07/14/2011 4:58PM

Goldikova favored for U.S. HOTY? Seriously?

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With 38 different winners in the first 41 Grade 1 races of the year, the first half of the 2011 U.S. racing season can fairly be called wide open, inconsistent and muddled. Even if the next 16 weeks until the Breeders' Cup are just as chaotic, though, I find it impossible to agree with the following assessment of Horse of the Year prospects by the British racing daily The Racing Post:

"The search for a US superstar drew another blank this weekend, making it increasingly likely that the American horse of the year award could be set to leave the continent for the first time in 2011," wrote the RP's Sam Walker earlier this week in the wake of the Hollywood Gold Cup. "At this stage the favourite for the award is probably the French mare Goldikova, who finished third [in the 2010 voting] after winning a record third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile. If she could seal an unprecedented fourth win in the race she has made her own, she would surely be the one to beat for the coveted Eclipse prize."

Call me provincial, stodgy, and narrow-minded -- you wouldn't be the first -- but I just can't see it.

Don't get me wrong: Goldikova is a wonderful racehorse and a fourth BC Mile victory would be a magnificent and historic achievement. It would probably earn her a third straight Eclipse Award as the Champion Turf Female (she ran second in the voting to Forever Together in 2008). I still find it highly unlikely that Eclipse voters would give her the Horse of the Year award to her for a single 2011 start in the United States. There's a big difference between a divisional grass championship, which voters have given to several Europeans off a single U.S. start and Breeders' Cup victory, and the HOTY award. As for Goldikova's third-place finish in last year's voting, the tally was 128 for Zenyatta, 102 for Blame and 5 for Goldikova.

Could a foreign-based horse ever be the U.S. Horse of the Year off one American start? Hypothetically, if some horse were to win a series of Europe fixtures. romp in the Arc and then come here and wallop America's best by daylight in the Breeders' Cup Classic, maybe. That would be a far cry, however, from what Goldikova's 2011 resume would look like at year's end even if she does win the Mile for a fourth time. The whole proposition strikes me as more of a very remote longshot than a "favourite."

 

*I'm back from my pre-Saratoga -- just eight days till first post/first Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich --  freshening and still catching up. The first nine days of July saw 27 graded stakes, in the course of which Teaks North (Gulfstream Park Handicap, United Nations) and Sassy Image (Humana Distaff, Princess Rooney) joined Get Stormy (Makers Mark, WR Turf Classic) as the only dual Grade 1 winners so far this year. While 9 of the 27 races were won by favorites, there were a number of notable upsets of heavy favorites including losses by five of the seven odds-on choices during that span (Adios Charlie, Sum of the Parts, Hilda's Passion, Coil and May Day Rose):

 

The only Grade 1 before Del Mar and Saratoga open next week is Saturday's American Oaks at Hollywood, though the G2 Delaware Handicap that afternoon sure feels like a Grade 1 with a scheduled clash between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace.

In the meantime, I have a new favorite racing movie I can't believe I'd never seen before. It's only six and a half minutes long and you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvnsy9HOOww . (Or search YouTube for "They're Off" if the link doesn't work.) Note the highly flattering depiction of railbirds at 2:30, of racing journalists at 4:00, and an eerily prescient forerunner to the Trakus system at 4:30. Enjoy.

Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
If not too late, perhaps one final word on this subject. Frankel just thrashed Canford Cliffs (a 5 time Group 1 winner, including beating Goldikova last time out). I will try to avoid boasting, but IF there is a better horse in the World then I haven't seem him/her. Do try to see a recording.
Bill Marshall More than 1 year ago
I voted for Goldikova last year and would certainly not hesitate to do so again if I were to believe the vote to be warranted. That being said, there are a lot of races remaining to be run that will figure into year-end awards. However, for those who are confident Goldikova will not be able to win a fourth BC Mile if Canford Cliffs and Frankel show up, it would be well to remember that she has excelled three times in mile races in this country around two turns. Many European mile races are run on straightaways, as was the Queen Anne in which Canford Cliffs defeated Goldikova. Her two rivals may not run the turns as well as does Goldikova.
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Steve, thanks for the welcome back, and sorry for the Ravens Pass goof. I should have thought before I posted and should have mentioned several other Euro wins/unfortunate defeats. Yuwipi, I was not disturbed by your choice of "conceit", I just couldn't believe it. My dictionary says conceit is "excessive pride in oneself", but this was a British publication praising (OVER praising) a French horse. Brits have a love/hate relationship with France - we love their women and their food and drink, but French horses don't always get the praise they deserve. One final word of warning, conceit might well be the appropriate word after 27 July. If Frankel beats Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, or vice versa, they are likely to be claimed to be the best racehorse in the entire World. Of course, the French challenger may beat them both.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Bernard Downes: Touched by your concern for my blood pressure. It's fine. Unfortunate that my use of the word "conceit" seems to have disturbed you, but it is exactly the word I wanted and it seems to become more palpable every year. I can assure you that there is absolutely no "anger" in my comment. I have had the highest regard for European racing since my first exposure to it decades ago. Do miss your comments and hope you don't take this as a joust.
mike More than 1 year ago
A MILER for HOY? seriously....what has this industry come to? yeah great miler but when does a miler even be considered for HOY...times have sure changed. Sure they gave her Cartier award last year but if a Zarkava was running last year with her, would Goldi have won?
Jim More than 1 year ago
Steve, Cannot wait for the meet to start. How about a blowup of one of these Haddies Sandwiches to put us in the mood. The closest we get is Windmill or Max's hotdogs here down at the shore. Jim
jherold39 More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to hear "Welcome to the Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"...i'll be there Sunday.
Cary K More than 1 year ago
...Major kudos to the Breeders Cup for taking a step in the right direction on drugs in sports - something that will always be a challenge, but this is the right approach
Cary K More than 1 year ago
the question is, what does Horse of the Year mean? Racing has become more of a truly global game, and so if it's not a Global Horse of the Year award, then what does it really mean - US Horse of the Year? US dirt Horse of the Year? I would argue that in past years horses like Manila & Theatrical should have been Horse of the Year based on their Breeders Cup performances - and they are both looked back as all time greats And so not awarding a Goldikova the award as 4 time winner of the Mile when nothing else stands out would be solidifying the impression that the so-called Horse of the Year award is really 'US Dirt Horse of the Year' in an age where there are 3 surfaces (dirt, turf, all weather) that have legitimate different horses emerging as quality - and with unfortunate speed biases at otherwise glorious Saratoga, specific racing styles required (see calvin Borel) to best achieve at tracks like Churchill - it is harder and harder to pick one horse as was the case the last two years Is this award as a result losing its meaning altogether?
Qev More than 1 year ago
Goldikova? HOY? Well, they’d better start giving her charm lessons and teaching her some cute and quirky tricks of her own in order to increase her popularity/celebrity status on this side of the pond. As, apparently a horse consistently having faced and beaten tougher competition—including its sole competition for the HOY award—is no longer sufficient enough to earn it the HOY award. Nope. It’s all entertainment now, baby.