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?