Horse of the Year Follies

So, will it be Curlin or Zenyatta for Horse of the Year? That is the question everyone – fans, writers, horsemen – either seem to be asking or are adamant about one way or the other. Obviously, a case can be made for either one.

But I have to admit I am flabbergasted that not a single person I’m aware of has even thrown Big Brown into the mix. Now I know he’s not going to be voted Horse of the Year or likely even come close, due to a variety of reasons, many of them fueled by a dislike for the horse’s trainer and/or owner. Others simply feel he beat up on inferior competition all year.

But don’t we at least owe it to the horse and his remarkable accomplishments to place him in the same category as Curlin, who also beat up on inferior competition all year, and Zenyatta, who…nah, I’m not saying anything negative about her. Curlin supporters claim she’s never run against colts, so we’ll just use that one for the sake of fairness.

These are three special horses, and knocking one to enhance another is like chopping Thomas Jefferson’s nose off on Mount Rushmore to make George Washington look better.

I am not going to spew out the same litany of praises for Big Brown that I’ve been doing all year. Most of it falls on deaf ears anyway, and there is no further reason to sound like a defense attorney constantly telling a hostile jury what a fine, upstanding citizen his client is.

We all know that Big Brown’s accomplishments earlier in the year were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. No one has put together performances like the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness with so little foundation and experience. The bottom line is, he never lost a race he finished, and the fact that he returned after a physically and mentally demanding Triple Crown to win both his starts, in a grade I and on the turf, shows what an extraordinary horse he was, competition aside.

But enough of that, as I can already feel the fumes beginning to build up from the Curlin fans. Everyone has been trying to figure out what happened to Curlin in that last quarter of a mile in the Classic. There are several theories, but we’re never going to know for sure.

Some feel he’s not as good as he was last year. I can’t disagree with that. Some feel he was undertrained for a 10-furlong race over a synthetic surface. I can’t disagree with that either, although I certainly don’t know the horse like Steve Asmussen does; he’s done nothing wrong so far in his training of Curlin. Asmussen, however, admits he doesn’t have a handle on synthetics yet, and the trainers that do all seem to believe you need to have a horse dead-fit to run well over it, and most work their horses at least six furlongs before a distance race. Was Curlin fit enough for a synthetic Classic with only one serious five-furlong work and a couple of slow half-mile breezes in four weeks? Beats me, but it’s at least worth throwing out there. Some feel the six-week trip to Dubai, during which Curlin made his 2008 debut under 132 pounds and then came back four weeks later in the World Cup, had a long-range effect on him. Who knows? Remember, Cigar came back from Dubai and won his first two races and then lost three of his last four.

If Curlin wasn’t the same horse as last year, why wasn’t he? We all know horses are supposed to get better at four. One factor that has not been brought out, and this pertains to Big Brown as well, is that Curlin was taken off steroids this year. Many veterinarians will tell you that has nothing to do with anything. I wouldn’t know; I’m just going by my observations, which are shared by many.

When majority owner Jess Jackson found out Curlin had been using Winstrol regularly last year, he had Asmussen discontinue its use in January in order to prove that the horse was every much a champion without drugs, which in turn would increase his appeal as a stallion. I don’t claim to know much if anything about the effect of steroids on horses. I do find it interesting, however, that Curlin, while still a magnificent horse, wasn’t quite as dominant and brilliant after being taken off Winstrol. The same with Big Brown, who still proved he was a fantastic, gutsy horse after being taken off the drug, but didn’t display the same dominance and brilliance he did when he was using it. Make of that what you wish. I am not giving an opinion, because I have no scientific basis to do so. I’m just stating the facts and what I, and most everyone, witnessed on the racetrack. Yes, Curlin won the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster by open lengths, but compare that competition to Street Sense, Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday, and Lawyer Ron. By late summer, he was doing just what he had to to win by narrow margins against the likes of Past the Point and Wanderin Boy.

But none of that has anything to do with who should be Horse of the Year. Conceding the anti-Big Brown movement, as misguided as I believe it is, I won’t waste anyone’s time making a case for him, as I’ve done that ad nauseum over the last several months. Perhaps one day after the dust has been swept away everyone will look back with more objectivity and realize what a special horse this was.

As for Curlin, his Breeders’ Cup Classic should not in any way be held against him. Give Jackson major kudos for going against his and his trainer’s initial gut feeling and doing what was in the best interest of the fans and the sport. Jackson and Asmussen stated emphatically they did not want to make Curlin a guinea pig over a surface no one knew anything about. But the racing world clamored for a Curlin – Big Brown showdown, and Jackson let them have it, even though it went against every principal he believed. The showdown didn’t happen, but imagine the Classic without either one of them. Curlin’s mere presence at Santa Anita made the Breeders’ Cup. When he worked between races it was like an unexpected visit from Elvis. Let’s be honest, if Curlin wasn’t in the Breeders’ Cup, would it have had anywhere near the buzz it did? Would any of the Classic horses have been given a rousing ovation in the paddock before the race, and more important, coming back afterwards in defeat?

Let’s just say hypothetically that Curlin wasn’t quite the same horse as last year for whatever reason. And let’s say he didn’t care for the synthetic surface quite as much as he did the dirt. And let’s just say he came up a bit short in that last quarter mile of the Classic. And let’s just say he was meeting far better competition than he did all year. The fact is he showed up under conditions less than ideal, gave the fans a big thrill with an explosive move on the far turn, and ran his heart out to the wire, while running the 1 1/4 miles in about 1:59 4/5, the fastest 10 furlongs he’s ever run. Two of the horses who beat him were superstars in Europe, and may have been even more formidable at this distance and on this surface.

With everything, Curlin had an unbelievable year. He paved new frontiers by going to Dubai for six weeks, attempted the near-impossible by pointing for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which didn’t quite work out, and ventured into unknown territory by attempting to win America’s richest race over a surface on which he’d never raced. With all that, he still won the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, regardless of the competition. Was that insufficient to retain the crown he already wore? Did Zenyatta do enough to dethrone an existing king who did little wrong over an eight-month period?

I have to admit it is too early to state emphatically who I am voting for.

I love Zenyatta. I loved being around her before and after the Breeders’ Cup, as evidenced by the 200-plus photos I took of her arriving at Santa Anita and back at the barn following the Ladies Classic. I believe she is one of the greatest fillies in the history of the sport, because of her dramatic machine-like performances race after race, and because her running style always makes her vulnerable to pace and a freakish front-running effort. I think John Shirreffs, his wife Dottie, and Jerry and Ann Moss are four of the finest people I’ve ever met, and that is not restricted to horse racing. If Zenyatta were to be voted Horse of the Year, despite not having run against the boys, I would have no problem with it.

It’s tough trying to compare these two sensational horses. It’s just, as of now, I am trying to convince myself she did enough to knock Curlin off this throne, having run all her races but one on a synthetic surface in California, while Curlin ran well on fast dirt, slop, grass, and even on the Pro-Ride, while racing in Dubai, New York, Kentucky, and California – arguably the three biggest stages in the world for an American-based horse. Being undefeated certainly will help her cause.

So, that’s where I stand right now, which is in limbo. Whoever is voted Horse of the Year, congratulations, you deserve it. Oh yes, and that goes for Big Brown, too.



Leave a Comment:


Would your opinion change if Curlin runs in Japan and wins?

30 Oct 2008 12:30 PM

Steve - I am so with you on Horse of the Year.  I love Curlin, Zenyatta and Big Brown.  I already miss not being able to hear about Big Brown - what and how he's doing on a daily basis.  The races he ran in 2008 were extraordinary.  It's like one of my children moved to a foreign land which had no phones or any way of communicating back to me. I know we needed Curlin to run in the Classic but I was against it also. And Zenyatta is an extraordinary filly.  Why can't we do a Horses of the Year Award since in my eyes, all 3 deserve it, I think they are all tied for first place.

30 Oct 2008 12:43 PM

Oh boy.... As if there wasn't enough Big Brown, Curlin, Zenyatta drama already in the other blogs... lol. Thanks for opening up the flood gates Steve! Ha Ha! Let the debate begin!

30 Oct 2008 1:05 PM

Thank you.

I love Zenyatta. But I kept scratching my head, too, wondering why it was "automatic" that she would be HOY when Big Brown had an exceptional year himself.

He won on turf; Curlin didn't. He beat older horses. Yes, that Belmont remains beyond comprehension, but at least he lost just one race this year.

Also, what are the "rules" for considering Curlin's starts in Dubai? Are only his U.S. starts to be considered? Yes, foreign horses can and do win Eclipse awards with just one brilliant race in the Breeders Cup (Pebbles, for instance), but if you throw out those Dubai starts, Curlin really hasn't been as dominant as we'd all like to think he was this year.

I'm not anti-Curlin -- although if you want to hate a horse for his connections like those who hate Big Brown do, you could make a case for disliking Curlin's. But neither horse has a say in his human handlers.

Which brings us back to Zenyatta. Gotta love a great mare.

30 Oct 2008 1:06 PM

Steve, I feel your pain. I love Zenyatta;not to be sacrilegious, she reminds me of another big filly I saw run - Ruffian.    But Curlin went all over the country to the delight the of the fans. I'd have to go with Curlin for HOY. I saw Big Brown run twice at Monmouth and although I didn't think all that much of his competition, I have to say he was all class and all heart. Some of the rail birds I hang with said he was all out to win but I say that's what good horses do; they find the way to win  I mean Brett Farve wins ugly and he is still a great quarterback.

30 Oct 2008 1:08 PM
Jeff H

Excellent article and all great points.  However, when the dust settles from the BC, everyone will come to there senses and realize that you'd have to put the resume of both Zenyatta and BB together to equal what Curlin has done.  If he's not HOY then I would have to think that it is one of the greatest travesties i've ever witnessed in my life!  It would rank up there with OJ getting off. lol

30 Oct 2008 1:09 PM

You are opening a big can of worms Stevo. I totally agree with you that Curlin doesn't seem to be as good this year as last and his competition hasn't been as good. It has however been better than what Big Brown has faced. Between the two Curlin clearly deserves more mention since he traveled the world over in search of better competition and actually raced the entire year. It's not Big Brown's fault who he faced in the Fla. Derby, Ky. Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. It just so happened that he ended up beating and being beaten by nobody to get excited about. It's after the Belmont where his connections could have chosen to put him up against the better competition that I take issue with. They took the easiest road they could find to the Breeders Cup (while appearing in one G1 race that did not have true G1 caliber animals entered instead was limited to the same weak 3 yr old bunch he already had faced most of) and still couldn't get there despite it. For Big Brown to be considered HOY he would have had to beat Curlin and the others in the Classic. That was his only chance. Speculation means nothing, just check out Wall Street. The resume falls well short.

Curlin deserves it more than Big Brown but does he deserve it more than others? Zenyatta was truly amazing wherever she ran. If Raven's Pass is eligible he rates more than a glance. He did what Big Brown never did and that's beat Curlin. In addition he beat some top level grass horses on the other side of the pond. I think he's a better 3 yr old than Big Brown hands down.

It will be interesting to see how the vote goes but I don't think there is much doubt that it will come down to either Curlin or Zenyatta. Probably a weaker year overall than most especially in the 3 yr old class as a whole.

30 Oct 2008 1:11 PM
Kelly E.

Steve, your Big Brown love is great!  You're right, he did have a phenomenal year no matter what.  

So did Curlin.  I thought he was tailing off a bit after the Stephen Foster (for whatever reason).  But, to do what he did in Dubai and come back as good as he did is to be commended.

As for Zenyatta - I thought she was spectacular.  I hope they do bring her back next year and continue this amazing run into the history books!

Why can't there be a male Horse of the Year and female Horse of the Year?  They've already split up the Breeder's Cup, why not HOTY too?

30 Oct 2008 1:18 PM
Karen in Texas

Maybe I missed something in your blog, Mr. Haskin, but I don't think you mentioned the all time earnings record for Curlin. That, and five million dollars again in one year. To me, you systematically built a case for him even without having stated these particular accomplishments. As for his "beating up on inferior competition" this year--he had to run against the fields he was given! His intentions and races were announced well in advance; if others wanted to run against him, they should have done so. He dodged no one this year or last, unlike a familiar three year old we know. Curlin's body of work is superior to that of any other horse this year by far. He is HOY.

30 Oct 2008 1:25 PM


I'm glad you mentioned Big Brown as a possible for Horse of the Year. There are several reasons he should be considered (besides his racing accomplishments)but one being all the excitement and interest he generated in horse racing.  The average person doesn't even know who Curlin is, but they know Big Brown! When discussing sports BB's name was thrown in with all the other superstar athletes. My non-horse racing friends immediately lost interest in the Breeders Cup after he was retired.  I hope you cast your vote for BB.

30 Oct 2008 1:35 PM
R. Oliver

If it weren't for what ahppened to Ruffian, I think the only answer between Zenyatta and Curlin would be a match race. I could just imagine Zenyatta turning on her long-legged lope and leaving that wondrous Curlin behind in the last moments. After all, don't forget. Another filly did that, too.

30 Oct 2008 2:02 PM

If there was no Curlin or Zenyatta it would be a close call between Big Brown and DaTara for HOY. After all DaTara beat BB by 50+,oh wait, Big Brown pulled himself up and DNF.

