09/19/2012 10:52AM

Gisser: Looking for trotting's super horses


Last month , I discussed my personal qualifications for a super horse as they related to pacers. Those standards were: Must have been named Pacer of the Year (either in the U.S. or Canada), must have shown longevity and versatility, and that one dominant season did not make a horse super.

So, what about the trotters? I would require all of the above, although my definition of versatility is a bit different for a trotter. Oh, and one other thing. The super horse must have the ability to stay on gait, hobbled or not. This may be a sticking point for some, but trotting hobbles are legal so I will not penalize a horse who uses them, unless he or she has a propensity to make breaks anyhow. None of the horses I am going to discuss has a reputation as a breaker, which leaves CR Kay Suzie out of the conversation.

Obvious call? Moni Maker. Richest Standardbred ever. Set a world record under saddle. And, she won in Europe, which gives her bonus points (and fewer starts required in my book due to the time involved to get there and get acclimated). But keep in mind that at three, Moni Maker lost divisional honors to Continentalvictory, who was the 1996 Horse of the Year. One of my buddies swears that CV and MM should have split three-year-old honors, with one being named three-year-old trotting colt of the year, since both were better than any of the boys that season. He may be right, but that’s not how it works.

So what about Continentalvictory? She raced only at two and three, winning 19 of 29 lifetime starts and dominating her competition both years. She had lifetime earnings of $1.6 million and she certainly looks like a cinch to be considered a super horse. But she never raced on anything but seven-eighths or mile tracks. So where is the versatility? How about this: She took on and beat the boys in a little race called the Hambletonian. That puts her in the category of super horse. End of discussion.

But, c’mon, Giss, that was 15 years ago. What about now? In 2009, Muscle Hill was Horse of the Year. He was even more dominant than Contiinentalvictory in just two years of racing, winning 20 of 21 and just over $3.25 million. But he, too, never raced on anything but a big track. Was he a super horse? Here we have an exception to my rules. Muscle Hill lost his first purse start and then won 20 in a row. Any horse who maintains that kind of form for that long gets my call.

So let’s take a look at some of the trotters who are still racing. Among the top free-for-allers are Chapter Seven, Arch Madness and the now sidelined San Pail. San Pail is now eight and had dominating seasons in 2010 (13 of 15) and 2011 (14 of 16). He has raced successfully at small tracks, has banked almost $3,000,000, was named Horse of the Year in 2011, and rarely makes a break. But he has won fewer than half of his starts (51 of 111), and if you take away his dominating years, he is just 24 of 80. I think he gets credit for his longevity, but the jury may still be out on whether he is a super horse. I say yes.

Arch Madness has won just 28 of 72 lifetime starts while banking $3.6 million. Most notable is that half-a-million of that was earned in not one, but two trips to Europe, where he posted a 6-2-2-1 summary, racing twice in the Elitlop Final (he won an elim in 2011 and finished second in his elim and the final this year). Few North American horses have ever raced at the level, let alone twice. In 2008, he won an O’brien as Older Trotter of the Year, but lost Horse of the Year to Somebeachsomewhere. (The O’briens don’t name separate pacer and trotter of the year.) I think ultimately this is another one where the jury is still out, but his European exploits put him in the driver’s seat to be considered a super horse.

Chapter Seven has won 16 of 24 lifetime and has banked almost $1.5 million. He has raced just six times this year, but has been #1 or #2 for most of the summer in the sport’s Top Ten Poll. At two, he won seven of eight (dominating season), but it was not always against the top colts. He was good at three, but not as good as several others, and has really blossomed this year. He has wins on smaller tracks, but has yet to win Trotter of the Year honors. I think we need to see more of a body of work from Chapter Seven. Not a super horse yet, but it would not surprise me to see him take the next step and get there.

While Moni Maker and Continentalvictory clearly deserve the title of super horse, recent distaff trotters have not been as strong. Perhaps the strongest case can be made for the Ohio-bred Buck I St Pat. She won divisional honors in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and earned $2.3 million before being retired last year at age eight. She raced and won on every size of racetrack and even tried European competition once, albeit without success. But she never really made the breakthrough, beating the boys or winning Trotter of the Year (she lost to some good ones - Muscle Hill, Deweycheatumnhowe and San Pail), and although I saw her win her first parimutuel start at two, I can’t let my biases interfere that much. Great mare, but not a super horse.

So there you have it. As I said last month, these things are not etched in stone. They are better as fodder for discussion over adult beverages. I will bet at Delaware, Ohio, for the Jugette and the Jug, so if you see me and disagree, let’s have a beer and discuss it. I’ll be the guy with the hat and the cigar. See you next month.