When the 225 or so Eclipse Awards voters sit down in December to consider the Horse of the Year section of their 1986 ballot, they'll have a list of Lady's Secret's last 12 races in front of them.
The trouble is, the durable Lady's Secret, who has not been out of training since she was a young 2-year-old in 1984, has run 15 times this year.
What the voters will not see on their information sheets are three early 1986 victories at Santa Anita by Lady's Secret--in the El Encino and La Canada stakes and in the Santa Margarita Handicap. The La Canada and Santa Margarita are considered major races.
Manila, the only other Horse of the Year candidate, ran 10 times this year, his last an extraordinary win in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita Saturday. Thirty minutes earlier, Lady's Secret had coasted to victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, giving her 10 stakes wins this year, 8 in major races.
All of Manila's races--six straight turf wins, three of them in major events--will be available to the voters, because the Daily Racing Form, which provides the information, lists all of the candidates' races as long as they haven't run more than 12 times.
The Form says that it can't list more than 12 races for a horse because that's all its computers are capable of recalling.
In 1983, when Sangue was beaten out by Ambassador of Luck in a close vote for champion older filly or mare, she started 13 times. The voters--unless they remembered a race by Sangue 10 months earlier--were not aware that she had started the year with a win in a division of the Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita.
Would that information have affected their vote? No one knows for sure, but the point is: There's something amiss here.
In any election, the voters deserve to have as much information as possible about the candidates, and the three organizations that run the Eclipse Awards--the Form, the turf writers and most of the major tracks around the country--are remiss if the data are not supplied. If they can't do it, maybe they should call on the League of Women Voters to help them.
Wayne Lukas, who trains Lady's Secret, naturally believes that the results of all her races should be available to the voters.
"It stands to reason that the more races she's won, the better her chances are," Lukas said. "And some of the voters might not remember those early ones. The Santa Margarita, that was one of the best races she's run all year.
"Maybe we should consider advertising in the Racing Form so that at least most of the voters will see it and have her complete record."
Maybe the Lady's Secret vs. Manila vote is academic. Lady's Secret seems to be the favorite. But Manila gained support with his upset win on Breeders' Cup day.
After the Breeders' Cup, Steve Davidowitz, a knowledgeable Minneapolis turf writer, conducted a straw poll on voters' Horse of the Year preferences. When another writer said that one of the reasons he was voting for Lady's Secret was that she had won 10 stakes races, Davidowitz said: "Oh, I didn't know that."
The past performances in the Racing Form that Davidowitz saw before the Breeders' Cup Saturday at Santa Anita included only six of Lady's Secret 1986 wins. For betting purposes, that's probably enough history. But for voting purposes, an incomplete record of a horse is not enough.
This is incredible. If someone had bet $2 to win on all the Breeders' Cup horses that ran the last three years, he would have shown a profit.
The 21 Breeders' Cup races have had 206 betting possibilities, so the investment would have been $412.
The total $2 win payoffs for the 21 horses have been $457.60--a theoretical profit of $45.60.
Favorites have won only 8 of the 21 races, and in two of the three years there have been some longshots paying boxcar prices, starting with Lashkari at $108.80 in 1984 and including Last Tycoon at $73.80 this year. The total payoffs would have been even higher had Fran's Valentine not been disqualified for interference in 1984. Fran's Valentine's win price would have been $151.60.
Yves Saint-Martin rode both Lashkari and Last Tycoon. Horses ridden by Saint-Martin, the 15-time French riding champion, would never be allowed to go off at such high prices back home. The French over-bet Saint-Martin's horses much the way American fans used to load up on almost anything Bill Shoemaker rode here.
It is likely that the Nielsen ratings on last Saturday's Breeders' Cup will show that more people watched this year than last year, but that this year there was a drop from the audience that saw the inaugural races in 1984. Preliminary ratings on Monday showed this to be the case and the overall national figures are expected today.
"The survival of the Breeders' Cup is not based on the Nielsen ratings," said Mike Trager, who heads the television, marketing and promotion arm of the Breeders' Cup. "We've never felt that ratings would determine the future of this event, and neither did NBC."