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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

The Best of Illinois 2011

My name is Brian Zipse, and I support Illinois racing. There I said it, and you know what? I’m proud of it. While I didn’t make it down to Fairmount Park this year (it’s nearly a five-hour drive,) I did have the pleasure of frequenting two fine and very different racetracks in Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Course. Truth be told, Arlington has always been my favorite of the two, but Hawthorne does have the advantage of real dirt. It also has the year-end racing that, in many of these tight championship races, provided the deciding factor. I hope you enjoy taking a peek at my 2011 Illinois Champions ballot that I just sent in to the Illinois Thoroughbred and Breeders and Owners Foundation. I’m sure my esteemed colleague over at the Chicago Dark Horse blog, Chris Sorenson, will also have something to say about this, but  you know what they say, the first is usually best.
Two-Year-Old Male:
Banner Bill, Coalport, Sweet Luca
Two consecutive open stakes wins at Woodbine for Banner Bill was enough to edge out the talented turf runner, Coalport. It didn’t hurt his cause that his only defeat came at the hands of Union Rags.
Two-Year-Old Filly:
Class Break, Our Domain, Remembermealways
While not making much noise on the national scene, Class Break was a model of consistency with three wins, and two seconds from her five starts. A narrow win over Our Domain and Diva’s Diamond sealed the deal.
Three-Year-Old Male:
Suntracer, Four Left Feet, Forbidden Forest
No doubt about this one, as Suntracer raced well in a number of big races in 2011. If second place finishes in the American Derby, Arlington Classic, and Hawthorne Derby for the turf lover were not enough, a late season stakes win at the Fair Grounds, as well as, a spring allowance victory at Keeneland in which he beat the ill-fated Banned, made this an easy choice.
Three-Year-Old Filly:
Our Lady In Red, Third Chance, Seans Silverdancer
Now this was a tough one, as the top two ended the season with very similar statistics. I gave Our Lady In Red the slightest of nods based primarily on her victory over Third Chance in the Purple Violet, even though it was at a distance that was probably more suited to the winner.
Older Male:
Giant Oak, Ioya Bigtime, Free Fighter
Win the Grade 1 Donn to begin your campaign, and you’ve pretty much locked this division up. Giant Oak may have finished the season with seven straight defeats, but he never embarrassed himself against topnotch competition. The lightly raced Ioya Bigtime is getting better with every start, and will be one to watch in 2012.
Older Female:
Peyote Patty, Happy Henrietta, Wild Hope
This was another division that was a tough call, and also generally weak. Peyote Patty gets my vote because of a stakes win on both turf and dirt, with an optional claiming win on Polytrack for good measure.
Male Sprinter:
Shrewd Operator, River Bear, Four Left Feet
This choice goes against the grain for me, as Shrewd Operator only won a single race in two starts in 2011, but I just could not resist the nine length victory over his top competition in this division while earning a 114 Beyer. River Bear was consistent, but with only two wins in ten starts, did not do enough to overtake the one big performance.
Female Sprinter:
Third Chance, Our Lady In Red, Wild Hope
Remember how close I said the three-year-old-filly division was? Well, I have the same two battling it out again for this award, and I actually flipped the result. I believe Third Chance to be the more talented of the two, and just a little more accomplished at pure sprint distances.
Male Turf Horse:
Suntracer, Princeville Condo, Tazz
I didn’t have too much of a tougher time voting for Suntracer in this division, as I did in the three-year-old division. His body of work in 2011, all on the turf, makes him one of the most outstanding Illinois bred horses of the year.
Female Turf Horse:
Happy Henrietta, Peyote Patty, Pathway
Much like the older females, the female turf division went a little lacking this year. In this division, Happy Henrietta reversed my vote on Peyote Patty based on winning four times on the grass, including Hawthorne’s Indian Maid.
Horse of the Year:
Simply stated, he won the Donn, and that was enough. Good luck on your next career, Giant Oak.


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Older Comments about The Best of Illinois 2011...

AJ and Haug Man? Wow, that's a blast from the past ... who is this?
zipse you da man. i got juiced with you, aj richardson and the hauger in chicago back in the early 90's. i love horse racing
I have no problem with River Bear getting the award, but in my mind, there was no question as to who turned in the signature sprint performance of all the Illinois breds.
With all due respect to Shrewd Operator, he won one race on his favorite surface in 2011. He was a distant 6th in the lightning jet. River bear was mr. consistant on dirt and poly. Dusted the field in the holiday cheer in December. Lost on a head bob in one Illinois stakes and by 1 length in another to a horse carrying 11 pounds less than him. I gotta go with River Bear for male sprinter.
Gotta give a little love to River Bear, I owned a horse that Rusty/Leroy Hellman trained for me. Great father & son team!
If it is a piece that celebrates racing in Illinois ... then bring it Dark Horse!
You're on Mr. Zipse! I'm waiting for my ballot to arrive then we'll talk!
Glad to see Giant Oak getting some much deserved respect!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. 

Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 
As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Brian also consults for leading contest site Derby Wars, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.  

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