11/07/2013 3:45PM

Steven Crist: There's one Eclipse Award where Wise Dan is not best choice

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Barbara D. Livingston
Wise Dan (left) is a lock to win his second Horse of the Year title, but there may be a viable alternative for Eclipse Award voters in the balloting for champion older male.

Secretariat. Forego. Affirmed. John Henry. Cigar. Curlin. Wise Dan?

Come January, the question mark will be gone and Wise Dan will join those six as the only horses to win more than one Horse of the Year title since the Eclipse Awards began in 1972.

(If you want to travel back to the pre-Eclipse days of Horse of the Year polls that began in 1936, you can add Challedon [1939-40], Whirlaway [1941-42], Native Dancer [1952 and 1954], and Kelso [1960-64] to the list.)

Wise Dan’s second such title is about the same price as the sun’s rising in the east tomorrow. Game On Dude would have wrested the trophy from the 2012 Horse of the Year with a Classic victory, and Princess of Sylmar would have made it a horse race had she won the Distaff. However, when those two finished ninth and sixth, respectively, at Santa Anita last weekend, while Wise Dan won his second straight Breeders’ Cup Mile, the voting for the sport’s top award became a formality.

Two days after the Cup, Wise Dan got 53 of the 56 (95 percent) votes in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s weekly poll, suggesting this year’s landslide may be even greater than the 2012 version, when he received 194 of the 250 (78 percent) actual ballots cast.

In some ways, Wise Dan fits right in with the other multiple winners. His 19 career victories are the same number as Cigar’s, and more than Curlin or Secretariat, and his $6.2 million in earnings put him fourth among the seven (behind Curlin’s $10.5 million, Cigar’s $9.99 million, and John Henry’s $6.59 million, but more than Secretariat, Forego, and Affirmed combined to win in the 1970s.) His seven Grade 1 victories in 2012 and 2013 are a smidge light but the same number that Curlin posted in 2007 and 2008.

The primary differences, and probably the ones that make some old-school types a tad reluctant to put him in such exalted company, relate to surface and distance. Wise Dan will be the first multiple Eclipse Horse of the Year who  did not win a race at 10 furlongs or more during one of his championship seasons, or a dirt race of any kind.

He’s not the first to win the award twice with a predominantly grass campaign: John Henry won nine Grade 1 races during his 1981 and 1984 Horse of the Year campaigns, and seven of those nine were on the grass. (Curlin and Secretariat each tried grass only once, Cigar was 1 for 11 on it before he got good, and Affirmed and Forego never touched the stuff.)

I have no hesitation about voting for Wise Dan as Horse of the Year and champion turf male, but I will be looking elsewhere for champion older male. Those who take the name of that award too literally will argue that the Horse of the Year must by definition win any other category in which he is a contender, but to me that title really means best main-track older horse.

There is precedent for awarding the older male Eclipse to a horse other than a grass-based Horse of the Year who happens to be an older male. In fact, Wise Dan was the first such horse to win the older male award, largely because there were no dominant older dirt males last year. When John Henry won his second Horse of the Year in 1984 without a grass victory, the older male title went to Slew o’ Gold. When all-grass Kotashaan won the big prize in 1993, the Eclipse for older male went to Bertrando.

Last year there was a stronger case for Wise Dan as best older male on grounds of versatility – he had a runaway synthetic-track victory in the Ben Ali  and a narrow defeat in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on dirt to go along with his four grass triumphs. This year, he lost his only non-grass start when he finished second to Silver Max after the Shadwell Turf Mile was rained onto the main track.

So with eight weeks until ballots are due, I’m leaning towards voting for Wise Dan as Horse of the Year and top turf male, but for Game On Dude as champion older male. Before his Classic misfire, he was 3 for 3 on dirt and 2 for 2 on synthetics and swept California’s three biggest races for older males – the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic, all at 1 1/4 miles. Wise Dan’s a worthy and inevitable Horse of the Year again, but there’s  still an appropriate way to honor the horse who had the best season at classic distances on the main track.

