11/04/2012 8:49AM

Beyer: No contest in race for Horse of the Year

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Tom Keyser
Wise Dan, ridden by John Velazquez, wins the Mile in 1:31.78, the fastest time in Santa Anita and Breeders' Cup history.

 After a year full of disappointments, the 2012 racing season came to a climax in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday, with Game On Dude and Wise Dan trying to prove - in separate races - that they deserved the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.

The day produced an unequivocal championship performance and what ought to be a clear-cut winner of racing's highest honor. Wise Dan is the champ. He excelled on the day that Game On Dude flopped.

Game On Dude brought formidable credentials and a touch of glamour into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the race that typically determines year-end championships. A member of trainer Bob Baffert's powerful barn, his raw speed and stamina had given him victories in four major stakes this season.

Wise Dan, by contrast, was the equine equivalent of a blue-collar worker. Modestly bred, trained by low-profile Charlie Lopresti, the 5-year-old gelding had always been versatile and consistent, but this year he revealed his specialty by scoring three straight smashing victories at one mile on the grass.

Turf milers usually don't win championships in the United States, but by winning the Breeders' Cup Mile and beating Europeans at their own game, Wise Dan could make a make a case for the Eclipse voters to consider.

Wise Dan was favored by a narrow margin because the British colt Excelebration was considered such a formidable miler, but the America vs. Europe showdown never materialized.

Instead, the California-based speedster Obviously took the lead as John Velasquez positioned Wise Dan on the rail in perfect striking position behind him. On the turn, as the leader began to falter, Velasquez angled outside and powered past the leader.

Fans at Santa Anita were looking for Excelebration or the French filly Moonlight Cloud to make a strong late charge, as the European runners often do, but it was the United States' Animal Kingdom - the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner - who got up for second place without menacing Wise Dan.

Over the lightning-fast turf course, Wise Dan ran a mile in an eye-popping time of 1 minute 31.78 seconds, the fastest time in the long history of Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup as well.

"He just amazes me," Lopresti said. "I started seeing how fast he was on the turf at Saratoga this summer, and he keeps doing things that you just don't believe. I knew he was going to run well today, but I never expected anything like this."

The Breeders' Cup had scheduled the Mile as the penultimate race of the afternoon, with the Classic as the finale, and Wise Dan had thrown down the gauntlet. Now it was Game On Dude's turn to respond.

But he never showed his customary spark. When the gate opened, he was sluggish, and jockey Rafael Bejarano had no choice but to let him sit behind the leaders as 9-to-1 shot Fort Larned sped to the lead. The pacesetter is a formidable horse on his good days - he won the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga this summer against an all-star field - and now he was in position to take advantage of the speed-favoring tendency of the Santa Anita track.

Fort Larned had a four-length advantage as he headed into the final turn, when Bejarano started asking Game On Dude hard for a response. But the favorite couldn't make a serious challenge. Instead it was Mucho Macho Man who surged to challenge the leader, but Fort Larned was resolute and held on to win by a half-length in an exciting stretch drive.

Game On Dude finished seventh - the first time he had ever lost on the Santa Anita track. "It was probably the worst day of his life," said a dejected Baffert.

There were, of course, other notable performances on the Breeders' Cup card:

Shanghai Bobby, an easy winner in his first four career starts, had to show his grit and outduel long shot He's Had Enough to win the Juvenile. Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to win a major Breeders' Cup event, and Todd Pletcher's trainee became the early favorite for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Groupie Doll ran a sensational race to win the Filly and Mare Sprint by 4½ lengths, running seven furlongs in 1:20.72. Her performance was at least as impressive as that of the males who contested the Sprint, won in an upset by Trinniberg.

But Wise Dan was the star of the day - and the star of the year. Some voters will cast their votes for I'll Have Another, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown before being injured, but two victories over an ordinary 3-year-old crop weren't enough. Some voters will favor Royal Delta, the impressive winner of the Ladies' Classic on Friday, but she never beat males. Wise Dan took on all of the challenges he reasonably could. He excelled on dirt and on synthetic surfaces, and at a mile on the grass he was unbeatable.

