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Jul 14, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


At this time of the year we usually have a few horses that we could look at as the top horses in the country who would be the favorites for Horse of the Year. However, this year with three different horses winning the Triple Crown races and the top horses from last year just starting back the race for Horse of the Year is wide open. Let’s take a look at our top five as it stands right now.

1. LAVA MAN- This horse is not only the claim of the decade but maybe the claim of the century. With five wins from five starts this year and almost $2 million dollars in earnings has a big jump on the rest of the contenders so far. His most recent win in the Hollywood Gold Cup which makes him a repeat winner of that race, was very impressive even though he won by only a nose. He was carrying 124 pounds, he had to stay in the detention barn for the race because of an issue with his trainer Doug O’Neill and then he stumbled at the start but still dug in for the win. Now granted he wasn’t beating much but it was his third Grade I of the year and you can only beat who they put in the gate. For right now he is the leading candidate.

2. INVASOR- Is right behind LAVA MAN with two Grade I wins this year since shipping into North America has the Argentina bred right at the top of the Horse of the Year talk. He came on again in the Pimlico Special to get the job done by a 1 ¼ lengths and then in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont he was an easy 4 ¼ length victory while not being asked for his best. This four year old who is owned by Shadwell stable and trained by Kiaran Mclaughlin will probably run in the Whitney at Saratoga and can help his cause with a win there. His tactical speed will come in handy in these big races and makes him a very dangerous prospect this year.

3. ENGLISH CHANNEL- Very rarely will you see a turf horse win the Horse of the Year title but this horse has a shot. With three wins from four starts and two Grade I’s under his belt so far this year he has as shot. The top two horses are solid but they aren’t unbeatable and any missteps by them and if ENGLISH CHANNEL can win out or at least win on Breeders’ Cup day he will have a shot at the title. There is still another six months left in the year but at this point he must be considered.

4. FLOWER ALLEY- Finished a good second to the SAINT LIAM in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year and with a win in the Travers Stakes this Todd Pletcher trainee showed he has what it takes to be a top horse. However, he only had one start so far this year and that was in the Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park. Run over a sloppy track he stalked the pace, took over in the stretch and drew away late for the score. That race was obviously a prep race for bigger and better things and he may be the best horse in the country but at this point he still has to prove it.

5. BARBARO- Now this may be a stretch but he as four out of five this year and his win in the Kentucky Derby was so impressive that he will make people think. His tragic run in the Preakness stakes is well documented and as of this writing he is fighting hard to survive as there has been some setbacks. Now matter what happens the rest of the year the argument can be made that he was the best three year old in the country and if everyone else falters at the right time then maybe he has a shot. He has a better shot as top three year old depending on what happens the rest of the year but this selection is more out of hope then it is reality. Lets hope this three year old colt by DYNAFORMER pulls through and survives, then he will be many racing fans true " Horse of the Year".

As we draw closer to the end of the year we will update this list but as of now these are the top horses in North America. Horses from Europe and Dubai can also make an impact this fall in and the Breeders’ Cup.



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