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Jul 04, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-HORSE OF THE YEAR-HALFWAY

By: JOE GIRARDI


               As we look forward to the upcoming Saratoga and Del Mar meetings let us take a look at the first half of the year Horse of the Year contenders. We are going to list our top five Horse of the Year candidates in the order we believe they are right now in the pecking order.

  1. PALACE MALICE- This Todd Pletcher trained four year old just seems to get better with each and every race. He has four starts this year all winning efforts. He started off the year in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap scoring by a head, battling back after being passed in the lane in a solid final time of 1:33:4. He followed that up with a big win in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds scoring by more than four lengths. He then prepped for the Met Mile in the Grade III Westchester which was basically a paid workout scoring by a geared down 9 and ¾ lengths. He then was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the Met Mile, he broke from the tough rail post, got a spot in behind the leaders in fourth, had to look for room into the lane, ducked inside and exploded through the hole to go on and score by a length over Goldencents in a solid 1:33:2. He has worked well since and will be pointed to some of the top races at Saratoga. If he continues his winning ways and ends the year with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic he will be hard pressed to lose the Horse of the Year title.

  2. WISE DAN- The two time reigning Horse of the Year is going to have a fight on his hands this year when he tries to defend his title. He only has two starts on the year to date, both of them wins and both of them Grade I’s but what might hold him back was the emergency colic surgery had had on May 16th. He has seemed to recover well and is back on the track again with his connections looking for an August return. However, he is behind in terms of races and it will be interesting to see how he returns from that surgery. He is seven years old now and had colic surgery. Not the easiest road to a third Horse of the Year title but you can never doubt the heart of a champion and if he runs the table again and wins the Breeders’ Cup Mile again and the top one falters he will be right there.

  3. CALFORNIA CHROME- He is 5 for 6 this year with his only loss coming in the Belmont Stakes when he was trying to complete the Triple Crown. He won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in impressive fashion followed up by an easy win in the Kentucky Derby, a length and a half score in the Preakness as the 1-2 favorite. Sent off as the odds-on choice in the Belmont Stakes, he got a good spot in fourth early on, he tipped out into the lane but just didn’t finish it off and checked in fourth two lengths off the winner. He was given some time off and will be pointed to some fall races. If he can regain his winning ways and somehow go on to beat the older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic he will put himself right at the top of this list.

  4. UNTAPABLE- 4 for 4 this year with two Grade I scores most recently a dominating performance in the Mother Goose scoring by more than nine lengths. This three year old filly by Tapit has definitely come into her own and if she continues to dominate her division and goes undefeated for the year with perhaps a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the others falter she can throw her name into the hat. But that sure is a lot of ifs.

  5. CLOSE HATCHES- Four year old filly from the Bill Mott barn is 3 for 3 this year with two Grade I wins and a Grade II score to her credit. This filly finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last year and if she can turn the tables and win that race as well as adding some more Grade I’s to her credit, like Untapable she can get her name to the top of the list. However, short of facing the males and beating them on the big day she is a longshot to capture the Horse of the Year title.

We looked at a horse from the handicap division, a gutsy gelding who has won the Horse of the Year two years running, the top three year old colt and top three year old filly as well as the top older filly or mare. There are many divisions to keep an eye on and much potential for racings next biggest star.



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