Joanne Kraft More than 1 year ago
You are incorrect with regard to Secretariat's turf record. Look it up!!
Stephen Pfaffenbach More than 1 year ago
Why all the support for Will Take Charge? He won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby he lost the Breeders Cup Classsic. I think Orbs Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby wins are more impressive. WTC was nowhere in the 3 triple crown races. It's what have you done lately that seems to influence voters.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
What a controversial debate older male will be. If Baffert was as confident as you I don't believe he would be targetting Clarke at Churchill. You can't beat horses in your own back yard...lesser caliber at that...and choke when it counts in BC...again on own field...and win older male award. He didn't lose by a nose like WTC..who is IMO 3 year old winner even though Orb's early season hands down the best. Dude is NOT OLDER MALE ECLIPSE CHAMP... Wise Dan gets it or MMM. See you in Miami!
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Agreed Thomas. A fair and objective opinion is always welcome. It never fails to surprise me ,though, the amount of venom and hate that some on here can feel toward a horse (G.O.D.). I like G.O.D. Still do he's a good horse. but he was a complete flop. I believe the award should go to MMM by default and he did have the biggest win. Also would like to see WTC and Beholder.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I agree. Never fault an animal. He is a very nice horse and beautifully managed. Made tons of money which is the point of business.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Agree 100% as I've said many times here.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Sharp minds.....
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Sorry, I respectfully disagree. It doesn't matter if he ran against Clydesdales, he still swept Cali's premiere races, and like you said, won a ton of money. I think the comments here about GoD are given with a handicappers point of view, the writers and others who vote on these awards really don't take into consideration the "company" that he faced, it's about a win is a win. (I would love to see Dan sweep again, too, despite "losing a step", how funny was that :-) But that's just me.. MMM has NO chance for older male on just the 2 races he won, and it's a shame, if Orb could've won just one more major race, hands down he get's the eclipse:( .Have a great time in Miami, I'll be thinking how nice that will be while handicapping the inner dirt and freezing my speed figures off :)
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I still believe that BC races are the ultimate goal for top horses as is Kentucky Derby for 3 year olds. So to win every prep such as Wood or Florida Derby or Santa Anita and lose the big one hurts in Eclipse votes by writers n horseman alike...so goes the older male division. We all pick our spots to developed a horse and keep em happy healthy and improving while building towards SOME goal. But if we win all the preps and bank millions and fall short of the goal...is that a win? Enough for award? IR does the horse that achieved our goal deserve the awards and accolades? Like I said...tough call. I do respect your beliefs though.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Of course it matters and when he met a strong field he got crushed. Not the best record, the best older horse.
B More than 1 year ago
One of the few times I disagree with you.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
MMM 4 races completed 2 G1's. One is rthe classic. He may not have ran much when healthy and in top form he is clearly the best handicap horse. Tough one for the voters. Wise Dan will probably win all three. Good for him if he does. I don't think there is actually hatred towards another horse. How could you HATE the horse?, they are asked to run and give it 100% every time. But you can hate the fields, and competition. In regards to who have you beaten...
Anthony Mormino More than 1 year ago
Secretariat's final 2 races were on turf! If Gio Ponti(2009) can win both, Wise Dan could, but I agree Game On Dude deserves the older male Eclipse for his outstanding year!
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
No, Game On Dude's veterinarian deserves the award. Look at how G.O.D performs in races where there's no security: All wins. And look at how G.O.D. performs in races where there's security: LOSES BY A LOT. DR FEELGOOD TOOK THE BREEDERS CUP WEEKEND OFF. Verrazano and Princess of Sylmar have equally dismal records in SECURITY races also. Verro 0-3 Princess: 0-1 'Dude, Verro and The Princess are junkies.
Daniel Garcia More than 1 year ago
I don't see pletcher with an older horse. And haven't in a LONG time. At least Baffert has game on dude. You west coast haters can talk all you want about game on dude and Baffert. But I'd rather have Baffert than pletcher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd rather have Mandella from out west and Chad Brown, Graham Motion, or Roger Attfield from out east.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I second that....MOTION
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Mandella, Drysdale, Ellis, Sheriffs, are all as good if not better than Baffert, in Ca. They all chose to run smaller stables with fewer clients. I would also prefer Mott & McGaughey along with Brown on the east coast. Now everyone of the above are great trainers including BB & TP. They just chose to manage their stables differently. I would chose the smaller more personalized stables, but the men with the big $$ seem. To like BB & TP so they must be doing something right. After all, the Tabors, Smiths, Shahs, & Pegrams didn't get to where they are today by being stupid with their money,
