Eclipse voting guidelines open to interpretation

Will it be Blame or Zenyatta? The Horse of the Year honor will be announced Monday at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards, which will be aired live on TVG at 3 p.m. PST.

I voted for Zenyatta, and I’m not apologizing. Some of you wanted to know my votes in the other categories, so here they are:

Uncle Mo (2-year-old colt), Awesome Feather (2-year-old filly), Lookin At Lucky (3-year-old colt), Blind Luck (3-year-old filly), Blame (older male), Zenyatta (older female), Big Drama (male sprinter), Dubai Majesty (female sprinter), Gio Ponti (male turf), Goldikova (female turf), Slip Away (steeplechase), John Shirreffs (trainer), Ramon Dominguez (jockey), Jerry and Ann Moss (owner), Adena Springs (breeder) and Omar Moreno (apprentice).

Most of the categories were slam dunks. But a few are wide open because of each voter’s interpretation of the Eclipse Award guidelines.

For example, my top jockey is Dominguez. Others will back Rafael Bejarano, Garrett Gomez, Joel Rosario or John Velazquez. It all depends on what a voter considers most important: earnings, graded stakes wins or overall performance. Each voter is judge and jury.

The fun part for me will be if I can sweep my Eclipse ballot. I suggest you also make up a ballot and then follow along.

■ 50-CENT PICK 4 — Last weekend, Santa Anita made a change in its betting menu that all horseplayers liked. The track lowered the Pick 4 minimum bet to 50 cents. I applaud the change.

It wasn’t that big a concession because Del Mar, Fairplex and Hollywood already offer the 50-cent minimum. But it shows that Santa Anita is willing to listen to its horseplayers.

Let’s hope this will be the first step in Santa Anita doing things right by its bettors.

So far this meet, the Santa Anita handle is down about 14 percent. Track officials can’t blame the economy, either, because three other winter tracks — Fair Grounds, Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs — are all showing double-digit increases in business.

Horseplayers are voting the only way they can — with their bankroll. To the detriment of Santa Anita, one of the greatest racetracks in the world, betting dollars are shifting to other venues.

I hope the California Horse Racing Board can also read the handwriting on the wall. It’s never too late to undo some of their harmful policies.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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