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2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan tops my final NTRA poll

Wise Dan repeats in the Breeders Cup Mile.
Photo: Don August
 
What a weekend of racing! In a little over 24 hours, beginning from post time Friday, championships were won and lost. Titles were defended, and statements were made. Sure there are about 8 weeks left before 2013 officially closes, but the Breeders’ Cup races are called the World Championships. It would take one hell of a performance between now and New Year’s Eve for things to really be shaken up. So with the World Championships in the books, who is the presumptive 2013 Horse of the Year? Who can make a solid case for Horse of the Year honors, and who has divisional honors sewn up?
 
 
1. Wise Dan—The reigning Horse of the Year is one weather system shy of a perfect season. If not for all the water standing on Keeneland’s polytrack during the running of the off-turf Shadwell Mile, Wise Dan would be undefeated. But he isn’t, and it doesn’t matter. He successfully defended his Breeders’ Cup Mile title, and the crushing defeat of Game On Dude in the Classic and Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff propelled him to the top spot. Look for him to definitely take home Horse of the Year and Male Turf honors and perhaps even Older Male honors again.
 
 
2. Beholder—This daughter of Henny Hughes wins when it matters most, and like last year, she will likely be rewarded for it. Unlike last year, however, she actually has a solid case for why she should be Champion 3-Year Old Filly. With her two wins over older rivals, including one very important score in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she even has a case for Horse of the Year. If you don’t like Wise Dan’s cookie cutter season, then here is your Horse of the Year.
 
 
 
 
3. Game On Dude—Another year, another epic fail in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as the favorite. That is not exactly a good thing to have on your résumé if you’re trying to take home some end of the year hardware. While Game On Dude choked yet again, it is hard to completely disrespect him given the races he did win this year. He became only the second horse ever to sweep all three of California’s Grade 1 handicaps in the same year: the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic. But, there is always a “but” with him, he did so against less than stellar competition. Classic bomb aside, Game On Dude had an excellent year, and a case for why he should be Horse of the Year could be made.
 
 
4. Princess of Sylmar—She did not have to travel west, but her connections did the sporting thing and took her to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup after putting up a substantial fee to nominate her. She faced a considerable track bias and was never a threat during the running of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She finished sixth and last and likely lost her 3-Year Old Filly Championship in the process. That is, she lost it if you’re willing to reward a filly that notched all her wins in California and never traveled East after the Kentucky Oaks to compete in the premier races for that division. Princess of Sylmar won four straight Grade 1 races: the Kentucky Oaks, the CCA Oaks, the Alabama Stakes, and the Beldame Invitational (defeating Royal Delta). She had the better year. She defeated Royal Delta. In my eyes, Princess of Sylmar still deserves divisional honors. Furthermore, if you don’t like Wise Dan’s season or the above two California monsters, maybe you’ll like The Princess for the biggest honor of all.
 
 
Here is where it stops being about Horse of the Year honors and starts being about which division holds the most weight and/or who is most likely to win their division:
 
 
5. Royal Delta—The two-time Eclipse winner had more downs than ups this year, but she still probably did enough to win another Eclipse for her division. Her Dubai trip was a disaster, she needed a race once she got home, and she lost two straight to younger rivals; BUT she did win two of the biggest races in her division, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s not enough to merit her a claim to HOTY honors, but winning her second Eclipse as Top Older Female is pretty special in its own right.
 
 
6. Mucho Macho Man—After some consideration, I wish I had ranked my favorite horse ahead of Royal Delta, but by the time I came to that conclusion, it was too late to press the undo button. However, considering that voters may not award him any year-end hardware, I probably have it right just the way it is. The big-striding horse finally broke through the Grade 1 barrier this year, and did so in a huge way by winning not just one Grade 1, but two, and the second being the biggest and richest race of them all in North America. I have loved this big buy since his 3-year old season, and I want nothing more than for him to get the Eclipse for Top Older Male to go along with his Breeders’ Cup Classic win. The truth of the matter is, though, that voters will probably look at either Game On Dude or Wise Dan for this category, especially since my boy only has two wins for the year.
 
