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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Watchmaker in a Fog

- BC Sprint winner Silver Train is done for the year, ending speculation that he would face Taste of Paradise in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov 26. I’d read some speculation that that showdown could perhaps decide the sprint championship, which would have been fine with me as long as they gave the Eclipse to whichever of the two was ahead at the eighth pole. There seems to be a growing minority coming out in favor of one of those two getting the award over Lost in the Fog, and I’ve read some sensible arguments for each one (though Richard Dutrow is quoted in the Form as saying of his Silver Train (in his usual eloquent fashion), "He don't belong getting sprinter of the year.") [Daily Racing Form]

And then there’s Mike Watchmaker in the Form (sub. only):

He won a lot of races, but not one of them was a championship-caliber type race, and he did not beat one championship-caliber type horse. The only time Lost in the Fog competed in a championship-type race, he was crushed in the BC Sprint.
OK, that’s fair enough on its surface, but take a closer look. Exactly which horses that competed in the Sprint were “championship-caliber type horses?” Taste of Paradise had raced seven times prior to coming to Belmont, a track he obviously fancies, and could do no better than third, beaten by a total of 20 lengths (and I’m not counting his turf race in that beaten lengths total). Silver Train had an allowance win, and a victory in the one mile Jerome. The latter was an impressive win to be sure, but does beating High Fly, Naughty New Yorker and three others in an age restricted stakes make him “championship-caliber?” Gygistar, Imperialism, Wildcat Heir, Elusive Jazz are all nice horses with stakes wins in 2005...but do any of those fall into that category? I've seen some argue that the King's Bishop, won by LITF, was not really a Grade 1, so can't I argue that the Sprint was not really a championship-type race?

I realize that by making this argument, I’m actually downgrading Lost in the Fog in the process; but I’m not here to argue that he necessarily deserves the award; you can put me in the ‘undecided’ category for now. But the Form’s man has gotten so bent out of shape over this that he’s making himself sound petty and vindictive. “I was subjected to a degree of abuse for my position on Lost in the Fog that was shocking in its volume and tenor,” he wrote following the race (sub. only again, sorry). “Perhaps it is a reflection of the conservative times we live in when dissent is not tolerated the way it should be.”

Yet now he is similarly dismissive of those who dare still support the horse for the Eclipse. “I am shocked that Lost in the Fog is still considered by so many people to be a viable candidate for the sprint championship.” To hammer home his point, he ranks LITF tenth in his sprint rankings behind horses like Battle Won, last in the Sprint; Pomeroy, nowhere in the Vosburgh, and Lion Tamer, who hasn’t won a freaking race all year! C’mon man, lighten up! You’d think that it was Lost in the Fog who repeatedly told us that Al Qaeda was being trained on the use of chemical weapons in Iraq well after the CIA expressed doubt about the claims!

I was looking in vain for an explanation of the official criteria for an Eclipse Award to get a little guidance here. Is it for outstanding performance throughout the year? For winning “championship- type races?” Finally, I turned to the venerable Wikipedia, and found this:
The Eclipse Award is a thoroughbred racing award. The award has no rules restricting it. The voters in the Eclipse Awards are given the ability to cast their vote for any horse they choose as the champion of any division.
Well, that gives voters a little leeway I guess, and so what if they still consider ‘viable’ a horse who won eight stakes races in a row in 2005, all with triple digit speed figures? And I guess it’s also OK then to take into consideration the fact that his connections kept him in training all year long, shipped him coast to coast and back again and again, and had the wisdom to resist the Triple Crown trap that has lured and ruined so many comparable horses in the past. Even their much-criticized decision to skip the Vosburgh and race him in an easy spot in the west could be seen as benevolently giving his hometown fans a chance to see him one more time before the big race.

Perhaps those arguments are more appropriate in support of Harry Aleo for the owners’ Eclipse; but in a year in which there are, in my opinion, no real championship-type horses still standing in this division, and that would have to include Lost in the Fog based on his performance on Breeders’ Cup day, what would be wrong, really, with rewarding the horse for his consistency, endurance, charisma, and the attention he drew to the sport?

2 Comments:

cookie jill said...

I say we give it to "Foggy" for simply getting people excited about horse racing again...giving some name recognition and he did win, what, 10 races in a row....

Dave said...

heh.
you're probably right - if not LITF for the sprint Eclipse, then who? How much of a case could you make for anyone else? Not much, I'd say.

BTW, 'Fog has been very good for the Northern California tracks, drawing actual crowds at GGF and BM, and making the grandstand in Santa Rosa even more crowded than usual, just for a work!

And, 'Fog will be back in 2006; Taste of Paradise won't. ;)