Only minutes after the string of upsets concluded at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, the first topic of conversation that radiated through both Churchill Downs and the expansive world of Social Media was, who would be Horse of the Year now? The Breeders’ Cup Classic included several horses that could have clinched racing’s biggest yearly award with a victory. But one by one, they were denied by Drosselmeyer, a horse with no real chance at the award. Of the most likely candidates, Havre de Grace ran fourth, Flat Out was fifth, and Stay Thirsty could do no better than eleventh. Only the gutsy Californian, Game On Dude, was able to make a big run in the Classic, before succumbing late to the stretch running, long shot winner.
Maybe if the great Goldikova had won her fourth consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile, she would have taken home Horse of the Year in a lifetime achievement nod, but even she could not withstand the rush of 64-1 chance, Court Vision. The upsets left nothing but questions. Did Havre de Grace do enough yesterday to retain her leadership role? Perhaps Game On Dude finally earned the respect that he seemingly never quite had before yesterday. Maybe, but what about the horse that handed Game On Dude his lunch in the Pacific Classic.
Acclamation was a horse that no one would have wagered a plugged nickel on to even be mentioned in the Horse of the Year race after a tenth place debacle in a sloppy Charles Town Classic back in April. Since then though, the five-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat may have put together a winning streak that carries him be called America’s best of 2011.
Doing most of his damage on the grass, Acclamation won the Grade 2 Jim Murray, the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham, and the Grade 1 Eddie Read on the grass at distances ranging between nine and twelve furlongs in succession before finishing the year by capturing his fifth straight graded stakes, the Grade 2 Clement L Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita on October 2.
Those victories proved without question that he was the cream of the West Coast turf horse crop, but it was the victory before the Hirsch that may just put him over the top when voters make the decision at year’s end.
When Acclamation won the Grade I Pacific Classic, over horses like Twirling Candy and Game On Dude, on Del Mar’s Polytrack, he proved that he was more than just a turf horse, but rather a legitimate Horse of the Year contender. He proved that he is a horse that could beat top competition on different surfaces and on multiple distances. Considering the results at Churchill Downs yesterday, that may be enough to collect the most coveted trophy at the Eclipse Awards.