 
 
 
7. Will Take Charge—He almost nipped Mucho Macho Man at the wire in the Classic, and in doing so, he sealed his case for why he should be named Champion 3-Year Old Male. His Triple Crown campaign doesn’t look great, but he had two wins early in the year and finished out the year with wins in the G1 Travers, G2 Pennsylvania Derby, and a second by a nose in the Classic. In a year where all the top players in the division have as many pros as cons, it is Will Take Charge’s record that stands out the most.
 
 
8. Dank—She may have been a second-stringer in Europe, but she absolutely dominated here in the United States. Back-to-back wins in the G1 Beverly D. and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf virtually guarantee her Champion Turf Female honors, especially since she defeated our two top turf mares, Laughing and Tiz Flirtatious, on a world stage.
 
 
9. Groupie Doll—In an abbreviated campaign, she notched two wins and two shows. It doesn’t sound that impressive, but she successfully defended her title in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. In doing so, she beat all the other top contenders in the division, and she deserves her second Eclipse award for the division, as well. Mizdirection had a pretty solid year on the lawn, but all her wins came in California. Not to mention, dirt is the premier surface in America.
 
 
10. She’s A Tiger—This filly has to be making older brother Smiling Tiger proud. In her young career, she has put together a record of 6: 3-3-0. If not for a steward’s decision not going her way, she would also be a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine. Was it the right call? Probably, especially since she and eventual winner Ria Antonia were only inches apart on the wire. Does it change the fact that she’s the top 2-year old filly in the land? Definitely not.
 
 
 
 
My top 10 is certainly female heavy, but I’m not going to apologize for it. This year, the ladies were just all around better than the boys. While the boys were taking turns in the winner’s circle, the female divisions were dominated by a select few. Traditionally speaking, boys rule, but this is 2013, and I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The ladies deserve all the accolades they can muster for their fine performances this year, and I look forward to seeing old rivalries renewed in 2014.  

 

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Older Comments about 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan tops my final NTRA poll...

