Shirreffs deserves Eclipse Award

John Shirreffs may be only 10th in the nation in earnings among North American trainers, but sometimes the numbers tell only part of the story. The 64-year-old Arcadia resident deserves to win the Eclipse Award for top trainer this year, particularly when you consider the magnificent job he did with Zenyatta.

Shirreffs has saddled less than 100 starters, 96 to be exact, while the majority of conditioners ahead of him have all started well over 400. The No. 1 earner for instance, Steven Assmussen, went into Saturday having saddled 2,756 starters.

On Saturday at Hollywood Park, Shirreffs won a record fifth Bayakoa Handicap when 11-1 shot Zardana found the winner’s circle with Victor Espinoza aboard. Shirreffs also won the Bayakoa twice with Manistique (1998-99) and once with Starrer (2002) and Hollywood Story (2004).

All year, when fans were clamoring for Shirreffs to run Zenyatta against the males, the veteran conditioner remained patient, knowing full well her best shot against the boys would most likely come in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7, despite the fact it would be a tougher race than the Hollywood Gold Cup or Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Shirreffs didn’t want to run Zenyatta in the Gold Cup because he didn’t want her making her first start at 1 1/4 miles in only her second race back. He didn’t want to enter her in the Pacific Classic because she hated Del Mar’s Polytrack surface. Zenyatta’s exercise rider, Steve Willard, said one morning she didn’t even want to go out and gallop on the stuff.

That left the Goodwood and the Classic. If you’re going to run against the males once, why not prep for the race of your life in the Lady’s Secret and then go for all the marbles a month later?

That’s the route Shirreffs chose, and turns out it was the correct decision.

Of course, all that doesn’t even factor in his work with Life Is Sweet, who won the Ladies’ Classic 24 hours earlier than Zenyatta took the Classic, giving him a clean sweep of the weekend’s two biggest races.

There is no trainer in the country who turned in a better job in 2009 than John Shirreffs.

8 thoughts on “Shirreffs deserves Eclipse Award

  1. Art, you have this one correct, he is the trainer of the year by far. How can he not be when he won the 2 biggest BC races.

  2. The time has come to award the Trainer of the Year award to the individual who does the most spectacular training job regardless of the size or qualtity of the stable. Shirreffs is that trainer in 2009. For far too many years now, we have been granting the award to trainers who run huge corporate factories with the number of wins and purses earned the determining factors. The continuance of this practice is detrimental to the industry in many ways. First, it is detrimental to the horse and owner if the horse is not the stable star. Many of these horses never get the individual, knowledgeable attention and time they deserve to enable them to reach their full potential. Thus there exists huge wastage both in the horses useful life and economically to the owner. Additionally, we are promoting the public perception that this business model is acceptable when in fact the majority of the public believe it is not in the best interests of the horse. We need to insure the award goes to a trainer who consistently is personally involved with every horse in the stable. Paper training is illegal in all jurisdictions, yet we are giving this award to factory trainers who might not even be capable of physically identifying the horse except for billing information. We need to get back to hands on trainers and eliminate the hypocripsy ofcallinNg paper trainers assistants.

  3. Shirreffs for TOY. We need to get away from awarding it to trainers who are not directly hands on, on a daily basis.

    We have to stop giving the award to factory paper trainers based on earnings and number of wins. The rule is that paper training is illegal in every jurisdiction. However it is being flaunted by calling the acting trainers assistants. The hypocripsy is pathetic and the fact that votes are cast based on paper training makes the voters co-conspirators. Many of these factory trainers would not even be able to id these horses let alone know anything about their training if not from telephone calls to someone.

  4. That’s an incredible stat – 10th in earning with only 96 starters. I say he deserves the Eclipse Award.

    I also had a workout alert from my stable mail this morning that Zenyatta worked four furlongs. Let’s keep our fingers crossed she stays in training for a 2010 campaign.

  5. He only had 96 starts! You’re going to give Trainer of the Year to a guy with only 96 starts? Without Zenyatta he had a 17% winning percentage. Shouldn’t a guy with only 96 starts win more often than 17%?

    No way.

    If you want to give it to a no-name trainer then give it to Linda Rice who won the Saratoga meet, otherwise Steve Asmussen deserves it.

  6. Agreed! For what Shirreffs did with Zenyatta in 2009 he deserves to be Trainer of the Year. How can anyone compare Linda Rice to John Shirreffs and then use “no-name trainer in the same sentance? LOL WOW! Take another hit on the hippie lettuce!

  7. Mike,
    Are you new to horse racing? Since when are Linda Rice and John Shirreffs no name trainers?

    I love it when people post things before they read them. Perhaps you should consider proof reading before you hit the submit button.

    Like Jim Rome says “Have a take and don’t suck”

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