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Jun 17, 2004


By: Joe Girardi

Now that we are through half the year let’s take a look at who the leading contenders for Horse of the Year are. With SMARTY JONES loss in the Belmont this has opened the door for the older horses.

  1. SOUTHERN IMAGE- Has an impeccable record with six wins from eight career starts, one second and one third. His most recent race was a second place finish in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. The winner of that race was a 60-1 shot who was in way over his head but a sloppy track may have contributed to that result. The fact that SOUTHERN IMAGE had a rough trip didn’t help his cause either. His three other races this year were all dominant wins over very solid competition and puts him right at the top of the list. The plan is to regroup and run in the Hollywood Gold Cup with the Breeders’ Cup the main goal. If this 4YO continues to improve he will be right there in the race for top honors.
  2. PLEASANTLY PERFECT- How can you argue with his two races this year. An easy win in the San Antonio back in January and then a hard fought game win in the Dubai World Cup over MEDAGLIA D’ORO (recently retired). His win in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic came over a solid field and his main goal again this year is to get back there on top. His running style is from off the pace which puts him at a slight disadvantage but he has shown that he can lay closer if he has to. 6YO is right there with the tops in the country and a win in the Classic makes him the favorite for Horse of the Year honors.
  3. SMARTY JONES- Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero lost some of his luster when he finished second in the Belmont but the mile and a half was just a tad too long. He is the best of his 3YO division and must be considered for horse of the year if he can beat the older horses on the biggest day, Breeders’ Cup day. It looks like he will have two preps leading up to the Classic, the Pennsylvania Derby and then the Jockey Club Gold Cup. A win in those races followed by a win in the Breeders’ Cup locks up horse of the year honors. Gritty horse will need to improve to face off with the better older horses but he must be respected off of what we saw this spring.
  4. PICO CENTRAL- Has finished first in three out of four of his races this year but was placed first in the other race so all four races this year have resulted in wins. He has won a 6.5 furlong race, two seven furlong races and the prestigious Met Mile at Belmont, defeating a stellar field. This horse has high early speed but has many gears when you call on him. With a few more wins in graded stakes followed by a possible win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, he would have to be considered if any of the top horses falter.
  5. PEACE RULES- To round off the top five list we needed another horse so we chose him. Has two wins in two Grade II’s this year and hails from the Frankel barn. If he makes it to the Breeders’ Cup Classic and wins he obviously puts himself in the mix. Don’t see that happening but he is the best of what is left of the handicap division which has quality but lacks the quantity.

It will be interesting to see how the 3YO’s match up with the older horses and should make for an exciting Breeders’ Cup.

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