15.

Remarks: Ouija Board is the best female turfer of modern times.

STEEPLECHASE HORSE

McDynamo, 239; Sur La Tete, 6; Hirapour, 2; Mixed Up, 1.

Remarks: Michael Moran, the owner of McDynamo, bred Hard Spun. I wonder how many of the voters
actually saw a jump-up race in 2006.

P.S. I find it interesting that 14 per cent of those who received ballots didn't bother to vote.


One football note:

I found it amusing that Jacksonville coach Del Rio, when asked by ESPN for a Colts-Pats prediction, said:

"I like the Colts because they're home."

As it turned out, Del Rio (see the Zebras) had it pegged.



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