From the outside looking in, horse racing is comprised of two parts.
One aspect of the game is the spectacle of betting, of trying to solve a puzzle that has many pieces and may not always have a legal solution. A horse race puzzle without all the pieces involves guessing, one fishy race result could lead to another from the same barn, that sort of handicapping around the fringe.
Picking winners in a fair race has become so difficult that most handicappers have forsaken the chump-change bets in favor of pick 3's, 4's and 6's whereby questionable horses can be included for a greater good. When's the last time you heard somebody brag about having hit a place bet? Twenty-dollar win bets on long shots remain worthwhile endeavors and provide relief when the second horse in your exacta is third by next to nothing.
The other side of horse racing involves those to whom hitting the late double doesn't matter, it's horse racing as art, horse racing without the mention of a bet, the year-end race of the year, horse of the year, groom of the year, boots of the year, race call of the year, lead pony of the year, hat of the year, grass horse of the year, jockey of the year, belt buckle of the year.
Try as I might, I have a hard time being objective about a horse or race that cost me money.
Whereas star-of-the-year honors are important to those who probably don't need the money, the announcement of the sprinter of the year probably doesn't matter all that much to the guy who went home to a can for dinner.
End of the year awards are given to all but those who actually keep the sport going, the gamers, or, as some may refer to them, the gamblers.
Here are some forsaken categories that matter most to the real people of horse racing, the bettors.
Slot Machine Player of the Year.
Dumbest DQ of the Year.
Rotten Ride of the Year.
Crook of the Year.
As for Bet of the Year, that's an easy one.
A maiden winner named Texas Bling won the Remington Springboard Mile in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago at odds of 128-1. The payoffs in this legit two-year old race were $259.60, $122 and $29.80. Imagine what the horse would have paid if it didn't have such a cute name. Bling had a rocket work. What this win proves is some maiden winners are better than more seasoned junk.
This time of the year, it's like gambling is horse racing's backroom little secret.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.