OCTOBER 2, 2012
by Ed DeRosa
Back in 2009 I balked at the idea of a shared Horse of the Year award between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but given the historical insignificance of the so-called Horse of the Year campaigns in 2008, 2010, 2011, and likely 2012 I'm sort of thinking maybe a shared award wouldn't have been such a bad thing.
I voted for Rachel Alexandra in 2009, but the season Zenyatta put together that same year dwarfs what any other winner of the award has accomplished since Curlin's first gold statue in 2007 (Curlin won it again in 2008, but that season paled to his previous year and what Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both accomplished in 2009).
Horses of the Year in 2010 and 2011 weren't much better. Zenyatta earned a lifetime achievement award in 2010, and Havre de Grace earned hers because someone had to win (I voted for Blame in 2010 and Cape Blanco in 2011).
In alphabetical order here are the horses I still see with a chance at Horse of the Year and what each would need to do the rest of the year to secure my vote. In none of these cases, though, are we talking about a season that people will use as a high water mark for future Horses of the Year.
Awesome Feather: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and defeat males in a major race (e.g. Clark or Cigar Mile) later in month.
Dullahan: Needs to win Jamaica and Breeders' Cup Classic.
Flat Out: Needs to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and another Grade 1.
Fort Larned: Needs to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and another Grade 1.
Frankel: Needs to win Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic. A Mile win would do it as well if a multiple Grade 1 winner does not win the Classic.
Game On Dude: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Classic.
Groupie Doll: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint & Cigar Mile.
I'll Have Another: If no one on this list does what I prescribe then I would vote I'll Have Another as Horse of the Year.
Include Me Out: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Classic OR Ladies' Classic and then defeat males in a major race (e.g. Clark or Cigar Mile) later in month.
My Miss Aurelia: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and defeat males in a major race (e.g. Clark or Cigar Mile) later in month.
Point of Entry: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Turf and for a horse without multiple Grade 1 wins this year to win the Classic.
Questing: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and defeat males in a major race (e.g. Clark or Cigar Mile) later in month.
Ron The Greek: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Classic
Royal Delta: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Classic OR Ladies' Classic and then defeat males in a major race (e.g. Clark or Cigar Mile) later in month.
Wise Dan: Needs to win Breeders' Cup Mile AND the Clark Handicap or the Breeders' Cup Classic. A Shadwell Turf Mile-Clark double could do it as well if no one else on this list does what I say s/he needs to do.
There is precedence for a three-year-old filly to race in the Clark following the Breeders' Cup to secure a championship, as that is the path Surfside took after losing to Spain in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Obviously these scenarios are not exclusive. E.g., Chaos could reign in the Classic, My Miss Aurelia could win the Ladies' Classic & Clark, and Groupie Doll could win the Filly & Mare Sprint and Cigar Mile, etc. Then what?
One thing I do value is completeness of a season. I know many will point to I'll Have Another's win in the Derby over Dullahan as a reason I'll Have Another should win the award over Dullahan even if the latter wins out with four Grade 1 wins, including two against older males, but multiple surfaces and distances over the course of nine months instead of four does for me. Unquestionably, though, Dullahan is the only three-year-old male with a shot of usurping I'll Have Another for an Eclipse Award.
The only horse I see as truly controlling his own destiny is Game On Dude, who would be hard to deny as Horse of the Year if he won this year's Classic regardless of what else happened. After that, it's pretty tenuous regarding whether this year's Classic winner could be the first Horse of the Year since Curlin in 2007.