With less than two weeks remaining in the Thoroughbred racing season, nearly all of the 2008 leaders have been decided. The lone category without a clear-cut winner is earnings by owner, and it might take until the final few days of the year to determine a victor.
According to Equibase, as of Dec. 18 Frank Stronach’s Stronach Stables has produced earnings of $6,645,034, giving him a $271,321 advantage over second-place Zayat Stables. Though the margin may seem significant, Ahmed Zayat's outfit could surpass Stronach this weekend with a single win.
Zayat will send out talented juvenile Pioneerof the Nile in $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 20 at Hollywood Park. A victory by the son of Empire Maker, who is expected to be one of the favorites, would earn Zayat $450,000 in first-place money, pushing him into the earnings lead. Stronach does not have a horse in the CashCall.
The most significant races remaining on the 2008 calendar are next week at Santa Anita: The Malibu Stakes and La Brea Stakes, both grade I events worth $250,000.
Robert L. Cole Jr., who races most of his horses in Maryland, Delaware, and New York, has locked up the wins by owner category. Cole has sent out 230 winners, 24 more than Maggi Moss.
The jockey categories have also been locked up. Garrett Gomez ran away from his competition in jockey earnings, amassing more than $22.6 million through Dec. 18. Gomez, the reigning Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey, has earned nearly $7 million more than second-place Rafael Bejarano.
It is no surprise that Russell Baze, North America's winningest rider, will finish the year with most wins by a jockey. Baze has 393 wins in 2008, 56 more than Deshawn Parker.
The races were never close in the trainer categories, as Steve Asmussen set a new North American record for wins in a single season in 2008 and has a commanding lead over second place Todd Pletcher for earnings by trainer. Asmussen notched his 600th win Dec. 18 and has totaled more than $23.5 million in purses.
Big Brown topped all horses with $3,576,700 in earnings, thanks in large part his grade I victories in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, Preakness, and Haskell Invitational. The son of Boundary was retired earlier this year and will stand his first season at stud next year at Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.
One leader many might not be familiar with is Chickster, but the 7-year-old gelding has wrapped up the title for most wins with 11. Owned by SEJ Stables and trained by Justin Evans, Chickster is based out of Turf Paradise in Arizona, which is where six of his victories came. The son of Loyal Double also won five at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. All but one of his triumphs came in claiming company.