The righteous indignation is primed and ready to strike.
“Wise Dan did not win on dirt this year.”
“Wise Dan has not won at a classic distance.”
If Wise Dan wins the 2012 Horse of the Year, it is a clear sign that American racing has gone to the pits. So say some race fans who believe that the horse who won possibly the strongest race of this year’s World Championships, and in track record time no less, would be more fraud than champion.
Pure poppycock in this writer’s eyes, but still, I suppose there are enough figurative signatures on this petition to address the issue.
Make no mistake; Wise Dan will be named Horse of the Year when the award is announced at Gulfstream Park on January 19. He earned the honor fair and square on the racetrack, as the best American runner over the calendar year. It’s already been addressed ad nauseam in many places (including here) why his achievements this year better that of anyone else up for consideration, and therefore, deserves to win the 2012 award. Today, I’d rather look at things from a different angle.
Wise Dan’s winning of Horse of the Year will not be some sort of black mark on the roll call of American champions. Far from it; he has the seasonal credentials to stand proudly on a list of year-end champions. Of course I know he is not Secretariat or Spectacular Bid, but few champions are. Historically speaking, I can name many horses that did not have a more consistently excellent season than did Wise Dan this year. Is it blasphemous for me to say this? No, I only speak the truth.
You need not look farther back than last year to find a Horse of the Year in which their season can be fairly called weaker than that of Wise Dan. I know what you are thinking. Using Havre de Grace, in 2011, only goes to show that our champion's quality is in a free-fall. Again, I say not so.
I will not endeavor to open a whole new can of worms by listing many horses that I believe achieved no more in their Horse of the Year seasons than Wise Dan did this year. Rather I will choose one horse from recent history to compare and contrast.
In 2012, Wise Dan won 5-of-6 races. All of them were graded stakes races.
In 1999, Horse of the Year, Charismatic won 4-of-10, and one of his wins came when he was placed first through disqualification in a $62,500 claiming race. He also lost two allowance races that year.
In 2012, Wise Dan won four grade one races.
In 1999, Charismatic won only two grade one races.
In 2012, Wise Dan’s defeats added up to a total margin of a short head, while his wins totaled more than 22 lengths.
In 1999, Charismatic’s defeats added up to nearly 33 lengths, while his wins totaled just over 4 lengths.
In 2012, Wise Dan’s highest speed figure was 117.
In 1999, Charismatic’s highest speed figure was 108.
In 2012, Wise Dan finished his season in November.
In 1999, Charismatic’s final race came on June 5, due to injury.
Only if you believe that American’s highest year-end award is reserved for ten furlongs on dirt, can you truly believe that Wise Dan will be a fraudulent Horse of the Year. If so, I think it is time to take the blinkers off.
Oh, and one more thing, I believed Usain Bolt was the biggest star of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and I didn’t need to see him throw a ball through a hoop, run 26 miles, or perform a gymnastics floor exercise to think so. Nor do I need to compare him to Jesse Owens, to appreciate his excellence.