It doesn't matter what month it is on the calendar, Horse of the Year debate is always fun. And since some of you brought it up on the previous blog, let's examine it a little deeper.
Before we do, let me preface this by saying what we are doing here is pure speculation. There are a ton of ‘what ifs' in these scenarios and we are assuming many things. We won't solve anything here (do we ever?), but since the goal of this blog is to have healthy debate, let's take a stab at this thing.
This is what we know: Rachel Alexandra will not be going to the Breeders' Cup because it is on "plastic," according to her owner Jess Jackson. Ok, fine Jess. By choosing not to go to California, however, you are leaving the door open for someone else to steal Horse of the Year. How, you ask? Well, let me start the speculation.
For argument sake, let's assume Rachel wins the Haskell and then Jackson sends her to the Alabama, where she dominates again. Are those two wins enough to lock up the award for her? Not in my opinion. If he decides to bypass the Travers, in my opinion, Rachel may have to do something else to hold off some of the other candidates I will mention in a moment.
What else does Rachel have to do in the aforementioned scenario? Well, she may have to beat older horses, something she has not done yet. Though she has been simply dominating every time out, the 3-year-old class, both fillies and males, isn't exactly the strongest group we've ever seen. If Rachel isn't going to the BC, she may need to win a race against older horses, perhaps the Oct. 3 Beldame at Belmont.
All this is a moot point, in my opinion, if Jackson sends her to the Travers and she wins. That would lock things up for her, no matter what else happens. Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell and Travers wins. Game over. However, my gut tells me he does not want to run her 1 1/4 against males at Saratoga. We shall see.
So who could beat her out if she doesn't win the Travers or beat older horses? Well, Einstein for one. The 7-year-old already has claimed the Santa Anita Handicap and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. If he should also win the Aug. 8 Arlington Million that would be his third grade I win of the year. If he should then go to the BC Classic, wouldn't he have to be considered for HOY if he wins? Absolutely. That would be one impressive résumé. He will have won a pair of $1 million races as well as a $5 million race - all against older horses. Rachel would be by no means a lock if she doesn't do one of the two things I mentioned earlier.
What about Gio Ponti? He has rattled off three straight GI wins so far. What if he should beat Einstein in the Arlington Million, maybe win another in the fall, and then head into either the BC Turf or BC Classic having accomplished all of that? Are you going to tell me he wouldn't have a chance at HOY with five or six grade I wins - all against large fields? Granted, they will all have been on turf (assuming he doesn't go to the Classic), but still...
Finally, there is Zenyatta. Her schedule has been far from challenging so far, but she still has a shot. Assuming she takes the same path as last year, she would collect wins in the Clement Hirsch next month, the Lady's Secret in September, and then be set up for a run in the BC Classic. If she defeats males in the Classic that would be five wins this season - four in grade I - and it would make her a perfect 14-for-14 in her career. You going to tell me a bunch of people won't vote for her if she ends her career by beating the best males in the Classic?
So all of you people who think Rachel has things locked up in July, you'd better think again. What she has done thus far has been sensational, but there are other horses having terrific seasons as well. And when you don't show up for the World Championships, you are leaving the door wide open for someone to steal it.