Weblog: From Kentucky to the World Wide Web
Is it too much to ask for a Triple Crown contender?
WANTED: A horse that can stir the imagination of America's race-going public through the 2012 season.
Lone requirement: The ability to run fast - on the lead or coming from behind - over a Classic distance of ground and do it without disappearing from the entry box for months at a time.
That translates to a wish for athree-year-old who can dominate the Triple Crown. Pretty ambitious, huh? But given the timid nature of runners based in the U.S through the 2011 season, it is a wish that one can at least understand.
Our Horse of the Year, Havre DeGrace, is a very nice horse, indeed. But imagine the shock absorbed when one sees that she is rated no better that co-59th in an assessment of the world's best on the past year.
She is the third consecutivemember of the distaff set to be named Hose of the Year in the U.S., following Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Zenyatta in 2010. No-one would confuse her with either of those two fine runners.
The Eclipse Awards, held January 16, led to few surprises in the equine categories, though the voting in some was close. Closest of them all was Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom's three-vote margin (114-111) over Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse.
The power of the Derby obviously won out. Both were top-quality horses, which is more than could be said of the most prominent horses in many of the other divisions for which champions were named.
In a battle of what was rather than what might have been, Hansen was voted champion male juvenile over Union Rags. The two were first and second, respectively, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race for which Union Rags was a solid favourite.
Union Rags had aless than ideal trip in the race while Hansen went to the lead at the start and remained there when it seemed that his rival just had to go by him at some point. But it didn't happen, and the title was decided just where all titles should be, on the racetrack.
Human categories in Eclipse Award voting can be a real bore, given that many voters use only statistics to determine their preferences. Frank Stronach being voted top breeder through his Adena Springs farm is a perfect example.
His numbers are often dominant, but what of the breeder who gets an extremely high number of quality runners with far fewer chances?
Sometimes the same holds true among trainers, too. I voted for GrahamMotion while Bill Mott won after saddling two Breeders' Cup winners. Now, I think Mott is a great trainer. But it just seemed to me Motion did more with less. I like that characteristic in trainers.
And who can argue with Ken and Sarah Ramsey winning as outstanding owners on the season? The indefatigable Ramsey runs his horses where they belong, and they seemingly belong everywhere on offer in US racing. The man simply loves the game and plays hard at it.
Now if I can only get Mike Pegram home once as outstanding owner... Until then, let's hope there is a horse out there who can answer my help-wanted ad for US racing in 2012.