(c) 2012, The Washington Post

Gayle Gerth More than 1 year ago
oops! Sorry, I was wrong on the spelling of trainer, Charles Lopresti. They are correct.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
Mr. Beyer doesn't even use his own speed figures to determine Horse of the Year. Fort Larned's 5 best Beyers were 117, 110, 108, 108 and 108. Wise Dan's 5 best Beyers were 117, 109, 108, 107 and 105.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan is champion turf horse. He has the 3 top beyers run on grass in 2012.
Ian Fick More than 1 year ago
Wise Dan. 2012 Horse Of The Year. Hands down.
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
Little Mike Will Prove It On The Track Later(He May Be Best Turf Horse Since The Great Frankle ,NO Breeders Cup , ,Yea Rt,PHHTTT,lolk-DS
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
TRINNIBERG ! And of course Jockey Willie Martinez !!!
nick More than 1 year ago
Shame on you, Mr. Beyer. Not even an honorable mention for a horse who put up 3 of the biggest turf victories of the year? A horse wins the Graded handicap turf race at Churchill Downs on KY Derby day( I forget its name but I believe it is a Grade 1 at 1 &1/8 miles). Next he wins the Arlington Million at 1& 1/4 miles. Finally, he wins the granddaddy of them all, the BREEDERS CUP TURF, at 1&1/2 miles, in track record time, in a way he has never raced before(off the pace)! Of course I speak of Little Mike. Shame on you, Mr. Beyer.
Ian Fick More than 1 year ago
Nick. It's consistency. Mr. Beyer is not bound to you or me or anyone else to mention your favorite horse. Little Mike had a very good year but o did others. We'er taking here about HOT honors not good horse honors. I would have never voted for Game O Dude. I would have voted for Groupie Dll before GOD. Never thought much of th latter and never had him on my exotics. But Little Mike had a few races where he threw in the towel and did not warrant considerition.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
WOW HOW BAD HAS THE BREEDING GONE! MILER HERE AND MILER THERE oh yeah that OVERRATED ONE TOO FROM NEVER LEFT ENGLAND COTTON WOOL FRANKEL..... Whazza matta...cannot breed a Secretariat or RIbot anymore! that's ok....we will settle for Forego or Mill Reef.....
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
I'd like to make a comment to all those that think the Beyer Figs are either nonsonse or useless. Sure, Andy Beyer doesn't pick the highest percentage of winners online. Take into consideration that when he is at the track, I am sure thet he, like myself picks his spots and has a very high percentage of winners and a nice ROI. Being asked to pick the Derby winner, which is the toughest race in the world to handicap is hard enough. Most of you people go to the track and bet every race. (YOU are the real fools) Guys who do this professionally like Andy and myself understand where winners come from. I will admit that I play every race, but when you are making 5-6 huge bets a day, the othe r$10-$20 plays are meaningless. Rest assured that if you asked myself or Andy which 1-2-3 plays were best over the BC weeknd , you would have gotten 4-5 ainnwers between us. To sit back and think the "number" andy puts on a horse is his "ALL ENDING FINAL ABILITY" is nonsense. To call him names because you never took the time to learn how races are won is just as pathetic. I wager most every day at the track and although I can do what Andy does, I stopped long ago, as his numbers make my job so much easier. To take them at face value is dumb. They are intended to show when a horse has his "best ability" and "aorse chance" in the overall scheme of THE RACE ENTERED. Somewhere in these posts, i left an email address. If you want some one on one help, i can afford a few hours a week to guide someone with the basic handicapping skills the knowledge to make racing more fun than they could imagine. As for JACK and TODD ELLIOTT below. I thank you for all my possessions that narrow-minded critics like you make come my way. 15 races. 7 winners. 3 seconds. 3 thirds. $$$$$$ won. Who says the Beyer numbers aren't important?
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
And they say stand up comedians are a thing of the past.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
Create a blog (Ponies Bankruptyou) and post your bets before the races...so we can laugh on how good you are. All these Beyers, Timeform, BHA etc etc are worthless. Why? because they sell it. DUH!
Todd Elliot More than 1 year ago
I will admit that I play every race, but when you are making 5-6 huge bets a day, the othe r$10-$20 plays are meaningless. Rest assured that if you asked myself,,,that sttement by ponies payne proves he cannot handicap..no true handicapper can win betting every race and obviously this guy is a ego maniac and loser to write such garbage and then brag about his so called winnings on beyers figs alone..
Bob Seba More than 1 year ago
I/m sure the ponies pay you in Horse Apples! LoL!
Jade Sword More than 1 year ago
Semantics perhaps, but Wise Dan wouldn't even have won that race if Animal Kingdom had a clean trip. The burst of speed AK showed at the end left little doubt as to which horse was the fastest. AK just ran out of track. Of course, that happens all the time in horse racing, but when you talk about HOY you may want to factor that in. As to IHA, everybody knows that was about East versus West coast. The way Belmont treated this TC candidate, to interrupt his normal preparation with Lava Man, even to the point where he hurt himself in the idiotic detention barn, was beyond disgraceful. If the West coast never sent another horse to Belmont I would be fine with that.
Dan Crandall More than 1 year ago
Although Wise Dan is a tremendous turf miler, he us just that not. People have short memories. I'll Have Another won all of his races this year and the most money in more prestigous races. As for Game on Dude he put a impressive record against inferior horse than he faced in the Cup an has porved to be an one demension horse, near lead or not chance. Probably Fort Larned deserves top handicap horse in a year of inconsistant older horses.