Watching the live telecast of the Eclipse Awards on TVG was a bit agonizing. And I'm not speaking for Zenyatta fans when I say that.
I'm speaking about the TVG telecast itself. I suspected that trouble may be on the air wave horizon when the stallion Tale of Ekati and Darby Dan Farm were the "exclusive" sponsors. Nothing against Tale of Eakati and Darby Dan Farm. Infact I salute them for stepping up. It's just that the TVG producers probably didn't have the biggest budget with which to work.
But the biggest challenges for the producers were the location and the crowd. Nearly every winner accepted their respective awards on stage with an entourage of friends, family and team members. I'm all for sharing such a special event with as many as possible. I am by no means criticizing that. But a quick mental calculation of winning entourages, multiplied by the number of nominees and their presumed groups, add a few dignitaries and journalists and I'm pretty sure you were getting close to the sum of your crowd.
The venue was terrible for live television. If one didn't know that as the famous Beverly Wilshire Ballroom, it could just as easily have been the Cactus and Cowboy Rooms at the La Quinta.
The list of 2000-5000 seat venues in Southern California is a very long one. Narrow the list with some character and historical guidelines and you still have a large choice. Specifically a Pantages Theatre-type venue. It is a small (3,000 seats) two-tiered theatre complex that hosted several Academy Awards in the 1950s. I'm not suggesting the Staples Center or the Kodak Theatre, but the Eclipse Awards deserve better than an upgraded baked chicken circuit layout.
I would think, even given the harsh economic times of Southern California, it would be possible to sell more admission only tickets to fans. I'm sure it would have been a Zenyatta-biased crowd, but a supply of Rachel fans would have been likely as well. Now you have a fluid and exiting backdrop for your awards show.
Crowd participation at this event was limited to the lady yelling "California, California!" during Will Farrish's acceptance speech. Farrish momentarily appeared willing to listen to the heckler before he realized he had no idea what she was saying and thought better of it.
And poor Kenny Rice. I had no idea the Beverly Wilshire had a cricket problem. But Tom Durkin helped Rice define the tone of the crowd in the later half of the show with some edgier humor and Rice made a strong comeback effort with a good Tiger Woods joke.
By this time in the program, audio problems had also plagued the telecast whereby any music that had played to this point was just a constant reminder that something had gone terribly wrong deep in the bowels of audio engineering at TVG.
But as our sport constantly reminds us, the horses somehow carry the show until we humans somehow catch on to their appeal. I give equal credit to the award winners and their acceptance speeches throughout the evening. Concise and most everybody concluded with something like "let me tell you a story about this horse..."
I hate to sound like Andy Rooney but... I like those stories.
Regarding the Horse of the Year Award, I made no secret that I supported the Zenyatta camp. But in my humble opinion - as somebody that has read many a blog, tweet, column and comment on the subject - it was not a slam dunk either way. So my biggest surprise was the 130-99 vote margin in Rachel Alexandra's favor. That calculates to roughly a 57%-43% tally in favor of Rachel. A wide and convincing margin.
The biggest winners of the evening still may have been the racing fans and media when during his Horse of the Year speech, Jess Jackson suggested to Jerry Moss that the two meet after the celebration to discuss a possible meeting between Rachel and Zenyatta. In his post-awards interview on TVG, Moss said "When(Rachel enters a race), we'll see what they are entering in and be alongside them in the gate."
I think it safe to say that Moss wants that Horse of the Year award in 2010. Let's just hope they try to do a little better job of presenting it.