Havre de Grace (3-1) – Anyone who still does not believe that she is the current Horse of the Year leader, needs to recognize. This marvelous 4-year-old daughter of the ill-fated sire St. Liam, is so close to joining her father as the winner of the ultimate yearly award, she can taste it in her morning oats. A win in the Classic will clinch a win, but obviously that will be her toughest test yet. Even a good losing effort at Churchill Downs could be enough if none of the other top contenders gets it done at the Breeder’s Cup.
Uncle Mo (5-1) – Considering that he has only two wins in four starts this year, it’s hard to imagine that he is one race away from becoming Horse of the Year, but that is exactly what will happen if the son of Indian Charlie wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Fresh off a 118 Beyer in winning the one-mile Kelso, Uncle Mo is prepping for the Classic in a most unusual way, but then again his talent is anything but ordinary as well. The only two losses of his career are easily explained considering what he has gone through this season, and if he can handle ten furlongs, he could prove best in America.
Tizway (5-1) – It looked like he was on his way to putting the Older Male division into a stranglehold with impressive wins in the Met Mile and the Whitney, but a recent fever has put all of that in jeopardy. Now questions abound: Will he be ready for the Classic of such a long layoff? Can he carry his speed the 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs? If the answers are yes, and as good as he was in those two big wins, you have to consider one of the major threats to win the Classic which would make him Horse of the Year.
Game On Dude (8-1) – He’s by no means at the top of things right now, but with game wins in the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood, he is close enough to the leaders in both the Older Male and Horse of the Year race to jump on top with a win in the Classic. He is not the most likely winner of the big race in my estimation, but I have great respect for any horse who can thrive at the taxing distance, has tactical speed, and comes equipped with a heart as big as downtown Louisville.
Flat Out (8-1) – On the one hand he has run very impressive races to easily account for the Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup. On the other hand he was clearly unable to handle either Havre de Grace or Tizway in big races at Saratoga. A mediocre effort this year at Churchill also raises concerns, but in the end he has proven to be one of the top older males in the nation, has already won at the distance, and has a stretch running style that has won many a Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Acclamation (8-1) – You would think that five straight graded stakes wins should be enough to have him lower than 8-1 on my board, but I am afraid he may be up against things in Louisville. I suspect his connections will wisely choose the BC Turf over the Classic, and in which case, even a win may be not enough. How well he does should decide Turf Champion between him and Cape Blanco, but he will need help in the Classic if he is to become the winner of both awards.
Cape Blanco (12-1) - Nothing beats perfection, and that is exactly what he did this year in America. Impressive wins in the Man O’ War, and the Arlington Million, and then a courageous victory in the Turf Classic placed him firmly in contention for both the Turf Championship, as well as, Horse of the Year. An injury and subsequent retirement has dropped his chances for the big award to slim, however. Only a meltdown of all the other top contenders would leave him on top, considering his retirement.
Stay Thirsty (12-1) – Was thrust into the lead of the 3-year-old male division with solid scores in the Jim Dandy and Travers, both at Saratoga. Back on a muddy track at Belmont, he was competitive but not quite up to the task of beating older horses in his first try against them. Like all the rest above him, a Classic win, in addition to what he has already done, should be enough to wrest the Horse of the Year title away from his competition. He likes the distance and improvement on the JCGC performance is not out of the question.
Twirling Candy (20-1) – Is undoubtedly one of the most talented horses in the nation, but time is running out on his chances for a 2011 Horse of the Year award. If he does go to the BC Classic, and that seems to be a big if at this point, a victory would probably be just enough to win the big award. If he runs in a different BC race, like the Dirt Mile, then I would say his HoY opportunity will be gone. Regardless of which race his connections choose, he is an exciting horse who is eligible to come up big at the Breeders’ Cup.
Goldikova (20-1) – Her career achievements are nothing short of spectacular, but I do not believe even an unprecedented fourth consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile win will be enough to take down an American Horse of the Year award.