And The Horse of the Year Is...

Last week, I wrote in this space that the Breeders’ Cup always delivers memorable moments. Once again, it didn’t disappoint as there were a number of stellar performances and outrageous pari-mutuel payoffs. Congratulations to the connections of all the winners and participants, and hats off to the Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs for hosting a terrific two-day event.

The Breeders’ Cup results set the stage for an interesting couple of months leading to the Eclipse Awards, which will be held January 16 in Beverly Hills, Calif. While several horses such as Royal Delta and My Miss Aurelia undoubtedly locked up divisional honors through their performances at the Breeders’ Cup, other divisional races were thrown wide-open. Most notably, the debate over who should be Horse of the Year will continue. With a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Havre de Grace, Flat Out, Game On Dude—or even Uncle Mo or Stay Thirsty—could have laid claim to the sport’s highest honor. But when Drosselmeyer and Mike Smith rallied to win the Classic at odds of 14-1, they muddled the voting not only for Horse of the Year, but for Champion Older Horse and Champion 3-Year-Old Colt or Gelding as well. Click here for the final NTRA Thoroughbred Poll of 2011. Now it will be left to the voters to sort it all out and determine who is most deserving of an Eclipse Award in these and other categories.

Will it be Havre de Grace, the brilliant filly who is seeking to become the third straight female to capture HOY (following in the footsteps of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta)? Havre de Grace finished fourth in the Classic, but in front of most of those considered her key rivals for Horse of the Year. She also successfully stepped outside her division in September when she beat Flat Out and other males in the Woodward at Saratoga.  Will it be Game On Dude, who won the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup and came within feet of making Chantal Sutherland the first female jockey to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic? And what about Acclamation, who missed the Breeders’ Cup due to an injury, but won a pair of Grade I races on turf (Hollywood Park’s Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap and Del Mar’s Eddie Read Stakes) and also captured Del Mar’s signature event, the Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, on the main track?  What if Classic winner Drosselmeyer and others decide to race once more this year? There are similar storylines playing out in other divisions as well.

All of this should make for some lively debate over the next couple of months. Who do you think should be Horse of the Year? Now is the time to express yourself.  I can assure you that many of the Eclipse Award voters will be listening carefully to fans using the expanding universe of horseracing -focused social media to let their views be known.  Speak up.

14 Comments

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Alexandra Boyd

I still think it should be havre de grace. But it is really wide open and could go to anyone.

10 Nov 2011 1:21 PM
GunBow

Right now, my vote, if I had one would be:

Havre De Grace

Game on Dude

Acclamation

Acclamation, now sidelined, won't be able to leapfrog Havre de Grace, but Game on Dude could if he were to win a stakes late in the year.

10 Nov 2011 6:42 PM
sidekickflats

I think that Acclamation deserves serious consideration for older horse and horse of the year.  Five consecutive stakes races (including 3 grade 1's) from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a half over 2 surfaces gets my vote.  Consistent, versatile, brilliant (P.Classic in 2.00.61 over Game on Dude) and can get a route of ground works for me.

10 Nov 2011 8:32 PM
genie918

If I were able to vote for the Eclipse awards, my vote for Horse of the Year would be for Havre de Grace.  This year she won 5 races--3 GI and 2 G2 that included a win in the Woodward against the boys.  Her only defeats were in the G2 Delaware Handicap by a nose to the great Blind Luck and a fourth place finish in the BC Classic. In the Classic, Havre de Grace overcame traffic problems, being bumped and was still finishing strongly in the end, so her loss was respectable.  Curlin won Horse of the Year honors in 2008 with a similiar record:  5 wins/4 GI and one ungraded race in Dubai, a second in the GI Man o' War and a fourth place finish in the BC Classic.  Now, I realize that one of Curlin's win came in the Dubai World Cup--a race that adds extra points to ones resume when reviewing championship honors, but we have to keep in mind the type of year it has been in 2011.  Havre de Grace's record has been solid and consistent, so I hope that the voters recognize her as Horse of the Year.  She deserves it.

