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Horse of the Year Point/Counterpoint: Wise Dan vs Royal Delta

Wise Dan vs Royal Delta for Horse of the Year!
Breeders' Cup crowned champions in many divisions, but the most contentious race is always Horse of the Year. Royal Delta repeated her Ladies' Classic glory, and Wise Dan dominated in the Mile - which of these two champions will take the ultimate Eclipse award? Managing Editor, Brian Zipse and 55,000 Furlongs to the Finish's Matt Scott discuss the finer points of each in this edition of Horse of the Year Point/Counterpoint! 




Royal Delta 
Royal Delta

Wise Dan 
Wise Dan

55,000 Furlongs t the Finish

Matt Scott:

Becoming Horse of the Year is about doing something that sets you apart from the rest of the crop. It is about overcoming adversity and showing that even under the most unpredictable circumstances, a champion can shine through and overcome. Dominance alone can be the swing vote, but adversity and risk taking are what truly build the foundation of champions. When considering the aspects of a horse of the year, Royal Delta has shown us all the defining qualities of the title.

 

In the toughest field of any Breeders’ Cup race in 2012, she showed a way to win that she hasn’t demonstrated in her entire career. It was quite obvious that her break and early position was designed to flank the speedy Questing, but when her pace setting foe never arrived, Royal Delta showed she wasn’t afraid. Setting a suicidal pace that would fold even the toughest of front running horses, she managed to open up in the stretch and hand two undefeated champions their first taste of defeat.

 

But Horse of the Year should not be about one race. Trainer Bill Mott attempted to do something in 2012 that brings chills to even the most risk-taking horsemen. He took his champion filly and flew her half way across the world to take on the boys on a racing surface fairly foreign to her. Granted, not even the great Royal Delta could overcome the challenge of travelling, but neither could Excelebration a few days ago.

 

We have heard from many people that a trip to Dubai can ruin a horse.  And if not carefully managed, Royal Delta could have simply become the bad side of a regretful statistic. But when she came back, she wanted to make a statement. Demolishing the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis field by 8 lengths showed Mott and the world that his champion showed no ill signs of jet lag or the loss of the will to win. 

 

Next was the 10 furlong Delaware Handicap. Here she again showed the heart of champion surviving the length of the stretch coming out on top over a very game Tiz Miz Sue. In the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, Royal Delta came up short waiting for the finishing rush that would never come from Its Tricky. This race was flawed by the disastrous start by Its Tricky, but in the interest of this discussion, Royal Delta should have overcome her initial hesitation. Love and Pride later flattered Royal Delta with a romp in the Zenyatta Stakes, but would not get the last laugh over the same track and distance in the Breeders’ Cup. Royal Delta showed her that no one gets the best of her twice.

 

And the last thing that any horse needs to become champion…an absolute shellacking of their competition in a Grade 1 event. In Royal Delta’s case, it was the Beldame Stakes, where she showed her class and dominance via a 9 ½ length romp under a hand ride.

 

Royal Delta has done what all Horse of the Year winners must do. In the case of this discussion with Mr. Zipse, there is no doubting what Wise Dan has accomplished. It is what he didn’t do that makes him vulnerable. He did not win over conventional dirt in 2012, and only won past a mile once. His track record setting run at Keenland was one of the most impressive pieces of running I saw all year, but the absence of a classic-distance victory has proven a difficult hurdle when selecting horse of the year honors. Is he the best older male? Absolutely. Is he the best turf horse? I would say so. Is he the horse of the year? I think that honor will fall onto a filly for the 4th consecutive year.

 

She may have shown some weakness earlier in the year, but Royal Delta did what she did best, came on strong in the stretch to prove she is the deserving of the title. Overtaking a horse like Wise Dan is not a challenge for the timid. But if there is one horse than can do it, it’s the elegant beauty with royalty in her name, competition in her spirit, and the heart of a champion.



Brian Zipse:

Royal Delta completed an outstanding year in 2012 with a win in the Ladies’ Classic, unfortunately for her Horse of the Year supporters, it was simply not the most outstanding American campaign of the year. That distinction, of course, goes to Wise Dan. Not only was he a powerful winner of the Breeders’ Cup, but he also was the most consistent and impressive horse in the nation. And if you are looking for a horse who did something outside of the box this year, look no further than Dan, who demonstrated his quality on turf, dirt, and synthetics, all within the calendar year.

 

I would argue that the toughest overall field top to bottom was in fact found in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The best two milers in Europe not named Frankel, a turf loving Kentucky Derby winner, a California import with speed to burn, and a handful of other graded stakes performers, made this race deep and contentious. Contentious, that is, until Dan turned the true international test into another rather easy win; something he has done all year, as each of his five wins were won in impressive fashion.

