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Nov 18, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


As the year comes towards the end we will take a look at the favorites to win the Horse of the Year award. With the top prospects done for the year the voting could take place now and you would have a fair vote. There are only three horses that will even be considered for Horse of the Year, so let’s take a look.

When GHOSTZAPPER retired after injury in the Metropolitan Mile and ROSES IN MAY no longer racing after the win in the Dubai World Cup the race for Horse of the Year was wide open. The Breeders’ Cup had a lot to say about who would be voted top horse and other honors.

1. SAINT LIAM- Had a good year in 2004 winning two out of five races with his best race of the year coming in a neck loss to eventual Horse of the Year, GHOSTZAPPER, in one of the most exciting races in 2004. Although he would have been one of the choices had he gone on to the Breeders’ Cup his connections felt that race may have taken too much out of him and they ran in the Grade II Clark at Churchill Downs instead. In 2005, SAINT LIAM started his campaign in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. He would face a stiff challenge right out of the box as ROSES IN MAY and EDDINGTON would also be entered in the race. After breaking well, he sat right along side ROSES IN MAY, took over from that one and drew away for an easy score. ROSES IN MAY went on to win the Dubai World Cup a little over a month later and EDDINGTON started to come into his own and looked like he would challenge the top of the line horses. However, unfortunately both of those horses would get hurt and force to retire. SAINT LIAM moved on to Santa Anita to race in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, but he came up empty that day finishing sixth, four lengths off the winner, ROCK HARD TEN. He was then given a few months off until June and the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. He stalked the pace like he did in the Donn and took over for an easy score. He then ran in the Grade I Whitney where he had yet another misstep when he lost by a neck to COMMENTATOR as the odds-on choice. After that race his owners wanted to make a switch to Jerry Bailey not that Edgar Prado did anything wrong but they wanted to make a change to the biggest of big name jockeys. In the Woodward Handicap which only had five horses, two of them were rabbits entered by SAINT LIAM’S trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., SAINT LIAM went on for an easy score never being asked for any run getting a very easy race leading into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he broke outward but quickly recovered and was sitting in a perfect spot a few lengths behind the winner. He made a strong move on the turn and went on for a solid length victory over FLOWER ALLEY. That gave SAINT LIAM four wins from six starts but more importantly all four wins were Grade I wins. The Breeders’ Cup Classic all but solidified his hold on the Horse of the Year honors.

2. AFLEET ALEX- The only horse that would have a shot to upset SAINT LIAM for Horse of the Year. Three big wins this year in the Arkansas Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. His third place finish in the Derby was also a good race and would have almost guaranteed him Horse of the Year if he could have swept the Triple Crown but he came up a length short. After winning the Belmont Stakes in very impressive fashion scoring by seven lengths he was injured and forced to miss the big three year old races of the Summer and a possible showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with SAINT LIAM. His win in the Preakness can’t go by without mention as the horse showed his athleticism by checking heels, going to the ground and rebounding to go on for the win. However, with all that being said, he is the three year old champion but should come up short for Horse of the Year.

3. LOST IN THE FOG- He brought an 8 for 8 record in 2005 into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, seven of those wins against suspect three year olds and one win against very suspect older horses. However with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and a hiccup by some of the other top contenders he may have had a shot for Horse of the Year and possibly three year old of the year. He met his match for now in the Sprint, finishing seventh as the odds-on choice after facing early pressure and tiring in the lane. He probably lost all chance at three year old of the year with that loss but could be named top sprinter, it will be interesting to see how he returns because he could become an exciting prospect and popularity can only help the game.

 

 

 



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