TrackNotes: The Oscars

By Thomas Chambers

America has an obsession with awards.

I've always thought the Hollywood people stepping all over each other to win the three dozen or so different awards they bestow upon themselves was quite unseemly. Yet, they still can't get it right.

Jackie Gleason never won an Emmy, one of the most heinous crimes in the annals of showbiz. Andy Griffith never won an Emmy for The Andy Griffith Show! More recently, Jason Alexander never won an Emmy for Seinfeld. Unbelievable. Was the Academy just doing the opposite?

These days, the world of Thoroughbred horse racing is in a tizzy over who should win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, racing's equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor Man or Woman Who Acted in Any Movie This Year, if there were such an award. Rachel Alexandra? Or Zenyatta?

These horsey people are supremely conflicted. There is a movement afoot to rig the ballot so that they both might win it more easily. Under current rules, both stunning females could win it, if they each get exactly the same number of votes, but voters are allowed to choose only one.

Daily Racing Form Editor Steven Crist went a little sideways in condemning the Federation of Horse Racing Authorities for favoring the Europeans in its recent rankings. See? People get worked up about awards.

Who cares? I've said as much on a few of the forums, only to be lambasted for not understanding the importance of the award. If important means you will be more content with one of them winning it, even if you disagree, take your comfort where you can get it. And yeah, I do understand how important it is for marketing purposes in the breeding suite.

Besides the opportunity to see the kings and queens of the sport and some of the trophy wives at the Eclipse Awards ceremony, what the hell does it mean to me? Like Sonny said in A Bronx Tale, "Do you think Mickey Mantle cares about you?"

I enjoyed watching them both race, immensely. One thing that really frosts me is so many people, literally minutes after the Breeders' Cup Classic, declared Zenyatta the horse of the year, female of all-time and, some, one of the best horses ever! I'd hate to think that along with Americans' obsession with winners and losers (it's poisoned our political discourse), my contention that they also have the attention spans of gnats is so completely true. And I don't mean Nat Birnbaum, one of the many gags that helped Art Carney win multiple Emmys. Did they create the racing world on Nov. 7?

I'm not going to chronicle it here myself. Others have done a great job of that.'s Steve Haskin has admittedly put the issue on his sleeve and lists the merits of both horses.

If you want to see Rachel Alexandra, go to YouTube and watch this.

Then go back and watch this and this with Zenyatta. They'll give you a good idea of what the two horses are about.

See, I haven't forgotten what either one of them have done. I remember all of their races, all of the excitement they both gave us.

Did I just hear somebody ask me? Okay, I'm game.

It's Rachel Alexandra. She beat the girls of her generation, she beat the boys of her generation, and she beat the older boys. And she traveled a noble journey to do it, different tracks and different track conditions. She's 3-years-old, and that is one helluva an accomplishment.

And when I watched her races once again, I got a full 2009's worth of chills up my spine. I remember my jaw dropping watching her as those races were won. Such a young filly, she took it all on and conquered. My gut feeling is that it's really a no-brainer.

So there, I said it. My 2009 memory is intact.

Bobby Frankel, Rest In Peace
Thoroughbred horse racing lost a true giant Nov. 16 with the passing of trainer Bobby Frankel. We hadn't seen much of him this year, only hearing simply "he's not well."

Obviously, I didn't know him, except in a handicapping state of mind. In my short time in this game, I remember his horses getting pounded on the tote board the same as any other premiere trainer, but in recent years, I couldn't believe how bettors sometimes underestimated his horses. Then I cashed in. I figured, Bobby doesn't do nothin' for nothin'. He was from Brooklyn, after all.

When you look at his record, you'll see there was almost no race he didn't succeed in. Except one: The Kentucky Derby.

Whether it was a horse new to his barn or Frankel shipping in to Arlington or anywhere else, you always knew there was logic, preparation and method to everything he did. And he seemed to take the horse's welfare into top consideration. Perhaps more than many. They said he was gruff, but he seemed to give the media all it wanted even if it might not have understood his intensity.

Thankfully, we've got a few ideas on training and some anecdotes to remember him by. One I recall is when he stayed home from the 2007 Breeders' Cup because one of his dogs was in its last days. I remember thinking at the time, this is one unusual guy, and he must really love his dogs. He must be a real softy. I liked that.

Playing this game, I'll miss him.


Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you TrackNotes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

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