12/13/2012 10:34AM

Harness Racing: My Horse of the Year Ballot

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Everyone has an opinion, but only a bit fewer than 200 get to have their voice heard. By next week (deadline to submit is Dec. 15) we will know the 12 divisional pacing and trotting champions of 2012. While the individual votes are kept secret, I have elected to disclose my selections. Feel free to criticize my thinking as you see fit.

2-year-old trotting colt

Although Wheeling N Dealin never set foot on U.S. soil, he should win this in a runaway. He went undefeated (9-for-9) and won the two richest races in the division.

2-year-old trotting filly

This is an interesting matchup between To Dream On, who won the Merrie Annabelle and Breeders Crown, and Bee A Magician, who captured the Peaceful Way and out-earned the former $766,652 to $727,320.

To Dream On gets my nod because she had fewer losses (1 versus 3) and arguably took on tougher competition during the season. She won at The Red Mile, Mohawk, Woodbine and The Meadowlands while facing most of the division’s elite while Bee A Magician elected to race against Canadian-bred foes for the large part of 2012.

2-year-old pacing colt

There is only one choice here: Captaintreacherous. He won 8 of 10 races and led his competition in earnings by more than a 2 to 1 total. No, he didn’t win the Breeders Crown, but he didn’t exactly finish last, either.

2-year-old pacing filly

This is a toss-up. I Luv The Nitelife won the richest stakes ($661k Shes A Great Lady) and quite a few other mid-range stakes events, but she did lose the Breeders Crown (finishing second) to the end-of-season sensation Somwherovrarainbow.

I have to give the edge to I Luv The Nitelife because she competed in stakes level races the entire year while Somwherovrarainbow took it slow early. While I think that Somwherovrarainbow is probably the better filly, this is an award for the entire year, not just the last two months.

3-year-old trotting colt

The award is a slam dunk for Market Share. The Hambletonian winner won most of the major events and posted a rare $2,001,405 season. Case closed!

3-year-old trotting filly

If you would have asked anyone in July who would win this division, the consensus would have been Check Me Out. I think she will win the award and I gave her the nod, but this is a closer race than many would believe.

While Check Me Out led in earnings ($955,326) over Win Missy B ($837,111) and Maven ($759,155), she did lose the two richest races of the year – Hambletonian Oaks and Breeders Crown.  Does she deserve extra credit for leading in earnings while losing the two biggest races? That is an accomplishment. Or do we downgrade her for not showing up in the most important races? It is a tough call.

3-year-old pacing colt

The finalists have been knocking heads all year. Two from this division made over $1 million last year while FIVE accomplished the feat in 2012. Michaels Power led in earnings ($1,463,912), but let’s face it, he played the easiest schedule of all the contenders. If this was the BCS College Football Poll, he might be ranked fifth in North America.

Second in earnings is Thinking Out Loud ($1,155,599). He faced top foes all year but earned $750k of his total in one race. His overall body of work just doesn’t cut the mustard. Ranking third is Sweet Lou at $1,082,176. The earnings are impressive but he failed in too many big races to be considered a champion this year. 

The two with the most legitimate claim to divisional honors are A Rocknroll Dance ($1,070,529) and Heston Blue Chip ($1,030,008). The former was the early season sensation, capturing the Meadowlands Pace and Battle of the Brandywine. But he tailed off badly as the season progressed. Heston Blue Chip came on late with wins in the Breeders Crown and Progress Pace. Though some will point out that Heston Blue Chip had some easier miles versus New York Sire Stakes foes early in the year, he did take chances in the Meadowlands Pace and Cane, which shows he simply wasn’t ducking the competition.  

3-year-old pacing filly

I can’t say I thought American Jewel was dominating from start to finish during the year, but she led in earnings by nearly $300,000 over her nearest rival (Romantic Moment) and when on her game was clearly the fastest and most talented of the group.

Older trotters

Chapter Seven had a brilliant season and should garner almost every vote.

Older trotting mares

This division truly suffers from lack of a true sample. There are only a handful of stakes events for trotting mares. My vote went to Frenchfrysnvinegar. She earned the most and has a special turn of speed off the gate that sets her apart.

Older pacers

On paper three horses appear to have a claim to this title – Foiled Again, Golden Receiver and Betterthancheddar. Foiled Again earned the most at $1,207,429, Golden Receiver won the most races (13) and Betterthancheddar had the best record (9-for-11).

