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Oct 16, 2009

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            We are going to take a look at the race for Horse of the Year. Even though many people felt that the Horse of the Year honors was clinched back on September 5th when RACHEL ALEXANDRA defeated older males in the Woodward Handicap at Saratoga,  it might not be as clear cut as it seems; and we are going to rank the top three horses as we see them here at the American Turf Club.

  1. RACHEL ALEXANDRA- Yes she still is at the top of the list because of her accomplishments this year. She is eight for eight this year and has defeated the males three times and once against older males. She won two of her races by 19 and 20 lengths and has brought a lot of popularity back to the sport in addition to being a very good racehorse. She will not race again this year and the plan is to bring her back next year for a campaign as a four year old. She defeated the top three year old colts in the Preakness Stakes and in the Haskell Stakes when she defeated SUMMER BIRD, the number 2 on this list by six lengths. Even though she is the favorite what transpires over the next month can definitely change that.
  2. SUMMER BIRD- A relative unknown until the beginning of April when he finished a good third in the Arkansas Derby in only his third career start. Having never started as a two year old and not making his first career start until March 1st this colt by the sire Birdstone had some catching up to do and he did just that. After a wide sixth place finish in the Kentucky Derby he was put away for five weeks to run in the Belmont Stakes a race that made his sire’s career. Adding blinkers for the first time and switching riders to Kent Desormeaux, he overcame trouble and rolled by the leaders to score by almost three lengths in the end. His next start would come against RACHEL ALEXANDRA in the Haskell Stakes over a sloppy track at Monmouth Park. Showing more early speed chasing the stretching out sprinter MUNNINGS he was no match for RACHEL ALEXANDRA in the stretch and settled for a well beaten second, six lengths behind the brilliant filly. His next start came four weeks later at Saratoga in the Travers Stakes, again over a sloppy track and he was sent off at 2.90-1 as QUALITY ROAD was sent off as the favorite. After stalking the pace while racing three wide he took over into the lane and was very strong to the wire to score by 3 and ½ lengths. Off that victory he returned five weeks later in the Jockey Club Gold Cup to face off against older horses. This race unfortunately was run over a sloppy track again but not unfortunate for SUMMER BIRD as he wore down QUALITY ROAD again to complete a very important Triple, the Belmont, the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He did lose to RACHEL ALEXANDRA but that was back in early August and he just might be a better horse right now, a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would make it a very difficult vote for Horse of the Year honors.
  3. ZENYATTA- Another horse who is undefeated this year but she only has four starts against very questionable competition out in California. Not only is she undefeated this year but she is still undefeated in her career at 13 for 13. Her next start will come in the Breeders’ Cup but as of now the decision has not been made as to whether she will run in the Ladies Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It is Horse of the Year, not career of the year so she would need to run in the Classic and defeat the males in a big way to even be considered. She is definitely a longshot and also all of her racing this year has come over synthetic surfaces. If she does finish her career undefeated whether against the males or the females she will go down as one of the top fillies in history.

The picture for Horse of the Year will be a lot clearer after November 6th and 7th. RACHEL ALEXANDRA still has the lead but a huge performance on racing’s biggest day can go a long way to sway some of the voters.


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