While everyone seems to be focusing on the Horse of the Year voting, there are a few other divisions offering plenty of intrigue--namely the juvenile, older male, turf female, outstanding jockey, and male sprinter. We'll examine each of these in the coming weeks, but today let's focus on the male sprinter.
Some are assuming that Kodiak Kowboy locked up the award with his win in the Cigar Mile. It gave him his third grade I victory of the season (Carter Handicap and Vosburgh) and fourth stakes win overall (Donald LeVine Memorial). Cut and dry, right?
Well...the only problem is that the Cigar Mile is not considered a true sprint, being that it is at a mile and all. A true sprint is considered anything less than a mile. If you look at it that way, there are a few others that can make cases:
Zensational: His Breeders' Cup run was very disappointing but he is the only candidate with three grade I wins in true sprint races (Triple Bend, Pat O'Brien, Bring Crosby). Shouldn't that be enough? Well, the naysayers will point out that all three of those wins were in California and on synthetic surfaces, and that he never left the state to face tougher. Sound familiar? (Oh no, here we go again!)
Fabulous Strike: He was never worse than second in five graded starts and has a pair of grade II wins (True North and Vanderbilt). But he doesn't have a grade I win. He was beaten a head and a half-length by Kodiak Kowboy in two tough defeats. Still, those head-to-head meetings are right there in black and white. Tough to make a strong case.
Vineyard Haven: His grade I came in the De Francis Dash and he also crossed the finish line first in the King's Bishop. But he was disqualified in the latter and there is no getting around that. Would have a stronger case if things went his way at Saratoga. As it is, I can't see it.
Dancing in Silks: Closed out his year with four straight wins, including the Breeders' Cup Sprint. For some, that one graded win may enough in a wide-open year. Also has a win on turf. Isn't the BC supposed to decide championships?
Tough call here. My vote would probably go to Kodiak Kowboy though. No, the Cigar Mile isn't a true sprint but it is at one turn and besides, he also won grade I races at six and seven furlongs too, and was runner-up by a half-length in the grade I Forego.
Kodiak didn't get a chance to run in the Breeders' Cup, which is a shame, but even without that he still had the most aggressive campaign of any candidate, going 4-2-1 from eight starts at six different tracks. Zensational has the three grade I wins but he did not face nearly as tough as Kodiak did and again, he never left Cali. His BC showing is hard to look past. Had he hit the board even, I may have leaned his way.
Kodiak did enough in my book. Your take?