30 Oct 2008 2:29 PM
The Colonel

I've gotten some hate for saying I thought Big Brown's Monmouth Stakes was his best race, but I love it when a horse shows guts. It's hard to see Big Brown picking up HOY, though, especially when you consider all the factors of what's been going on this year. This has not been a pretty year, and Big Brown unfortunately had a big part in making it that way.

Curlin's accomplished a billion last year and this year, and I just can't take anything away from what he's done. He showed up, no matter what, even if it was on turf or finishing fourth to those two European superstars and our own Tiago.

But who can take away from the unbeaten Zenyatta, and her competition? People are in general agreement that the fillies and mares are particularly strong this year, and Zenyatta's conquered all who dared to load up in the same starting gate as her. And her style is just...breathtaking and heart attack-inducing.

Plus, Europe's got their own Big Z - Zarkava.

You can tell which bandwagon I'm on.

30 Oct 2008 2:29 PM

To start, I want to express my support for Curlin, and believe he has done the most for horse racing this year, and should be named Horse of the Year.

I completely concur with you on Big Brown. I saw him break his maiden at Saratoga last year, and remembered him throughout the following months because that effort was so electrifying.  It is a real shame that he was denied the affection of so many fans because of the attitudes and behaviors of the people surrounding him. I loved Big Brown, but sometimes it was even hard for me to root for him because of Dutrow (who did more to hurt the sport in such a short time than anyone I have ever seen) and the owners.

I truly like Zenyatta, also.  However, for all she accomplished, I did not see her exciting all of America to the same degree as Curlin and Big Brown. Yet, if win-loss record is all to consider, she gets Horse of the Year.  It is hard to argue with being undefeated in any sport, at any level, against any competition.

But I believe Horse of the Year should encompass more than just winning.

And Curlin is the horse that does that best.  He, as well as his humans, have been American ambassadors for horse racing.  They went everywhere, tried everything, and never blinked.  Even though they might start off questioning, they always, in the end, showed up.  And they took America's heart with them.

Had Mr. Jackson not brought Curlin to the Breeders Cup, Curlin would more than likely have been named Horse of the Year off what he had already done.  It is painful to think Curlin will be penalized because he showed up for the race on a track that clearly favored European or California horses and didn't win.

Big Brown is a great horse.  Zenyatta is a great horse.

Curlin is Horse of the Year.

30 Oct 2008 2:29 PM


30 Oct 2008 2:56 PM
Lord Carson

Zenyatta for Horse of The Year??? If she wanted it she had her chance to run in the Classic and take it from Curlin. She has not done enough to merit the award in 2008. This is not like 2002 when Azeri won by default because there was no standout handicap horse or 3 year old runner. If you want to prove a point that you are the best horse,  you do what Zarkava and Goldikova did. You run against the big boys. And they are 3 year old fillies!

I agree with Jeff H, it would be a travesty to deny Curlin this award. And if not Curlin then Big Brown should be next in line. I'm sorry Steve, it doesn't matter how NICE the owner or trainer of any horse is. These awards should be based on what is done on the track. Who owns or trains the horse is irrelevant.

30 Oct 2008 2:59 PM

Mr. Haskin, it's time to let go! Good heavens, I think you might be suffering withdrawals. Will Big Brown be making an appearance in every column you write from here to next October? (Actually, that sounds like a challenge...uh oh.)

For my part, I only wish that IEAH and Dutrow could get shuffled off to stud, too - and let us enjoy a 2009 with a little less drama. Big Brown was all right; at least he kept his mouth shut and just did his job (well, except that one time in New York...).

I'm fascinated by Zenyatta. I really wish she'd had the chance to go up against colts (or to get outside of California), but even without those yardsticks to go by, on sheer ability she's phenomenal. The very fact that more discussion and consideration need to go into the HOY decision makes this year's award all the more interesting. Since I don't get to vote, my opinion is just that and nothin' more, but it's fun to speculate (especially if we get to see another race from Curlin).

As always, thanks for an insightful, well-written column - and more points for debate.

30 Oct 2008 3:03 PM
Lord Carson

I'm sorry Colonel there is no comparison between the two Z's. Not until Zenyatta steps up against the boys in a major race and beats them the way Zarkava did. I firmly believe the race Zenyatta ran on Friday would have made her very hard to beat in the Classic.

Let's face it, she beat some decent fillies in the Distaff, but none of them was anything SPECIAL. And before the BC she really didn't beat a whole lot. Her competition was every bit as weak as Curlin's and Big Brown's.

Look at the horses that were behind those two European fillies in 2008 and you would appreciate that no comparison can be made.

30 Oct 2008 3:14 PM

Steve, in your case for Curlin you mention the Arc, I can't give any credit for thinking about going. And to all who say he travelled the world...he made one overseas trip(and he was fantastic!) but Henry raced in 4 countries and Raven in 3. And as for the $ title...with the inflated purses and bonus monies the top ten money list is not reflective to me of greatness. 5 million dollars in 7 races??? nuff' said. The last horse to earn the money title was Alysheba. For me it's not the ammount but the effort it took that makes a Champion. Now after all that I am not opposed to Curlin being HOY, he is awesome and for sure our best older male. And Big Brown has gotta be 3 y/o male, and deserves consideration as HOY. But as far as I'm concerned Zenyatta had a perfect season, she did ALL that was asked of her and in incredible style. There seems to be alot of "what ifs" in this discussion(what if the classic was on dirt? what if BB didn't get hurt? what if Curlin went to France? what if Zenyatta ran against the boys?) but what counts is what happened this year(last years classic, street sense, et al. were for determining last years HOY) and this year Zenyatta was the best american horse in training. That's what I think.

30 Oct 2008 3:24 PM
Diane J.

I didn't see any of East coast mares go West this year to race against Zenyatta, with the exception of Hysterical Lady.  Why do so many people think she should have to go East to prove herself?  Didn't Azeri mainly race in California herself during her HOY campaign, with the exception of the Breeders Cup in Arlington?

30 Oct 2008 3:27 PM

Completely agree that thoughtful arguments could be made for any of the three.

However, if Zenyatta loses out on HOY the question can reasonably asked.   "What does a filly/mare have to do to win HOY?" I think it unfair to think she would have to beat males to do so.

30 Oct 2008 3:36 PM

Curlin horse of the year hands down. But I'd like to make a comment and I'm not saying anyone said this but let me remind you that Zenyatta beat Ginger Punch, last years champion older mare twice, Hystericlady twice, arguably the top three year old fily and couple other grade 1 winners. She's been facing stiff competetion too. On all surfaces....

30 Oct 2008 3:40 PM

Steve you have been in this game for many years and people respect your opinion.  I believe it is people like you that need to stand up and make a case for Big Brown.  Leading an unpopular opinion is what Barack Obama did when he opposed the war years ago and now he is just days away from becoming our next President.  And now even though some may scoff at your opinion because it is not popular it is the correct one.  Now is the time for you to take and stand and declare Big Brown is Horse of the Year.  No longer can you ignore or let others ignore his brilliant performances in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness.  No longer can you sit by and let them forget his gutsy performance in the Haskell or his brilliant win against older experienced Graded Stakes winners at Monmouth on turf.  His accomplishments are considerable and many were accomplished while injured.  Mr. Haskin its time for you to step up and take the lead in giving Big Brown the honor and respect he has never received.  Its time for someone to take a stand and do the right thing.  It's up to you and people like you to do the right thing even though it may not be popular.  Greatness does not come from winning popularity contest.  Greatness comes from taking a stand and believing in what is right and following your heart regardless of the outcome.  Steve, the time is now to stand up for Big Brown.

30 Oct 2008 3:43 PM

i would vote for peppers pride !

30 Oct 2008 3:59 PM

I miss Big Brown.  He was and is my favorite and will always be a great horse whether he wins any awards or not.  All the horses mentioned are wonderful and have run great races.  My prayer for all of them is that they get to enjoy the rest of their lives doing what horses love to do, surrounded by people who love and care for them.

As for Horse of the Year, I would nominate Big Brown because he won two parts of the Triple Crown, something that only a few champions get to do.  If it is not Big Brown, then I hope Curlin is HOY.  He too is a champion on the track and off.  

30 Oct 2008 4:00 PM

Has there ever been a tie for HOY?

Zenyatta is just spectacular the way she runs, with no losses no less.  What a queen.  And then there is the memory of Eight Belles for senimentality for a filly to be HOY.

Curlin, well Curlin has been "my" baby boy since Gulfstream at @13 lengths, and has since proven himself to be a king in this sport - did you see how regal he looked at the BC?  I've never seen him look better - just coming thru the TV screen - it was thrilling.

My solution is to have a tie and then let there be a Curlatta.

30 Oct 2008 4:02 PM
Dan Omaha

I agree with Richard.  I think HOY should be for the horse that not only wins but does the most for the sport.  I fell in love with Curlin the first time I saw him race and watching his career this year in the Stephen Foster, and Jockey Club Gold showed what heart he really had and it seem like he loved what he was doing.  I am taking nothing away from Z, the Ladies Classic was like watching your favorite movie from front to back in 2 minutes.  I just think that Curlin deserves it for bringing more fans to this awesome sport.  I was also watched Big Brown break his maiden and followed his career closely, I just don't think he did as much as Curlin, or Zenyatta for that matter.  Honestly how great would it have been if Zenyatta would have ran with the boys in the BC?

PS I hope Curlin runs in the Clark.

30 Oct 2008 4:14 PM
Steve Haskin

I'll address as many comments as possible:

Tracy, what opinion are you referring to? I specifically said I have no opinion right now. I made a case for all three, mostly Curlin. If he wins the Japan Cup, I'll definitely vote for him.

Horselover, America, like professional hockey, does not like ties.

Jeff H, you are joking about O.J., right? I sure hope so.

Draynot, I havent opened any can of worms that hasnt already been open. Again, I merely made of a case for both horses and for people to at least appreciate what Big Brown accomplished this year. I am not trying to sway anyone in either direction, because I can't sway myself.

Karen in Texas, what does $10 million dollars or even $5 million have to do with Horse of the Year? Does winning the $1-million Delta Jackpot make a horse a top Derby candidate? I'd rather consider a horse who beats top horses in a $200,000 race than one who beats mediocre horses in a $5-million race. Earnings is not worth mentioning when it comes to naming champions. If Curlin "had to run against the fields he was given," then why is everyone knocking Big Brown for who he defeated?

30 Oct 2008 4:32 PM

The problem with HOY voting is there is no objective, repeat objective, criteria upon which to base a selection. It's strictly an opinion.  We really need some criteria - a checklist.  Which ever horse gets the most check marks wins.  Period.

30 Oct 2008 4:46 PM

Curlin gets HOY, he earned it. Won in Dubai, ran second on the grass to a former Breeders Cup winner (Big Brown didn't face any turf horses as good as Red Rocks, don't think so)and has dominated on the REAL dirt all year.  So he ran fourth,  so what,  we all knew his best performance was not going to be on a synthetic surface, and its extremely rare that a european turf runner is going to run like that on REAL dirt; Sakhee comes to mind;  he ran good,  but not good enough since Tiznow got to the wire first. The synthetic surface is the difference.  You will see when all the tracks in America switch to synthetic surfaces there will be a lot of stallions out there that nobody will want to breed to anymore because their offspring are not capable of being competitive on turf or synthetic,  thus many great bloodlines will be rendered useless for breeding. Something to think about, although I do think a safer surface is the way to go,  the american breeding practices are going to go through a drastic change when that happens.  Zenyatta reminds me so much of Ruffian when she is in full stride it gives me shivers; She is brilliant,  but Curlin has done more and traveled abroad successfully. As for Raven's Pass,  bring him to Churchill or Belmont Park and lets see him duplicate that performance on REAL dirt,  then I'll be impressed. As far as I'm concerned this years Breeders Cup Classic was a crap shoot, and I emphasize crap. I think Curlin's owner was stupid for running in the Man O' War. On that note there was NO GOOD REASON for Big Brown to skip the Travers,  Woodward and Jocky Club Gold Cup, except for the fact that they were dodging facing Curlin on REAL dirt, and people think Big Brown should be HOY.  I say let his hoof grow out,  take him to Dubai and if he can win the world cup on REAL dirt then HOY is his.  Frankie Dettori makes me want to vomit.

30 Oct 2008 4:59 PM
Steve Haskin

Draynay, if you really want me to declare Big Brown Horse of the Year I'll be glad to. But I have to warn you I am no monarch and the people do not take heed to my declarations. I have been standing up for Big Brown all year, and I dont care if people disagree with me. What more can I write about the horse than I've been writing for months? I've made every case for him being a special horse that I can think of. It doesn't get through. People hate the horse's connections, pure and simple, and trying to break through the hate barrier is like crashing into a brick wall. Just read Mike M's comment and you'll see the mentality out there. I don't have the power you think I do.

30 Oct 2008 4:59 PM

Draynot once again you PROVE you don't know what you are talking about.  Go back as many years as you want and find 4 better 3 year olds than these.


Ravens Pass


Big Brown

This WAS the year of GREAT 3 year old horses.

30 Oct 2008 5:01 PM

Steve Haskin for President!

