The door to the Horse of the Year championship opened wide for the 4-year-old filly Azeri, who won the Breeders' Cup Distaff in the same impressive fashion she had triumphed in all but one of her career starts, while War Emblem and others floundered in the Classic. After front-running victories by War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Haskell Invitational Handicap, all Grade I races, War Emblem, the 3-year-old son of Our Emblem trained by Bob Baffert, was the clear-cut front-runner for the title. But a sixth-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 25, and an eighth-place finish as the 4-1 second choice in the Breeders' Cup Classic hurt his Horse of the Year hopes greatly. Baffert does feel War Emblem did enough to earn 3-year-old colt laurels, however, and the trainer would be disappointed if the dark bay colt doesn't win the divisional crown.
"Azeri had a great year," Baffert said. "She ended up with a bang, and our last two races were disastrous. I think I cooked him when I ran him back at Del Mar (Pacific Classic). You have to throw out a horse's bad races and look at their good races. Azeri is a really great mare. If she gets it, I don't have a problem with it. "The difference is, we didn't have the luxury of picking our own races. We had to run, run, run. I wouldn't trade War Emblem with Azeri for the year. When you win the Derby and the Preakness, that was pretty fantastic. But I don't have a problem with Azeri getting Horse of the Year. "But War Emblem definitely should get 3-year-old (male honors). If he doesn't, that means from now on we'll just put our horses away (early). He would have got Horse of the Year if I put him away the rest of the year (after winning the first two legs of the Triple crown and the Haskell). He won the ones that counted, and just because he's had his problems and went south on me, you can't hold that against him."