10 Nov 2011 11:49 PM
Slew

The most consistent horse of the past year has been Rapid Redux.  Sure he runs at smaller venues for a smaller training operation.  Yes, he's not a graded stakes winner.  But is that all that counts?  

Think of the PR that will boost the smaller venues and allow every horseman to believe there is a reward for the hard work they do.

Champions become exactly that by their consistency, and no other horse this year has been as consistent as Rapid Redux.

How many so called "big" trainers have placed their horses in races that they had no chance of winning?  How many "big" trainers have run their horses into a retiring injury?

Perhaps it's past time for us to recognize the "little" guys who train their horses so well that history is changed every time that horse runs.  17 runs this year alone, he's 19 for 20 overall.  Sired by Pleasantly Perfect (Affirmed) out of a Storm Cat mare, he doesn't lack pedigree.

No joke.  While I appreciate Havre de Grace, Acclamation, Game On Dude, Cape Blanco and others, I simply can't ignore the lack of consistency among the leading contenders.

11 Nov 2011 9:47 AM
Convene

Havre de Grace because she's been the most consistently impressive performer all year, against both genders. Her only serious rival was Blind Luck who has gone to be a mama. As impressive as some others have been, Gracie has never failed to deliver a stellar performance and most times has delivered all the goods. The Classic alone should never be the deciding factor unless there are two or three oh, so close overall. So my vote goes to Havre de Grace.

11 Nov 2011 12:30 PM
Zen4Zen

Havre de Grace would be my pick.  Think of how easily, for one thing, she defeated Royal Delta in the Beldame!

11 Nov 2011 2:41 PM
Needler in Virginia

If anyone wants consistency, he or she should look no further than Rapid Redux. As Slew said, this is GREAT advertising for racing, RR is undefeated through the entire year. How many of the ":big" horses can say that? At ANY level, how many can say that? And for trainer of the year: the man who kept RR healthy, in training and winning throughout 2011.

Cheers to all the other contenders, but this year there really is no argument.

12 Nov 2011 9:54 AM
Guiness

Let's here it for the girls!  Girl Power...

2009- Rachel Alexandra

2010- The Queen, Zenyatta

2011- Havre De Grace

Can we believe it?   Three years and the girls have taken the big award.

12 Nov 2011 2:21 PM
sceptre

Keep in mind that Havre De Grace also never won at 1 1/4m. Do you really believe that Havre De Grace-at her best-, could have beaten Twirling Candy-at his best? I don't.

13 Nov 2011 10:19 AM
chucky

My problem with Havre de Grace is she really couldn't beat Blind Luck at the classic distance but hey, Rachel Alexandra was never a classic distance horse either but won HOTY!

I can remember when a horse couldn't get 10 furlongs, their chances of getting HOTY was slim and none. The only time a less than classic distance horse ever won HOTY is when the landscape is littered with really mediocre horses.

This year is one of those year. So give it to Havre.

14 Nov 2011 4:37 PM
Stevebiscuit

If we're going by resumes the choice is easy: Acclamation.

15 Nov 2011 12:05 PM
Terry M.

I'm in favour of Rapid Redux, The sport is called horse racing, not stakes racing! I think a racehorse that can run up 20 consecutive wins, nearly all of them this year, is as good a representative of a Thoroughbred as you can find. Stamina, soundness, desire to run and win, never getting sour, and winning the way he won in the slop to set his record, what more can you ask of a horse? I don't care what level he is racing at. He is a racehorse and should be recognized for what he did, not what he didn't do, especially in a year when no one dominated the stakes ranks.

21 Nov 2011 11:40 PM
ksweatman9

Rapid Redux is the ONLY horse who has truly earned the honors. The sport should think out of the box this year and nominate him. Why does horse of the year have to be a million dollar thoroughbred trained by a hall of fame trainer? A horse who has won a couple graded stakes this year will get it as opposed to Redux who has won 18 straight this year making 20 consecutive wins. Makes no sense to me. Dare I say, it's discrimination.

22 Nov 2011 2:45 PM

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