30 Oct 2008 5:16 PM

I am new to the blogging and am really finding it enjoyable. But I am surprised at how much people's feelings are involved. Curlin fans shouldn't be so hurt by his BCC. He ran a great race, his personal best as Steve pointed out. I'm sorry to say that he DID handle the track and he lost, who knows why he didn't run faster but remember that he ran faster than he ever did before so that's GOOD. Mike Smith outrode RA to the wire thats why he was 4th, watch the replay. He wasn't disgraced. I mean what race were you watching? The morning line had Raven's Pass as the second choice and we had all heard of Henry so how is it so shocking that they beat Curlin? And as for the BB fans...Steve's right people don't like his connections, it's not fair but it's the way it is. If I had a vote it'd go to Zenyatta.

30 Oct 2008 5:35 PM
Windy City

Big Brown is an incredible horse, its a shame that he couldn't go to BC. While Curlin is a very good horse and I hoped he won the Classic, Brownie has something special about him. He did not have a very impressive pedigree and I guess he showed many people that a great champion could come from anywhere...His heart brought him first to the wire almost every time, just his poor feet couldn't catch up with his brave heart. Live a good life Brownie, I really hope that one of your babies will sweep the Triple Crown in your honor.

30 Oct 2008 5:46 PM
Karen in Texas

Mr. Haskin,  I said I thought you didn't mention "the all time earnings record" as being a portion of Curlin's list of accomplishments for the year. I didn't realize you didn't think it was important. To me, it has some merit when combined with all he did to achieve it. I was making a case for him as Horse of the Year--isn't that what the blog is about? As someone else said, it may be a problem that there are no objective criteria and we are only stating opinions.

30 Oct 2008 5:50 PM

Lol... I understand Steve.  Let me leave you with this.  10 years from now when people talk of racing from 2008 the horse most often brought up will be Big Brown.  That's enough for me.

One last thought... as many years as we have remaining this I know for sure... NEVER again will you see a horse on Derby Day come out of the 20 post and win. Never.

30 Oct 2008 6:12 PM
Horse Racing Fan

I have respect for both of the top 2 in the race. Zenyatta is a deserving mare, and Curlin - well there are not realy enough words to describe him - but in my opinion it comes down to who put it on the line and who didnt.  The connections of Curlin put it all on the line overseas and on surfaces he's never been on before and all across the country.  "The biggest and most prestigious races he ran in and won.  He is the only North American based horse with $10 million in earnings."  Unfortunately, and this is not a knock, Zenyatta's connections wanted to make sure to totally put the health of the horse first and that led to her having a campaign that would be considered suspect, or not as ambitious.  Not suspect because she didnt run against colts, because that is totally unnecessary (awards are not won running against the colts).  When they planned out Zenyatta's year, Horse of the Year voting was not in anyway on their minds, they were thinking about her health and happiness and trying to win big races leading up to the B.C. Ladies Classic, and they accomplished that.  The 1 aspect of going out on a limb was the trip made to Arkansas in April to take on Ginger Punch in the Apple Blossom.  That gesture was very impressive and proved at least at that point that the head to head win against the defending champion elevated her status, but that 1 gesture when ignoring other huge Grade 1 races in New York to run in Grade 2 races in California will basically cause her to come in a distant 2nd in H.O.Y. voting. If she had come east again to race against the best in her division instead of running in the lowly graded stakes that she ran in on synthetics in Cali would possibly put her over the top.  But running against the likes of Romance is Diane, Dawn After Dawn, Indescribable and Fleet Caroline, Santa Teresita, Kris’ Sis and Double Trouble do not leave a big impression when looking at competiion or make a big impression when looking for H.O.Y. honors.  I understand that they want the award because she ended up undefeated, but the competition that you run against has as big an impression on winning an award as your race record.  Curlin ran in 7 races this year, 6 of those were Grade 1's, although he doesnt have a shot BB ran in 7 races and 5 were Grade 1's, Ginger Punch ran in 8 races 6 of those were in Grade 1 company, even Music Note who ran 6 times this year ran in 5 Grade 1's, and her record was very impressive, but more impressive is she did it against the best all year long, Zenyatta didnt. The reason I make mention of this is because there are no issues with running in Grade 2 races but if you want horse of the year you can't run against lower tier competition and go undefeated, while the rest of the H.O.Y. candidates are running in nothing but Grade 1's against the very top-caliber competition.  That is like in boxing when you wont fight the champ but you want the belts when he loses, you can not back into an award of this nature you have to go out and garner this award by going and beating the best consistently not 1 or 2 times.  The prime example of that is the 3 year old filly division, none of these horses ducked each other.  Proud Spell and Music Note met each other to settle the eclipse awards on the track as Larry Jones said, that is impressive.  Again no knock against Mr. Moss and Mr. Sheriffs due to keeping the best interest of the horse in mind but dont look for a H.O.Y. award to just be given to you.  


2008 Horse of the Year: Curlin in a landslide

30 Oct 2008 6:28 PM

Hey Draynay,

How many of those were based in Europe? lol. Great 3 year old Euros, yes. Oh, And you forgot Goldikova.

30 Oct 2008 6:37 PM

Sorry Steve & Draynay, but BB will be forgotten by the end of next year let alone be remembered in 10.

30 Oct 2008 6:41 PM

Curlin made have run his "fastest" 9 furlongs in the BCC, but I don't think it was his best 9 furlongs.  The Santa Anita Poly-Ride track is lightning fast and not equally comparable to dirt tracks in terms of time.  Although the sun doesn't rise and set in Beyer Speed Figures, they clearly define trends and when differences are large, are probably significant and real.  Curlin's Beyer Speed Figures clearly demonstrate that his BCC was not a first class effort for him, and more on par with his turf performance.  

30 Oct 2008 6:50 PM

Big Brown did as much for racing as the other 15 to 20 horses that won 2/3rds of the triple crown only to fail in the Belmont. If he would've won the Belmont, he'd be remembered. Instead another one bites the dust, and the focus goes on Zenyatta next year.

30 Oct 2008 6:51 PM

Respectfully Steve I just can't go with this.  His back half of the year form is just not there.  He and Curlin both had dicier years when they went off Winstrol (I know the first instinct is to say 'we don't even know if it helped' but bear with me) and the lack of it kicked in. That's taking Dubai into account for Curlin. (I know Dubai's hard on everybody). I can't help but wonder if the appetite stimulation, the effect of Winstrol that I don't seem to find being contradicted, particularly after the World Cup and on the Triple Crown trail would theoretically help deal with the drain when the horses otherwise would be less successful. Keeping weight on a horse is an issue in the TC/World Cup situations and they didn't have the pick me up.  It explains why Curlin looked flashier last year, esp during the TC trail.  His ability got to shine through because his weight was staying on. It didn't make either horse more talented, just better able to reach their potential when their bodies would otherwise not hold up as well. The amazing performances happened while the stuff (the same steriod) was still in BB's and Curlin's systems.  

Curlin tailed off but his class took him on home even in a G1 turf race. BB fell completely apart in the Belmont and the Haskell was only an unfortunately brief redemption (again, on class, not on physical ability, he was less impressive to a lot of people).  I honestly think they avoided the Travers because they thought it was harder but didn't fess up to that, they avoided Curlin when he was in a race they'd previously mentioned for Brownie.  He could've tried going up against Commentator but avoided that too.  To me the totality of accomplishment and class puts Curlin easily above BB.  Brownie's got the 'well we know what he could've done' award but that's it.  

I hate not rewarding Curlin so if he got it I won't be upset (there are worse things than a tie too) but Zenyatta kept her form all year and largely matched Azeri's championship season right down to only leaving California once but to a stellar performance with those ears cocked as they usually are.  

Cigar didn't have a Zenyatta breathing down his championship neck so it makes his HOY win despite those end losses a different animal.  Big Brown turned his feet into peanut brittle on a regular basis.  I say reward horses that stayed sound all year over brilliant but tenderfooted horse like BB.  Then between the two, Zenyatta was lil miss 'poetry in motion.'  She should've lost.  With that running style and her breaking from the gate a bit like a bear leaving the cave after hibernation, she shouldn't have done what she did.  We gave Favorite Trick the award as a 2yo and to me, Zenyatta was more impressive in her division.  I went back to watch FT's Juvie win and yikes, without Grand Slam and Souvenir Copy, it's really slim pickins in the category I remember.  He was terrific but Zenyatta's the one that combined form, class, ability, speed, quality of competition, star quality, ease of win.  I know the idea of Curlin in the Clark's been suggested.  Wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have him, Commentator and Zenyatta meeting.  Good luck getting her there, but she could do it and we all know it.

30 Oct 2008 7:00 PM


2007 Curlin

2008 Big Brown

2009 Zenyatta

30 Oct 2008 7:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen, I didnt say it wasnt important, I just said I dont think it should have any bearing on Horse of the Year. He achieved most of that money by winning two races. Invasor, Cigar, and Pleasantly Perfect won the same two races, but they weren't quite as lucrative at the time. Earnings are relative. When Kelso had the money title, there were no races over $100,000. Having the earnings record is historic for as long as one holds it, but that's as far as it goes in my opinion. There are Japanese horses you've never heard of that have earned $16 million.

30 Oct 2008 7:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Kate, you can't go with what? It sounds like we agree about the steroids issue and I said I havent made up my mind on who I'm voting for. You're not saying you go with the fact I havent made up my mind yet are you?

30 Oct 2008 7:36 PM

I don;t have a dog in this hunt, but you can hardly say Big Brown had a "physically and mentally demandng Triple Crown" campaign when he was basically on vacation on the run up to the Belmont and didn't even finish that race.

Even his "copnenctions" talked about how well rested he was after the B. Stakes.


30 Oct 2008 7:54 PM

I love them both (and Big Brown for that matter), and perfect is... well, perfect. But I believe Curlin's country crossing, world traveling schedule was a tougher campaign than Zenyatta's. And for that, he deserves Horse of the Year.

Maybe if we're lucky we can have this same debate in 12 months time - - keep your fingers crossed!

30 Oct 2008 8:08 PM

Don't exactly think you are right,  THE ROCK....Big Brown will not be forgotten for many years...every time you see a UPS truck, you WILL remember him...the big brown awesome horse who did a lot for horseracing!  He needs to be in there for the vote..although, my first love is  Curlin...GO CURLIN! I would be happy for either of them to be HOY

30 Oct 2008 8:10 PM
Lord Carson

"But don’t we at least owe it to the horse and his remarkable accomplishments to place him in the same category as Curlin, who also beat up on inferior competition all year."

I agree with much of what you said Steve and if you read my earlier post you will see I have Big Brown second in my vote. However I don't agree with the above statement. To be fair we really have to judge both horses as 3 year olds. Curlin may have beaten inferior competition this year, but he beat quality competition last year. Big Brown beat inferior competition period. Curlin at three was better than Big Brown at three and by virtue of that BB really cannot be put in the same category as Curlin. Curlin beat all the top horses in 2007 including a MUCH BETTER 3 year old crop. He also beat Lawyer Ron (Handicap Champion) twice. Big Brown's overall quality of competition this year if you look at it objectively  does not come close to Curlin's last year. Not only was this one of the weakest and slowest 3 year old crops in recent times but he didn't beat any top hanidicap runners. (Please don't mention Proudinsky and Shakis. Wasn't Shakis 50 lengths behind Goldikova? Ok not that much, but he could have been beaten that far if the filly wanted to. Ok I'm still joking.) In 2007 Curlin had taken down the top handicap horse even before the Breeders Cup. Big Brown had that opportunity on two occasions this year(Woodward and Jockey Club) and passed both times. His three year old resume doesn't match that of Curlin's in my opinion. And since he won't have a four year old resume... well you get the point.

30 Oct 2008 8:11 PM
Lord Carson

There is also another interesting vote for 2 year old champ. Midshipman vs Vineyard Haven. Who are you voting for there Steve? The vote usually goes to the BC winner, but I think Vineyard deserves a shot to win. To be honest, listening to Frankel, he doesn't really seem to care too much about 2 year old champ as long as he wins the Derby or one of the TC races with Vineyard.

30 Oct 2008 8:17 PM

I don't think that just because Curlin wasn't quite as impressive in the latter part of the year should matter much at all. The bottom line is that he still won the Stephen Foster, was second in a Grade One on the turf (beaten by a former BC champ), won the Woodward, and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup. There were other champions who didn't blow the competition away  - - they just did what they had to do to get their noses under the wire first. Isn't that enough?

30 Oct 2008 8:18 PM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, I have mixed feelings about this also. Curlin has accomplished a lot, but his last few races haven't been impressive and he didn't look as fit as the horses who won the classic. Like you said, there was a change in both his and Big brown's performances after they were off the Winstrol. I think their training regimens may have had a lot to do with that as well. 5 or 6 furlong works once a week or so just don't seem to be enough to turn around and ask the horse to do that on a distance over twice as far.

Each of the horses listed has their pros and cons. All I can tell you is from personal experience, and I've written you about this before. I was very in to horse racing when I was younger and then got busy with life. My touchstone with the sport were the Triple Crown races. Until I saw Big Brown run this year. It gave me goosebumps and I remembered why I liked the sport and have gotten into it again. curlin didn't do that for me and Zenyatta didn't do that for me. But Big Brown did. So what is the goal of HOY - is it rewarding the horse that wins the most races unbeaten - Zenyatta wins; the horse that expands it's horizons the most - Curlin wins; the horse that excites the 'outsider' and brings them in - Big Brown wins. Man, what a hard choice!

