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Jan 18, 2013

Up the Backstretch: Horse of the Year, maybe

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - Last week, the Major League Baseball writers denied election to any living retired players for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The electors did not deem any of the people on the ballot worthy of entering Cooperstown.

The same could be said for this year's three finalists for 2012 Horse of the Year. Are any of them worthy of receiving the Eclipse Award as the top thoroughbred?

The three horses, Fort Larned, I'll Have Another and Wise Dan, had good races, but none of them seems to get the blood churning as exceptional performers.

Sure, Fort Larned won the Breeders' Cup Classic and I'll Have Another captured the first two legs of the Triple Crown and Wise Dan proved to be the best miler on grass. But, come on, do any of them stand out as Horse of the Year?

A look at the finalists from the divisional categories shows some candidates overlooked as Horse of the Year possibles.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, as stated in a previous column, was worthy for consideration. So was two-time Ladies' Classic champ Royal Delta, who destroyed the competition in the Beldame Stakes by nearly 10 lengths.

Three horses that were left off the list of finalists completely who should have received stronger backing are Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man and Dullahan.

In this writer's opinion, Game On Dude was still the best thoroughbred in 2012. His only bad race happened to come in the Breeders' Cup Classic when he was the favorite.

Game On Dude raced seven times in the United States and finished worse than second in just one. He won the San Antonio, Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup before being upset in the Pacific Classic by Dullahan.

The gelding came back to win the Awesome Again and followed his disappointing Breeders' Cup with a win in the Native Diver Stakes. His 12th-place finish in the Dubai World Cup was, obviously, a red herring.

Mucho Macho Man raced six times in 2012, won three, finished second twice and had a third. In fact, the two runner-up finishes may have been his most noteworthy.

In the Woodward, he had a rough trip and was carried out in the stretch by eventual winner To Honor and Serve, losing by just a neck.

The second-place result in the Breeders' Cup Classic came after racing second the entire way against pacesetter and winner Fort Larned, falling a half- length from victory.

Dullahan could be considered the best 3-year-old of the last year among a mediocre crop. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Blue Grass Stakes and caught Game On Dude to win the Pacific Classic.

The 2012 Horse of the Year will be Wise Dan based on his Breeders' Cup victory along with wins in the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Mile. He may not have been the best horse of 2012; however, he was consistent with five wins and a second in six races.

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