The following stemmed from a morning editorial meeting when the question was asked whether Wise Dan is the first Horse of the Year to have broken his maiden at Turfway Park. (He did so March 27, 2010, as a 3-year-old.)
He isn't the only one, however. Alysheba notched his first victory at Turfway (then called Latonia Race Course) in 1986 as a 2-year-old, and two years later was Horse of the Year at age 4.
So we started thinking: Which racetrack has produced the most Horses of the Year since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971 in terms of where the horses broke their maidens?
Hollywood Park in California tops the list with seven Horse of the Year titles by six horses, followed by Belmont Park with six titles by five horses. Those two tracks easily lead the pack.
Five Horses of the Year won their first races in foreign countries, but none broke their maidens at Saratoga Racecourse. Defunct Jefferson Downs in Louisiana had as many as Churchill Downs and Keeneland.
Black Tie Affair not only broke his maiden at Keystone Race Track (now Parx Racing) in Pennsylvania, but he raced there another six times during his 2- and 3-year-old seasons. He wasn't crowned Horse of the Year until he was 5.
Anyway, here's the list, for what it's worth; the dates in parenthesis are the year the horse won Horse of the Year:
AT LEAST TWO HORSES
Hollywood Park (7 titles/6 horses): Zenyatta (2010), Ghostzapper (2004), Tiznow (2000), Charismatic (1999), Cigar (1995-96), and Sunday Silence (1989)
Belmont Park (6 titles/5 horses): Lady's Secret (1986), Conquistador Cielo (1982), Affirmed (1978-79), Seattle Slew (1977), and Ack Ack (1971)
Santa Anita Park: Azeri (2002), A.P. Indy (1992), and Ferdinand (1987)
Gulfstream Park (3 titles/2 horses): Curlin (2007-08) and Saint Liam (2005)
Monmouth Park: Skip Away (1998) and Holy Bull (1994)
Turfway Park/Latonia Race Course: Wise Dan (2012) and Alysheba (1988)
Aqueduct Racetrack (2 titles/1 horse): Secretariat (1972-73)
Calder Race Course: Spend A Buck (1985)
Churchill Downs: Rachel Alexandra (2009)
Delaware Park: Havre de Grace (2011)
Del Mar: Point Given (2001)
Hialeah Park (3 titles/1 horse): Forego (1974-76)
Jefferson Downs (2 titles/1 horse): John Henry (1981, 1984)
Keeneland: Favorite Trick (1997)
Parx Racing/Keystone Race Track: Black Tie Affair (1991)
Pimlico Race Course: Spectacular Bid (1980)
ONE HORSE/FOREIGN MAIDEN-BREAKER
Deauville: Criminal Type (1990)
Maisons-Laffitte: Kotashaan (1993)
Maronas: Invasor (2006)
Newmarket: Mineshaft (2003)
Saint-Cloud: All Along (1983)
Prior to 1971, the Horse of the Year was selected by Daily Racing Form, Turf & Sport Digest, and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. There are some great names on that list, including Bohemia Stable's Kelso, who won five consecutive Horse of the Year titles–the most ever–from 1960-64.
Kelso made his career debut Sept. 4, 1959, a Friday, and promptly earned his first victory in a $3,300 maiden special weight test at Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey. (Sorry, had to get that one in, even though he didn't win an Eclipse Award.)