The results of the voting on contemporary candidates for this year's induction into racing’s Hall of Fame will be announced tomorrow. The four equine stars up the ultimate honor are: the brilliant 2004 Horse of the Year, Ghostzapper, the two-time champion filly, Ashado, the iron-filly sprinter and 3yo filly champion of 2001, Xtra Heat, and then finally, Housebuster. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s exactly what will happen when the results are announced … Housebuster will be little more than a foot note.
Despite running only 11 lifetime races, I’m expecting the recent memory of Ghostzapper blowing the doors of his Breeders’ Cup Classic competition to carry the day for the horse that many consider to be the fastest horse so far of the 21st century. While she fell short of that sort of brilliance, Ashado was at the top of her class in each of her three seasons on the racetrack, and collected nearly four million in earnings in a stellar 21-race career. She deserves to enter the Hall. Then you have the fan favorite Xtra Heat, who despite being strictly a sprinter, gained national prominence through winning 26 races, most of them stakes, in 35 lifetime races. The best female sprinter of her generation, she twice put together six-race winning streaks. It would be no surprise if she also is elected. And then you have Housebuster. I just don’t see them announcing his name, and that is a shame.
On paper, Housebuster, a bay son of Mt. Livermore, out of the Great Above mare, Big Dreams, looks pretty good. He won 15 times in 22 lifetime starts, with eleven of those 15 wins came in graded stakes, and earned $1,229,696. He was rewarded for his one-turn excellence by twice being named Champion Sprinter (in 1990 and 1991.) Unfortunately, the Warren Croll, trainee never won the Breeders’ Cup. In 1990 Housebuster was injured in the Vosburgh and had to miss the year-end championships. The following year, he was injured in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as the overwhelming 2-5 choice. I remember Housebuster for so much more than what his record on paper looks like or those end-of-year injuries, though.
I remember that impressive young horse who I saw win his first stakes race at the Meadowlands. That win in the Morven was just his second straight victory in what would grow to an eight-race winning streak. Easy wins in the Spectacular Bid, Hutcheson, Swale, Lafayette, Derby Trial, and Withers would follow. The winning streak was just a few jumps short of being a dozen, with only a narrow loss in the Met Mile interrupting his streak of perfection. That loss actually might have been his finest race, as the young three-year-old threw down the gauntlet against a pair of older champions in Criminal Type and Easy Goer. After blitzing a 1:09 1/5 for the first three-quarters, Housebuster fought tooth-and-nail to the wire, before finally succumbing in the final strides to that year’s Horse of the Year, Criminal Type, with Easy Goer a little farther back in 3rd.
Or maybe it was his 13 length win in the Jerome (the final of the aforementioned 12-race streak) that was his career finest. That day he threw down a 1:08 4/5 six furlong split before cruising to the wire with plenty of daylight between him and the talented Citidancer at the finish of the one-mile affair.
From that point on, injuries would derail the great horse, but not keep him from impressive scores in the Carter, DeFrancis, Forego, and Vosburgh in his four-year-old year. He was rightfully rewarded with a second Eclipse Award, but as mentioned, he would never taste Breeders’ Cup glory.
I hate to see such a great horse be discounted because he never had a fair chance to win a year-end championship race, but alas, I’m afraid that is exactly what will happen to Housebuster.
So tomorrow, when the names of our newest additions to the Hall of Fame are announced and celebrated, remember the horse who did not get in, because Housebuster was one helluva horse.