Photo: Don August
Now is the season when the year-in-review articles begin to roll out en masse. Never one to be left out of the fun, I join in the party, but with my own unique spin. Turning the Horse of the Year race into twelve separate units, I look back at 2013, month-by-month. Who was the top American horse of each month? Read on ...
January - Ron the Greek
Just hours before the 2012 Eclipse Awards would be awarded at Gulfstream Park, six-year-old Ron the Greek reminded us all that on his best day, he could beat anyone. The $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic was supposed to be a showdown between Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek, but when the former said no mas on the messy track, Ron more than took up the slack with a virtuoso performance that saw him finish more than 11 lengths clear of his nearest competition.
Honorable Mention - Itsmyluckyday (Gulfstream Park Derby & Holy Bull)
February - Point of Entry
In what may have been the best turf match-up of the year, two terrific thoroughbreds entered the starting gate for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. At the eighth pole, it looked liked fans would get exactly what they came to see. Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom’s stretch battle would be short lived; however, as the turf loving son of Dynaformer would prove too much for the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner on this day.
Honorable Mention - Graydar (Donn Handicap)
March - Game On Dude
In a career full of strong performances, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one from Game On Dude than this year’s Santa Anita Handicap. Treating the historic Big Cap as if it was his own private playground, the six-year-old gelding dominated his competition furlong after punishing furlong. The 7 ¾ length runaway over Clubhouse Ride, Called To Serve, Ron the Greek, and five others, reestablished Game On Dude as the top horse in California.
Honorable Mention - Dreaming of Julia (Gulfstream Oaks)
April - Beholder
She may have taken a hit to her reputation with an early seasons loss, but any thoughts that Beholder was not the same talented filly which won a championship the year before, were put to rest in a big way in the Santa Anita Oaks. Much like the March Horse of the Month, the daughter of Henny Hughes took the race to her competition right from the opening bell. Gliding over the Santa Anita main track like an expensive sports car, Beholder was off to Kentucky as one of the favorites for the Oaks, and in high style.
Honorable Mention - Cyber Secret (Oaklawn Handicap)
May - Orb
Here in America, we love the Kentucky Derby. And when the Derby winner leaves no doubt that he was best that day, he immediately becomes the toast of American racing. Orb looked like the best horse in the week leading up to the Run for the Roses, and on race day, he did not disappoint. Rallying on the wet Churchill Downs main track, Orb came from well back to power by the large field, and in the process, etched his name into history.
Honorable Mention - Oxbow (Preakness)
June - Fort Larned
Up until the Stephen Foster, the winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic was having a bizarre year. From dumping the rider, and winning that race riderless by a pole, to throwing in an absolute clunker in Arkansas, Fort Larned needed something big to put himself back on the map. Mission accomplished with a corker of a win at Churchill Downs. In a small but select field, Fort Larned looked every bit like the horse who had done so much the year before, with a front running 6 ¼ length romp.
Honorable Mention - Palace Malice (Belmont Stakes)
July - Verrazano
Slightly forgotten after a disappointing run on the first Saturday in May, Verrazano thrust his name back to the top of America’s glamour division with an easy as you please, stroll in the park romp on the Jersey Shore. Turning away the Preakness winner on the far turn, the Todd Pletcher trainee hit the Monmouth Park stretch in charge, and then kept on going. Fans were screaming “Verrazano is back!” even before he hit the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational wire a near ten length winner over Power Broker.
Honorable Mention - Princess of Sylmar (Coaching Club American Oaks)
August - Will Take Charge
With Orb, Palace Malice, and Verrazano all in the field, the Travers was a race that was supposed to identify the three-year-old champion. In retrospect, it did, just not the horse suspected going in. Earning his first Grade 1 win in what would become typical Will Take Charge style, the determined son of Unbridled’s Song waited until the last possible moment before surging for the wire. No buzzer needed in this one, Will Take Charge got there in time to nail Moreno on the MidSummer Derby wire.
Honorable Mention - Cross Traffic (Whitney Invitational)
September - Princess of Sylmar
It was a showdown between the current top three-year-old filly in the land versus the two-time champion mare. The Princess of Sylmar and Royal Delta meeting in the Grade 1 Beldame was highly anticipated, and the race would be worth the wait. Royal Delta accepted the challenge of the rallying youngster at the head of the stretch, and looked strong until the eighth pole, but on this day, youth would not be denied. Princess of Sylmar grabbed the lead and the torch, as she powered away from Royalty.
Honorable Mention - Ron the Greek (Jockey Club Gold Cup)
October - Points Offthebench
In one of the best sprints of the year, the ill-fated Points Offthebench ran the race of his life. The rags to riches story from the Tim Yakteen barn had two separate tasks in this one. First he had to track the blazing early speed of Distinctive Passion. After chasing a half in :43.69, he doggedly ran down the speedy leader. He eventually took over from that one, only to see the talented three-year-old, Goldencents charging hard on his outside, and he had just enough to hold that one off. The whole race only took 1:08 flat, but it was everything a sprint should be.
Honorable Mention - Joshua Tree (Canadian International)
November - Mucho Macho Man
The Derby may have the most fanfare, but the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the race where championships are made or lost. Turned away in the stretch of this race the year before, this time Mucho Macho Man would be resolute in his pursuit of a Classic victory. Forging to the lead in the Santa Anita stretch, Mucho Macho Man would still need to summon every last bit of energy he had to hold off a furious late charge by the soon to be 3-year-old champ, as well as Europe’s Declaration of War. It was a career defining win for the classy Kathy Ritvo trainee.
Honorable Mention - Will Take Charge (BC Classic 2nd & Clark Handicap)
December - Shared Belief
The first juvenile to make the grade, Jim Rome’s Shared Belief did exactly what he had done in his first two races … romp. This time it was not a maiden race or even a sprint. The Grade 1 CashCall Futurity may have attracted a large field of promising youngsters, and been his first time around two-turns, but the talented son of Candy Ride met both challenges with disdainful ease. In a swift and decisive move on the turn, Shared Belief took command and the race was never in doubt from there on out.
Honorable Mention - To be determined