in defense of Martha Claussen

The new NTRA poll came out this afternoon.  American Pharoah was one vote short of unanimous atop the Top Thoroughbred poll, and this fact has broken Twitter.

Hold your horses, everyone.

Would I have voted American Pharoah on top or not if I had a vote?  I can’t say — I do not have a vote, and saying what I would do now, one way or the other, would be the writer’s equivalent of redboarding.  The deed has been done, the poll is out, and my pontification on What I Would Have Done would not matter one iota.

Do I think the people who voted American Pharoah on top of their all-ages poll erred?  Of course not.  His ability to sweep his age group as impressively as he has in five starts this year, his ability to gallop home so strongly at a mile and a half after three races in five week, and four races in eight weeks, his ability to perform a feat that only eleven other three-year-old Thoroughbreds in America have performed?  These all speak to the greatness of American Pharoah, and provide a logical argument for voting him as the top horse in the country.

But, is there an argument for not putting American Pharoah on top?  You bet: all those fine races happened against his own age group.  He has not yet faced older company.

If a voter had not put American Pharoah atop the three-year-old division after sweeping the Triple Crown, I would be baffled.  I would even, despite it being a question of opinion, say that voter was wrong.  He was impressive on the Derby trail, impressive through the Triple Crown, and performed a feat no horse had performed since Affirmed in 1978.  He had done everything asked of him at the highest level, and no other three-year-old has a better claim in the age group than American Pharoah has.

However, do we know American Pharoah would beat the likes of Shared Belief, Honor Code, Moreno, and Tonalist?  He may: he is a fast horse, a consistent one, and his stride could not be smoother.  All signs suggest that the Triple Crown champion should stack up against the best of any age.  However, we do not know for sure.  That remains the one thing American Pharoah has not yet proven on the track.

The mob needs to take a breath, enjoy the Triple Crown for what it was, and stop vilifying any voter who takes the principled stance that three-year-olds must prove it on the track against older before getting a vote in the all-ages poll.

3 thoughts on “in defense of Martha Claussen

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