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Dec 10, 2010

Moments of the Year in thoroughbred racing

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has revealed its list of important happenings for the 12th annual "NTRA Moment of the Year" voting on its website.

Fans can vote on which event was the singular most important occurrence during 2010. The winning 'Moment' will be announced on January 17, 2011 at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Miami Beach.

I won't list all 12 nominees, but rest assured that the obvious choices are represented. Blame winning the Breeders' Cup Classic over defending winner Zenyatta by a short head would appear to be the favorite.

Actually, my favorite racing moment of 2010 were a pair of races run right after each other at different tracks. Each finish was amazing and should be used to promote the sport.

The first of the races was the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

Quality Road, trained by Todd Pletcher, was the 2-5 morning-line favorite and was sent off as the 1-2 pick for the 1 1/8-mile race. Blame was the 3-1 second choice in the six horse field.

John Velazquez was aboard the favorite and the pair set an easy pace. Blame, with Garrett Gomez riding, was racing off the pace.

Around the turn for home Quality Road was still in command with Musket Man second and Blame on the outside moving into third. At the top of the stretch the favorite had a clear lead with Blame moving past Musket Man into second.

With a furlong to run Blame was right behind Quality Road and gaining. Just yards before the wire Blame caught Quality Road and was able to register a head victory.

A short time later that day Zenyatta was going after her third straight win in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar. The champion mare was the 1-10 favorite in the field of six females.

Zenyatta and jockey Mike Smith were running fifth in the 1 1/16-mile event on Del Mar's synthetic surface. The pace in the Hirsch was set by Rinterval, the 10-1 second choice.

As the field entered the far turn, Zenyatta made her move to the front. Smith had her on the outside around the final turn and into the stretch. The champion mare easily went past Rinterval with a furlong to run.

But the race was not over. Zenyatta had to hold off a determined Rinterval down the stretch. Zenyatta posted a hard fought head victory over Rinterval.

Those two races being run back-to-back on the same afternoon proved to be the most exciting racing of the year.

The best rivalry of 2010 was between a pair of three-year-old fillies. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace went after each other through most of the year like a pair of prizefighters.

Blind Luck edged Havre de Grace in the Delaware Oaks and Alabama, with Havre de Grace turning the tables to win the Cotillion in October. The Delaware Oaks was decided by a nose, the Alabama was a neck victory and the Cotillion was also a neck difference.

The final meeting of the year between the two fillies was in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. While Unrivaled Belle won the race, the three-year-old ladies again were together at the finish. Blind Luck was second, just a length ahead of third-place finisher Havre de Grace.

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