I guess the Horse of the Year debate is over after Saturday but it was somewhat interesting to me, as the debate in some quarters seemed perplexing. I was reminded of this from my friend and frequent blog contributor Greg, who noted that if I read some chat sites, I would see some odd responses that were extremely critical of Somebeachsomewhere. I know what you are saying, chat sites are a bad barometer. But I did see a sense of spite (actually Andrew Cohen mentioned this on his blog about two months ago regarding respecting this horse) from some in the sport.
I took it for granted that most would be voting for this horse for Horse of the Year, even before this past weekend. I mean, seriously, if you are comparing a horse to Niatross in one sentence and not voting for him as your HOY in another, I think it is an issue. In one response from Greg the potential politic of the vote was spoken about.
Horse A- from Canada, trained by a relative unknown guy
Horse B- from the States, trained by one of the most popular guys in the business and owned by a conglomerate of some of the biggest power brokers in the industry.
My response to Greg on that was simple:
15-14-1-0 $2,516,163 (All-time earnings record)
World Records: 4
All-age World Records: 1
World Records: 0
What are they gonna say: "I voted for horse B because he had more thirds?"
Perhaps it is naive of me, but I think people will actually vote for the best horse when they vote. If a conglomerate get votes because well, they are a conglomerate, and a voter by not voting for them is worried that they might get a dirty look at an industry Christmas party, I think we should all go back to racing for ribbons and close up shop now. It disrespects our game, and if we don't respect it as insiders, we should not expect fans to.
As for the commercialization of harness racing, where we now have multi-nationals owning racehorses, it is what it is. Slots have made this a business now. But I sincerely hope we never lose sight that a small owner can succeed with a horse in our business.
Consider this: Six or eight people from a town of 7000 in rural Nova Scotia plopped down about $5000 each for a piece of a horse. One of the owners is a part-time trainer. He trained the horse down, staked him, slept with him and raced him to the best of his ability. That horse shattered records everywhere to cheering fans, made more money than any 3 year old in our history, and in the process gave the harness industry more positive press than all the horses the last fifteen or twenty years combined.
Giving them their due with a Horse of the Year vote is not something radical. It is giving an award to every Tom, Dick and Harry who play this game as owners, trying to get the next one. We should never deny who we are, we should embrace it, be proud of it and shout it from the mountaintops. You do not need to own an oil well to compete in our game.
I was sitting in a hotel across from the Meadowlands this summer and I ran into one of our sports biggest owners. He has more trophies than I have socks. We spoke about racing today and he said he longed for the old days where you bought a horse, took him to the track, hitched him up and watched him go.
That is why I think there will be no political vote and Somebeachsomewhere will win in a landslide. No matter how many zeros you have in a bank account, how much pull you have, how many champions you own, or how many names you have in your rolodex, you are one of us. We are harness racing.
And a horse like Somebeachsomewhere represents us with pristine perfection.
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