01/28/2011 1:43PM

Honoring the horses that helped boost the bankroll


LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the 11th annual ROI Awards. We usually hold this closer to the Eclipse Awards, but for the second straight year the hype surrounding the Horse of the Year made it hard for our little awards show to get any media coverage.

ROI stands for return on investment, and for our purposes it refers to the average payoff you would have received if you had wagered $2 to win on each of a horse’s races last year.

Eclipse winners generally are star horses who get pounded at the betting windows. While we in Vegas applaud the beauty of the sport and the athletic ability of the champions, what we cheer for most of all is our money, so the ROI Awards honors the horses who gave us the best bang for the buck.

For those interested in the ROI Awards’ view of of the HOY debate, Zenyatta went 5 for 6 but her win mutuels were $2.60, $2.10, $3, $2.20 and $2.20 for a total of $12.10, or just under $2.02 for her ROI. Blame was 4 for 5 and his payoffs were $4.40, $8.80 and $12.40 for earnings of $35.40 and an ROI of $7.08. He didn’t win his division here either.

Since these are national awards, only horses who ran at major U.S. simulcast tracks that attracted sizable betting pools were considered, with a heavy emphasis on stakes races.

So, without further ado, the envelopes please . . .

Older female: As stated above, Zenyatta was great to cheer for but I haven’t heard anybody who bought a mansion from winnings on betting her (even in the depressed Las Vegas housing market). It was hard to find longshot winners in this division, but Persistently beat Rachel Alexandra at 21-1 in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga and finished with an ROI of $6.03 and Unrivaled Belle knocked off Blind Luck in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at 7-1 and racked up an ROI of $6.23. But this division goes to Acoma on the strength of a 23-1 upset in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland and an overall ROI of $9.92.

Older male: Blame’s ROI of $7.08 is actually very respectable, and he was edged out by Dakota Phone’s $7.43 largely due to his 37-1 score in the BC Dirt Mile. But they were both more than doubled up by Jersey Town, who won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct at 34-1 and earlier in the year had a win at 2-1 in an optional claiming race at Emerald Downs.He ended up with an ROI of $15.42.

3-year-old male: There were a number of decent prices in this division, like there usually are every year, with Stately Victor winning Keeneland’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at 40-1, Drosselmeyer winning the Belmont at 13-1, and even Super Saver winning the Kentucky Derby at 8-1. But no one could catch Line of David, who won his maiden at 11-1 at Santa Anita and also won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn at 17-1 – with a $4.60 allowance score tossed in for good measure – to win our award with an ROI of $13.04.

3-year-old female: Blind Luck was a near-unanimous winner of the Eclipse (and should have been), but never paid better than $5.60 in any of her five wins. Champagne d’Oro won only three times but paid $10.80 in a maiden special weight race at Fair Grounds, $81 in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, and $12.40 in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. Her ROI was $13.03 from eight races to take the division title.

Female sprinter: Champagne d’Oro’s $13.03 would normally give her a second ROI Award, but since her big win was at a mile, albeit around one turn in the Acorn, I can’t give her the sprinter award as well. It instead goes to Mona de Momma, who upset the Grade 3 Los Flores Handicap at Santa Anita and followed that up with an 8-1 score in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. From four races (all between six and seven furlongs), her ROI was a deserving $10.35.

Male sprinter: Kinsale King takes the honors here with an ROI of $9.10 off a 9-1 win in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita, with his only other North American start being a loss at 13-1 in the BC Sprint. Further legitimizing his campaign was a 9-2 victory in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, which a lot of us were able to bet.

Turf female: For the second straight year, we’re invoking the U.S. Clause and tossing the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor winner at Woodbine (Reggane at 10-1 in her lone North American start in 2010, Lahaleeb at 44-1 in 2009). Instead, we honor Shared Account, who had only a $6 win in the Grade 3 All Along at Colonial Downs until she won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at 46-1 to give her an overall ROI of $20.

Turf male: There’s another executive decision here as Dangerous Midge won the BC Turf at 8-1 and returned $19 in his lone start on this side of the pond, but we’re instead giving the ROI Award to Haimish Hy despite coming up just short at $18.80. He had a far more consistent year with an optional claiming win at 3-2, a win at 31-1 in the El Cajon at Del Mar, and an 11-1 upset of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

2-year-old male: J. B.’s Thunder lost the BC Juvenile to Uncle Mo (ROI of just $3.67), but he didn’t need it in this competition as his 7-1 maiden victory at Saratoga and 5-1 win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland was enough for an ROI of $10.07.

2-year-old female and ROI HOY: We save the best for last and this year that is Rigoletta. She epitomized everything the ROI Awards stand for. She never went off at odds of below 10-1 and outran her odds every time. She was fifth in her maiden debut at 30-1, and then graduated in her next start, which came at Del Mar at odds of 12-1. She went off at 30-1 in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante at Del Mar and finished third, but that effort didn’t keep her from going off at 32-1 in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf, which she won. Her ROI for the year was $23.45 to not only take her division but also the coveted ROI Horse of the Year.

That’s it for this year’s honors. Have a good night, and be sure to tip your waitress.