Updated on 09/15/2011 2:26PM

Who captures your fancy?

Benoit & Associates
Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow wins the San Fernando in January.

New York - From late on Breeders' Cup Day, Oct. 27, through Nov. 7, a poll was conducted on drf.com about who should be Horse of the Year: Point Given or Tiznow.

By the time the poll concluded, 1,429 fans had voted. Of them, 755 cast their votes for Tiznow, while 674 said Point Given should be Horse of the Year.

If the contest for Horse of the Year were a parimutuel betting event, the people who voted on drf.com would have Tiznow as the favorite at around 9-10, with Point Given the second choice at a little less than 6-5. For lots of racing fans, the battle for 2001 Horse of the Year is a lot closer than I thought it would be.

Let's go to the tale of the tape. Point Given won six of seven starts this year, five in Grade 1 events, including the last two legs of the Triple Crown. Tiznow won three of six starts this year, was never worse than third, and became the first horse ever to win consecutive Breeders' Cup Classics. That is an achievement that merits great appreciation and in time may very well prove to be every bit as difficult as taking two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

The Horse of the Year credentials of both Point Given and Tiznow are not without flaws. That's okay; there hasn't been a truly perfect Horse of the Year since Cigar was 10 for 10 in 1995 to win the first of his two Horse of the Year awards.

The knock on Point Given is that he never faced, let alone defeated, older opponents, before retiring. As for Tiznow, he lost as often as he won, and though his Grade 1 wins were big - he won the Santa Anita Handicap in addition to the Classic - there were only two of them.

Recent Horse of the Year votes provide mixed evidence. Point Given may not have faced older opponents, but neither did 1999 Horse of the Year Charismatic, who broke down in that year's Belmont Stakes while in pursuit of the Triple Crown. For that matter, Favorite Trick faced only 2-year-olds when he somehow was voted Horse of the Year in 1997. Tiznow was voted Horse of the Year last year with only two Grade 1 victories, and Charismatic had only two Grade 1 wins in 1999. As for Tiznow's .500 batting average this year, Charismatic was only four for 10 in 1999. Cigar did only somewhat better in the second of his two Horse of the Year campaigns in 1996, going five for eight, with only two Grade 1 wins.

The battle for 2001 Horse of the Year is indeed a close contest. But there are other crucial factors that must go into a well-thought-out decision. Here is where we will be able to separate the two candidates for Horse of this Year:

One factor is the candidate's dominance of his division. There is no question that Point Given was absolutely dominant in his division. All but one of his victories this year were by open lengths and in the one that wasn't, the Haskell Invitational, Point Given was ripe to be beaten, but he won anyway because he was just so good. Behind Point Given, the rest of the 3-year-old division was a muddle.

Tiznow was best of the older males, but that wasn't determined until after the Classic, in which he was, notably, only fourth choice in the betting. Moreover, Tiznow's credentials don't overwhelm those of Lido Palace, who won the Whitney and the Woodward, in which, in their only meeting, he beat Tiznow. Tiznow's division was certainly tougher than Point Given's, but he simply did not rule his division the way Point Given dominated his.

The other critical consideration, though nebulous, is, did the candidate capture the imagination? Point Given definitely did. After he won the Belmont by more than 12 lengths, there was considerable lamenting over his uncharacteristically poor effort in the Kentucky Derby and wide acknowledgment that he was worthy of being a Triple Crown winner.

After his retirement, there was much debate over whether he deserved to be called great. "Great" is a terribly overused term, and I don't think Point Given was quite great. But, I do think he was very, very good, and the fact that there was so much discussion about it speaks volumes. And, as fine a horse as Tiznow is - he's a defending Horse of the Year, for crying out loud - he never elicited such emotion from the racing public.

My Horse of the Year vote goes to Point Given. And, I will sleep soundly knowing I made the right choice.