01/24/2013 2:55PM

Best Beyers of 2012: Wise Dan a triple-threat on speed figures

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Wise Dan wins the Ben Ali last April at Keeneland with a 2012-best 117 Beyer Speed Figure. He also posted the year’s three fastest Beyers on turf. Click through to see photos of the Beyer leaders in every category.

Wise Dan scarcely fit the mold of a typical U.S. Horse of the Year. Instead of excelling in races on dirt at classic distances, his forte was running one mile on the turf, more of a European specialty. His lone victory on a surface other than grass came over Keeneland’s Polytrack.

Horses’ performances on grass and artificial surfaces rarely thrill devotees of speed figures. Dirt is more conducive to fast, blockbuster performances because dirt is conducive to speed, and horses typically run hard from start to finish. Fields in grass races often race in a bunched pack, at an easy pace, saving their energy for a furious dash to the wire that frequently ends in a tight finish. The same style prevails on most synthetic tracks. Winners don’t often score by whopping margins or earn dazzling speed figures. From 1992, when the Beyer Speed Figures made their first appearance in Daily Racing Form, until 2011, the highest figure in every year was earned on the dirt.

But when Wise Dan made his 2012 debut in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, he ran away to a smashing 10 1/2-length victory, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 117, the fastest ever recorded on a synthetic track. That number stood up as the best of the year on any surface until Fort Larned equaled it in winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Wise Dan also recorded the three fastest turf figures in North America during the year: 110 in the Woodbine Mile, 109 in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, and 107 in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. (The top figure was originally published as a lower number but upgraded as part of an overall revision of the Woodbine turf figures.) His races weren’t faster because Wise Dan usually found himself in races with a moderate early pace; he was never in a race with a half mile fraction faster than 46 seconds. Nevertheless, he earned figures higher than the Eclipse Award turf winners in the last three years, including the great mare Goldikova.

Wise Dan was a capable dirt runner, too. Though his only loss of the year came on the dirt − a photo-finish defeat in the Stephen Foster with a figure of 100 − he finished his 2011 campaign by winning the Clark Handicap at Churchill with a solid figure of 105. It is rare enough for Thoroughbreds to excel on two surfaces, but there has never been such a formidable triple threat as Wise Dan. His extraordinary versatility made him a deserving Horse of the Year.

If Wise Dan had not compiled such a distinguished record, Fort Larned would have also been a worthy champion, albeit a more conventional one. His figure of 117 in the Classic was the best since Curlin’s performance in 2007, and it was faster than the top performance by the horse of the year in the last four years. Fort Larned ran plenty of other solid numbers in the year, including his 110 in the Whitney at Saratoga and three 108’s in lesser races.

Another horse who compiled an impressive string of figures in 2012 was Game On Dude, who recorded a 116 on the synthetic surface at Betfair Hollywood Park, a 109 on Santa Anita’s dirt, and three other races of 108 or better. Game On Dude would have had a Horse of-the-Year résumé if he had not flopped in the Breeders’ Cup.

The racing season also produced some exceptional performances by fillies, notably the sprinter Groupie Doll. Her figure of 108 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint was the best ever in that event, and it equaled Trinniberg’s performance against males in the Sprint. Earlier in the year she recorded a figure of 112 that tied the best of the year in any race at seven furlongs or less. Royal Delta had an exceptional season, too, running a 108 in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and a 110 earlier in the season.

Even though many horses delivered top-notch performances, by the standards of recent years, most people viewed the 2012 racing season as a disappointing one. Wise Dan didn’t attract much attention during the year because the American racing public is rarely engrossed by one-mile turf races. Fort Larned appeared to be one of several older horses with roughly equal talent until he emerged as a star in his final start of the season. Moreover, racing fans are engrossed by 3-year-olds much of the year, and the 3-year-olds of 2012 provided more disappointments than shining moments, save for I’ll Have Another’s abortive pursuit of the Triple Crown.

In the early months of the year, this 3-year-old crop appeared to be sub-par, similar to their counterparts in 2011, 2010, and 2009. Only four horses came into the Kentucky Derby with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure to their credit. I’ll Have Another’s victory over Bodemeister hardly impressed students of speed figures; his 101 was the second-lowest in 20 years. But when Bodemeister got a clear lead and set a slow pace in the Preakness, and I’ll Have Another surged to beat him by a neck, earning a figure of 109, the generation deserved reassessment. The figure was about average for Triple Crown races historically and the best in any of the classics in four years. I’ll Have Another looked like a potential Triple Crown winner, and a worthy one. But he was injured and retired June 8, the day before the Belmont Stakes, the last Triple Crown race. Bodemeister never raced again, either. Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes with a dismal figure of 96 and then was retired with an injury. Paynter looked like an emerging star when he won the Haskell at Monmouth with a figure of 107, but he did not race again in 2012.

Racing fans were understandably deflated by these developments, but Wise Dan and Fort Larned did their best to redeem the 2012 season.


