“Vox Populi” Award
“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.”
~ Penny Chenery, 2010
California Chrome wins 2014 Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award
California Chrome, the winner of both the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, has been selected to receive the 2014 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.
California Chrome, who basked in the national spotlight throughout the year and built a coast-to-coast fan base of “Chromies,” was the clear favorite among the record number of voters in the Vox Populi online poll. He 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.
Named for his flashy white markings, the chestnut colt’s beginnings were humble for a future Triple Crown contender. His owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, established their modest racing operation as DAP, or “Dumb Ass Partners,” after a fellow horsemen’s colorful description of their decision to purchase California Chrome’s dam Love the Chase for $8,000. The future champion was produced when they later bred her to the affordable stallion Lucky Pulpit, who had limited success visiting a winner’s circle.
Trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza guided California Chrome during his impressive 3-year-old season, with earnings totaling $4 million and six wins in nine 2014 starts, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness as well as the Santa Anita Derby and the Hollywood Derby.
“This is such an amazing honor and we are so grateful to receive this award from Mrs. Chenery and the fans,” Coburn said. “We have always said Chrome is the ‘People’s Horse’ and we are thrilled that the public feels the same way we do about him.”
California Chrome now joins previous Vox Populi winners Mucho Macho Man (2013), Paynter (2012), Rapid Redux (2011) and Zenyatta (inaugural 2010).
“Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and this one was no exception,” said Mrs. Chenery. “California Chrome, a proven champion and formidable competitor, reminded us that it doesn’t matter from whence we came but rather how we dance when we get to the ball. Furthermore, his inspiring story and engaging popularity reached beyond the racetrack stands and into the conversation of a nation. I am looking forward to seeing California Chrome build upon his success during his 4-year-old season.”
In conjunction with this year’s Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin of DAP Racing graciously donated the original race-worn silks from California Chrome’s winning effort in the San Felipe Stakes and other select items for auction with proceeds to benefit the Secretariat Foundation. Please click here to view full selection of California Chrome “Vox Populi” Auction items.
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”
Jack Knowlton – Operating Manager of Sackatoga Stable who campaigned Funny Cide
Ed Seigenfeld – Former Executive Vice President at Triple Crown Productions
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