Jun 22, 2012
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-HORSE OF THE YEAR-HALF YEAR
By: JOE GIRARDI
With half of 2012 over let’s take a look at how the Horse of the Year running stands as we move into the Summer racing season with a little more than four months away from the Breeders’ Cup World Championship.
1. RON THE GREEK- I’m sure many experts weren’t looking for this horse to be anywhere near the top of any lists that concerned Horse of the Year but this five year old has to be put at the top of our list with just half the year gone. In four races in 2012, RON THE GREEK has two wins and two seconds, however both of those wins coming in Grade I races. The first win came in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap back in March at Santa Anita. His last win came just a week ago at Churchill Downs in the Grade I Stephen Foster. His trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott has done a great job with this runner who had been off form for the better part of 2011 with his only two wins coming in small stakes at the end of the year at Aqueduct. He has proven that he likes the Santa Anita Race course where the 2012 Breeders’ Cup will be held and in his current form he has the slight lead for running for Horse of the Year.
2. GAME ON DUDE- This Bob Baffert trainee is #2 on our list for a few reasons. His two races stateside this year were huge wins in two Grade II races with his only blemish coming in the Dubai World Cup when he had a tough trip. He is another that loves Santa Anita Race course and his speed always puts him in the game. He was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and can prepare for the Breeders’ Cup in his home state.
3. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER- He would have been number 1 on the list and probably would have sealed up Horse of the Year honors if he had run in the Belmont and completed the Triple Crown, which would have been the first one in 34 years. He has four wins this year and three of them were in Grade I’s and the other in a Grade II. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness this year and I guess would still have a shot to win Horse of the Year honors if no one steps up and makes a push later in the year.
4. SHACKLEFORD- Four year old had four starts this year and he has two wins and a third place finish to show for it. The two wins came in his last two races, the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes running the seven furlongs in 1:21 flat. His other win came in the Grade I Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park, a very prestigious race as he held on by a nose in a solid final time of 1:33:1. It depends where his connections go the rest of the year, if they try to stretch back out in distance and he can win a race like the Breeders’ Cup Classic he would throw his name into the ring.
5. WISE DAN- In two races in 2012, he has a dominating win in the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland, followed up with a head loss to our leader Ron the Greek in the Stephen Foster. This lightly raced five year old gelding is still improving and is another that can put together a solid second half that makes him a contender.
6. ROYAL DELTA- The only female on the list, this four year old filly is coming off a championship at three when she won the three year old filly of the year award. She has three races this year with only one win and one second. Although that is not very impressive considering her win was in a Grade II and her second was in a Grade III, her off the board finish came in the Dubai World Cup. However, with all that being said she looked ultra impressive winning the Grade II Fleur De Lis while under wraps in a time that was a full second faster than the Stephen Foster on the same night. She is another that is always improving and is primed for a big year. She will probably have to beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to have a shot at this award but she is definitely talented enough.
Right now there is now clear cut favorite for horse of the year and we still have to see how the three year old division plays itself out, but it should be an interesting year come Breeders’ Cup time.
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