As we spin out of the far turn and head to the homestretch of the 2011 racing season, take a look at which performances have impressed me the most so far…
1) Havre de Grace - September 3
She didn’t just beat the boys, she dominated them. By becoming only the second ever female to win the prestigious Woodward Stakes, Havre de Grace struck yet another blow for the fairer sex in thoroughbred horse racing.
2) Tizway – May 30
Always a talent, but never quite able to put it all together, Tizway finally did it in the Met Mile. His performance was as impressive a dirt mile as we’ve seen in years, and oh yeah, 1:32 and change is smokin’!
3) Big Drama – January 15
I love when a champion comes back another year to strut his stuff. That is exactly what Big Drama did this winter in a Mr. Prospector romp, and get a load of that year best Beyer of 120.
4) Blind Luck – July 16
Race of the year so far? It has to be the Delaware Handicap. Blind Luck is as classy and as gutsy as they come, and when she beat her foil Havre de Grace in a thrilling stretch battle, it became an instant classic.
5) The Factor – August 28
In a short career filled with impressive performances, I was most impressed with The Factor’s return race in the Pat O’Brien. That afternoon, he made a testing pace and first try against top older horses look like little more than a stroll in the park.
6) Winter Memories - July 27
You want to see a 2011 example of overcoming things to win going away? Winter Memories’ romp in the Grade 2 Lake George fits the bill. Word is railbirds were stricken with whiplash after watching her late rush.
7) Havre De Grace – April 15
If there was any doubt as to whether Grace could carry over her excellent 2010 form to this year, the Azeri Stakes answered with a resounding yes … and then some. Blind Luck simply could not keep up with her on this day.
8) Cape Blanco – August 13
If the Man O’ War was an introduction, the Arlington Million was an exclamation. In thoroughly undressing his Million foes, Cape Blanco announced himself as the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
9) Acclamation – July 23
He may have become a big name with a win in the Pacific Classic, but it was Acclamation’s dominant performance in the Grade 1 Eddie Read that made me believe he is one of America’s best horses.
10) Tizway – August 6
What’s in a time? For the 2011 Whitney, the answer is absolutely nothing. Tizway backed-up his huge Met Mile, by easily beating the strongest field of older males that have run this year.
11) Maclean’s Music – March 19
I am placing myself open for much criticism with this high rating, and yes I know it is his only race to date, but his Santa Anita maiden win, with a 114 Beyer rating, has me simply dying to see his 2nd race.
12) Animal Kingdom – May 7
Say what you will about this year’s crew of 3yo males, the Kentucky Derby performance turned in by Animal Kingdom, in his first race on dirt no less, was both impressive and decisive.
13) Trappe Shot - June 11
It’s not easy to overshadow the final leg of the Triple Crown, yet that is exactly what Trappe Shot did with a pure display of speed and talent in the True North.
14) Flat Out - July 2
He may have run second to Tizway and then Havre de Grace at Saratoga, but before that a runaway come-from-behind win in Belmont’s Suburban Handicap was visually devastating.
15) Stacelita - August 13
If you wondered who the best older turf female in the nation was, this French import swiftly ended the discussion with a seemingly effortless stroll in the park in the prestigious Beverly D.
16) First Dude – July 9
The Dude may be gone, but he should not be forgotten. In Hollywood’s biggest race, First Dude needed to muster everything he had in him to get up on the shadow of the wire to defeat Game On Dude and Twirling Candy.
17) Royal Delta - August 20
Who is the best 3yo dirt filly in America? That question was answered with an exclamation point when Royal Delta decimated an excellent field in Saratoga’s historic Alabama Stakes.
18) Stay Thirsty - August 27
The time may have been average, and his top competition may not have run their best, but his easy win in the Travers was the one that tipped the 3yo championship scales to Stay Thirsty.
19) Treasure Beach - August 13
Banned may be the most accomplished 3yo turf male in America, but in the Secretariat Stakes, Treasure Beach left little doubt he is the better horse.
20) Inglorious – June 26
I really don’t care that she is winless in America. Blowing by the best Canadian bred males with ease, in the nation’s most important race, earns a spot on this list for Inglorious.