There has been plenty of opinion on the Eclipse Awards this past Monday. Others have gone through the winners and losers and that's great - a bunch did a good job and stated their opinion sometimes eloquently.
One area not touched on out there as much has been the Awards themselves. I have read comments on chat boards about the crowd and I do tend to agree. On TV at least - it seemed like it was a sad bunch. One fan commented that even when Mary Lou Whitney spoke of horse retirement there were people sitting on their hands. On Ustream, where there was a live chat board going on, the comments echoed this as well. At 9:36 the live attached chat board exploded, however, with pure glee and passion; at a level I would submit was 100 times more than the room did.
That is not saying the room didn't at that moment - for the owners and trainers there Zenyatta was a solid choice, I believe this is because the people in that room know how difficult it is for a horse to race 20 races and fire all 20 times. It was an honest appreciation of a very special equine athlete, from those who work in the trenches.
Regardless there has been some serious talk about "involving the fans". I do not prescribe to this theory per se, simply because it is not our decision as fans. The Awards are the owners night. Buying and raising yearlings, paying huge stakes payments, living and dying when your horse's white count comes back over 10, and having to deal with all the ups and downs as an owner, groom, trainer or others involved with the horse is not a minor thing. It is their night.
Just as I think owners groups and horsemen groups should stay out of wagering decisions and leave it to experts and bettor behavior, I can see the same thing with the Eclipse Awards, or the Dan Patch Awards with the shoe on the other foot.
However, since Jerry Moss and others have brought it up; is there something that can be good for the game if fans are involved?
The National Football League draft is for teams, players and insiders for the most part and those decisions are not fan based at all. But fans are invited to the venue to scream and yell for their team. When Zenyatta won HOY would the venue been more electric with some fans there? I wonder, as a perk can racetracks hold Eclipse Parties for fans at special venues to participate and share their joy or dismay with the votes via live stream on youtube?
Should social media be involved? Is there any way to bring fans closer to the action to brand the event long-term?
Should there be a fan based vote which is included in the tabulation?
Or should this just be an owner day, which I think rightfully it is.
I have more questions than answers I guess, but I wonder if we might be missing an opportunity. I must admit, watching the event for the first time, at instances it seemed more like a wake and less like a celebration of equine and equine people excellence. I think we might be able to do better.