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Jun 25, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi


            We are just about half way through the 2010 racing season so let us take a look at how the Horse of the Year race looks. At this time last year RACHEL ALEXANDRA was well on her way to Horse of the Year honors although it did became very close as ZENYATTA scored in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to make that a very close, if not controversial race. Many thought ZENYATTA should have won and the way this year has started out it has her backers up in arms. But last year was just that last year and in 2010 there seems to be another race for Horse of the Year but it is not a two horse race as at least three horses have a legitimate shot depending how the rest of the year goes.  

1.      QUALITY ROAD- Last year as a three year old many people had him on the top of their lists before an injury to his hoof kept him out of the Kentucky Derby and he was laid off from late March to Early August and returned in a new barn—the Todd Pletcher barn. He came back with a win in the Amsterdam Stakes in record time and then was sent off as the favorite in the Travers but finished a troubled third followed up by a good second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both times to eventual three year old champion SUMMER BIRD. He went to California to run in the Breeders’ Cup but had trouble at the gate and was scratched. However, this year seemingly with those gate problems behind him he is three for three with two Grade I wins. He won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope by almost three lengths in a good return effort. He moved onto the Grade I Donn Handicap and scored by almost 13 lengths again in record time. He was then laid up from early February to May 31st and the Metropolitan Handicap where he took early pressure, fought that off and then was very solid to the wire for a 1 and ½ win in a sharp 1:33 flat. He can only get better off that effort and we might be seeing one of the greats, it should be a very exciting rest of the year.

2.      ZENYATTA- Many thought she should have won Horse of the Year last year but I think the right decision was made. She has returned this year after what initially was reported that she would retire. She has continued her unbeaten record with three more wins this year, most recently scoring by a half length while carrying 129lbs in the Grade I Vanity on June 13th. For anyone who watched that race it never looked like she was going to get it done but her will to win got her home first. Her next start is undecided and it will be interesting to see where connections point her as the year goes on. Does she try the boys again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic especially if the top one is still sharp heading into that race? She is one of the great race mares of all time but she may miss out for the top honors if QUALITY ROAD continues his march to the Breeders’ Cup.

3.      BLAME- Another four year old who seems to be at the top of his game is two for two this season most recently scoring in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. The Breeders’ Cup this year is at Churchill Downs so the fact that he likes the track could be a key factor when it comes to the November championships. He ran his record to an impressive 7 wins, 1 second and 2 thirds from 10 starts and has really added to a solid older handicap division this year.

4.      RAIL TRIP-Another in the older male handicap division, this five year old has returned better than he was in 2009. He is 2 for 2 with two very easy wins in two Grade II races and has bigger things on the horizon. His speed always puts him in the race and he could make things very interesting if he can face any of the other rivals on this list, hopefully in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

5.      RACHEL ALEXANDRA- Is really on this list as honorable mention as she has not returned in the form she was last year when she was Horse of the Year. However, she had a hard campaign last year and lost her first two starts right on the wire. She got a confidence builder with a 10 and ½ length win in the Fleur De Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. She should move forward off that effort and she might need to as she will be in against tougher competition than she faced in that race but if she can get on a roll like she was last year she can put herself in the mix late in the year.

 

The three year old division doesn’t look that strong this year but I guess as the year goes on anything can happen. If one of those three year olds move forward and win the top Summer races and then defeat the older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic they could obviously make a play for Horse of the Year. However, with the strength in the older male and female division that seems very unlikely.



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