Archives for December 2014


Election polls sometimes give respondents the chance to answer “none of the above.”  And that category often wins.  This outcome seems to apply to the election of 2014 American Horse of the Year, as there ostensibly is not a standout that people agree upon.

On the contrary, there is a standout.

In 2010, when there was a vigorous debate over whether Zenyatta or Blame should be named HOY, I suggested a point system for making the HOY determination instead of leaving it to the subjective voting system that is used (the point system correctly identified Zenyatta as HOY).  The current system is particularly vulnerable to recency bias (recent events should weigh more) and confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out information that confirms our opinions).

Here is the system I proposed, followed by what the numbers say about who deserves to be named 2014 HOY.


Race Type

Grade I and Group I win =20 points,  place=10,  and show =5

Grade II and Group II win = 10 points, place = 5, and show = 0

Grade III and Group III win = 5 points, place = 0, and show = 0

All other race classifications = 0 points

Points accrue for races conducted during the relevant calendar year, beginning January 1 and ending December 31.  A horse based anywhere in the world is eligible for U. S. HOTY as long as it has competed in at least two Grade I races in the USA during the current calendar year and has won at least one of these.  If this standard is met, Group races outside the USA shall contribute points toward HOTY.

Award 50 bonus points for winning the American Triple Crown.

Give 20 extra points for winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Add 10 points each time a filly or mare wins against males in a Grade I (or Group I) race.

Add 10 points for a horse that has won Grade 1 races on two separate racing surfaces (any combination of dirt or synthetic or turf).

In the event that horses have exactly the same point total, the tie breaker shall be the best record in head-to-head meetings during the current calendar year.  If there were no such meetings or the horses split evenly, the horses shall be declared Co-Horses of the Year.

Based on this methodology, point totals for 2014 HOY are:

California Chrome = 110 points (including wins in four G1 races and over two different types of surfaces in G1 races)

Main Sequence = 100 points (including four G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf)

Shared Belief = 95 points (including four G1 races and only one career loss)

Bayern = 90 points (including two G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic)

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business

If you don’t like the forgoing point system, construct your own and see how your calculations turn out.


Following are a dozen gifts I’d ask from Santa Claus for horse racing in North America.

1.  Healing for injured jockeys and the utmost safety for those active in riding.

2.  A better life for backstretch employees and their families.

3.  Humane treatment for all racehorses, during their careers on the track and afterwards.

4..  Plenty of horse owners for the sport.

5.  A surge of new fans.

6.  A plethora of new bettors and a turnaround in pari-mutuel handle.

7.  Markedly reduced takeout percentages on wagers, so racing can have a competitive value proposition.

8.  Buoyant bloodstock sales.

9.  Precise and uniform rules for stewards pertaining to what interference mandates disqualification of a runner.

10. Uniform medication rules.

11. An escalation of positive social media buzz for showcase racing events.

12. A super-talented and durable 2-year-old colt about to turn 3-year-old that finally ends the Triple Crown drought in 2015.

For the larger troubled world, my wish is for peace on earth and good will toward all.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crimes Report historically placed animal-abuse in a catchall “all other offense” category, along with an array of lesser crimes.  The FBI recently announced that animal abuse will be upgraded to a Group A felony and reported in a classification of its own, similar to crimes against society like arson, assault, and homicide.  (Click here to see a  listing by the Animal Defense Fund showing when felony animal cruelty provisions were enacted in each of the 50 states.)

The FBI’s elevation of animal abuse to a top-tier felony should help in seeing that convicted abusers of racehorses and other animals receive penalties that fit the crime.

During 2015, the FBI will modify its National Incident Based Reporting system so that it can acquire and store statistics about animal-abuse episodes and arrests submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.  Then, in January 2016, the FBI will actually start to collect data.

The FBI defines animal cruelty as “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.  Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport (emphasis added); use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.”

The FBI’s actions are intended to raise public awareness about animal cruelty and to assist prosecutors in gaining convictions.  To illustrate, part of the FBI’s definition of animal abuse—“transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death”—depicts the manner in which some former racehorses are reportedly conveyed to slaughter houses.

Copyright © 2014 Blood-Horse Publications.  Used with permission.

Postscript:  The personal conduct code announced this week by the National Football League specifically identifies animal abuse as a violation.  It is gratifying to see animal abuse beginning to receive the attention it needs by influential organizations like the FBI and NFL.