Golden Receiver was an easy toss for me. Almost all of his victories came at The Meadowlands and unless the division is weak, I’m not giving an award to a horse which doesn’t show stakes wins over multiple tracks.

So it comes down to the 8-year-old war horse Foiled Again and the 4-year-old Betterthancheddar. The latter was dominant during the year but had to cut his season short due to injury. I don’t want to discount his achievements because he was hurt, but by the same token, it is hard to give an award to a horse that didn’t compete at Lexington or the Breeders Crown. The decision came down to one race for me- Canadian Pacing Derby. At $794,870, it is the richest race for this division and was on the home court of Betterthancheddar, who lost by a narrow margin to Foiled Again. 

My vote went to Foiled Again.

Older pacing mares

I will agree that Put On A Show and Anndrovette may be better mares than Rocklamation. But the fact remains that Rocklamation won more money ($770,477) and was a more reliable mare during the year. She may not be the fastest but sometimes slow and steady wins the race, or the award as it may be in this case.

PACER OF THE YEAR

While I believe that my choices above are all deserving championship horses, I truly do not feel any stood out as the best of the bunch. All of the pacers I choose brought something strong to the table. Since I had to pick one, I gave it to the all time money winner Foiled Again. You have to respect the season he had at his age.  

TROTTER OF THE YEAR & HORSE OF THE YEAR

Although I had Chapter Seven listed as my top horse in the weekly Top-10 poll, I really had to think hard about whether to award this honor to him or Market Share. In the end, I thought about which horse I thought was the best. If they met on the track, who would I rather back? Chapter Seven is the answer.

Driver of the Year

There is no doubt who has been the best driver in 2012 or who the best driver in the country is right now. Tim Tetrick has earned over $18 million this year. That is nearly $5 million more than Yannick Gingras, who had a career year and certainly deserves some accolades. Tetrick is also second in the nation in wins with 646.

Trainer of the Year

I went with Linda Toscano. She trained both Chapter Seven and Market Share, arguably the two best horses of 2012. I have to give her the award based on that alone. Honorable mention goes to Ron Burke and his arsenal of horses. He stable has earned more than $19 million this year! I wish I could split my vote between the two deserving candidates.

 

John Cicale More than 1 year ago
Each of your votes is based on sound reasoning and a decent review of the records except for one: that for Older Pacing Mare. No mare comes close to Put On A Show for sheer speed, class, and dominance. Androvette comes next, and then the spotty Rocklamation. You really should reconsider this one off-base vote. Watch their races again, especially when Put On A Show put on the ultimate show of a 1:47.3 mile (and check the other times that day).
Derick More than 1 year ago
John - Put On A Show only won one stakes race north of $200k all year. While I agree that she is the fastest, I would argue that Anndrovette is more worthy of the award than Put On A Show. You cannot discount that Rocklamation won three $200k-plus stakes and did so on multiple size tracks (1/2 nd 7/8). All of Anndrovette's stakes came on bigger tracks. Plus Rocklamation was thr leading money winner, beating Put On A Show by over $300,000! Thanks for commenting, DG
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Was this before Lindas Positive?? No excuse...she should know the rules.... Trainer of the Year I went with Linda Toscano. She trained both Chapter Seven and Market Share, arguably the two best horses of 2012. I have to give her the award based on that alone. Honorable mention goes to Ron Burke and his arsenal of horses. He stable has earned more than $19 million this year! I wish I could split my vote between the two deserving candidates.
Derick More than 1 year ago
It was before, but you have to take into account these crazy rules anyway. How is it that all the trainers and vets are in agreement that they did nothing wrong and the positives are due to NY changing policies without telling anyone? Even USHWA released a statement saying she wasn't going to be withdrawn for consideration.
Patsy Finley More than 1 year ago
my view is how many of the wins of these horses affected this on the postive and did ron burk have any possitive horses if he didnt and her horses did then ron wins in my vote as a trainer is suppose to keep up on all rule changes or his assistance should if they are in charge of horses that day if a assistanant was in charge then they should be wrote up and made to take a test of all rules actually all trainers should have to take a test every year for each state they race in and all new rules come in at the next jan 1st calendar year