Vox Populi Late Summer Pre-Nominee Base

“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

Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award

From the covers of national magazines to more recently the silver screen, “America’s Horse” Secretariat captured the heart of a nation. In January of 2011, his celebrated owner, Penny Chenery, announced the creation of an award that will annually recognize a horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year. The award is the first of its kind in horse racing.

In 2010, the brilliant racemare Zenyatta was celebrated as the inaugural winner of the Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award. Perhaps the most beloved champion since Secretariat himself, Zenyatta’s only loss in her 20-race career was a nail-biting defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In 2011, the second Secretariat Vox Populi or “Voice of the People” Award, was awarded to Rapid Redux who set a modern-era record with 22 consecutive wins by a U.S. horse and tied the great Citation with 19 wins in a single season.

In 2012, the third winner of the “Vox Populi” Award was Paynter, whose racing determination and courage off the track overcoming a life-threatening illness endeared him to millions.

In 2013, Mucho Macho Man earned the award in a racing campaign punctuated by his thrilling photo finish victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In 2014, the winner was California Chrome, the “people’s horse” whose modest connections and Cinderella story captured the affection of fans and “Chromie” followers along the way to Horse of the Year honors.

In 2015, the “Vox Populi” was awarded to American Pharoah, whose victorious Triple Crown campaign was the first in 37 years, adding his name to an elite list of horses in history to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

In 2016, California Chrome became the first two-time “Vox Populi” winner, showcasing his talent in a comeback campaign that delighted fans both domestically and abroad.

In 2017, Ben’s Cat, the beloved equine veteran whose racing career spanned eight years was posthumously awarded the “Vox Populi” Award.

In 2018, Australian Super-Mare and global sensation Winx becomes the first internationally raced winner of the award.

In 2019, Bricks and Mortar was the Award’s recipient after recovering from illness and embarking on an undefeated season racing at six different tracks.

In 2020, Authentic, with more than 5000 microshare owners, changed the face of the racing industry with their avid participation in the sport.

The Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award selection process will once again commence when a diverse panel of committee members will determine their top 2021 nominations by majority consensus. The general public will then have the opportunity to vote for their favorite nominee finalist in an open on-line ballot at beginning in early November. The “Vox Populi” Award and corresponding coveted trophy is typically presented to the winner in a public ceremony at Santa Anita Park in early January of the new year.

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 – President of Select Films and producer of 2010 Disney Studio’s film “Secretariat”
Bob Curran – Former Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Jockey Club
Steve Haskin – Racing historian and former journalist for Blood-Horse Magazine
Jack Knowlton – Operating Manager of Sackatoga Stable who campaigned Funny Cide
Amy Zimmerman – Executive Producer, HRTV and Producer for NBC and ESPN racing telecasts
Brian Zipse – Senior writer for Horse Racing Nation and Host of HorseCenter


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