10/21/2007 11:40PM

Does Classic Winner = HOTY?

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Eclipse

I keep reading that whichever one of the "Big Six" (anyone except Awesome Gem, George Washington or Diamond Stripes) wins the Breeders' Cup Classic is Horse of the Year. Are we sure about that?

In the cases of Curlin, Lawyer Ron and Street Sense, absolutely. Each already has a pair of major wins (Preakness/Gold Cup, Whitney/Woodward, Derby/Travers, respectively) that, along with a victory in this field, would make it pretty automatic. But can the same necessarily be said for Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun and Tiago?

Any Given Saturday would still have lost two of his three races against Street Sense even if he won this, and (G2) Dwyer + Haskell + (G2) Brooklyn isn't as compelling as the dual G1 triumphs listed above. As for Hard Spun, his only G1 victory this year came in a sprint. Tiago technically has two G1 route victories, but narrow decisions over King of the Roxy in the SA Derby and Awesome Gem in the Goodwood don't exactly make the blood run quicker.

A lot depends on how authoritatively the race is won, and what alternatives present themselves. If Dylan Thomas were to score his fifth international G1 victory of the year in the Turf and Awesome Gem won the Classic, would enough people consider Dylan Thomas for the American honor off a single U.S. start? If Nashoba's Key stayed undefeated winning the F&M Turf while the Classic ended in disarray, would it be 2002 all over again, when Volponi's Classic victory threw the HOTY title to Azeri? And if all the big names go down in flames Saturday, could Rags to Riches resurface as a candidate?

--You can't make a steeplechaser the Horse of the Year, but McDynamo deserves some kind of special statue for winning his fifth stright Breeders' Cup Steeplechase Saturday at Far Hills. The 10-year-old Dynaformer gelding, already a three-time Eclipse Award winner, will try to nail down a fourth title in the Colonial Cup Nov. 18.

--Cannonball, pre-entered for the BC Juvenile Turf but buried deep on the also-eligible list, instead ran Sunday at Belmont in the featured King Cugat Stakes and won by a nose at $16.40. Why Tonto, another BCJT entrant, ran fifth.

The result was not terribly flattering to The Leopard, one of the BCJT favorites. The horses who ran 2-3-4-5 behind him in the Pilgrim Sept. 29 returned to run 10-6-4-8 in the King Cugat.

Mrs. Lindsay's victory in Sunday's G1 (Can) E. P. Taylor at Woodbine doesn't reflect poorly on the BC F&M Turf chances of Passage of Time, who was third to Mrs. Lindsay last time out in the G1 (Fr) Prix Vermeille. On the other hand, Mrs. Lindsay scored by half a length over second choice Sealy Hill, who would be at least 20-1 in the BC race.