12/11/2013 10:01AM

Keith Gisser: Foiled Again may be the greatest standardbred ever

Derick Giwner
Foiled Again has earned over $1 million in each of the last three years.

Foiled Again is my favorite horse of all time and he has been for several years. He has the heart of a warrior, the desire to win of a true champion and staying power that has been unseen in this sport since Rambling Willie. He was absolutely awesome yet again as he shook a bit of a Meadowlands jinx with his impressive win in the $500,000 TVG Championship. In that race, he probably locked up divisional honors and he beat a likely divisional champ in Captaintreacherous. Suddenly, the soon-to-be 10-year-old . . . the richest pacer in the history of the sport (at over $6,000,000) is being bandied about as a Horse of the Year candidate. I love this horse. And that is why I cannot vote for him for Horse of the Year.

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He is not my first love and probably won’t be my last. First there was Silk Stockings, then BJ Scoot and followed by Moni Maker. Then I went several years without a favorite horse. OK, maybe Gallo Blue Chip, the horse whose earnings mark Foiled Again snatched. But from 2002 until about 2010, there were nothing but pretenders. Horses I liked, but who abandoned racing by the allure of the breeding barn, never allowing me to develop a true rapport and never allowing them to build a true fan base. Most were horses I saw race live, at Delaware or at major events at my home track, Northfield Park, or whose connections I knew from my role as a track publicist. Good, even great horses. But not horses I loved.  Kelly O’Donnell’s P Forty-seven, Chip Noble’s Van Anna and the great pacers Rock N Roll Heaven and Somebeachsomewhere. Yeah, I liked them, but I never made an emotional connection with them. Roger Hammer’s Vivid Photo or Won The West, like the Ron Burke-trained Foiled Again, may have come closest. But I only read about Vivid Photo’s exploits or saw them on TV. And as great as WTW was, he stood in the shadow of Foiled Again, at least for me.

But the son of Dragon Again is different. Foiled Again wasn’t a star at two or three, just a solid racehorse. He blossomed at four and has won at least 10 times in all but one year since the “off” year of 2012, when he only won seven times, banking just $1.2 million.  He rarely throws in bad race. As he closes in on 200 career starts, he has been on the board in over 75% of them. That is a record of consistency that is just unheard of. As a high school soccer coach, I wish I coached a team of Foiled Agains, who overcame injuries, worked hard all the time and also had talent.

But Horse of the Year? That’s another story. My heart says, do it! Vote for him. He beat one of the main contenders for the title, knocking Captaintreacherous out of the Horse of the Year race. And you can make an argument for him, especially with the way he ended his season. Heck, he won 11 of 29 races and was on the board 24 times. He lowered his lifetime mark to 1:48 . . . at age 9 . . . and was just a few dollars off a career-best bankroll. Yep, my emotions say vote for Foiled Again for Horse of the Year.

But the numbers just don’t add up for my favorite horse. Bee A Magician is perfect in 17 races with $1.5 million earned. She beat everyone she faced and danced enough dances (among them, the Breeders Crown and Hambletonian Oaks, the two richest races in her division). Yet the naysayers say it was a weak division. One blogger even said she was so good, she should not win Horse of the Year because it was too easy. Denying her the title would be like saying the 1972 Miami Dolphins (also 17-for-17) were not as good as the Washington Redskins because Washington played a tougher schedule.

In the movie Friday Night Lights, Billy Bob Thornton, as Coach Gary Gaines, makes a memorable speech, “Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman - you're perfect!”

By that definition Foiled Again is perfect. He has done everything he could. In most years, that would be enough. He will retire (if we are lucky not for a few more years) as arguably the greatest pacer ever, maybe the greatest Standardbred ever. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame. But Horse of the Year is not a lifetime achievement award. It entails 2013 only.

And in 2013, there was a horse that meets not just Coach Gaines’ definition of perfect, but also Merriam Webster’s definition of perfect, “being entirely without fault or defect.” And by that definition, as much as my heart tells me to vote otherwise, Bee A Magician will get my vote for Horse of the Year.

As for Foiled Again, there’s always 2014. Now go cash. See you next month.