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Right! Baffert has over 20 medical violations, Pletcher only 6
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Having read many of the posts regarding this article, one thing comes mind. I am a fan of both the Dude and MMM but let's be real. None of the males this year have shown themselves to be "Great Horses". 3 year old and older, there are allot of good horses, some very good, but none that deserve to be called "Great". "Great" is overused. A truly "Great" horse would have eaten this division for lunch on either coast; Curlin, Ghostzapper, Sunday Silence, Mineshaft, Easy Goer, Spectacular Bid, Secretariat, Affirmed, Alydar, Seattle Slew, Forego, Kelso, even John Henry now those are great horses.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
FYI, I am hesitant to call Wise Dan "Great". He is consistantly great at 1 mile to 1 mile 1/8 on turf. but he has not shown the versatility yet. Let him either win. G1 on dirt/synthetic or at a mile 1/4 or longer. At least Frankel won at a mile 1/4. It's not too late. He will be back next year.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
12 furlongs is the classic distance in europe....the great races are the derbies, king george the arc....Frankel is really a miler....but they try to promote him as a classic 12 furlongs horse by comparing Frankel to Dancing Brave, Ribot, SeaBird.....sad really...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They have NEVER promoted him as a 12f horse, because simply he never ran the distance of ground. He is a 6f-10.5 f horse, because he won at all those distances. He was never given a chance to go 12, but if he did , I am quite sure he would have won on the bridle. Horses of Frankel's natural abilities don't come around often. The only Euro's that would beat, or make a great of it would be Seabird(Who I consider the best ever on turf) Sea The Stars, and Lammtarra. Everyone else I believe would fall to Frankel at any distance up to 12.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
I agree. the one time Frankel ran 10 furlongs, he won for fun. He was never really tested and never lost. He was truly a great horse. Just wish we could have seen him live here in the USA just once. I believe Wise Dan would have been running for 2nd but that's just my opinion
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dan won the Clark Handicap on dirt, and the Ben Ali on poly. He is a GREAT horse because of his CV. A great horse can run a mile, and still be considered great. This is a case of ol man mentality when Dirt trumps all which is complete BS>
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Ann I was unaware Dan won the Clark. I remember him losing the Clark by a nose to RTG last year and the Ben Ali is a G3 on Poly as you previously stated. If Dan won the Clark the previous year, I stand corrected and would obviously have to amend my statement (and opinion). Unfortunately i did not have his complete PPs I front of me so if I was wrong, I stand corrected. Thanks
Matt D. More than 1 year ago
Paul, I enjoy reading your posts and agree with many of your comments, including this one. But - Mineshaft great? If my memory serves me correctly 2003 HOY lost to Balto Star, was dusted by Perfect Drift and did not run in that year's Classic. Not knit-picking, just wondering as I respect your opinion.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Mineshaft started slow (just like Cigar) but by the end of his career he was dominating his races. If I'm not mistaken, he had to retire b4 the VCC due to injury, but I truly believe that he would have dominated these horses this year. I will admit I omitted Cigar which was a mistake but my point wasn't as much as who is/was great, just none of the current horses are in that category yet. There's still time for Dan, the Dude and the returning 3 years olds to elevate to that level but, no one is there as of today.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Oops. BCC not VCC. My bad.
B More than 1 year ago
I agree in spades. I, unfortunately, have been alive for all the horses you have mentioned, though I, also unfortunately, have no personal memory of Kelso. I just had not been exposed to racing then though I have vague memories of Candy Spots for some reason. My first racing thrill was Riva Ridge, an excellent one, but not a great one primarily due to a complete aversion to a wet track. Secretariat is the greatest I've ever seen and I appreciate the fact that you included both Alydar and Easy Goer who so many don't mention on great lists due to there being another horse in their year that was a tad better. That fact does not mean they were not great horses as well who just happened to be born in the same year as another great. I don't think you've missed any of the great males over this period of time, but I personally would replace Mineshaft with Cigar, but this is one of the more logical lists of modern greats that I have read.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
I agree, I missed Cigar. My bad but it still was very impressed with Mineshaft at his best. Like Cigar, he started slow but was really excellent at the end of his HOTY campaign and would have handily beat this crop hands down. Another I missed was Holy Bull and I also was a huge fan of Silver Charm (for his heart as much as his talent). There may have been other horses I accidentally omitted but I think you get my point. None of the current horses currently can stand with any of those horses (with the possible exception of the DAN depending on his future accomplishments).