30 Oct 2008 8:30 PM
russell maiers

Hey steve, of course Big brown gets on the list for horse of the year. Also, no one ever has to apologize for feeling one horse is higher up on the list than another. Thats what makes reading your articles and the comments here great! Non of us need to bash another horse to make our favorite seem better. Now my opinion. I would have to give it to Curlin, and for runner up, as to who was better between the tremendous lady and mighty Big Brown I will leave it to wiser people than me because I would have them at a tie. My final(but not only) persusion is this-

Make a column for each of the three horses and list the horses by name who they beat in their respective columns this year. You can also list who beat them. When I did this Curlin got my vote.

I have one more opinion,

Looking at my lists for the three, I have come to the understanding that I don't give near enough credit to the modern horse. I have been one, and for some good reasons, to always put the horses of old like most of us do to a higher ranking than the modern horse. Making lists of some of the old greats and comparing them to lets say Curlins list is eye opening. My hats off to Curlin for all the new and different things he has tried. My hats off to Big Brown and Zenyatta for their run for horse of the year.

30 Oct 2008 8:48 PM

HOY isn't given based on last year's efforts, so no matter how good Curlin was THEN, it doesn't count NOW.

And as far as criteria, I'm pretty sure you have to be a division champion to be considered for it (Barbaro not withstanding).

Curlin is a very good horse. An exceptional one. But I have to say that as much as I loved him earlier this year, his losses on grass and synthetic kinda take a bit of the "greatness" luster off him. The truly great find a way to win even on surfaces they don't like. But I digress.

And I'm still not sure that his Dubai efforts can or should count for a U.S.-based award. If that were the case, then heck: Give it to Zarkova! Now, SHE'S a HOY!

30 Oct 2008 9:01 PM
A Canuck's Comment

I've read all of these comments from so many knowledgeable horse people. Obviously, everyone has their favourite. The HOY selection is beginning to sound like it will be chosen like World Championships in figure skating (I certainly hope this isn't the case). I agree with those who say that Curlin has run as a 4-yr old, on every track, in Dubai, and has always turned up, no matter what. Big Brown, if his feet has cooperated, may have been able to do just that. Zenyatta, how can you question her accomplishments? I am a Curlin fan, tried and true and I hope he lands the HOY title; in my humble opinion, he deserves it. But - if you talk about money - Curlin is leading money winner at $10M+ with 15 starts - our John Henry is down the list with 83! Now, who is Horse of the Year(s)?

30 Oct 2008 9:08 PM

Karen in Indiana: I couldn't agree with you more. As much as I love Curlin and Zenyatta, when BB stepped on to the track, it was pure excitement. His performances this year were thrilling to say the least. He had a "grand showmanship" style of running. I love BB and I will never forget him. I will never forget the way I felt when he accelerated in the Preakness. It was jaw dropping and I had to watch it over and over and over. People can say all they want about BB but at the end of the day, you simply can't take away what he did accomplish.

30 Oct 2008 10:01 PM

Sometimes I almost wonder if Big Brown's "fall from grace" and all the "bad air" that surrounded that have made Zenyetta a stronger contender then she might have been otherwise.  She is a super filly, no doubt, if not entirely battle tested.  (I thought the BCC was the first race I saw her really stretched at the wire - hats off to Cocoa Beach who ran a great second and could be a force to be reckoned with in the future).  Everything about her is feel good.  Great owners, etc. and nary a blemish for us to deal with.  Curlin has been "savaged" (as was Big Brown) for disappointing us by some.  So much of us rides on their back.  I am a Curlin fan, but I have really enjoyed Zenyatta and Big Brown and think they are both superior horses.  However, I really think Curlin has faced bigger and more varied challenges and ALWAYS showed up - and mostly, he won.  THAT'S what champions do.

Nobody remembers Cigar's turf races (he ran in 11 1-2-4)- but everybody remembers Cigar.

30 Oct 2008 10:37 PM

I think both Zenyatta and Curlin have strong cases.  BB, not as much, although I know the TC carries a lot of weight.

In this case, it comes down to who did they beat and on that end I give the edge to Zenyatta.  She beat Ginger Punch in the Apple Blossom and a plethora of G1 winners in the Distaff (yes I"m calling it that).

Curlin's resume doesn't do it for me.  Dubai--Asiatic Boy, Well Armed and AP Arrow???  At home--Einstein (on dirt), Wanderin Boy, Pass the Point??  Not exactly the type he beat last year.

30 Oct 2008 10:50 PM

Q.  Who is Brownie Points?

A.  She beat Ginger Punch in the Apple Blossom too.

30 Oct 2008 11:59 PM

Each of the big three has a softness to their records. Curlin had two losses, one on the biggest stage of the year and his wins were against not impressive company. Big Brown won only once in open company (an ungraded race) and his competition was weak. Zenyatta did not face colts. Each has impressive strengths. Curlin traveled, tried three surfaces and showed up every single time. For a stretch of three races, Brown was brilliant. Zenyatta was perfect against some damned impressive company.

I wouldn't fault a person for voting for any of those horses. I think what will really hurt Brown in the voting, though, is that his connections had chances to put him in better races (open company) and they chose not to. If they needed to go easy on the feet, then why not find a graded grass race? I'll not fault Brown for the foal crop he ran against in the TC races, but his connections did not showcase him well after. For that reason, my choices are down to Curlin and Zenyatta. For brilliance, domination and durability, I'm going Zenyatta. Maybe.

31 Oct 2008 12:15 AM
The Deacon

I think Big Brown's connections will cost him a lot of votes, fair or not. Zenyatta is a freak but HOY I just don't think so. Curlin did more, he did not duck anybody but in the end Pro Ride did him in. There are no clear-cut answers here, just opinions and like me, everyone has one. Great work Steve as always..............

31 Oct 2008 1:36 AM

Let's vote for Curlin and Big Brown as Co-Colts of the Year...Zenyatta as Mare of the Year...and Stardom Bound as Filly of the Year.  (And Steve Haskin as Horse Writer of the Year!)

31 Oct 2008 2:45 AM

nay nay,

Once again I repeat myself. The Big Ole Browneye never faced any true G1 competition. The 3 you mentioned would have whipped him on dirt, grass, or fake crap if he had faced them.

In a couple of years most people will not even remember him except fot the fact he failed in the biggest race of his career right from the start. That and the 3 yr olds he faced were simply nothing special when he faced them. I agree with you who the top 3 yr olds were (Zarkova, Raven's Pass, and Conduit)and he never faced them much less the top older horses. I also agree that you listed the Big Ole Browneye 4th on that list. He's no higher than that. Europe produced some very good 3 yr olds, America not so much and that's who Brownie ran against all year. The weakest bunch of 3 yr olds I have seen a Derby winner face ever.

A half effort (he only raced 1/2 the year) and the fact he faced way less than the best 3 yr olds and older horses isn't enough to be HOY no matter how many races you win against inferior competition at the time you face them.

The 20 hole in the Derby will produce another winner some time in the future. It was a brilliant move to select that slot. When you know the competition is so weak and you have a horse capable of front end speed to stay out of trouble it makes perfect sense to select a slot you can stay out of trouble from. The line to the first turn from the 20 hole is so insignifigantly different than from the 1 hole that it affords the opportunity to get there without being caught up in the tangled mess of horseflesh from another post. I would not be surprised to see connections take a good long look at selecting the 20 hole especially when they have a horse with speed. The Big Ole Browneye had the added advantage of running against below par 3 yr olds as well. He simply had to stay out of trouble to win and the 20 hole gave him the perfect setup to do that. It was an advantage to be there this year not a disadvantage like in other years when the competition was much better. Same as his Fla. Derby win from the 12 hole, he was facing nothing much at all. Smooth Air was not nearly as good then as he was the end of the year (Brownie was peaking)and who were the rest anyway?

It was good to see you place Big Brown no higher than 4th on your list of 3 yr olds. Finally you see some light. It was also interesting to see the others you mentioned were not any Browwnie faced. We got a 2-fer from you. There are better 3 yr olds than The Big Ole Browneye and he never faced any of them.  

31 Oct 2008 8:31 AM

I think it's really sad that draynay has resorted to begging someone to vote Big Brown HOY. He just doesn't deserve it. He did not face the best 3 yr olds and he did not face the best older horses either. To be the best you have to beat the best and he didn't face any of them much less beat any of them.

His accomplishments are signifigant but we must take into consideration who he ran against and who he lost to as well. If he had beaten the best 3 yr olds (Raven's Pass, Conduit, Zarkova) or any of the top older including Curlin I'd be on the bandwagon too. He never did.

draynay you should take a chill pill and quit stressing out over the Big Ole Browneye. He's not going to win HOY no matter how many times you get on your knees and for who you do it. The powers that be and those with far more insight than you know he didn't earn it. Their vote will prove that.

31 Oct 2008 8:51 AM

I've never understood how a horse could be considered HOY when they didn't face open competition. I have no problem with a filly being HOY as long as they have faced and beaten open competition. Zenyatta could have faced vastly superior competition than she did but her owners chose not to. At any point she could have taken on males. I think that's the key difference between her and Curlin. Curlins connections sought out the best competition they could find. They ran him on a variety of surfaces. Zenyattas connection chose a different route.

31 Oct 2008 9:18 AM
Larry Zap- co-host Race and Sports radio

I do not see how anyone can be objective in voting for horse of the year. My vote would go to Zenyatta because she has totally dominated her competition with such devastation to the extent i have never seen before without winning by large margains. It seemed like everyrace Mike Smith left her with much to do without needing to panic because he knew she was that special. Curlin did not regress as a four year old, he actually improved a bunch. He left a lasting impression in the Breeders Cup in 2007 over a track that did not agree with most horses over sloppy conditions at Monmouth. He couuldn't beat Rags to Riches and had trouble getting by Lawyer Ron, who will never be up for any all time anything discussion. In 2008 he just dominated whoever could show up on conventional dirt in important [even if they were by name only] races. I watched him closely since he arrived at Santa Anita and he looked very healthy for a horse who had been everywhere, but i really believe when he met his biggest challenge he failed. Don't get me wrong, he ran a big race over pro-ride, but he was fourth best on a track that lets every horse who attemps it get over it. Raven's Pass and Henry quite frankly outkicked him as did Tiago, who was sitting on the race of his life. Remember that when Zenyatta went to Oaklawn she loved it. When Curlin went to Oaklawn as a three year old, he loved it too. Zenyatta had a prep race over pro-ride, but Curlin had a chance to train over it. In 2008 you can bring these two great equine athletes anywhere in the world and put them on any surface. I truely believe Zenyatta wins every time!

31 Oct 2008 9:49 AM

Gun held to my head?  Curlin!  But I wouldn't complain too loudly if Big Brown or Zenyatta got the nod.  I love all three.  And, aren't we so fortunate to have seen these three magnificent horses run in the same year?

I think a lot of the voting is going to be about these three horses' connections.  It's happened all year.  People in the business saying they don't want BB or C to win because of the steroids or the bluster or past reputation of their trainers or the owners not being 100% "acceptable" to us the vaunted racing aficiondos who, most times, are far too judgmental.  I think those who vote in the Eclipse awards in the solitude of their secret vote will let a lot of this factor into their decision.

That leaves Zenyatta with some extra votes.  No one seems to be disrespecting her trainer or owners.  

So, it wouldn't surprise me that Z takes HOY, but it won't be because her performance can be held up to Curlin's or Big Brown's.  No, it's because her connections are much more acceptable.

31 Oct 2008 10:19 AM
Diane J

Nothing against Big Brown, but those of you who say he should get HOY because of the excitement he brought to racing - that argument doesn't hold up.  Look how much Smarty Jones' run for the Triple Crown did for racing, and he wasn't voted HOY.  I supppose he was an inferior horse to BB as well?

31 Oct 2008 10:22 AM
Katherine Cyrier

I think a good case has been made for Big Brown, Curlin and Zenyatta. All three have been a treat to watch this year. T think the filly as been fantastic, in California. Maybe she will show up in other places next year. Curlin is a great champion and so is his owner in my opinion. I loved watching him race across the desert sands and I have never seen him look better than he did in the Classic. Classic outcome was disapointing, I really wanted to see him win, but Curlin's effort was magnificent. Curlin's connectioins did not give him as much prep for a grass race as they did for Dubai, nor did they give him as much prep for the synthetic race as they did for Dubai. Had they followed the Dubai model for the change in surfaces I feel the results would have been entirely different. That is not to imply criticism, just my observation. I can't thank Jess Jackson enough for what he has done for racing and allowing us to enjoy the magnificent Curlin this year. I have to say that if were to vote I would probably give it to Big Brown. The thrill he gave me waching him winning the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness reminded me of Secretariat. It does not matter what the crop he was running against did or did not do he was in a class by himself. The fact that he did this with sore feet makes it all the more remarkable. Just my opinion

31 Oct 2008 10:28 AM

schabelli you crack me up.

I can picture "nay nay" on his knees begging votes for Big Brown (the rest I'm blacking out). You are dead on in saying Big Brown doesn't desreve the honor of HOY simply by the fact he never beat the top of his class or any other. He never even raced against any of them.

I don't agree with anyone who says it's not his fault who he ran against. The connections of Big Brown had more than one opportunity to seek out Curlin and others but balked at the thought. Blame them nay nay. Had they shown the confidence and had the courage to go against better and he beat them I too would be on the bandwagon. It didn't happen just like HOY won't happen for your Big Ole Browneye. Time to move on nay nay, lifes too short to obcess over something so trivial with the problems we face today.

