American Graded Stakes Standings brought to you by Keeneland: Not Just about the Money
I've made no secret of the fact that I think a majority of Eclipse Awards voters are lazy when it comes to casting their ballots for outstanding owner and breeder each year. Too often, in my opinion, they merely look at the top of the list and vote for which individual or business has won the most money in a calendar year. If money won is all that determines an outstanding year, then why not eliminate the vote and give the award to whoever is at the top of the money list?
Either that or encourage voters to spend a few minutes looking at the information provided to them when the Eclipse Award ballots are distributed. It's not that tough.
There is no official criteria for what constitutes an “outstanding” year for an owner or breeder. However, since Eclipse Awards on the equine side go to the horses that win the biggest races or dominate their division throughout the year, shouldn't the human awards follow suit?
Not to pick on Richard Englander or Michael Gill—two individuals who won Eclipse Awards as outstanding owner in the past decade by virtue of dominating the claiming ranks—but neither one of them won a Grade 1 race. They shouldn't even be eligible. Why can't the National Thoroughbred Racing Association institute a very simple rule that says a jockey, trainer, owner or breeder must have won at least one Grade 1 race to be eligible for an Eclipse Award that year?
(I would make an exception for apprentice jockey, since their chances are so limited in American Graded Stakes.)
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Of course, just as Englander or Gill may have “bought” their Eclipse Awards by operating massive claiming stables and running far more horses than anyone else in the years they won, so, too, can a racing stable or breeding operation dominate by either attempting to buy all the best horses at auction or breeding the largest number of horses in North America.
So here is one small suggestion for voters: get a working calculator and simply divide the amount of money won by an owner or breeder by the total number of starts that owner or breeder had during the year.
Taking a look at the top five owners of 2010 by AGS races won, there are two standouts by earnings per start. The first, WinStar Farm, should be the heavy favorite to win an Eclipse Award as outstanding owner in 2010 because 1) the operation won both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Super Saver and Drosselmeyer, respectively, 2) has six individual AGS winners so far this year; 3) is leading by money won despite having fewer starters than many other stables; and 4) has average earnings per start of $24,431.
Another operation with outstanding numbers is the racing stable run by Arnold Zetcher, which has four individual AGS winners from just 58 starts. Three of the four (Gabby's Golden Gal, E Z's Gentleman and El Brujo) won Grade 1 events and the fourth won a G2. And Zetcher could have had a fourth G1 winner had he not sold Richard's Kid to Zabeel Racing International after last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Richard's Kid won two G1 races and a G2 this year.
Zetcher's average earnings per start this year are $27,245. That is an incredible number for any racing operation.
Zayat Stables (Zetcher, Zabeel, Zayat….what is it about the Z's this year?) is another operation that has done well in American Graded Stakes in 2010, with eight AGS wins from six different horses. But a closer look shows that the operation has had many more opportunities—a total of 339 starts so far—and the average earnings per start is just $10,852, far lower than the aforementioned owners.
Jerry and Ann Moss have not been simply a one-horse stable that has ridden on the back of the mighty Zenyatta. Neko Bay and Cozi Rosie also have carried their silks to victories in AGS races in 2010. Their average earnings per start (from 85 starts) are $19,584.
Last but certainly not least of the top five stables by AGS wins in 2010 is the Jay Em Ess Stable of Mace and Samantha Siegel. Led by G1 Hopeful winner Boys At Tosconova, Jay Em Ess has won seven AGS races of 2010 from five different starters. Jay Em Ess's national racing stable has averaged $10,160 per start from 216 starts.
Obviously, there are some big races yet to run, but based on numbers alone (and not sentiment, which should earn Jerry and Ann Moss many votes for keeping Zenyatta in training another year), WinStar Farm would get my vote today for the outstanding owner of 2010.