November 27, 2021

DeRosa’s ABR Fan Choice Awards Ballot

America’s Best Racing is presenting the first-ever Fan Choice Awards, and it’s a fun mix of “traditional” horse racing awards categories and topics that speak more to the live racing experience.

In best race of 2019, I tabbed the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. It will be talked about as long as horse racing is talked about.

For best jockey of 2019, I went with Johnny Velazquez. This is a tough category, but anecdotally it just seemed like a lot of times I was impressed with a graded stakes ride he was involved. Plus, awards like “fan choice” allow you to incorporate things like all Johnny does for racing, fellow riders, the backstretch, etc.

I had gone into the trainer category thinking I’d vote for Brad Cox, but he’s somehow now an option. Not that Steve Asmussen isn’t a fine choice–I happen to think he’s one of the best horsemen in the game, but Brad has had a great year too.

I’d obviously love to pick Churchill Downs as the best racetrack for bettors, and there’s a lot to like about the world’s most legendary racetrack as we’re about to find out, but when it comes to the best bet for bettors, it’s impossible to deny Kentucky Downs this honor.

The Kentucky Derby is unquestionably racing’s best fashion event. What happens beneath the Twin Spires can make the gossip pages. That doesn’t happen anywhere else.

Churchill Downs is the best racetrack to watch a race. Whether there’s 5,000 people or 150,000, there are options to suit every budget and type of suit you’re wearing. No racetrack in North America handles the crowd Churchill does, and even on a weekday in November the grandstand area is fun with easy access to food, booze, and live views.

Similar to trainer, I went into the Best Food category to vote for the Arlington Park hotdog, but no shame in having to opt for the Woodbine roast beef instead. Its praises are that of a chorus and all deserved.

The Mint Julep is the obvious choice here. It’s iconic and synonymous with the event.

The Jason Beem Podcast is so good that I insisted it move away from BetAmerica and join the TwinSpires team under his own name. I’m privileged to be involved in a lot of racing media, but no one marries the excitement of the game with earnest podcasting like Jason.

It may appear that Joe Kristufek is a biased selection as best analyst considering he’s a coworker and even better friend, but I can give an analyst no better compliment than to say I would bet his/her picks blind, and Joe is one of the very few (especially on this list) who I’d say that about. The benefit of seeing the work he puts into his craft and what he does for the industry beyond “the 9-5” of his job tips the scale even more in his favor.

It’s easy to default to the Kentucky Derby considering the uniqueness of the event and the skill required to call it, but Travis transcends that and delivers audio perfection of a race that will be replayed for generations to come.

Maximum Security is the people’s horse. He don’t know he was a maiden claimer, got DQed from the Derby, or any of the other BS we pundits like to spout. He goes out and does his job and does it better than almost any horse. He is a joy to watch compete. They all are, of course, but his story is truly remarkable.