The Eclipse Awards are over, now it's time to support the home team. Whether they were running at Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course, Fairmount Park, or racetracks outside the state, I always enjoy keeping track of those bred in the Land of Lincoln. Most of the best from Illinois could be seen doing there thing on turf last year, but it was a horse who stayed on the main track who gets my nod as the best of the best. Who were the top thoroughbred horses bred in Illinois in 2013? Here are my selections...
Rambling Richie, Solar Flair, A Step Ahead
After just missing by a nose in his career debut to Solar Flair, Rambling Richie rattled off three easy victories, including wins in the two defining races for this division, the Sun Power and the Jim Edgar Futurity. The near perfect record makes this a simple decision in favor of the son of Lifestyle.
Sasy Ms Elizabeth, Richies Sweetheart, Lakotadreamcatcher
She lost a tough decision to longshot, Lakotadreamcatcher in her seasonal finale, but the grey daughter of Giacomo did plenty enough before that to clinch the division. Her 5-3-2-0, and stakes wins at both Fairmount and Hawthorne are too good for her competition.
Ken & Sarah Ramsey dominated this division with three sons of their sensational sire, Kitten's Joy. Redwood Kitten was the best of the three with good performances in all seven of his races against some of the best young turf horses all over the nation. He only won once, but it came in a hundred grander at Pimlico against a strong field.
No doubt about this one. The dark grey daughter of Belong to Me built on her Illinois championship of last year with another solid season this year. A grade 3 winner in the Arlington Oaks, probably her best race of the season came when she just missed as a strongly closing 3rd, by a half-length, in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland.
With all the good Illinois-bred turf horses, it would not be easy to to take the award away from them, but that exactly what the gelded, sprinting son of City Zip did with seven wins, and a second, beaten only a nose, in his eight starts this year. You cannot get much closer to perfection than that.
La Tia, Katie the Lady, Kip Berries
Despite falling to Katie the Lady in her seasonal finale, I still believe La Tia to be the classiest mare in this division. An easy winner of her first two races of 2013, she then was thrown in against the big girls. She couldn't win any, but La Tia did nothing to embarrass herself in a series of graded stakes which included the Beverly D.
Work All Week, Signsealndeliver, Sweet Luca
Dominant. Already a winner this year at Oaklawn Park, I'm looking forward to see if the Midwest Thoroughbreds' star can make some noise on a national level.
My Option, Kip Berries, Missjeanlouise
Not only was she very good around two-turns, and on any surface, but My Option is a tigress sprinting. She won the Pretty Jenny for fun, and could have easily won the big one at Keeneland in her only two sprint starts this year.
Male Turf Horse:
With Arlington's very best racing coming coming on the grass, it should come as no surprise that many of the state's best horses are turf specialists, and none were better than The Pizza Man. After nearly going down at Churchill Downs, the son of English Channel came back with a series of strong races, including a fast closing third in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes, and a pair of stakes wins to finish the season to raise his lifetime turf record to 13-9-1-1.
Female Turf Horse:
La Tia, Katie the Lady, My Option
With all of her 2013 races coming on the turf, this category ends with the same La Tia led exacta as the Older Female.
Horse of the Year:
Work All Week
I'm a big fan of The Pizza Man, and My Option is as versatile as they come, but there is no denying the season delivered by Work All Week. He is the Illinois-bred Horse of the Year.