B More than 1 year ago
There are many, many wonderful horses like the examples you use, Holy Bull & Silver Charm, but on a list of the very greatest, these two like Riva Ridge, Foolish Pleasure, Point Given, Invasor, Tiznow, A.P. Indy, Skip Away, Alysheba, Exceller and more that are just not coming to mind at the moment just miss the list of the greatest ever, but they were all wonderful as were many that have not been mentioned by either of us. I agree that none of the horses running in the past few years compare to most of these and for me, that includes Wise Dan, though he is great at what is is capable of doing.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Some of the posters here need to try ambian.i love this sport but im not losing sleep worrying which gelding gets hoy trophy.both connections have had a great ride and many great moments.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve Christ, I have a suggestion for you. Convince Baffert to send GOD to the Cigar Mile so you can watch a filly dust him next time. Then they can make Groupie Doll HOY.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
I am so tired of everyone bashing GoD for who he faced. At the beginning of 2013 Baffert announced his schedule for the entire year with one possible audible. San Antonio (G2) Santa Anita Hdcp (G1) Charlestown Hdcp (G2 & $1,000,000 to the winner), & Hollywood Gold Cup (G1). The only ?? was the Pacific Classic (G1). If the horse wasn't handling the surface, the Whitney was a back up but he preferred not to ship twice. The Awesome Again was never in his plans so he wasn't ducking anyone. If anything, the east coast horses were ducking him. If he was so weak, why not come out and take these million dollar purses from him. Even when he shipped across the country only one quality horse had the guts to try him (RTG) whom he also beat in the S.A. Handicap. With a million dollars to the winner, where were all the east coast horses then. Yes, GoD lost HOTY when he lost the Classic. Yes MMM showed what a good horse he is. But GoD still had the best overall year for any classic distance horse and should be Older Horse champion. It's not his or Baffert's fault the other horses chose to avoid him (except for RTG and an over the top Dullahan). HOTY: Wise Dan Grass Champ: Wise Dan Older Horse: Game on Dude Older Filly & Mare: Royal Delta 3 yr old: WTC (unless GC wins Cigar Mile at which point his 3 G1 victories two over older horses passes WTC's resume) 3 yr old Filly: Beholder Sprinter: Points off the Bench (Sahara Sky is also worthy but sentiment will win out) 2yr old Male: New Years Day 2yr old Filly: Still wide open.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
To use your vernacular. I am so tired of everyone heaping praise on Game On Dude for the record he compiled prior to the Breeders Cup Classic, and for saying such silly stuff as the east coast horses were ducking him for not flying cross country to face him. If Dude wants to stay in southern CA and take the easy money good for him. They also know with that program he gets no trophy without winning the Classic or being right there at the end. There is no need for the east coast horses to fly out during the year when the Classic would be held there which would decide who's best. They held the race. Everyone showed up, but few due to injury, all but a few beat him. If The Greek and Cross Traffic could have run it would have been 10 in front him instead of 8. Dude wasn't even competitive. Not his fault there is no competition there for him, but they knew that. Not the east coast horses fault they are better and more evenly matched. It's not the one with the better record running in weaker races, it's the best one. If you want to use that criteria, then good horses should just avoid each other, run in overnights and allowances and run up undefeated records then meet in the Classic, which would still decide things. Oh, that's kind of what happened. Dude got his hat handed to him, get over it.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
I am over it. I am simply stating his overall record is better than any other male dirt horse. The horse that actually was most impressive this year was probably Cross Traffic bit he got hurt and didn't get to run. GoD ran his set schedule, won three G1's and two G2's in including one on the east coast and yet all everyone does is put him down. He beat the above mentioned RTG twice (once on each coast). None of the other "better/deeper" east coast horses chose to run for a million dollar first prize. Why? Perhaps GoD is not the top older horse. Perhaps he was simply the best managed (allot of $$ for 5 races). But based on the overall records, GoD had the best year overall and this deserves Older horse award.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Dude had the best record for the reasons stated. He did not have the best year and is clearly not the best.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
One additional point, perhaps ducking was the wrong choice of words . What I was saying that G1 races for $750k or $1 million are available so why not come and get the $$ and G1 status if the field and GoD are so weak. He shipped east once and won, but other than Mott and RTG, no one chose to ship west. Why is that GoD's fault. He beat everyone who came against him until the big day. Yes he failed miserably in the BCC but his overall record still was excellent, better than RTG, FO, FL, CT & even MMM whom I won $$ with in the Classic. The fact that all the above took turns beating each other back east and hurt their chances so if the G1's and $$$ was so easy, why not ship and win. They certainly were willing to do it in the grass and F&M races.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Plenty of big money prestigious races in the east. They did go out west to run in the biggest one against him. They whipped him.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