 

Points for Royal Delta for going to Dubai; unfortunately those points cannot be cashed in on this discussion considering she finished 9th. Wise Dan, meanwhile, was a model of consistency, starting with the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland in which he won by a pole, while running a 117 Beyer in the process; a figure which no one has bested this year. 5 wins and 1 second in 6 starts this year is superior to Royal Delta’s record which includes two losses to females in America.

 

She better have come back from Dubai in good form, otherwise she is not even in this discussion … The Lord of Versatility also made a statement that same evening at Churchill. Making his only start of the year on dirt, Dan had a horrid trip going into the first turn, and gave weight to one of the strongest fields of the year. Still he was only denied victory in the last jump when the rail opened up for the powerful stretch run of Ron the Greek. If you notice, Classic winner Fort Larned actually had a similar trip to Dan that night and checked in 8th.

 

While your choice, Matt, Royal Delta, was struggling with the likes of Tiz Miz Sue and Love and Pride, Wise Dan took his game to turf and his show on the road. Traveling to some of the best tracks in America, and Canada, Dan made a mockery of his competition in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, before doing his thing in sunny Southern California. Wise Dan and his connections looked for competition in all corners of North America; there simply was none good enough to give him a true challenge.

 

See Wise Dan’s last three races. All of them were grade 1’s, and all of them were won in the fashion of a true champion.

 

Tread lightly in these waters, Mr. Scott … Wise Dan was nothing short of excellent on three surfaces, at five major tracks, and at important American distances of a flat mile and nine furlongs. If you are banking on Royal Delta’s win at ten furlongs, I’m not sure an all-out victory over Tiz Miz Sue is going to garner you the desired results. You are right, Wise Dan was the best older male and turf horse in the nation, and I have no doubt that is better than the females this year. Royal Delta, meanwhile, was the best female running a route of ground this year, while Groupie Doll was arguably more dominant though, in her division of the distaff set. If only I had seen Royal Delta try males one other time other than her failed trip to Dubai.

 

Big respect for Royal Delta, it was not my intention to cut her down in any way here today, but rather to merely demonstrate in clear terms that Wise Dan had the better overall year, and is without question more deserving of the 2012 Horse of the Year award … mission accomplished.


 

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Older Comments about Horse of the Year Point/Counterpoint: Wise Dan vs Royal Delta...