31 Oct 2008 10:29 AM

I am always miffed when people herald Big Brown by saying he won every race he finished.  I mean, what does that say exactly?  It's OK to quit and leave behind the mysterious legacy of "was it the steroids", "was the race fixed", "was it better to quit mid race than to cross the line off the board".  Well, if any of that is true, perhaps Curlin's connections should not have put him in the Classic because it "pays" to "not finish".  On the other side of the equation, does winning every race, mostly within your comfort zone, put you in front of taking on huge worldwide challenges, loosing a couple, taking risks, breaking records and doing what few have done before, and always showing up as a champ for the sake of the sport and the fans?  What has Big Brown or Zenyatta given us this year that really compares to the body of work Curlin has consistently given us throughout the entire year?  The truth is I don't think we ever really got to KNOW who Big Brown really is...quarter cracks, on steroids, off steroids, not finishing, "made to order" grade 2 turf race, and etc.   And, I do not believe that a filly should ever HAVE to beat the boys to win HOY.  But, Zenyatta, as great as she is and I LOVE her!!, does not offer a year of heading straight into BIG challenges, time after time, and consistently looking for the next hurdle to jump.  Also, whatever one thinks about beating Cigar's earnings, Curlin's record is now the one to beat, and THAT made history.  Two years, $5M+ each in earnings.  Come on...Curlin for HOY!!

31 Oct 2008 10:38 AM
Will W

Granted Curlin may have been a bit short for the Classic on a synthetic surface with only one five furlong work and possibly not as dominant off steroids and after the rigor of a grueling campaign that took him to Dubai but the best explanation for his loss in the Classic is that of Raven's Pass' trainer John Gosden:  "a high speed cruising horse like Curlin who gallops his opponents into submission is vulnerable on a synthetic surface to a horse with a quick burst of speed" like these European turf horses. Gosden's success testifies to the fact that he knows whereof he speaks. Steve Asmussen agrees stating unequivocally that the surface beat Curlin as the race played like a European turf race. Curlin's last three races were quite similar. Far back early he made big moves on the far turn to take the lead in early stretch and won by what he needed to, toying with the opposition and compiling respectable Beyers.  In the Woodward he passed Past the Point and when that horse came back on him in deep stretch Curlin pulled away again to win. In the Jockey Gold Cup he passed Wandering Boy with Albarado but shaking the reins at him and maintained a short lead to the finish. Even in theturf race, the Man O'War, he came to contention with a similar  big sweeping move on the far turn, but a European turf horse, Red Rocks, was ahead of him and pulled away from him late with a quick burst of speed. In the Classic the European turf horses were behind him following him closely to the lead by design and their quick acceleration again proved too much for Curlin on a synthetic surface that played like the turf. In light of the similarity of his last four races the most likely conclusion is that the surface beat him, especially in light of the time he ran for the distance - his fastest ever for a mile and a 1/4 as Steve Haskins points out. A European turf horse with a quick burst of speed trumps Curlin in deep stretch on turf and synthetic surfaces. Now, as for HOY, its time for Curlin and Zenyatta to meet in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26th and settle the issue at the track on the American racing surface, the dirt, and be done with this endless subjective speculation about who is HOY.  Hopefully, racing fans with their letters and emails can open the ears of the interests of these two great champions to settle this dispute not in blogs but at the track and on the dirt.

31 Oct 2008 10:48 AM

Thanks for answering Steve. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Curlin runs in the Japan Cup.

31 Oct 2008 11:02 AM
Mike S

Horse of the Year ranking:




In that order.

31 Oct 2008 12:48 PM


I thought you were out on the contentious blogs....

You almost lost me then saved it when you wouldn't say anything negative about Zenyatta.

BB accomplished a lot in the first 5 months of the year, not a full year. But if there had been nothing else impressive the rest of the year he may have won it. This may cause another round of garbage but I almost think, since he wasn't hurt in the Belmont but wasn't ridden out for whatever reason even if it was just that Kent didn't want to finish last. That people would be a little bit more favorable ala Charismatic. But the debacle had everyone focusing on all the negatives and none of the positives. The Winstrol question, the human connections, the foot etc, etc.

Like it or not though, it's not always about performance, it's also about politics and to a lot of the turf writers (not saying you)it comes down to who they like in the human side of it if there's no clear cut superstar horse.

Given that, Zenyatta, undefeated in graded company. John Shireffs, nicest guy ever. MIKEY good guy and as my wife says "he's a cutie with a great smile and personality"

The Moss' seem very nice and lovin life.

Otherwise it's pretty much a wash, just no Favorite Trick, please.

Will hope for a real superstar with great fields next year.

Like we always say, just wait til next year.

(still off subject but I'm devastated that I won't be able to say that about my Alma Mater, Arizona at least not for our original Midnight Lute)

31 Oct 2008 1:02 PM

Barb  I know you are new to bloggs so maybe you want to become another Draynay and fight with eveyone. I don't think I said any horse digraced themselves. I did say that Mike Smith gave Tiago a great ride which enabled him to nose out Curlin. I also said that Tiago isn't even close to being in the same class as the top three finished. Hes's a very,very nice horse but reminds me of Perfect Drift(no disgrace)

31 Oct 2008 1:04 PM

"I love Zenyatta. I loved being around her before and after the Breeders’ Cup, as evidenced by the 200-plus photos I took of her arriving at Santa Anita and back at the barn following the Ladies Classic."

I actually got you on video taking photos, Steve.

I think both Curlin and Zenyatta are deserving, and a tie would be sweet as pie.

31 Oct 2008 1:16 PM

Hey Steve. I've got a great idea to settle all of this. Let's have the horse racing version of the BCS standings to compute the top ranked horses for the year. Wouldn't that be a kick!

31 Oct 2008 1:27 PM
The Deacon

Zenyatta is very deserving of HOY honors. She beat the best fillies and mares in the land. The Ladies Distaff had one of the strongest fields in recent memory. There were no slouches there. But can a fillie or mare win HOY honors? Azeri did it and she was pretty special. I think that was a down year for the colts with no clear cut favorites. Curlin is just the logical choice. He traveled abroad and won the richest race in the world. He won at many different race tracks and he did not duck anyone. Like Smarty Jones, and Afleet Alex before him, Big Brown is a nice colt, but he is not the HOY. Sorry Draynay.............

31 Oct 2008 1:39 PM
Nickie Trees

Let me see. Big Brown destroyed his competion his first two races. Wins the Florida Derby from post position 20, an impossible post to leave from. Wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, falters in the Belmont. Wins another Grade 1 race the Haskell, then wins his next race on the grass against some pretty good horses. Why wouldn't he be considered for horse of the year. If you don't give it to BB, then give it to Zenyatta because Curlin did everything not to race against BB. It was kind of funny to me that although Curlin was at Santa Anita training, they waited till the day after BB was hurt and scratched to say he was running.  I know in my heart Big Brown would have won that race but I guess will never know.  

31 Oct 2008 2:26 PM

I'll give BB that he was up to second in the International Ranking, currently tied for 4th with Raven's Pass & a couple of others. His pPower numbers are good, too, so yes, I think he deserves to be in the "mix". Zenyatta was awesome in her class, she never was on the Rankings.

Curlin's #1 in both International and Power Rankings, he's HOY.

31 Oct 2008 2:30 PM

Zenyatta may not have beaten the boys but remember, Curlin got HOY last year but never beat the girls (i.e. Rags to Riches)

31 Oct 2008 2:36 PM

i strongly feel that curlin shoud be horse of the year as he has done so much more then zenyatta, true she is very good but hgood do you need to be only racing against her kind who she has beaten over and over to me that does not warrent hoty honors. i hope curlins gets the hoty award.

31 Oct 2008 4:24 PM

Nickie, you're seriously going to say that Curlin's connections did everything they could to avoid Big Brown? Brown ran in races restricted to 3YO until the last race of his career -- and that race was ungraded and on grass, a surface Curlin's connections were done with after the Man'O War. It was announced well beforehand that Curlin would run in the Woodward and JCGC, and Brown's connections could have entered him there but chose not to (which I don't necessarily have an argument with as he's their horse). But to say Curlin ducked Brown is patently unfair and untrue.

31 Oct 2008 6:35 PM
Golden Gate

This is one year i believe that Zenyatta and curlin should be tied for horse of the year honors and Big Brown should get runner up!!

I love all three of these horses and look at the jockeys who loved and rode them too. I was crying when Albarado was stroking Curlin's neck and telling him how how good he did after he ran 4th and the tears in his eyes when he was telling the media that the horse did good and that he ran his heart out. Their is love for you.

31 Oct 2008 6:47 PM

Steve, you know a lot of people.  Maybe you could put the bug in someone's ear about having a special award for a horse like Pepper's Pride.  Even though she ran restricted races she still won them all.  

I just can't get into this Big Brown, Curlin, Zenyatta thing.  On one hand we have a horse that just had some terrible luck and there have been many that went that road:Big Brown.  Then we have a horse who never lost a race and looks like a champion even though she never "left home" so to speak. (I don't need to say who I am thinking of) Finally, we have a horse who has been all over, and you and I both know what a lot of traveling is like, and has always shown up win or loose in the most prestigious races. (I would still like to see the Jockey Club Gold Cup return to a 2 mile event, yea when hell freezes over.)  Even taking it all into consideration, no matter what we think the decision will hopefully be made by those who are capable of being objective.  They can't make us all happy.  What ever the decision I have the belief that all of these wonderful horses that competed this year will go down in the history books.  So when are you planning a book about the trials and tribulations of 2008?

31 Oct 2008 8:43 PM
Steve Haskin

Marcie, you should have said hello.

31 Oct 2008 10:32 PM
Paula Higgins

I totally agree with Steve about BB. I love that horse. Even off the steroids and with feet of glass, he had heart. I won't forget him. But I totally agree with most people on this board and others, that Curlin should be HOTY. Zenyatta is a wonderful horse and a case can be made for her too but Curlin has been dominant for 2 years in a row. So what if he isn't quite as great as last year. His record still speaks for itself. To me this is just no-contest. I disagree that his breaking the winnings record shouldn't be considered. That's what he is going to be remembered for when all is said and done. I also think someone's connections should have nothing to do with HOTY voting. It's about the horse, not the people. Curlin-HOTY.

01 Nov 2008 1:04 AM

NO horse should be held accountable for the competition they faced but it is a huge compliment when the top competitors know where you are going to be and choose not to show up!  Curlin has been great for racing and a deserving horse of the year I believe.  There's one thing nobody has mentioned that I wonder about his last 2 races (before the BC).  He didn't "blow them away" but he won without being under any real pressure - ever consider that is his preferred running style now...?  There have been a number of horses in history that won by small margins reportedly by their choice - they did "just enough to get the job done". Maybe that makes it more exciting..?!  Big Brown was also terrific but too bad his connections ducked the competition after the Belmont. Can't imagine anyone holding his connections against him though.  Zenyatta is awesome - I hope she runs next year!  The one thing I really hope does NOT happen is that a horse who only raced in this country in the Breeder's Cup gets voted champion in any category.  It is a championship for the WHOLE year of racing in the U.S. not just one race!!!!

01 Nov 2008 1:23 AM

Davey700, that was just about the biggest LMAO comment that I've seen in a long time!  Excellent!

Now, to the question of the meaning of earnings in this day and age.....consider the current top 25 North American earners, then consider......


Seattle Slew


Spectacular Bid


These immortals are nowhere on that list, and that's only considering a 35 year span.  Forget the immortals that came before that.

Earnings meant something, to be sure, 30 years ago, but money won really means nothing now to anyone except the connections of the horse that rakes in the dough.  Curlin has done some remarkable things in his career, but I'm sorry....he would have trouble warming up the 5 that I mentioned above.  The fact that he's earned $8M or so more than those guys means diddly-squat!

All that being said, if I had a vote, I would vote for Curlin for HOTY.  Jess Jackson didn't want Curlin to run in the Pro-Ride Classic, but he ultimately answered the call because the Breeders Cup and racing needed him.  I think Curlin would have had HOTY pretty much locked up if he hadn't run, and now, because he lost, he could be punished for running in the first place.  I don't think that's right.

But I don't have a vote.

01 Nov 2008 1:32 AM

Davey700 he lost to Hard Spun, Rags to Riches, Any Given Saturday, and  Street Sense last year and all of them were retired.  He comes back and wins a few races but each time he faces TOUGH G1 talent he loses. In the championship race at the end of the year he doesn't even hit the board and they want to give this horse HOY.  They should give him the LUCKY TROPHY of the year. Lucky that the horses that beat him last year were not around to do it this year.

01 Nov 2008 8:42 AM
m burry

Horses of the Yar it should be because it is hard to separate them but I guess it would go to Curlin as he won at many tracks and is the top money winner of all time ... but I still like Horses of the Yar ... love Big Brown

01 Nov 2008 10:02 AM
m burry

The horse should not be considered by connections (ridiculous) but by his performance. For me Big Brown come out of nowhere. I had picked my Road to Roses stable with no Big Brown than came Florida Derby and that was it, he was my horse. I feel I should have paid attention earlier on and will try to do better this year.

01 Nov 2008 11:35 AM


You mentioned Curlin lost to Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday, and Street Sense. True, BUT...