You are correct. There are big races with large purses on both sides of the country.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Not disputing the quality or depth of the races in Fla, Ky, and especially NY. My only question is why stay east, run repeatedly against the same horses and win only one or two of these races when the races are supposedly easier in Ca. I do Mott have all the results in front of me but did any older horse win more than one G1 race on the east coast? The only multiple G1 winners were GoD (3+ 2 G2s) and MMM (2) and all 5 were won in Ca. The whole handicap division is weak. GoD had the best overall record and MMM won the big race (but only one other all year). I personally believe the overall record should matter but others are welcome to disagree. Enough already have.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Perfectly stated.
B More than 1 year ago
I seem to always be in agreement with you. I wish that Wise Dan was not going to win HOY as I just don't think his resume is all the impressive talented as he is, but he is going to win. I agree with you on grass champ, older male, older filly/mare even though it wasn't a great year for her, but who else is there? I also agree with your male sprinter choice (no picks for female sprinter?!) and I also agree 2 year old filly is wide open, but I also think that is the case for 2 year old male. I hate to see a horse be named champion due to one stakes race win as we have had so many duds over the years with the Juvenile, be named champion and turn out to be anything but. I am completely confused by the 3 year old male category though I think it's down to Orb and WTC barring various last minute desperate attempts by others to get noticed and while Beholder may win, I wouldn't bet money on it. Princess of Sylmar has a legitimate chance and it really should be a tie. As I wrote somewhere else on this site, I really don't understand why the voters don't have the opportunity to vote "no choice" if there is no one really worthy of an award in a particular category. Why call horses "champions" when they are simply not. There is nothing wrong with stating that no one horse did enough in this or that category to be crowned a champion.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Funny how baffert/god passed on AA . Hmmmm I think a certain east coast horse shipped out for that one. Duck duck ..... fraud .
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
The Awesome Again was NEVER on his schedule so he didn't duck anyone.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
It looked like a dodge, how many US horses won classic coming off a race on different surface last time out. Truth is Truth even if it hurts. 2011 was a fluke. He had a easy lead because trainers and jockeys did not respect the horses and especially the jockey.Bob had a chance to still one now it will be harder then ever to win one now
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Steal one.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
What Happen to Palace Malice.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Did not
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
run
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Well
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Very clever. I got it.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
don't worry about the thumbs down. That was fricken funny.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
So what time are you going start posting that Verrazano is going to win Cigar mile by 5 lengths. LOL. Unless he is really retired. Your confidence probably has been shaken. How a speed horse and eclipse nominee could not run better then fourth.
Mark More than 1 year ago
please refresh my memory. mouth . who did you have in jcgc ? what odds was he ? who did i have to win and place ? and what odds was he ? and what did the exacta pay also I had in jcgc ? thanks for coming . class dismissed . How does the orb god chalk taste ? lmao . and if Verrazano runs in cm I will be in attendance . to watch him go out a grade 1 winner in ny . not on that superhighway they had last Friday in sa..you backed two of the biggest frauds in recent history as ridiculously priced underlays . and you try to break my chops ? wow . lol. you 2 jeffie. you have given 1 opinion on theses pages since ive been on here for a year or so and talk all kind of crap . that one opinion was a 2-1 god who got drilled in classic . lol. funny stuff . comedy . hang in there . maybe you will learn something .
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
How did I get dragged into this? The last post I exchanged with you was something along the lines of "great year, now onto the two year olds and the derby trail" I was even noticing a lighter tone.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Tomorrow is another day, and no offense was taken. In the future, though, I would reccomend reading all post, and digging a little more into what is said. And you will see that I, and many others here, have, and will, post many opinions. We just have a different way of going about it. Good luck to you. Trust me it will get better.