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.

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