As 2012 draws to a close, the debate over the Horse of the Year heats up. It’s a contentious group this year without any overwhelming favorite. Who did you think was the best of 2012? Here’s a look at the field:
Fort Larned – He’d fit the mold of HOY most years, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as the Whitney (G1), but this year it’s not so cut and dry. While he leads the way in the older handicap division, this division has had its share of back-and-forth jabs for top honors, and he has lost a couple of times against horses not even mentioned in HOY conversation. While the length and five length defeats are understandable, the bomb in the Stephen Foster puts a significant blemish on his record. He did endure a rough trip that day but with the resumes his competition have put forth, it may cost him.
Groupie Doll – This filly has not ducked her competition this year and has become a new animal with blinkers. A win in the Cigar Mile would have bolstered her chances at this honor but she will attract attention for continuing her campaign past the Breeders’ Cup. In a division that doesn’t put many G1s on the table, she certainly rose to the occasion every time. You just don’t see many distaff sprinters overtaking HOY honors, Ta Wee being one of the few that comes to mind. Just think if the blinkers had been on since the start!
Game On Dude – Didn’t he kind of blow it? The boys came to play in his sandbox and he didn’t show up. As nice of a record as he’s put together he’s the big fish in a small pond. Any time he faces double digits in a field it just doesn’t seem to work out for him, where his weapon (SPEED) isn’t as effective with pressure. With the game of musical jockeys being played on him lately, it appears they’re working out the kinks and should have him ready for another good run at HOY next year.
I’ll Have Another – The Derby & Preakness winner would have been a slam dunk around June 1st, but he has had his reputation muddled with his sale to Japan and the Belmont scratch. Even if he is voted Horse of the Year, it’d revive the tales of O’Neill’s suspension, injury, etc. His name has all but disappeared from tongues of turf writers, and deservedly so. Just another casualty of the Triple Crown Trail in 2012 (And there were quite a few this year.)
Little Mike – Three turf horses are in the conversation this year, but he appears to be the least likely prospect to end up with the award. It’s not that Little Mike can’t run, it’s that he bounces. Good race, bad race, good race, bad race. That last bad race was a bomb, not the kind of impression you want to leave on those thinking of betting you in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Give the horse credit for coming from a place he normally doesn’t, but I don’t think that upset constitutes Horse of the Year.
Point of Entry – This is another of the grass runners in contention, but he too would be a mild surprise. Put an impressive string of wins together this spring/summer, but like Game On Dude found a lot of the same faces next to him in the starting gate. He’s another one with a bright future but this year probably isn’t his for a crowning.
Royal Delta – Bill Mott’s wonder filly kept right on rolling this year, though she took her share of defeat among a very impressive campaign. She racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles this year, taking in seven different tracks this year while only missing the board against males in Dubai. The field she beat in the Ladies’ Classic was as deep as has ever been put together for the race, and despite being taken out of her style she still drew off with authority. She can beat you in a number of ways and she’s only four – while she may have a tough time swaying votes from Wise Dan she would be in the hunt for me if not for that debacle in Dubai.
Wise Dan – The front-runner and deservedly so. Without Ron the Greek to spoil the party this would be a very, very easy decision. He still is an overwhelming favorite for HOY honors, and what I can say you’ve probably seen at one point or another on paper. He’ll run on broken glass if they put up enough purse money, and he’ll win on the front or from behind. While dirt may be his one weakness, he still gallantly made a run in the Stephen Foster and defeated his main HOY competition (Fort Larned) in the process. Milers generally don’t get their due in Eclipse voting, but this year may break the mold.
DRF has past performances available for all divisional contenders in the Eclipse Awards, available here.
Who would you vote for? Comment below with your choice or comments!
This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.