Voting is now open for the Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”) Award, recognizing the racehorse who best resounded with the public in the past year.
The Vox Populi Award was created by Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s late owner, to recognize a racehorse, voted by the people, “whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year” (according to the award’s web page).
In Ms. Chenery’s own words:
Horse racing already has established avenues to award outstanding accomplishments, and we certainly should honor superior performance. But achievement can be measured in many ways, and fans occasionally feel a disconnect when the horses who most impacted the public are not recognized through the traditional equine awards. The industry is long overdue in annually acknowledging the star horse who brings the most excitement and attention to the sport. It is my hope that the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award will be an honor that reflects the heart and soul of racing and will help build upon the devotion the public has for a horse they love.
For some, horse racing is about the thrill of a championship winner or an international star. For others, it’s the underdog story, the comeback kids. For yet others, it’s the behind-the-scenes tales, the day-to-day workhorses that get it done that make racing the intoxicating sport that we know and love.
This year’s six nominees make up a wide-open field that could be anyone’s race:
- Arrogate: This horse started out his year with a bang, winning first the inaugural Pegasus World Cup in Florida and then the Dubai World Cup to become North America’s all-time highest money earner. The rest of his four-year-old season was a bit of a mystery with the colt seeming disinterested in running. While we may never know what “happened” to Arrogate, he certainly took us for quite a ride in his heyday.
- Ben’s Cat: While Ben’s Cat was never a major national player, he ran an impressive eight-year career, still winning with clear panache and zest until his retirement. Ben’s Cat was named Maryland Horse of the Year four times and had a huge fan following for his perseverance and stamina. Tragically, Ben’s Cat died from post-colic surgery complications in July of this year shortly after his retirement.
- Gun Runner: Probable Horse of the Year after a standout season of four Grade I wins including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Gun Runner matured into a knockout four-year-old. He is slated to run in the Pegasus World Cup early in 2018 before retiring to stud.
- Lady Eli: After stepping on a nail while walking between barns in 2015 as an undefeated three-year-old, Lady Eli developed laminitis in both front feet. While survival would have been achievement enough, Lady Eli actually returned to the track to continue to be a competitive threat at the Grade I level.
- Patch: One-eyed Patch was a sensation leading up to the 2017 Triple Crown, though he wasn’t much of a serious contender in the races themselves. His ability to keep racing productively with only one eye made him an international figure with a huge fan base.
- Songbird: The brilliant four-year-old filly retired this year after a career spanning multiple graded stakes victories including the Juvenile Fillies championship and a photo defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to the legendary Beholder.
It’s anyone’s race for the 2017 Vox Populi! Voting is open through December 12, 2017, with the winner announced at a public presentation at Santa Anita on January 20, 2018. This year’s awarding will be the first since Penny Chenery’s passing, and her family is proud to continue this aspect of her legacy.
Who is your pick? Let us know in the comments!