Moss backs Shirreffs as Trainer of the Year

It’s no surprise that owner Jerry Moss would come out in support of his trainer, John Shirreffs, for a 2009 Eclipse Award. Shirreffs trains many of Moss’ horses, the most notable of course being Horse of the Year contender Zenyatta.

On Saturday, when Moss announced he was going to run Zenyatta in 2010, he was effusive in his praise of Shirreffs, who won the two biggest races on Breeders’ Cup weekend when he saddled Zenyatta for a victory in the Classic and Life Is Sweet to win the Ladies’ Classic the day before.

Part of Moss’ decision to rethink Zenyatta’s retirement is the enjoyment he and his wife Ann gain from watching the 6-year-old mare run. He also knows this struggling sport needs all the stars it can get, and he hopes it all works out for both Zenyatta and her trainer.

“I want this to be as great a year for John as it can possibly be,” Moss said. “He’s done an amazing job with this horse. Whatever he thinks is right, is right for me.”

Said Shirreffs, one of the three finalists for an Eclipse as top trainer of 2009 along with Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen: “I’m really excited to be chosen like that. It’s really nice, and I have to thank Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet.”

Shirreffs is such a low-key guy, he rarely visits the winner’s circle with his horses. When Hollywood Park and Santa Anita held their Zenyatta Days to salute the unbeaten champ, he preferred to stay out of the limelight and let others get all the glory.

If Asmussen wins the Eclipse tonight in a Beverly Hills ceremony, no one can argue with the result. The guy broke his own record for earnings last year and is one of the top trainers in the business. He also had 30 times more starters (2,944 to 99) than Shirreffs, while their respective win percentages were almost identical (Asmussen 22 percent and Shirreffs 21 percent).

As I wrote on this blog two weeks ago, I voted for Shirreffs. I have no doubt in my mind, given the number of starters Asmussen has, that Shirreffs would fare as well if not better. Sometimes you have to reward a man for a job well-done rather than rely strictly on the numbers.

Asked if it sometimes bothers him that he can’t compete with the Asmussens, Bafferts and Todd Pletchers of the world because he doesnt have the number of horses they do, Shirreffs gave an answer you’d expect.

“You don’t compete with it,” he said. “You just focus on what you’re doing that day and do the best you can for your horses.”

What do you think?


15 thoughts on “Moss backs Shirreffs as Trainer of the Year

  1. It boggles my mind that anyone could dream of giving the outstanding trainer award to Shireffs, only 99 starters…. thats not even enough to call him a full time horse trainer, for goodness’ sake!!

  2. Uh, racefan … do a check on John Shirreffs’ lifetime record. The guy consistently has as good a winning percentage as anyone in the country. Let’s face it, when a guy like Asmussen has close to 3,000 starters in a year, he should lead the nation in earnings. Let’s show a little imagination in these awards, not just automatically give it to the people with the best numbers. The way Shirreffs managed Zenyatta through the 2009 campaign, culminating in her incredible Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, was brilliant. Oh, and he also happened to win another big race that weekend — the Ladies’ Classic with Life Is Sweet. Let’s not downplay the fact that John Shirreffs is an excellent trainer.

  3. I agree with RaceFan! Geez, considering the amount of drug positives and suspensions that trainer Steve Asmussen has received over the years compared to John Shirreffs, Asmussen should receive the award hands down. Class in Trainer of the Year isn’t considered here.

  4. Art Wilson, as you may or may not have noticed, ALL successful trainers hover around the 20-21 % mark, except Rick Dutrow, who is year in/year out 28%, and I dont see anybody giving him an eclipse award…. Sheriffs is a joke, 60 horses out there, and he can only muster 99 starters… by your “logic” should we then give an eclipse award to some small guy in Ocala, that starts 5 horses in a year, if 3 of them win?? Im not saying (necessarily) that Asmussen should win it, im just saying giving it to Mr. Shireffs is a clown act!! Get with it!!

  5. Oh, and by the way, in terms of earth shattering headlines, I’m not so certain Jerry Moss supporting J. Shireffs is really headline news… no?? Nor is Dottie, Shireffs wife, and Frankels bookeeper, moving horses away from Humberto Ascancia, Bobby’s long time assistant, into Shireffs shedrow immediately after Frankels death….. or did you not know about that?? Please advise…

  6. I think I pointed that out at the beginning of the blog, that it was not surprising. You seem to have some sort of vendatta against Shirreffs. Too bad, because the guy has never served a suspension because of drugs and is a top-notch trainer. But then, he had only 99 starters, so that eliminates him from capable trainer status I guess in your eyes.

  7. Come on people, don’t you know you need over 3,000 starters per year and numerous drug related suspensions and testings to be worthy of an Eclipse award in this category? But all kidding aside, congrats to trainer Steve Asmussen for his winning the award.

  8. No, Art, no Vendetta at all, I justt think to recieve the Eclipse award, as the nations OUTSTANDING trainer, one needs a little more presence at the races then starting in less that a hundred races….It goes back to my Ocala analogy…. that guy in Ocala may very well be a great horseman, and above reproach… but if he started 5,heck, even if the all win, does not make him an Eclipse candidate, in my opinion. Are you going to comment on the moving Frankel horses into Johns barn by his wife, before Bobby Frankel was cold?

  9. Racefan — with all due respect, the Ocala analogy is way off the wall. The guy in Ocala didn’t campaign one of the greatest fillies in the history of racing, who is 14-0, and didn’t win the two biggest Breeders’ Cup races of the year. Shirreffs has a small stable, preferring to concentrate on stakes-caliber horses for owners like the Mosses. Should he be villified for that? I also think it’s time to start recognizing some of these trainers who turn in outstanding training jobs and are clean. Illegal medications are way too prevalent in the industry and a guy like Asmussen has had numerous violations and suspensions. I don’t like that. Who would have been your selection for Trainer of the Year? Also, I don’t know enough about your accusations about Dottie to comment. None of us know what went on behind the scenes in Bobby’s last few weeks. He was a very private man and no one knows what was said, etc. As for Humberto, I’ve written on this blog and in my columns that he is a top-notch trainer who learned from one of the best and I went on record as saying that I hoped Juddmonte kept their horses with him. Of course, now it’s known that Bill Mott will get the majority of their horses and I think that’s a shame. Bill Mott is a fine horseman, but I really feel Humberto should have been rewarded for his fine work.

  10. Any trainer that receives multiple violations or suspensions should be ineligible to win an Eclipse award. Maybe that’s not the greatest detterent, but I see no reason why a cheater should be rewarded.

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