Last week a columnist for the Daily Racing Form wrote in no uncertain terms that the race for Horse of the Year is over. He said that no matter what happens in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Havre de Grace will claim the award based on what she has accomplished already this year--five graded wins including defeating males in the Woodward.
The columnist used the results of the last two Breeders' Cup Classics as basis for his opinion, writing that Rachel Alexandra still won the 2009 HOY even though she stayed home while Zenyatta defeated males, and Zenyatta won HOY last year despite losing to Blame. In theory, it makes sense. However, I strongly disagree that the race for Horse of the Year has already been decided.
Before I lay out my own scenarios for HOY based upon results of the Classic, I decided to call Havre Grace owner Rick Porter to get his thoughts. I asked him if he is considering running her in the Ladies Classic, with the thinking being that a Breeders' Cup win--no matter what race it is in--would lock up HOY for them. Or, if he thinks she has already locked it up.
"Larry (Jones) and I just talked it a lot about it," Porter said. "At this point, I really think running her in the Ladies Classic would be anti-climatic for racing. And I don't think we've given Havre de Grace a chance to make history yet or prove how good she really is. Sometimes money-wise we do things that don't make sense because, on paper anyway, it looks like we could pick up $1.2 million pretty easily (in the Ladies Classic).
"Tizway is the wild card in all of this though. If Tizway wins the Classic he has Horse of the Year I think. The Whitney, Met Mile, and Breeders' Cup is probably enough for him."
But Porter did not rule out the possibility of cross-entering Havre de Grace in both races in case she drew poorly in the Classic.
"It's a possibility, even though right now I'm not planning on it right now," he said. "It's going cost me $150,000 first of all. But I also have to pick Larry's mind to see how bad it would be her if she drew 11 through 14, or post 1 (in the Classic). I don't think there are going to be 14 horses this year, but we'll have to wait and see."
Like Porter, I agree that Tizway would be the HOY if he beat Havre de Grace in the Classic. Havre de Grace would have five wins to Tizway's three, but they would each have three grade I wins and Tizway would have beaten her head-to-head. Now, after last year's HOY voting we all know that head-to-head wins don't necessarily matter (Go figure, huh??), but I don't think the sentiment for Havre de Grace runs quite as deep as it did for Zenyatta. In other words, hopefully people would actually vote with their heads this year instead of their hearts.
As far as other contenders, here is how I handicap their chances to win HOY based on a Breeders' Cup win:
Game On Dude (5-1): Not many are talking about him right now, but a résumé with wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Goodwood, and BC Classic is pretty darn strong. He also was runner-up by a nose in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Would it be enough? I think it would be. Like Havre de Grace and Tizway, he probably controls his own destiny.
Uncle Mo (8-1): He is obviously a fan favorite and would get a lot of votes, but winning only a single grade I wouldn't be enough. However, would Repole run him back in the Cigar Mile later in the month if he won the Classic? He's saying no now, but if he thought a second grade I win would lock up the award, things could change.
Stay Thirsty (10-1): Let me be the first to say that I don't think he will hit the board in the Classic, but if he were to win he would have a strong case. Two grade I wins including the Travers, plus the grade III Gotham and grade II Jim Dandy. Is it enough? Probably.
Flat Out (15-1): A BC Classic win probably wouldn't make him Horse of the Year. The grade II Suburban Handicap and grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup isn't enough. Remember, Havre de Grace already beat him in the Woodward.
Goldikova (40-1): I like her as much as the next and it would be cool to see her win a fourth straight BC Mile. But if she wins HOY based on one North American start they should do away with the award altogether.