Voters from the three organizations determining North America's Horse of the Year for 2003 did not have to drill very deep before finding the candidate that had achieved the most during the racing season.
In a landslide, Mineshaft defeated Congaree by a vote of 209 to 11. Ten other horses received votes from individuals within the voting organizations, members of the National Turf Writers Association, employees of Daily Racing Form
, racing secretaries at National Thoroughbred Racing Association tracks, and employees of Equibase and other industry organizations.
For clues as to why the coronation was not unanimous, a call to Sigmund Freud would be necessary. The human mind can be a strange thing.
Mineshaft finished first or second in nine starts, racing from January until September. Four of those wins were in grade I races--the Pimlico Special Handicap, Suburban Handicap, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup--and his only grade I defeat (Stephen Foster Handicap) might have been averted with a more aggressive ride from jockey Robby Albarado. The son of 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy was to have one more start in 2003, in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), but an ankle injury was discovered one week after his final win of the year in the Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup. A.P. Indy capped off his racing career with a victory in the Classic at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Neil Howard, Mineshaft raced for the partnership that bred him: William S. Farish, James Elkins, and Temple Webber Jr. After retirement, Mineshaft was shipped to his birthplace, Farish's Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky., where he will enter stud duty. His initial fee has been set at $100,000 live foal. That also is the birthplace and home of A.P. Indy, the leading sire of 2003.
Mineshaft was not a particularly precocious horse, starting off his career under the tutelage of John Gosden in England, where Farish is serving as the United States Ambassador in the Court of St. James. He debuted as a 3-year-old at Newbury in April 2002, losing that start but winning next time out at Newmarket in what proved his only victory in seven appearances in Europe. He was transferred to Howard that fall and won two consecutive allowance races that set things up for a big 2003 campaign.
Winning with an off-the-pace style that typically crushed his opposition with a strong move on the turn for home, Mineshaft should be an important sire for the Thoroughbred breed. He had an affinity for America's classic distance and surface--a mile and one quarter on dirt--a rare quality, and possesses an outstanding pedigree, coming from the top-class mare and producer by Mr. Prospector, Prospectors Delite. In addition to A.P. Indy, paternal grandsire Seattle Slew was also Horse of the Year, winning in 1977 when he captured the Triple Crown. It will be interesting to see if Mineshaft will keep that streak running by siring a Horse of the Year for himself. JUDDMONTE JUGGERNAUT
Although none of its horses received individual honors in 2003, the Juddmonte Farms of Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Abdullah received the ultimate honor a homebred operation can get when it was voted both outstanding owner and breeder. This marks the third consecutive year and fourth time overall for Juddmonte as outstanding breeder. It is the farm's second title as outstanding owner.
The late John Mabee and wife Betty Mabee have won three Eclipse Awards as leading breeder, as has Nelson Bunker Hunt. No one had won it four times, until now. It is a testament to the commitment Abdullah has to the science of breeding, and the love he has for the Thoroughbred and the sport of racing. The awards also pay a huge compliment to the excellent team he has put together at Juddmonte.