(By Avalyn Hunter)
Each spring, The Blood-Horse MarketWatch selects a Broodmare of the Year by vote of MarketWatch subscribers from candidates selected based on accomplishments of their progeny during the preceding racing season. This year, the strong sentimental choice is likely to be Vertigineux (Kris S.-For the Flag, by Forli), whose daughter Zenyatta (by Street Cry) is the 2010 Horse of the Year and probably the most popular American racehorse of the last decade. Vertigineux is also the dam of Souper Spectacular, a Giant's Causeway colt who was showing improving form on turf during 2010 and may well break through in the stakes ranks in 2011.
Based on her lifetime accomplishments, Vertigineux is also a strong candidate for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB) Broodmare of the Year award, commonly thought of as the U.S. Broodmare of the Year title, which is limited to mares based in Kentucky and considers both the previous year's accomplishments and a mare's lifetime record. Now the dam of five foals to race, including the aforementioned Zenyatta and Souper Spectacular, Vertigineux is also the dam of multiple grade I winner Balance (by Thunder Gulch) and of stakes winner Where's Bailey (by Aljabr). (Vertigineux's sixth foal, a 2009 daughter of Bernardini named Eblouissante, is now in training with John Shirreffs.)
Obviously, both methods of selecting a Broodmare of the Year have limitations. While it is true that Kentucky generally has the best broodmare pool in the nation, year in and year out, outstanding matrons such as My Dear Girl and Cee's Tizzy have been ineligible for the KTOB award because they were not based in Kentucky. The MarketWatch award, on the other hand, is limited to accomplishments in a single year and may pass over an outstanding broodmare whose best foals are widely spaced. Also, both awards are given based on a relatively small pool of voters.
What would be the best method of selecting a U.S. Broodmare of the Year? My own preference would be for a truly national award that would not exclude mares based outside Kentucky, based on a combination of recent and lifetime progeny achievements on the track, and voted on primarily by breeders--perhaps limited to those who have finished within the top 100 by earnings nationally or the top 20 in their state within the last 10 years. But others may have other ideas. Should Vertigineux be the 2010 Broodmare of the Year? And what criteria should be used in selecting the nation's top matron?