The Eclipse Awards — Thoroughbred racing’s Oscars — have just concluded. With all due gratitude to TVG for presenting this gala evening on the air, the truth is it was not very gala. At least the Eclipse Awards were not what they should be. I refer to the event, not to the selections of the year’s greatest horses and people in each category.
It may have been a barrel of fun if you were in the ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire, but it was pretty dismal if you were watching on television. The disadvantage of having it in California is that the thousands of viewers in the East are severely tested by having to remain awake until well after midnight. The advantage should be that the California production of the event should be slick and polished. This affair came over as being listless, disorganized, and dreary. The applause seemed perfunctory at best, the shots of the revelers made them seem like a weekday meeting of the Civitan Club, and the on-air comments by presenters, emcees and winners were often too long, and sometimes in bad taste. Certain recipients are invariably going to be long-winded and demonstrate questionable taste, and there’s no way to control that.
Some of the TVG guys were fine. Todd Schrupp was the best, I thought, enthusiastic, gracious and well informed. I like Ken Rudulph who is sharp as a tack, and very witty, but came on a little strong from time to time, but I admired his interview with the Dreaming of Anna connections, and his emphasis on the contribution of trainer Wayne Catalano who got very short shrift from his irascible owner.
The actor/emcee Jerry O’Connell is decorative, sufficiently knowledgeable and appealingly peppy. But was he indeed the emcee? He sort of wandered in and out aimlessly during the evening. We desperately need a good emcee, but we have not found him or her yet. If there was an undiscovered candidate visible during the proceedings, it might have been Bob Elliston of Turfway.
The sponsors should have a little more glamorous role, other than to be permitted to shift around in the background, looking uncomfortable.
Larry King is a big name, and we need big names. However, his only contribution dealt with his dependence on Viagra, a pretty tired and tasteless topic for this event. Leslie Jordan was cute, but should not have covered the fact that one of our late immortal horse trainers had “lost his marbles.”
My suggestions for brightening what should be racing’s big moment of the year: Move it to a central time zone to stimulate ratings; rearrange the dance floor so the tables can be shoved up to the stage for a more intimate feeling; launch a search for an emcee…and lean on the nominees to be present. They owe that to racing.
The Eclipse awards could be a big, exciting, glamorous event, but we are not there yet.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.