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EP Taylor, on this point I couldn't agree more. For a person like myself who handicaps primarily from a pace stand point the race run by Mucho Macho Man was easily the best of the day, possibly any day this year anywhere. Others have their speed ratings which were 108 from Brisnet and 112 from Beyer. I had MMM at 117. Naturally this is JMO, but that was for myself the best race of the year on dirt. Considering he ran on the pace with a meltdown at the end allowing WTC and DOW to contest is was just fantastic. This is purely from the perspective of a fan, even though I did wager on him and Fort Larned, I can and do wager totally without prejudice.
The ones sayin 2 race wins for MMM doesn't make a season....true. BUT his season consisted of 4 completed races. 2 out of 4 and the 2 being G1's and the classic on top of that, pretty good to me.
you do not realize all of the ENORMOUS $$$$$$$$$$ compensations the Breeder's CUp Ltd. puts on the host track. It soured all at Woodbine so much that they are not going to re-apply for it ever
I would like to see a rotation among Churchill, Belmont, and Santa Anita at least; if other tracks are able to accommodate, then that would be fine, too. I definitely agree that it should not be permanently based at Santa Anita.
I would love it to be at FGs but they are in no way big enough to handle such an event.
I don't know about discontinued but I agree it would be nice to see it move and I think there should be a ban on it being at the same track twice in a row. Would love to see it at Pimlico, Monmouth, Parx, the old fall stomping grounds, as well as south at Gulfstream, Calder, Fair Grounds and especially Oaklawn if they ever get a turf track.
The breeders cup should be discontinued from SA. Jockies have to make premature moves on horses possibly causing injuries to the horses . That track is to speed favouring it takes horses out of the game every horse cannot go to the lead. Ipersonally will like to see it back at churchill or belmont .Any my pick for HOTY wise dan .If u think he did not beat anybody like GOD did throughout the year ,then check out who ran second in the mile. Then see if anybody who the dude beat was even able to make it to the cup. Beholder was awesome in the Distaff but POS had abetter allround year
I have been extremely impressed with Beholder this year. While I am a POS fan, Beholder has performed extremely well and her connections should be very proud of her.
The more I think about Beholder's year the better it seems. She is the first filly in history to win the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies and come back the next year and beat the best American female horses in the Distaff, and a very strong field at that. This is an historic accomplishment and I believe future racing historians, if there are any, will regard Beholder's first two years much higher than a lot of people do today.
Wise Dan is an outstanding horse, but until they do more with him, and I doubt they are, he does seem to have limitations regarding distance and surfaces, but he will once again be named HOY for not only his accomplishments, but primarily for what others did not do much like last year. Many were upset last year that we gave HOY to a grass miler and now it's going to happen again. It's very unusual, but it shows the state of racing. When we don't breed them for distance, when we push them too hard at such a young age in the Triple Crown series, when we retire them so young, when we offer more money not to run them, the sport has some serious survival problems. As an aside, those here who thing Goldenscents is a contender for three year old honors are living in a dream world. When the three finalists are announced, he will not be among them unless he does some fancy dancing the rest of the year.
Goldencents did more for the year than MMM - one race should not guarantee an Eclipse award.....nor should it take one away as in the case of Game On Dude....
My top 3 are the ones with the best claim to Horse of the Year, IMO. Last year Eclipse voters set a precedent in giving Wise Dan a clean sweep of the Turf Male, Older Male, and Horse of the Year. THAT is why my Top 3 are the way they are. If it were left up to me, Princess of Sylmar would get the Eclipse over Beholder for having the better year. Whether I like it or not, Game On Dude would get Older Male over Mucho Macho Man, again for having the better year. Both sprinting categories are hard because no one really had a year that stood out against someone else's year, which is why I'm going with the BC winners for those divisions.
Icy, while you may prefer to see him finish last in the Arlington million, I for one am excited to see him win no matter who he faces. Dan is a fantastic horse but he can take only so much and it's either longevity or top level competition. Hell, Tiznow and Midnight Lute couldn't do it, why is Dan expected to?
Given the poor performances by Game On Dude in the BC Classic and Princess of Sylmar in the BC Distaff I don't how you could really look at anyone else but Wise Dan as 2013 HOY now. I thought Wise Dan's performance in this year's BC Mile was much more subdued and workmanlike than his win from a year ago, but what does that say about the ability Wise Dan possesses when a workmanlike performance is still more than good enough to repeat as the G1 BC Mile champion.
In 2014 maybe we'll be treated to Wise Dan running in all allowance races up to his annual Breeders cup Turf Mile. His connections have definetly ruled any more handicap races where he could be burdened by as much as 128lbs for the mile. Maybe they'll cut him back to 5.1/2 furlongs to save his energy for his annual run and stop off to pick up his eclipse awards, and people wonder what's wrong with racing. I wonder in wonderment what they're wondering about.
I don't think MMM deserves the older male award. Too many loses and wise Dan and game on dude have more graded stakes and grade ones
Win/loose all the horse's performed amazing. The competition this year was awesome. I'm ecstatic that Mucho Macho Man finally won. The truth here is Wise Dan has been successful in winnings then all of them. He deserves to be Horse of The Year
Wise Dan will be Horse of the Year but I don't think he will be champion older male. Some voters will not like his conservative campaign and dirt racing has always been dominate in the United States. I believe Wise Dan last year was the first older male winner that didn't have a win on the dirt. I believe the older male Eclipse will will come down to Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude. It will be decided on the importance of the Breeders Cup vs the full year body of work. My guess is the story of MMM's connections and the increasing importance of the Breeders Cup will get MMM the Eclipse. But if you like MMM for an Eclipse Award you have to like the other Breeders Cup winners like Beholder, New Years Day and Secret Circle.
The only horse that deserves any HOY consideration is Mucho Macho Man. Game On Dude's bomb eliminated him from consideration.

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