2-year-old males

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Revolutionary Aqueduct 1m Dec. 28 102
Little Distorted Belmont 6f Oct. 28 101
Overanalyze Aqueduct 1 1/8m Nov. 24 99
Normandy Invasion Aqueduct 1 1/8m Nov. 24 99
Titletown Five Churchill 7f Oct. 28 98
Really Mr Greely Hollywood 7f Nov. 22 98
Delhomme Aqueduct 1 1/8m Nov. 24 98
Super Ninety Nine Hollywood 7f Nov. 22 97
Uncaptured Woodbine 5 1/2f June 30 96
Shakin It Up Hollywood 7f Nov. 22 96
Vyjack Aqueduct 7f Dec. 9 96

2-year-old females

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Beholder Santa Anita 6f Oct. 4 108
Kauai Katie Saratoga 5 1/2f July 20 100
Emollient Belmont 7f Sept. 30 98
Beholder Santa Anita 1 1/16m Nov. 2 95
Mechaya Del Mar 5 1/2f Aug. 10 93
Executiveprivilege Santa Anita 1 1/16m Nov. 2 93
Sweet Marini Santa Anita 6f Nov. 4 93
Dawn's Charm Hollywood 6 1/2f Dec. 14 93
Teen Pauline Saratoga 5f July 25 92
Brilliant Jewel Belmont 7f Sept. 30 92

3-year-old males

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Dullahan Del Mar 1 1/4m Aug. 26 111
The Lumber Guy Belmont 6f Sept. 29 110
Bodemeister Pimlico 1 3/16m May 19 109
I'll Have Another Pimlico 1 3/16m May 19 109
Bodemeister Oaklawn 1 1/8m April 14 108
Trinniberg Santa Anita 6f Nov. 3 108
Paynter Monmouth 1 1/8m July 29 107
Nonios Hollywood 1 1/8m Dec. 1 107
Paynter Pimlico 1 1/16m May 19 106
Trinniberg Belmont 7f June 9 106
Well Spelled Parx 6f Sept. 22 106
Csaba Calder 1 1/8m Oct. 13 106
The Lumber Guy Santa Anita 6f Nov. 3 106
Called to Serve Laurel 1 1/8m Dec. 31 106

3-year-old females

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Agave Kiss Pimlico 6f May 18 106
Questing (GB) Saratoga 1 1/4m Aug. 18 106
My Miss Aurelia Santa Anita 1 1/8m Nov. 2 106
Questing (GB) Belmont 1m June 24 105
Grace Hall Delaware 1 1/16m July 14 105
Potesta Del Mar 1m Sept. 2 103
Grace Hall Hoosier 1 1/16m Oct. 6 102
Reneesgotzip Santa Anita 6 1/2f Jan. 15 101
Mamma Kimbo Santa Anita 6f Feb. 18 101
Contested Churchill 7f May 4 101
Contested Belmont 1m May 28 101
Potesta Hollywood 1 1/16m June 23 101
Eden's Moon Hollywood 1 1/16m June 23


Older males

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Wise Dan Keeneland 1 1/8m April 22 117
Fort Larned Santa Anita 1 1/4m Nov. 3 117
Game On Dude Hollywood 1 1/8m June 2 116
Mucho Macho Man Santa Anita 1 1/4m Nov. 3 116
Shackleford Belmont 1m May 28 115
Caleb's Posse Belmont 1m May 28 115
Nates Mineshaft Fair Grounds 1 1/8m April 1 113
Camp Victory Hollywood 7f June 30 112
Calibrachoa Aqueduct 6f March 3 111
Caleb's Posse Aqueduct 6f March 3 110
Successful Dan Churchill 1 1/16m May 4 110
Fort Larned Saratoga 1 1/8m Aug. 4 110
Game On Dude Del Mar 1 1/4m Aug. 26 110
Wise Dan Woodbine 1m Sept. 16 110
Jersey Town Belmont 1m Sept. 29 110

Older females

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Groupie Doll Churchill 7f May 5 112
Royal Delta Churchill 1 1/8m June 16 110
Groupie Doll Aqueduct 1m Nov. 24 109
Awesome Feather Belmont 1m Sept. 20 108
Royal Delta Santa Anita 1 1/8m Nov. 2 108
Groupie Doll Santa Anita 7f Nov. 3 108
Royal Delta Belmont 1 1/8m Sept. 29 106
Daisy Devine Fair Grounds a1 1/16m Dec. 22 105
Turbulent Descent Hollywood 6f June 17 104
Winter Memories Saratoga 1 1/8m July 28 104
Groupie Doll Keeneland 6f Oct. 6 104

Turf males

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Wise Dan Woodbine 1m Sept. 16 110
Wise Dan Saratoga 1m Aug. 11 109
Wise Dan Santa Anita 1m Nov. 3 107
Turbo Compressor Gulfstream 1 1/16m March 18 105
Mr. Commons Del Mar 1m Aug. 26 105
Obviously (IRE) Del Mar 1m Aug. 26 105
Point of Entry Belmont 1 1/2m Sept. 29 105
Wise Dan Keeneland 1m Oct. 6 105
Obviously (IRE) Santa Anita 1m Oct. 6 105
Little Mike Santa Anita 1 1/2m Nov. 3 105
Point of Entry Saratoga 1 1/2m Aug. 18 104
Trailblazer (JPN) Santa Anita 1m Oct. 6 104
Point of Entry Santa Anita 1 1/2m Nov. 3 104
Animal Kingdom Santa Anita 1m Nov. 3 104

Turf females

Horse Track Distance Date Beyer
Daisy Devine Fair Grounds a1 1/16m Dec. 22 105
Winter Memories Saratoga 1 1/8m July 28 104
Zagora (FR) Saratoga 1 1/16m Aug. 25 103
Siyouma (IRE) Woodbine 1 1/4m Oct. 14 102
Dream Peace (IRE) Saratoga 1 1/8m July 28 101
Tapitsfly Belmont 1m June 9 100
Orientatious Del Mar 5f Aug. 23 100
Hungry Island Saratoga 1 1/16m Aug. 25 100
Nahrain (GB) Belmont 1 1/4m Sept. 29 100
Tapitsfly Keeneland 1m Oct. 6 100
Shareta (IRE) Santa Anita 1 1/2m Nov. 3 100
Kindle Hollywood 6f Nov. 23 100