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Nov 15, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-HORSE OF THE YEAR

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Although there is technically a month and a half left in 2013 let us take a look at the Horse of the Year race as there are only one or two races left that could have any impact.

1.      WISE DAN- Last year’s Horse of the Year is the heavy favorite to win that award again in 2013. He went 6 for 7 in 2013 with one second place finish over the synthetic surface at Keeneland when the Shadwell Turf Mile came off the turf. His other six wins all came on the turf with four of those wins coming in Grade I races. He had a very similar resume last year when he won it and he ended both years with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. He scored by ¾’s of a length over Za Approval in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in a sharp time of 1:32:2 under jockey Jose Lezcano. Lezcano had to replace jockey John Velazquez who was injured earlier in the card when his horse broke down, Velazquez had to have emergency surgery to remove his spleen and will be out the rest of the year. Back to Wise Dan, he did everything asked of him and won the biggest turf race at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup, his other rivals for the Horse of the Year title didn’t put their best hoof forward when it counted, therefore we should see a repeat winner for Horse of the Year.

2.      GAME ON DUDE- Went 5 for 6 this year with his only loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when he checked in a well beaten 9th, 11 lengths off the winner. This was very similar to his campaign last year when he went 5 for 8 with a very poor effort in the Classic as the favorite. He had three Grade I wins and two Grade II wins but didn’t beat much along the way. If he could have completed the year undefeated with a win in the biggest race of the year, the Classic, he would have been Horse of the Year, unfortunately he will finish a distant second.

3.      BEHOLDER- An odd choice to be on this list but let’s take a look at her resume. She was 5 for 7 with two second place finishes. She won four Grade I races but all four of those wins came at Santa Anita. She finished off the year with a huge win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff easily defeating Royal Delta and fellow three year old Princess of Sylmar. She may have stolen away the three year old filly championship from Princess of Sylmar with her win in the Distaff but she is a longshot for Horse of the Year. However, it would be hard to argue that there was a better female at any age at year’s end.

4.      MUCHO MACHO MAN- His resume is not very strong when you look at it from a winning percentage standpoint. He only has two wins and two thirds from five tries. However, his last two wins both came in Grade I’s and he did score by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With all that being said he might not even win Older Male as Game On Dude looks like a better choice. If there was a comeback of the year award winner from the first part of the year to the last, he would be on top. Pulled up in his first start of the year and then two third place finishes, one in an ungraded stakes and the other in the Grade I Whitney. However, a big end of the year at least throws his name in the ring for Older Male but he is a huge longshot for Horse of the Year.

5.      ORB- This three year old went 4 for 8 with two third place finishes and two off the board finishes for the year. However, he did win two Grade I’s with one of those Grade I’s coming in arguably the most popular race of the year and clearly the most important race for three year olds, the Kentucky Derby. He came back in both the Preakness and Belmont with a fourth and third respectively. He did finish an ok third in the Travers but didn’t run an inch against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was just recently retired. He has a shot at the three year old of the year based on his wins in the Kentucky Derby, Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. I think that Will Take Charge, if he can garner a win in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs he should be three year old of the year. He showed with wins in the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby and his close second against the best older horses in the Classic that he is the “best” three year old at year’s end. However, that might not get him the vote for three year old of the year. As far as Horse of the Year, he is currently the slight favorite for that award in 2014 as long as he comes back as a four year old.



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