Curlin beat Hard Spun three times, in the Preakness, Belmont, and the Classic. He beat Street Sense twice, in the Preakness and the Classic. He beat Any Given Saturday twice, in the Derby and the Classic.

I'm just confused how you say he lost when facing tough competition, yet he beat these horses.

Ah well. I'm going to stick with what I said in the other blog, and say we will never "get" the merits of each other's favorite horses.

Cheers, and happy blogging.

01 Nov 2008 12:37 PM



01 Nov 2008 2:02 PM

Ok, who ever said DaTara for HOY up there is out of their blinkin minds!  He's done thing since his fluke in the Belmont.  And Big Brown didn't pull himself up, dummy, KD eased him (go back and watch, Big Brown didn't want to stop).  And Big Brown wasn't the reason for most of the bad things in horse racing this year.  People didn't like his connections (how is that Big Brown's fault?)  and the rest is the media's.  (You could make a case for not liking Curlin's connections to so I reall wish people would get over it) Big Brown did great things for horse racing.  Go back and look at the year he had, the things he did and the way he did it.

So, thanks for bringing Big Brown up, Mr Haskin.  I've always totally agreed with you about pretty much everything you've written but especially about Big Brown.  It makes me sad that so many people can't see what a great horse he was.  I've always loved Big Brown and rooted for him, even before the Florida Derby and before the world knew who he was.  I was just crushed when he was injured and didn't get to prove himself in the Classic once and for all to the world and all the people who didn't think he was the real deal.  I know he was.  I know he has many, many fans but I also know that lots of people truly missed the boat with this horse.  

GO BIG BROWN!!!  I'm coming to Three Chimney's next year to see you!!!

Again, great article Mr Haskin.  Thank you.

01 Nov 2008 4:13 PM
Steve Haskin

The mention of Da' Tara is no doubt merely a feeble attempt at humor and should not be addressed in any serious manner, so just ignore that. I have no problem with anyone voting for Curlin or Zenyatta, or even feeling Big Brown is not worthy of Horse of the Year. What I cannot understand are those who feel he doesn't even merit being mentioned or be put into the mix, as if his accomplishments are meaningless. There are three finalists every year for HOY, so those who berate the horse obviously dont even feel he deserves to be a finalist. That sounds more personal than anything else, as if Dutrow or Iavarone did something hurtful to them personally. As I said, I havent decided who I'm voting for, but I'm certainly not going to block him out of my mind completely as if he doesnt exist or was just some mediocre horse this year. He deserves at least to be considered even for only a few minutes.

01 Nov 2008 4:37 PM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, I agree with what you just wrote. People are acting like the connections of big brown have done something personal to them. Sure, Rick Dutrow has a mouth that doesn't get controlled very well, but I don't know of anything Mike Iavarone has done in the horse industry that warrants hostility. He (IEAH) donates to charity, is building an equine hospital, has outlawed steroid use in their horses and is gracious in his interviews. Other than keeping Dutrow, who does seem to care for his horses a lot even if he is rude to people, what has he done? Did I miss something?

01 Nov 2008 5:14 PM

Steve I really appreciate your columns for insight and balance.  In my opinion Curlin should be voted HOTY for the following reasons:

1)He was the star attraction for the sport all year alongside Big Brown. (The latter's connections made the tactical blunder of letting too much depend on showing up at the BCC, hence BB's loss)  

2)He 'danced every dance' showing up at both the summit events: Dubai World Cup and Breeders Cup in the same year (winning one and performing creditably in the other), while winning always on his favourite surface.

3)He campaigned at the highest level on surfaces outside his comfort zone (Grass and Synthetic) with distinction/without being disgraced.

4)He achieved the career earnings milestone (a significant accomplishment), topling the immortal Cigar,this year.

5)His connections deserve to be made to feel gratified for being enterprising and courageous with their champion (in contrast to others who played it safe and conservative expecting that the HOTY title is a reward for easy pickings).  Don't you agree?  

01 Nov 2008 5:29 PM
Paula Higgins

I agree that earnings are not the prime consideration when looking at a horse's career. But the fact that a horse is the all-time money earner so far, is not chopped liver and makes the record books. So, maybe Curlin isn't Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Affirmed, but he is still one hell of a horse and should be respected. What is the point to comparing him to Secretariat and the top 10 horses of all-time?? You know what bothers me about these blogs, all the people who look at a horse's career as a "glass half empty" and not a "glass half filled." I am infintely grateful for whatever a horse can accomplish and Curlin, BB, Zenyatta and Pepper's Pride have been a joy. Lot's of great racing memories for this girl.

01 Nov 2008 5:38 PM


01 Nov 2008 6:09 PM

MikeM, I am not interested in fighting with anyone. I went back and reread my 2 posts and don't think I was offensive and I certainly wasn't singling anyone out with my comments, only responding to the totallity of the comments. There is a lot of drama involved in some. But it seems like you and I agree. :) friends? I have some friends who like to go with me to the track but no friends who are fans of the sport so I enjoy this opportunity to express my thoughts to people who get it (Thanks to Steve) and really am not wanting to fight.

01 Nov 2008 6:19 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen in Indy, to answer your question simply, no, you have not missed anything. You're dead-on.

01 Nov 2008 6:35 PM
Steve Haskin

Hawkeye, sorry no more books. Sadly, there is no way of awarding Pepper's Pride any Eclipse Award, as none exist. I'm sure her connections take enough pride in what she accomplished and the publicity she received and don't need a statue to remind them of it. Remember, Eclipse Awards are for people. They are the only awards where the recipients couldn't give a darn whether they win or not, and are not even aware of them. They'd much prefer a little extra molasses and a few carrots.

01 Nov 2008 6:43 PM

I agree with you Barb I sure don't think you said anything offensive. You made a comment about the race which is your opinion fair enough. Everybody else has their's as well fair enough.

01 Nov 2008 6:47 PM
Steve Haskin

TVnewsbadge, if you dont think Big Brown's lack of training for two weeks and having his hoof hacked at and medicated and patched was mentally demanding you should have seen what a wreck he was the week leading up to the race. And anytime you subject a horse with so little racing foundation to the rigors of all three Triple Crown races, while breaking from post 20 in the Derby, it is physically demanding. It took BB a good week or two to recover mentally from the Belmont ordeal.

01 Nov 2008 6:49 PM

Secretariat was given such praise for his 3 Triple Crown performances. I am sorry that Big Brown will not get equal praise for his 3 consecutive performances in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness. Had he not been stepped on and pulled up who knows what would have been but what a shame. I can argue that those 3 performances by Big Brown were every bit as good as the ones Secretariat posted years ago.  No one remembers Secretariat's loss right before the Triple Crown races or his loss right after.  I think its going to take time but when true fans of this sport look back and look at what Big Brown was able to accomplish with little foundation and sore feet people will wonder how anyone did NOT consider him Horse of the Year.

01 Nov 2008 7:16 PM

i think the horse of the year should prove that he ran against the best in his or her division, most of the time at classic distance and dominated.

for argument sake lets goto facts and figures:

Zenyatta ran 7 races this year of these 2 @ 1-1/8 and the rest at 1-1/16

all these races were Gr. 1 or Gr.2

1 race on dirt and the rest on artificial.

Her Dirt and artificial surface performance numbers do not differ much, so lets assume she like both surfaces.

of all these races she dominated on maybe 2 races.

Curlin: raced 7 times . Except for 2 races at 1-1/8 All the rest were 1-1/ or more.

he won all his races on dirt.

he lost 1 race on turf and 1 race on artificial.

All his dirt figures were good except for the 2 races he lost.

Most of the trainers including the euros have said that SA's surface makes the field even, meaning that turf horses can handle artificial well.

As we see Curlin did not handle turf to e on top of the turf division and since artificial surface suits turfers better. Should we not rate Curlin on his dirt races only, where he ran and as did Zenyatta against the best in his division and dominated 1 race more than Zenyatta. And that most of his races were at 1-1/4 or more. If not then lets include Midnight Lute and Benny the bull.

01 Nov 2008 9:05 PM

Steve, Big Brown does deserve mention. But to have someone compare him to Secretariat and have a Triple Crown created from the Florida Derby, Ky Derby and Preakness, come on. That right there is part of the reason a lot on here don't take it seriously. If a guy who I won't name has to invent a new TC format to justify the horse, it only demeans the whole process. Like you said the Triple Crown takes a lot out of the horse, Secretariat lost after WINNING the TC. So Draynay, that supports Steve's point that a lot was taken out of the horse.

Not sure if you saw it or not Steve, but Midnight Lute had a patch right before the BC, he tore more of his hoof off just a few months ago, maybe his age, experience, maturity and handlers made the difference there though.

01 Nov 2008 10:05 PM

I watched Big Brown's derby and his Preakness again today on You tube and even after all this time and even after everything I know, I still get goosebumps watching those replays. This horse was exciting to watch and that for me will never change.

01 Nov 2008 10:27 PM


  Don't even compare the two, Sec was way way way better. Secretariat ran an american record in the Belmont, and track record in the Derby, w/o steroids. BB had a few decent races against a bunch of nobodies, and even if BB hadn't gotten stepped on in the Belmont he still would've lost, because he couldn't stand being pinned on the inside and was extremely rank, by the way Sec could actually rate anywhere in the field. Also the reason people don't take notice of his losses is because in most of his races he had legit. excuses, and in every other race he was spectacular. Secretariat is the most brilliant horse and greatest horse in history, and BB is not even comparable. O and  a legit exuse is not saying oh the horses shoe came off because he broke out into another horse and messed himself up, or oh he can't race on the rail w/ pressure cause he gets rank, that is not greatness.

01 Nov 2008 10:55 PM

Paula, I didn't mean to compare Curlin with the immortals that I listed.  My mistake was saying that he couldn't "warm them up".  I might think that, but that wasn't the point I was trying to make.

Big Brown won the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness.  He also made a good money score in the Haskell.  Those four races alone gave him lifetime earnings of well over $3M.  Spectacular Bid also won the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness.  But he also won the Marlboro, the Bluegrass, the CH Strub, the Santa Anita Handicap, and the Woodward (in a walkover).....all among many other victories.....and his career earnings total is just under $2.8M!

I didn't mean to compare Curlin to Spectacular Bid, or any of the immortals that I named.  I just want folks to get real on the earnings thing.  This year, Big Brown earned about a million dollars more than Spectacular Bid won in his whole career!

Forgive me for comparing horses, but is Big Brown ever going to beat Spectacular Bid?

Don't think so!!!

01 Nov 2008 11:00 PM
Paula Higgins

Draynay, I agree that BB accomplished alot with a major foot problem which he dealt with all year. It is stunning to me that he was able to do what he did. I too think he is underappreciated. So you are singing to the choir. If Curlin wasn't in the mix he would get my vote hands down.

But I do think Curlin deserves HOTY. He is an amazing horse also and the case for him as HOTY is pretty slam dunk. Let's give both of these horses their due.

01 Nov 2008 11:26 PM

The differince between Secretariat and Big Brown is Secretariat WON the Triple Crown.

01 Nov 2008 11:44 PM

My point is simple...those 3 Triple Crown races made Secretariat famous. He lost before and after those races.

Big Brown had the misfortune of having his best 3 be the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness. And unlike Secretariat Big Brown won before the Triple Crown and after the Triple Crown.  So... because Big Brown gets stepped on and pulled up in the Belmont he loses EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING he did is now wiped clean? His impossible win from the 12 post at Gulfstream...his foundationless win from the 20 post in the Derby... his hand ride home in the Preakness. Even his bounce back from grueling Triple Crown races victory at the Haskell and his victory against older Graded Stakes winning turf horses.  ALL of you are taking everything away from Big Brown and everything he did because of a freak accident.  You are all willing to forgive Curlin getting whipped on turf and Pro Ride but you are not willing to give an inch to a horse that got stepped on and pulled up at no fault of his give me a break.  Maybe all of you need to step back and understand that Big Brown accomplished all of those amazing feats while running on injured feet.  Maybe the fact that many of you can only point at Big Browns defeat in the Belmont says more about you than it does about Big Brown.

02 Nov 2008 8:31 AM

I think that EIGHT BELLES deserves to be Horse of the Year.   She raced with "The Big Boys" and came in an impressive 2nd.  She ran her heart out, gave her life for the sport, doing what she loved.

Eight Belles, Horse of the Year.

02 Nov 2008 9:59 AM

Steve Through my feeble atempt at humor I was trying to make a point about some of the ridiculous comments made by some concerning Big Brown. I love a serious debate based on some sense of logic but it has become tiresome reading Draynays feeble attemt at logic concerning Big Brown. Oh and by the way,BigBrownFan,I was being kind to Big Brown,he either pulled himself up or Ken D pulled him up becausse he was about to be beat by thirty plus lengths.Try not to show your lack of knowlegde when  blinded by your obsession of Big Brown.

Barb, I thought we agreed. No hard feelings.  

02 Nov 2008 10:05 AM

LDP... do you read what you post before you post it ???  Secretariat lost and had a legit excuse but Big Brown getting stepped on and bending his shoe is not ?  Big Brown faced a bunch of nobodies and Secretariat did ???  How about telling me about all the great horses he faced and tell me how many times in his WHOLE career he faced more than 6 other horses in a race...... I'll wait....

In my opinion the 3 races put together by Big Brown Fla. Derby, Kentucky Dery, and Preakness were every bit as impressive as Secretariat's Triple Crown races.