Yeah but he won bigger races. None of Wise Dan's races compare to the Derby or Preakness. He dodged the BC classic.
It's about time for a turf horse to take home the big prize. If IHA gets the award, HOTY is officially meaningly. He may have been a good horse, but what about the OF THE YEAR yart? He was only around for a couple months.
Sorry about the double. I'm on my iPad. I just don't want to keep going on. You obviously don't think much about them shipping here and home field advantage, and that is your right. Weary ever going to agree on this. I have never downplayed Wise Dan and have praised him many times. You can downplay as many Euros as you want. Have a good day.
Laz- First off,I wasn't going to mention Camelot, but did he do any less that IHA? And isn't IHA up for our eclipse? Nathaniel has proved his class this year considering who he has finished behind. But, you can downplay his class if you want. As far as the DWC, yes we did dominate on dirt,but Europe always sent horses to run to support it, just like they do to support the BC and to support racing in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. But, how many DWC have we won since it became a synthetic surface race? It is all well and good to have national or regional pride,but don't downplay what European horses go through and try to overcome because their trainers and wonders come to support OUR racing event. We did dominate the DWC when it was on dirt. It would have been embarrassing not to sine we are the only major racing country that runs predominately on that surface. So of course we were eager to ship there. And Europeans ship their horses there to support that event too,and ran their horses on dirt,as they have in our Classic. They also ship to Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. I can't be impressed by the US shipping to run in a race they most certainly will dominate. But, I am impressed with Wesley Ward shipping to England every year,as are the British. I was also impressed with Todd Pletcher shipping horses there last year. And England was thrilled to have them. You
Laz- First off,I wasn't going to mention Camelot, but did he do any less that IHA? And isn't IHA up for our eclipse? Nathaniel has proved his class this year considering who he has finished behind. But, you can downplay his class if you want. As far as the DWC, yes we did dominate on dirt,but Europe always sent horses to run to support it, just like they do to support the BC and to support racing in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. But, how many DWC have we won since it became a synthetic surface race? It is all well and good to have national or regional pride,but don't downplay what European horses go through and try to overcome because their trainers and wonders come to support OUR racing event. We did dominate the DWC when it was on dirt. It would have been embarrassing not to sine we are the only major racing country that runs predominately on that surface. So of course we were eager to ship there. And Europeans ship their horses there to support that event too,and ran their horses on dirt,as they have in our Classic. They also ship to Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. I can't be impressed by the US shipping to run in a race they most certainly will dominate. But, I am impressed with Wesley Ward shipping to England every year,as are the British. I was also impressed with Todd Pletcher shipping horses there last year. And England was thrilled to have them. You and
Footlick, Nathaniel had a single win this year and Camelot was defeated in arguably the most important race in his career when running in a field where he was the sole Group One winner. They are both up for Cartier Awards for HOY along with Frankel, Excelebration and Cirrus des Aigles. As for Dubai and N/A’s success on non-turf racing, since the Dubai World Cup came into existence the US trained horses have won 8 of the 17 World Cups and another winner was bred in the US but campaigned in the UAE (and they did this in spite of having to ship half way around the world). Conversely, in the Sheema Classic on turf I believe that N/A horses have been shut out. My conclusion is that between the US and Europe, the US have superior dirt and synthetic horses and the Euros have superior turf horses. As for Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom and Little Mike, etc., they did what they had to do to win (and almost win) and as for Wise Dan, he has shown the ability to run on different turf surfaces as evidenced by his commanding Four Stars Dave win at Saratoga on yielding turf in a slow time of 1.37 1/5. I’m not trying to say that Wise Dan is the best. All I’m saying is that he is very good right now and has basically done all he’s been asked to do and it will take a very good horse to beat him.
And by shipping there and winning, I mean shipping to Europe. We already ship to Dubai and rarely win anymore now that the WC is on Tapeta. I think Wise Dan is a very talented horse, but he gets to run under his conditions. Obviously you feel that is fair and right. Again, so be it.
Synthetic=Dubai. They show up there, Laz. And they do far better than we do. And, again, when our horses ship there and win, let me know. But if they have to constantly ship here and run only on our terms, there will always be extenuating circumstances. Sorry.
As mediocre as some think N/A horse racing is, and for those who constantly hype European superiority, at least we won’t be having a horse with a single victory this year, and another who was defeated by a group of non-Group One winners as finalists for HOY. Some good horses in Europe, but I question the lack of depth. And of course whenever we defeat a European horse it’s because of extenuating circumstances, never because we happened to have the better horse. As for who is best, I think that we can say that the Euros might still have an edge on the turf, but when it comes to dirt and even synthetics, where are they. When those Euro horses start defeating N/A horses on those surfaces then maybe we can say that they’re better overall, until then all we’re hearing is talk and misguided conjecture.
Wise Dan deserves it, but Royal Delta is great too.
Here's an idea: take a female horse that's not up for an award, but take the stand that she is, and see how many indignities she can endure, including gelding dates and grudge holders.
Oh, hey Matt, just stoppin by again to say that I didn't get my post BCLC congrats/ sort of apology from darlin QP MM here like I did last year, and I missed that, of course I was away seeing her Royal Delta in person, but he's here now to lap up your blog like I would chocolate pudding, so thanks again, Matt. Now, would you mind chatting about that crap ride Royal Delta got in the DWC which doesn't count towards any North American awards, and if you have a few mins, couldya do an Inglorious blog for MM here, cuz he's never going to get over the Alabama.
I'l Have Another is out of the picture. It is Wise Dan, Ron The Greek, Royal Delta or Point Of Entry. POE is a turf horse so cancel him out. You can scratch RD too. Wise Dan or Ron The Greek? Ron The Greek closed more than 10 lengths but finished 4th. His major victories come from the west coast. Wise Dan is our horse.
Granted, not even the great Royal Delta could overcome the challenge of travelling, but neither could Excelebration a few days ago. UM...Royal Delta had Ample time to prep for the World Cup. Excelebration shipped two weeks after winning the QEII on very soft ground over a top notch GR1 field. Excuse him if he ran a touch under his best.....
"not even the great Royal Delta could overcome the challenge of travelling, but neither could Excelebration a few days ago."
TV it was in response to a poster saying that Wise Dan and Royal Delta should meet in the breeding shed.
Look at some of the greatest and our respect for them Kelso, Forego, John Henry, Exterminator.....some of the best all time. They got good and just stayed that way!
I've heard that some geldings can do extraordinary things, some have magical powers, and of course there is always the Immacuate Conception.
Had to come back for: He's a gelding.
Dan and Delta need to get together in the breeding shed after they retire.

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