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“Vox Populi” Award

American Pharoah wins 2015 Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award

Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, who was the first ever winner of Thoroughbred racing’s “Grand Slam” with his win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has been selected to receive the 2015 Secretariat Vox Populi, or “Voice of the People,” Award. The award recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.

American Pharoah was the clear favorite among the voters in the Vox Populi online poll recording the largest margin of victory in the award’s existence. The Zayat Stables colt was one of a select group of nominees submitted by the Vox Populi Committee and Mrs. Penny Chenery, owner of beloved Triple Crown champion Secretariat in whose name she established the award in 2010. In the honor’s true spirit of celebrating fan favorites, several other popular horses received a groundswell of write-in support, including the former Vox Populi nominee and recently departed champion Shared Belief.

American Pharoah’s victorious Triple Crown campaign was the first in 37 years and added his name to an elite list of only 11 other horses in history to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Then just a few months later, the 3-year-old champion thrilled both the record multitude at Keeneland Racecourse and the largest Breeders’ Cup television audience in 20 years when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a commanding 6 1/2 lengths. Sports media have dubbed the sum of these four hallmark wins as Thoroughbred racing’s first ever “Grand Slam.”

“American Pharoah’s 2015 racing campaign was a true gift to the fans inside and outside the sport who have been waiting so long for their next Triple Crown champion,” said Mrs. Chenery. “In his efforts, we were able to once again witness greatness, and we were reminded that excellence can still be achieved. This racing hero has inspired a whole new generation of young fans, which I find most exciting for the future of the Thoroughbred racing. I congratulate American Pharoah’s team on their amazing year, and I am delighted to present them with the Secretariat Vox Populi Award.”

Jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert guided American Pharoah during his history-making career, with earnings totaling almost $8.7 million and nine wins in 11 starts. American Pharoah has been retired and will stand at Kentucky’s Ashford Stud.

“American Pharoah is a horse of a lifetime, and we have been blessed to have bred him. His legacy will be forever lasting in my mind and in my heart and I am so happy that he was able to give a thrill to all of his fans and racing as a whole,” said owner Ahmed Zayat. “His greatness has been defined, his place in history has been secured. The love he has given us has been boundless. We knew he was special from the moment he first stepped onto the track, and we were so fortunate to watch him fulfill his destiny. I thank the racing fans who have been so supportive during this past year and as the recipient of this wonderful award for the second time after my beloved Paynter, it makes it even more special. My team and I are especially honored and deeply moved.”

Zayat Stables’ Paynter received the Vox Populi Award in 2012, and American Pharoah joins other previous winners California Chrome (2014), Mucho Macho Man (2013), Rapid Redux (2011) and Zenyatta (inaugural 2010).

Mrs. Chenery will present the custom-made Vox Populi trophy to members of the American Pharaoh team on Jan. 9 at Santa Anita Park. In conjunction with the presentation, a special Vox Populi poster give-away and autograph signing will be offered to the public beginning at 11:00 am.

Q & A with Penny Chenery about the Secretariat Vox Populi” Award

What is the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award?
“Vox Populi” is an age-old Latin expression that literally means “voice of the people.” The award gives recognition to the horse that generated the most fan response during the year.

What motivated you to create the Award?
Racing has an established award system in place that is fundamentally based on past performance. But there is nothing that honors the horse that best captures the attention and affection of the public. The fans are the life-blood of our sport and their collective “voice” deserves to be heard and formally recognized. In the past decade alone, extremely popular horses like Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, and Barbaro all captivated the imagination of the public but were ultimately left unrecognized in terms of traditional divisional year-end honors. How can we, as an industry, expect the rest of the world to embrace our sport when we don’t annually honor our most beloved horses internally?

How will the winner of the Award be decided?
Each year the winner will be selected based upon the horse who most resonates with the public and gains recognition for the sport. I envision a democratic process involving a diverse panel of distinguished racing personalities and representatives, from within and outside the industry, working together in unison with the “voice” of the general public. The selection process will involve the utilization of an open on-line poll to help quantify public opinion.

What is the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award’s relationship to the Eclipse Awards?
The Eclipse Awards recognizes the “professional’s” choice based upon the evaluation of statistical track performances. The Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award measures the “public’s” choice and their emotional sentiment. While the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award may or may not be bestowed upon an Eclipse Award candidate, it is simply not concerned or constrained by who beat whom in which race. The Award reflects who the fans were pulling for. And it is not meant to conflict with the Eclipse Awards but to enhance how we honor our racing heroes.

How will the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award be presented?
An award that speaks for the public should allow the public to participate in its ceremony. It is my hope the presentation to the winner can take place at a public racing venue where fans of any age are invited to come and celebrate the winner’s accomplishments and express their affection with the connections.

What is your future vision for the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award?
I would like it to provide an ongoing platform for the voice of the fans to honor the horses they love, a touchstone for what they deem best and brightest within our sport.

Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award committee members:

Charlsie Cantey – National television horse racing analyst and commentator
Steve Cauthen – Hall of Fame jockey and 1978 Triple Crown winner aboard Affirmed
Mark Ciardi – Mayhem Pictures, Producer of 2010 Disney Studio’s film “Secretariat”
Bob Curran – Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Jockey Club
Jack Knowlton – Operating Manager of Sackatoga Stable who campaigned Funny Cide
Eric Wing – Daily Racing Form Advertising Director
Amy Zimmerman – Executive Producer, HRTV and Producer for NBC and ESPN racing telecasts
Brian Zipse – Managing Editor and columnist for Horse Racing Nation


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