Remember that some of the sheets have Big Browns Kentucky Derby as the best EVER.

02 Nov 2008 10:08 AM

um yes Dray i actually do read before i post, while you seem to copy and paste your oppinion every time. If you don't get that it means your redundant, and sound like a broken record. Obviously you didn't read all of my post. Whose fault was it that BB shoe came off, o, if i remember correclty he actually bent it back the right way, and had a spread shoe throughout most of the race. The answer is it was Browns own fault. If he had had his mind on business he wouldn't have spooked and broken out into the other horse, causing the other horse to step on loosen his shoe. That to me is not a legit exuse, since he caused his own dimise. Had he had his mind on business and not paying attention to god knows whatever else was going on, broke cleanly, and Guadacanal broken out into Brown, then that is legit, since Brown did not cause that. That is my oppinion, sorry if you don't agree with it. O also tell me when i said that Browns Derby was not spectacular. I have said this billions of times, i do think Brown was a super horse, when he did not feel his feet. My theory is that the Winstrol was acted like a asprin or motrin, and relieved the pain in his feet. Basicly it sort of did what Bute does, which make a horse feel better, and relieves some of the soreness. I also belive in the whole package, which includes a brillinat horse that is sound enough to run w/o meds to help with his nasty feet. I belive had BB had good feet he would've been great, and one of the best. Lastly just to let you know though i can't stand Dutrow and IEAH that has not detered me form this horse. I think a sound BB and a healthy BB is a Super horse, and could possiby beat Curlin, and in saying that would've been one of the immortals of the last thirty years. Now i still preffer Curlin, cause of his talent, guts, and soundess. Because of the soundeness Curlin is overall in my oppinion better, cause as the saying goes no hoof no horse. You can't race a lame horse no matter how brilliant or great they may be.

02 Nov 2008 11:09 AM

Dray, not being rude, just pointing out, Sec was famous before the TC. Many saw his brilliance and potential to be great in the hopeful. If i remember correctly he was HOY as a 2yr old. The TC races, namely the Belmont is what deemed him great. BB races in the triple crown and the FL Derby, deemed him brilliant. Had he raced in the classic and won i would deem him great, with no hesitation, since i do already think he was brilliant.

02 Nov 2008 11:14 AM

I think all 3 horses in their own are great horses.  I am a fan of all three.  I was also a Eight Bells fan.

I personally thing that Zenyatta should be named horse of the year because she went undefeated, and Big Brown should be 3 year old champion.

I was hoping that Big Brown would run in the classic to prove himself yet again.  Also, Big Brown beat the best of the 3 year olds we had this year.  It isn't his fault that he was born when he was.  I just hope he is a good sire and his sons or daughters can carry on his heart and fire and courage.

I also hope that Zenyetta and Curlin will also race next year.

02 Nov 2008 11:32 AM
Pam S.

To Draynay, are we sure the reason for BB's puzzling Belmont performance (or non-performance) was the rough trip/shoe problem?  To other posters, are we sure he was going to be last if allowed to run?  

Wasn't he actually pulled up to be on the safe side due to a death threat on the Iavarone family, issued in the form of a letter from a crazed PETA member or someone similar?  This is what everyone watching the BC heard last week for the first time, and it just adds more intrigue to the question of what really happened in the Belmont and why were we denied a TC winner yet again.

Take away the Belmont, and Big Brown did have a stellar career.  It's hard to compare him with great horses of previous generations because racing has changed and lighter campaigns are the norm these days.  

However, in the annual Horse of the Year debate, Big Brown would not be the first deserving animal to lose out due to bad racing luck or other factors beyond his control.

02 Nov 2008 11:56 AM


Just think what Cigar's earnings would have been if purses where as big when he was racing that they are now.     $$$ would be out of site

02 Nov 2008 12:15 PM


02 Nov 2008 12:50 PM
Paula Higgins

Margi, I DO understand your point that the greats in the sport shouldn't be dinged for not making a ton of money. No argument there at all. Their records on the track speak for themselves. I do think Curlin making the record books as greatest earner is significant.   Could BB or Curlin win against the true greats at their prime, I think they could. I think in any given race much is possible by a good horse. As much as I loved Seabiscuit, was he really the better horse over War Admiral because he beat him in a match race? Few people expected Seabiscuit to beat War Admiral but yet it happened. Seabiscuit was a truly great horse but most people would place War Admiral ahead of him in the Pantheon of Horses. To me, it depends which talented horse "shows up" on any given day. That doesn't mean I think the great and good horses are all equal. I think some horses are clearly more dominant given their body of work. Yet even Man O' War and Secretariat got beat. Stuff happens in races.

02 Nov 2008 1:01 PM


02 Nov 2008 1:38 PM
Paula Higgins

Danylson it would be great to see Curlin back again. I don't know what's in the cards for him. Some people think that since he has been off the steroids he has declined a little. That's probably true. But I also think with some rest and good training he has a chance for another good year. So maybe he wouldn't be quite as dominant as while on steroids, but he wouldn't be far off. But he needs to run on dirt clearly and forget the synthetic stuff, safer or not.

02 Nov 2008 5:13 PM
Paula Higgins

Danylson, I agree with you also that BB was special. If he hadn't had the foot problem I think he would have ended up as one of the greats. As it was, he ran his heart out and I think he would have run his heart out in the Belmont if he had been allowed to finish. I would love to see Curlin go another year because I think no one would deny him the adjective  of "great" if he had another stellar year. For me, he is one of the top 100 horses of all time.

02 Nov 2008 5:19 PM

Draynay, Secretariat beat Sham (the most underappreciated horse ever and the horse who ran the 2nd fastest Derby ever, talk about a bad year to be born...only 1 horse in the history of the race ever ran faster and he was in the same race...I'm sure Sham would be happy to trade crops with BB), Forego, Riva Ridge, Kennedy Road, Angle Light, Cougar II, and Our Native to name a few. And he did run in races with more than 6 opponents many times(including his final race...field of 12) and it's certainly not his fault that people didn't want to run their horses against him...Forgo's trainer completely avoided him on purpose saying he did not want his horse to look at that "big red ass" again. He was HOY at 2 & 3 and he excelled on turf and dirt. 35 years later his records still stand, no horse has come closer than a full 2 seconds behind his Belmont time, thats roughly 10 lenghts. So come on, there is no comparing BB to Secretariat.

02 Nov 2008 5:49 PM

As much as I love you Steve, I can't read all the posts on this blog.  The Big Brown hatred is pathological.  The Colonel, I did read your post about the Monmouth stakes and like you I think it is one of Big Brown's best races.  I love when he spurts away in the stretch.... that is what it's all about!  Zenyatta is HOY.  Curlin is the third choice.

02 Nov 2008 6:06 PM



02 Nov 2008 7:42 PM
Steve Haskin

HS, No problem. I'd much rather be loved by you than make you read all the Big Brown hate blogs. So, feel free to skip all those "Down on Brown" comments. And keep the love coming.

02 Nov 2008 7:59 PM


02 Nov 2008 8:10 PM

What I sometimes wonder about, is when we talk about Curlin or BB being so "flat" without steroids . . . what about all those so called greats of yesteryear?  The ones who we never saw without steroids?  

Just curious.

02 Nov 2008 9:51 PM

I think what Curlin has done in his 2 seasons on the track is just unthinkable!  To go from breaking his maiden in his first start by 10 lengths, or whatever it was, in February, to running a troubled third in the Kentucky Derby and winning the Preakness in May, running second in a race for the ages in the Belmont in June, to dusting the top older horse in Lawyer Ron twice in the JCGC and Breeder was just sensational!  Then, he goes to Dubai in March this year and turns in the most sensational performance I've ever seen in that race.  Only Dubai Millenium's DWC comes even close.  Then, he wins the Stephen Foster in an absolutely sick performance that makes the rest of the field look like $40K claimers.

They tried him on the turf...why not?  Smart Strike is one of the best "hidden turf" sires on the planet, and he finishes 2nd in a GI, splitting two BC Turf winners.

I guess he tailed off after that......excuse me?  He won 2 GI races on the dirt with the Woodward and the JCGC (for the second time).  Yes, he didn't win them impressively, and the horses he beat in both those races weren't supposed to warm him up.  He won them anyway, just like he was supposed to do.

After he did all that, his connections were bombarded with demands that he run in the Breeders Cup.....he was supposed to be the savior of the event after Big Brown retired.  His connections didn't want to run him on a surface that they weren't sure about, but they did the right thing.  He finished off the board for the first time in his career.

Curlin probably had HOTY locked up before the Breeders Cup.  His people started him, against their own judgement, for the good of the Breeders Cup and for the good of the game.

They were pressured into running him bigtime.....should he be punished for it?

My vote is for Curlin for Horse Of The Year.

02 Nov 2008 11:02 PM

Barb you don't know what you are talking about.  Sham was nothing special and did not even race after

Belmont.  The fact that he was nothing special tells you how fast the track was running that day at

Churchill.  Colonel John is more accomplished than Sham.

02 Nov 2008 11:04 PM

Sham was 19 5 5 1

Oddly enough, although Secretariat has the largest heart ever measured, Sham has the second (yet again!) largest heart measured.

03 Nov 2008 12:13 AM


  Sham was pretty accomplished, and i'll bet he didn't race after the Belmont, after practicaly collapsing after trying to keep up with our "temendous machine". How can you race a horse after something like that, there's no way. Heres and idea why don't you go and look up why he didn't race afterwards, i'll bet theres a darn good reason for it.

03 Nov 2008 5:55 AM



03 Nov 2008 7:57 AM

Curlin,  hands down for HOY. He has clearly done more than any other horse this year; raced on three different surfaces in two countries and has won over $10 million dollars,  do they even need to have a vote,  how ridiculous.  What is more ridiculous is the NTRA stating in there news brief about the breeders cup wrap up,  that Curlin ran a surprising fourth in the classic.  So,  his fourth place finish in the classic WAS A SURPRISE; really,  considering that the horse has never run on a synthetic surface before and the NTRA is surprised,  that is hilarious. What would be a surprise is if " horse of the moment" Raven's Pass,  had run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Belmont's main track,  and won;  now that would be a huge surprise,  but Curlin not liking the synthetic surface,  that is not a surprise. Zenyetta is wonderful, she really is, but has she raced on any other surfaces this year besides synthetic or has she traveled abroad to face an international field????????  Calling the synthetic surfaces leveling the playing field for the europeans is comical.  When an american goes over to europe to run,  what do they race on? a nice dirt surface to level the playing field for the americans,  OH NO,  they HAVE TO run on the grass;  there are no surface choices for them to get their best edge. This sport has finally succeeded in making me want to vomit!

03 Nov 2008 10:55 AM

LDP ... why do you make me repeat myself ? Colonel John is more accomplished than Sham. And he ran on a busted leg in the Belmont that is why he never ran again.

For all of you that want to vote Curlin HOY please tell me his 3 great performances this year that you would base it on.  I assume everyone will say Dubai...give me two more brilliant performances.

03 Nov 2008 11:22 AM

Barb it sounds to me like you do know what your talking about.

03 Nov 2008 12:43 PM

Curlin or Zenyatta are equally deserving of HOY but Curlin will get it due to his body of work. Also, the only thing they will talk about in ten years is how BB started his stud career in KY at $65m and now stands in NY for $5M.

03 Nov 2008 3:12 PM

Draynay,   Sham won the SA derby in 1:47 flat (which i believe is still the fastest time for the race) Colonel John won in 1:48 and change(on pro-ride which will alter your opinion, I'm sure) and I do believe Col. J's prior race was a win in the SHAM stakes. I really like CJ and am not trying to belittle his accomplishments, just pointing out some facts.

  And thanks Wanda I appreciate the support.

03 Nov 2008 4:18 PM

Hey Golden Gate, I'm glad I wasn't the only one.  I, like you, got emotional watching Curlin's defeat in the BCC.  It really surprised me too since I'm not part of Curlin Nation.  It was sad to see him run his heart out and come up short, and the love that Albarado was giving him.  Another sad performance was that of Ginger Punch.  I don't understand how she got so far back to be LAST in the stretch, but she was coming on late.  I really have to question Frankel's decision to run an over the top horse (especially one that he loves so much).  

And Barb, I'm with you on the blogs....they are the only place people like us can talk horseracing.  I bore the heck out of people in my life with my fervor for the sport.  As an aside, does anyone know what it was that people were seeing in Student Council that made his odds soar to 44-1?  And of course it was validated by his performance.  Maybe Asmussen does need to rethink his training style for synthetics.

03 Nov 2008 4:54 PM

Dray, what do you mean? You repeat yourself so good on your own. O i'll give you more than three of Curlins stellar performances

1.) the Dubia World Cup, which was equal to Dubia Millenium's dominating win.

2.) His warm up befor Dubia, why because though he faced mediocer competition he did it while carring 132lbs, more than Brown ever carried.

3.) Though still facing mediocer competion he won the Steven Foster giving 10lbs to his nearest opponent and up to 18 to the farthest and still won by 41/2.

4.)last years Classic, this does show that he can run on more than one surface, since many horses only bring their A game when running on a fast track, and he won by again 41/2 beating a very talented field.

5.) Last years JCGC, because in his first time taking on older horses, he went and beat the head of the division, Lawyer Ron, who had been in his last two races been making a mockery of any others that raced him.

