10/05/2012 2:51PM

Crist: I'll Have Another still out front in race for Horse of the Year

Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another is still the front-runner for Horse of the Year, but that could change after the Breeders' Cup.

A week into October, the question of who will be America’s Horse of the Year remains exactly the same as it was four months ago: Can anyone unseat I’ll Have Another, who ran his last race in the middle of May?

Recent history suggests that someone will. Of the 11 previous 3-year-olds since 1978 who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, all 11 were voted an Eclipse Award as the champion 3-year-old colt or gelding, but only two were named Horse of the Year: Sunday Silence in 1989 and Charismatic in 1999. The other nine were overtaken by season’s end: Spectacular Bid by Affirmed in 1979, Pleasant Colony by John Henry in 1981, Alysheba by Ferdinand in 1987, Silver Charm by Favorite Trick in 1997, Real Quiet by Skip Away in 1998, War Emblem by Azeri in 2002, Funny Cide by Mineshaft in 2003, Smarty Jones by Ghostzapper in 2004, and Big Brown by Curlin in 2008.

If I’ll Have Another becomes just the third Derby-Preakness winner in this span to win the HOTY Eclipse, it will be in the mold of Charismatic rather than Sunday Silence, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic over champions Easy Goer and Blushing John to clinch the award. Charismatic, on the other hand, did not race after breaking down while finishing third in the Belmont and survived a confusing summer and fall where no one else stepped up. Faced with Victory Gallop and Daylami (with only one U.S. Grade 1 victory apiece) as the best alternatives, the voters went back to Charismatic, despite his 4-for-10 record. (I’ll Have Another was 4 for 4 this year.).

I’ll Have Another’s three Grade 1 victories in April and May (the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness) remained the most in U.S. racing this year until last weekend, when Point of Entry added the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to his prior Grade 1 scores in the Man o’ War and Sword Dancer. That stamped him as one of three horses who have the best chance to overtake I’ll Have Another with a victory at the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3: Triumphs by Point of Entry in the Turf, Game On Dude in the Classic, or Wise Dan in the Mile would give them legitimate claims to the title – but it’s not as if any of them is a cinch.

Game On Dude, the only one of three to win on dirt this year, would probably win the award if all three of them were to win on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. A victory would make him 5 for 7 this year (3 for 3 on dirt, 2 for 4 on synthetics), with Grade 1 victories in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Awesome Again (nee Goodwood), and Classic as well as impressive Grade 2 runaways in the Californian and San Antonio. He’s a legitimate Classic favorite, in career-best form, and racing on his home court, but always a shade questionable going more than nine furlongs, races in which he sports a career record of just 2 for 8. He has been caught in the 10th furlong two of the last three times he has tried the distance, falling to Dullahan in this year’s Pacific Classic and Drosselmeyer in last year’s BC Classic.

Wise Dan and Point of Entry are scheduled to run at what look like their best distances, but have a different challenge: They may face an entirely different level of competition in the form of European invaders, who often dominate the Mile and Turf. It’s going to be another week or two before it’s clear which Europeans are coming over for those races, but the average Grade 1-winning European at eight or 12 furlongs on the grass is usually a couple of lengths better than his American counterpart. There are of course exceptions, but while Point of Entry and Wise Dan are very nice horses, it’s unclear how truly exceptional they really are.

Finding out will be a big part of the appeal and intrigue at this year’s Cup, and more power to them and Game On Dude if they can finish their already strong seasons with victories at Santa Anita. If they all lose, however, it could be Charismatic in 1999 all over again, with the fleeting hero of spring still standing tallest months after his career was over.

Ian Phillips More than 1 year ago
as i said before that point of entry is best grass horse since manila, and should he win breeders cup turf, i i know he will,he should be horse of year since he be beating euros.
Greg Hopper More than 1 year ago
RON THE GREEK has a better chance of winning on Breeders Cup Day than any of the "Big 3" chasing IHA. Would Big Cap, Foster and Classic plus 2nd in the Whitney do it for him?? There's no shame in having a 4-4 dual Classic winner as HOTY....
Felton Suthon More than 1 year ago
Steve - congrats on the Pick-Six hit. Game on Dude deserves more respect. In the last two years, he has raced in the best available OPEN G1s and only synthetics at Del Mar and Dubai have found him wanting. He should have been HOY in 2011 because he raced againts the best ALL YEAR unlike Havre De Grace, who picked spots and he should be HOY this year expecially after a BC win. The only other contender is Point of Entry. IHA was a nice horse, but you have to run more races to be HOY.
TBiz More than 1 year ago
Point of Entry is simply the best horse this year and a victory against the Europeans on BC day should get him the title.
ellen zehnder More than 1 year ago
I sure hope IHA wins. I think he deserves it, especially after America turned its back on him. I wish him the very best. He is a brilliant racehorse and I have missed him on the track.
Bob Bernhardt More than 1 year ago
Slightly off topic.... I hate that Chantal was taken off Game On Dude. I think that would have been a great promtional opportunity for the game.
Todd Elliot More than 1 year ago
bejarano is a much better rider for the horse
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Zo agree with you, lol!
sal ear More than 1 year ago
yeah, dump Reddam @ a Japanese meat market
Greg Hopper More than 1 year ago
RON THE GREEK has a better chance of winning on Breeders Cup Day than any of the "Big 3" chasing IHA. Would Big Cap, Foster and Classic plus 2nd in the Whitney do it for him?? There's no shame in having a 4-4 dual Classic winner as HOTY....
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Hey Crist - Why dontcha get our guys down before you kick 'em?
Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, Excellent, as always, and I would just Point out that Wise Dan still has the Grade 1, $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, this w/e, as he races toward the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. So the Wise one could have Four (read:4) Grade ones in the bank come BC time. Five would be a real trump card, it sez here, as the Big Three of Point, Wise and Game, attempt to swipe the HOTY apple from IHA. Game on.
Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
And, of course, Wise Dan has to run the table to just get to three. There lies the rub. Nevermind.