Observations from the Eclipse Awards ceremony

Just returned from the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills and let me tell you, emotions ran high. One journalist who’s covered numerous Eclipse ceremonies told me he’d never seen the Horse of the Year candidates receive a standing ovation before the announcement like Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra did Monday night. They richly deserved it.

Some other observations:

* How in %$#* was Zenyatta not a unanimous selection as top older female? There’s always a wise guy in the crowd, and one person voted for Icon Project. Icon Project? Well, nothing in this industry should surprise me.

* Both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, who should have shared co-Horse of the Year for what they both did for the sport in 2009, received numerous ovations whenever they were mentioned throughout the evening.

* Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra, was a class act. He said it was too bad the two distaffers could not share the award and that Zenyatta’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the event of the year.

* The discrepancy in the voting for top jockey surprised me a bit. I thought it would be close, but Julien Leparoux breezed to victory over Garrett Gomez, 122-46.

* One racing official told me perhaps the only mistake the Zenyatta camp made last year was not running in the Woodward. He said if Zenyatta had run in the race and won — and remember, Rachel Alexandra was all out to hold off Macho Again — and then won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, this year’s voting would have been a no-brainer.

* Jackson is on to something when he says a Rachel Alexandra-Zenyatta showdown would be akin to the Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race, although these two distaffers are not going to run in a match race against each other.

* Jackson also said they should square off two or three times, not just once. Here’s what I suggest: How about they meet at 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles? If one wins all three, there’s no question who’s the best. The winner of two of the three would certainly own bragging rights.

* No matter who you support, and believe me, by the number of e-mails and blog postings on here from fervent supporters of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, there are extremely passionate fans of both, we need to hope these two great horses remain sound so they can continue to give the sport the shot in the arm it so sorely needs. It could be a very exciting 2010.

* There is no doubt that Goldikova is a very special filly, but I just don’t buy voting on a horse for an Eclipse Award based on only one start in the U.S. I voted for Ventura as top female turf horse and I would have liked to seen her win in the memory of Bobby Frankel.

* Trainer Tim Ice’s announcement during the ceremony that top 3-year-old male Summer Bird will race this year was a shot in the arm for the sport. It’s what the industry needs — stars, stars and more stars.

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