6.) Last years Preakness, because in the fifth race of his career and facing a stellar group of 3yr olds he re-rallied showing heart and courage to nip SS at the wire. This also shows curlins profesionalism, and SS lack, a true great stays focused and will keep on coming no matter if he's out in front.

7.) His AK Derby, which even though he ran against mediocer competion he showed his greatness by drawing off w/ ease to a 103/4 length win.

Curlin has dominated more than BB ever has, more than CJ ever has. Big deal if he got a little tired after dealing with all the travel, the races. This horse went way out of his comfort zone more than any horse this year, and because JJ decided to tried something new, and an experimen went wrong we'll penalize the horse. Curlin has done everything required of him, he has won on tracks all over the country, He's raced on the world's biggest stage, Dubai, not the BC, and until the BC gets more international attention it won't be bigger or more prestigous than Dubai. Why do you think it gets more international stars? In order to be considered better than the Champion you have to beat them, like Curlin took down SS and Lawyer Ron. This year it was BB's  turn and he failed to do so.

03 Nov 2008 5:59 PM
Big Brown Fan

Seriously, of all the people who post on here, I am not the one with a lack of knowledge.  

I can't read these posts anymore.  I just can't stand all the Big Brown hating going on here.  If you don't like him, fine.  But you don't have to put down everything he did.  

You call me blinded by my obsession...well maybe you're blinded by your hate.

03 Nov 2008 8:23 PM

LDP....good points...for argument sake lets goto facts and figures:

Zenyatta ran 7 races this year of these 2 @ 1-1/8 and the rest at 1-1/16

all these races were Gr. 1 or Gr.2

1 race on dirt and the rest on artificial.

Her Dirt and artificial surface performance numbers do not differ much, so lets assume she like both surfaces.

of all these races she dominated on maybe 2 races.

Curlin: raced 7 times . Except for 2 races at 1-1/8 All the rest were 1-1/ or more.

he won all his races on dirt.

he lost 1 race on turf and 1 race on artificial.

All his dirt figures were good except for the 2 races he lost.

Most of the trainers including the euros have said that SA's surface makes the field even, meaning that turf horses can handle artificial well.

As we see Curlin did not handle turf to e on top of the turf division and since artificial surface suits turfers better. Should we not rate Curlin on his dirt races only, where he ran and as did Zenyatta against the best in his division and dominated 1 race more than Zenyatta. And that most of his races were at 1-1/4 or more. If not for argument sake lets include Midnight Lute and Benny the bull

03 Nov 2008 10:11 PM


Don't let lil ole draynay bother you. He needs someone to lash out against and this time he chose you.

First of all you are correct in your analysis of Sham. nay nay says Col. John is more accomplished than Sham and he has won more races but Colonel John has only had the Big Ole Browneye and a slew of weak 3 yr olds to compete against. Sham had far better competition. Col. John hasn't faced anyone like Sham did. He may have won more but that doesn't make him better. If that was the case then nay nay's Browneye would be in obscurity since thousands of horses will end up with more wins than Brownie will. Literally hundreds will end up with more graded wins than the Big Ole Browneye but that won't make them better. Brownie was a flash in the pan who burned out after the Preakness and never faced top flight G1 competition in his life. Sham is more accomplished in that reapect.

Ignore the lil ole nay nay, he just lives to be contrary. You have more horse sense than him.

04 Nov 2008 2:50 PM

Big Brown Fan,

Sometimes the truth hurts and you can't spin the fact that Big Brown for all the races he won just didn't beat anybody that good. That's not hate for the animal that's fact.

It's not putting him down for what he did, it's putting into perspective who he beat. There have been many horses in the past who have not won the Derby or Preakness but would have surely beaten the ones Brownie did this year. Big Brown was born under a lucky star. The star of mediocrity that shines over the ones he beat.

No hate there, just fact.

04 Nov 2008 2:57 PM


draynay just can't grasp reality. While Curlin has beaten true G1 caliber horses multiple times his Big Ole Browneye never ran against one. Not one time did he face a true G1 caliber Horse. The 3 yr olds who he faced have won G1 "classified" races. By that I mean they won G1's restricted to 3 yr olds only and this year they didn't beat much. None of the 3 yr olds this year outside of Brownie could match up against Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday on his best, and others from just last year not to mention previous years. I doubt the Big Ole Browneye would win many against those either. Hard Spun would have run him into the ground and the others would have blown by. We'll really never know because he never attempted a race against anything near as good as those. Duck Duck Dutrow cowered from the competition.

04 Nov 2008 3:21 PM

For all you BB haters, $65,000 stud fee sounds pretty good.  I guess Three Chimneys thinks he is a good horse.  I love BB and will continue to say he is a great horse, who gave his best.  Isn't that all you can ask of an animal or human?  

04 Nov 2008 10:20 PM

We don't hate BB; how can you hate a horse who tries his best? His best just wasn't impressive put into perspective with better horses against better competition this and last year. It's quite simple! Let BB have his fun with the ladies! Go visit him! And let the rest of us ignore Dranay and his his idiotic, ludicrous nonsense doing nothing but annoy us.  I guess the only way Dranay can feel good about his BB and himself is by trying to put other horses down while trying to annoy us by pushing our buttons.  Let's not even lower ourselves to his level anymore.  Maybe then the "Dranay nonsense" will stop! Do you guys really want this non-stop Dranay crap to continue? Aren't we horse racing fans? Shouldn't we admire our horses and their accomplishments instead of "fighting" in this increasingly stupid blog? I know I'm done.  Hopefully, horse racing can continue despite the Dranays of the world! Let's enjoy our sport and its wonderful and magnificent athletes!



05 Nov 2008 12:38 PM

Is this for the american horse of the year or for horse of the world?  Horse of the year should go to Ravens Pass, Henrythenavigator or Zenyatta.  The first two, just to remind everyone are american horses they are not european, they are european owned but arent all horses owned by Frank Stronach, or Invasor and Bernardini call themselves europeans since they are owned by Dubai Sheiks that are mainly referred in this country by their european connection. As i can recall, we give eclipse awards to horses like High Chaparral, Miesque, Fantastic Light, Ouija board, banks hill, the list goes on, of only one win in this country, why not give The american Ravens Pass, who was bred in stonerside in kentucky and was still owned by an american until 2 months ago the horse of the year.  Now please do not say its because of synthetics, Curlin is a great horse, but he is not a legend like many of you put him out to be.  The earnings record, is just a result of inflated purses.  Can you imagine how much money affirmed would have made with the races he won during these times?,  Curlin ran his best time ever for a mile and a quarter, he was just not good enough.  Stop saying track favored the horses coming from Europe.  Let me just say this, Phar Lap came to America, having never run on dirt and beat some of the best in the Caliente Handicap who was the richest race in the world back then, Round Table, Kelso, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Exceller, Northern Dancer, Damascus. All these horses and many others more ran on all surfaces and destroyed their opposition, so stop it with the track bias.  They were truly superior horses than anyone around them.  Now, for the last 40 years we have been living a lie.  We have been selling our best horses to foreigners, while we glorify what stays in this country, the lie has caught up to us.  How many european champions have we really had here in the breeders cup, i can tell you not many.  Some have and have conquered, others like Giants Causeway and Sakhee, wouldve done the same had it not been for Tiznow, who is proving his greatness as sire as well. Swain wouldve won had it not been for Dettori.   What would had the likes of Sinndar, Montjeu, Zarkova, Dalakhani, perform in the Breeders Cup, when the likes of Daylami, High Chaparral, and Red Rocks have put on a show against our best. CAn anyone imagine  how many triple crown winners we might have now, had our greed not gotten in they way.  Ill give you a list: Sir Ivoe,Nijinsky,Mill Reef, Riverman, Roberto, The Minstrel, Storm Bird, El Gran Senor, Sadlers Wells, Alleged, Secreto, Shareef Dancer, Peintre Celebre, Seattle Dancer, Nashwan, suave dancer, Spinning World,Fantastic Light, all these are either canadian or american bred horses who were taken away from us, but conquered across the atlantic.  Now just a reminder what wouldve happened had the likes of these horses had come to America and take on what we think were the best we had, i mean their influence is immensed in the american breed, all we see are pedigrees filled with the names mentioned above.  I have my eyes open very wide and i will no longer live this lie.  Our best american horse is called Ravens Pass, he went to europe and conquered, came back home and conquered.  We have made our bed now we have to lay in it.  And just a footnote, so it can really hurt and all ive said can really stick in all your minds.  In the 1987 Breeders cup Turf, Theatrical was being overtaken by Arc conqueror Trempolino at the top of the stretch.  The whole crowd started to boo, then the 5 year old Theatrical came back and overtook the 3 year old, and the cheers came roaring back.  Durkin called Theatrical the American, Trempolino the European.  Tom like many of you live in fantasy land.  Theatrical was bred in Ireland, Trempolino was bred in Kentucky.  America we booed our own horse, and cheered the invader.  We booed a horse who conquered the best in europe and that was owned by american Bruce Mcnall.  Stop living the lie.

05 Nov 2008 11:13 PM
Nobiz Like Shobiz

HOY should be given to the deceased BARBARO who in death has done more than any of the contenders above.  While he physically is nothing but a box of ashes in the Jackson's closet, his legacy has done more for racing than any living horse.  The voters should consider this before casting a vote for either of these 3 inferior (to BARBARO) horses. From beyond the long blue tunnel of the afterlife, BARBARO's influence will benefit racing and equines for many years to come.

I am even naming my firstborn child BARBARO.  The eclipse voters should at least give BARBARO this award.

09 Nov 2008 10:02 AM

I think that if you want to say that Zenyatta ran all but one of her races on synthetics, you need to at least acknowledge that she ran over four different synthetic surfaces.  We know that they're definitely not all the same.

16 Nov 2008 1:41 PM

Just an addition if anyone with a vote cares about what a horse may have done for someone.  This was a very difficult year for me to get through; but because of CURLIN all year long giving me something to look forward to and someone to cheer for from spring into fall, I got through somehow because - thanks to CURLIN - I had a focus necessary for me to basically get through some very tough months.  I even went from Michigan to Louisville in June to see this magnificent horse in person win the Stephen Foster big time! What a treat to carry me through! The added bonus was also seeing Pyro, Dreaming of Anna, and Hystericalady win their respective races.

I thank CURLIN for giving me a year and a half of excitement and beauty combined with incredible talent and athleticism. I especially thank him for this year of giving me focus.  I may not be the only fan with a similar experience; for that reason and all his accomplishments, I think he deserves HOY.  In my book, he already is and always will be for both 07 and 08!


18 Nov 2008 12:21 PM

Thank You Steve for this blog article!  I got into a similar argument on another website regarding Big Brown's accomplishments, and the fact that he has not been mentioned in the HOY argument.  I keep reading "he didn't beat anybody"...Well, neither did Curlin or Zenyatta for that matter, she beat a great crop of fillies, but she didn't race the boys...Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying Curlin and Zenyatta aren't deserving of HOY.  I am not saying they aren't amazing athletes, but they haven't beaten any tougher competition this year than BB.  BB also won on dirt AND turf-and he beat graded stakes winning older horses in the Monmouth.  A win that-despite its closeness-seemed easy for BB.  He has some good arguments in his favor.  

Cigar lost to Dare and Go (a good horse, but not great) of all horses to end his amazing winning streak, but that loss doesn't diminish his accomplishments. (and before you all freak out on me, NO, I am NOT comparing Big Brown-or any of these three for that matter-to the Greatness of Cigar)  What I am saying is one race does not condemn a horse...If it did, perhaps the Classic should condemn Curlin as well.  If perfection alone is what we are after then we should end this conversation by giving HOY to Zenyatta-an amazing racehorse in her own right and the only one who had an undefeated season and won with amazing ease-and won on both dirt and synthetic.

When it comes to the two big Boys, Why does it seem we have to be a fan of Big Brown OR Curlin, why is it so hard to be a fan of both?  They are both amazing animals, and I for one am overjoyed that I got to watch them both run and I hope they both go on to have amazing stud careers.

The facts are these, people hate on Big Brown because they don't like his connections, or because of the Belmont craziness.  Was it the hoof problem, was it getting stepped on, was it the heat...Personally I think it was a combination of the factors-I am sure for a horse so lightly raced and used to coming from the outside and around traffic, getting stepped on and having a loose shoe for a little while was a new experience.  We don't know where he would have finished if he hadn't been pulled up, but he clearly wasn't going to win that day...

People hate on Curlin because all of his 3 year old competition retired after last season and there was no one of any real substance for him to race against. They also don't like that his greatness is-in some ways-credited to him being leading money earner in history-an unreliable statistic reagarding greatness because of the rise in purse money.  Had Cigar been running with these purses, Curlin would still be trying to break that mark-and perhaps Cigar wouldn't have surpassed John Henry, or Citation from years ago ....and people knock Zenyatta because she never raced against the males....

All three have had amazing accomplishments, all three have negatives to their arguments, all three are deserving of the award, and all three should be involved in the conversation.

I know who I would tip my hat too, but I wouldn't have any heartache with any of these three getting the award.

30 Dec 2008 3:46 PM


  I know you probably won't see this because I am posting months after this blog was posted.  That being said, you are wrong about Sham.  He WAS a special horse, and he didn't run after the Belmont because he broke down during a workout and had to be retired.

30 Dec 2008 3:56 PM

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