It’s been a long, hard, and more than frustrating task to piece together the puzzle of Horse of the Year, but it seems that finally, at long last, the fog is clearing and leaders are emerging.
This past weekend Belmont hosted Super Saturday, which featured a host of stars. In every graded race there was at least one major horse if not more, and everybody was on the edge of their seats to see if those stars could do what no other horse has been able to do this season. Follow up one brilliant performance with another. With the fields being small and not much value to be found for the hard core bettors, each current leader was expected to win, they were expected to impress, and boy oh boy did they ever impress.
On a saturated turf course both Stacelita and Cape Blanco both gave fans something to scream about as the filly powered home winning decisively by two lengths, while Cape Blanco courageously fought off the late challenge of Deans Kitten. The times were nothing to rave about, but with the condition of the turf course, one can easily forgive the sloth like nature of the times.
On the dirt, match ups like Uncle Mo vs Jackson Bend, Royal Delta vs Havre de Grace, and Stay Thirsty vs Flat Out were waiting in the wings. In two out of three match ups, the elders took their younger foes and showed them how a top racehorse runs. The lone wolf three-year-old winner was Uncle Mo, who hopped out of the gate to wire the field, while repelling a strong bid from Forego winner Jackson Bend, and running the mile in an eye popping 1.33.84, in the mud. The effort earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 118, the highest of any three-year-old this year and only bettered by the likes of Champion Sprinter Big Drama.
Next up Havre de Grace made easy work of pace maker Life at Ten and Alabama queen, Royal Delta, winning the Beldame by eight and one quarter lengths. What was so amazing about the performance was the ease in which it was accomplished. Some were worried that the Woodward took too much out her, that maybe she wouldn’t be at her best. All the doubters got a big reality check, because not only did she roll home, she did it in little more than a canter, leaving plenty of gas in the tank for her assault on the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
After this weekend, there should be no doubt in any persons mind that the two leading horses, going into the Classic are Uncle Mo and Havre de Grace. Havre de Grace is your new leader in the race for Horse of the Year, and the only way for anyone to wrest that away from her grip is to take her down in the Classic. After yesterday’s performance, I’m not sure I would give any of the males a good shot. Game on Dude is game, but will he like Churchill Downs? The same goes for Flat Out, Stay Thirsty and Tizway. Tizway’s conditioning is also in question. Twirling Candy can run on anything, but will he be ready or will he even run in the Classic? Uncle Mo is more talented than any of these, but the question for him would be, is he a big enough freak to win the Classic off of two races that could be classified as sprints?
We won’t know the answer to any of those questions until the Breeders Cup. What we do know is the one horse that has answered all those questions and answered them emphatically. Havre de Grace is going to the Classic and she is not looking to take any prisoners.