There’s is no question that the race for the 2011 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year is one of the most contentious in years. No 2-year-old filly has ever won the award since its modern inception in 1971, not even Ruffian or Eliza, but there isn’t the presence of Forego or A.P. Indy this year. The landscape is so muddled that it’s time to change the trend. My Miss Aurelia is the most deserving of 2011’s HOTY award.
In fact, this year’s race for HOTY is just as wide open as the last time a 2-year-old won the sport’s top honor, Favorite Trick in 1997. That year, champion sprinter, Smoke Glacken and champion 3-year-old, Silver Charm did not compete in the Breeders’ Cup. Skip Away won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but the Older Male division was a virtual dead heat between he and Formal Gold. Granted, Amazombie won the BC Sprint and will be champion sprinter in 2011, but I’m starting to get a little déjà vu… In my opinion, Animal Kingdom is this year’s 3-year-old champion, but didn’t race in the Breeders’ Cup, and the only win of significance for Drosselmeyer was his Classic victory, and the rest of the older males (Game On Dude, Tizway, Flat Out, First Dude, etc.) have taken turns beating each other throughout the year.
My Miss Aurelia was the only horse to dominate her division all year, AND win on Breeders’ Cup weekend. She thoroughly trounced her competition in all races by winning her 4 starts by a combined 10+ lengths, leaving no doubt that she is the clear cut champion of her division. I will concede the fact that she ran against restricted competition (2-year-old fillies), and Brian will try to convince you that Harve de Grace is just as dominant, but that just isn’t the case.
In her 6 races this year leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Harve de Grace only ran against 2 horses, Switch and Royal Delta, who hit the board Breeders’ Cup weekend. Admittedly, that might have changed had Blind Luck had not been retired. Even after she defeated males in the Woodward, Flat Out failed to hit the board as the Classic favorite in the Classic, when a disappointing 5th and then followed that performance with a subpar 3rd place finish in the Clark Handicap.
There’s no denying Harve de Grace had a nice year, but she wasn’t dominant like other “fairer sex” Horse of the Year winners. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta aside, other female HOY winners were Azeri (2002) and Lady’s Secret (1986). Both of them had truly dominant seasons AND won Breeders’ Cup races. To help their causes, back in ’86 and ’02 longshots (Skywalker and Volponi) captured the BC Classic. This is also very reminiscent of 2011 with Drosselmeyer’s upset BC Classic victory.
The fact of the matter is Harve de Grace didn’t impose her will like previous female HOY winners, all male nominees are Swiss cheese with all the holes in their resumes, and My Miss Aurelia is the most deserving horse for the award male or female. Though she may not be as fast as Ruffian or Eliza, Favorite Trick wasn’t as fast as Skip Away, but he was the most dominant. And this year, My Miss Aurelia, without question, has been nothing but dominant.
There’s is no doubt that the race for the 2011 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year is one of the weakest in years … as far as contentious, I’m not so sure. Havre de Grace stands a bit for me. While many of the candidates that popped up through the year, fell by the wayside as the season went on, there was only one horse that was able to sustain her perch at, or near, the top of America’s racing landscape throughout all of 2011. She may have fallen a bit short in the Classic, but there is no doubt in my mind that she had the best overall year. While, I am not opposed to having a two-year-old filly as HOTY, they would have to prove themselves very special to overcome the lack of competition faced. Let’s be clear, in no way did My Miss Aurelia have the type of year of star juvenile fillies of the past such as Ruffian, Landaluce, or Princess Rooney.
You make an interesting comparison, Jasen, but let me remind of the type of season that Favorite Trick put together. Like My Miss Aurelia, he was an undefeated winner of the Breeders’ Cup; however, he won eight races compared to the four of My Miss Aurelia. He won seven stakes, while she only won three. I think comparing her season to his is a bit of a stretch. I would have been more agreeable if you had compared her to say War Pass or Vindication (nice juveniles who really had no shot at an HOTY award.)
I am in total agreement that My Miss Aurelia is the clear cut juvenile filly champion, but I am not sure why you say she dominated her division “all year,” when her first race was not until July 22, and all she had done until early October was a maiden win and a photo finish victory in the Adirondack. By that time, Havre de Grace had already won four graded stakes, including becoming only the second female ever to win the Woodward, and lost by a nose to a champion in her other start. As far as the relative dominance of each, I’m not sure Grace needs to be as dominant, given that she ran in many of the year’s most important races.
I hope you are not comparing the horses that each of these fillies faced this year, because it is strictly no contest. You only need to see what Grace did when she got a perceived breather in the Grade 1 Beldame, dismantling Royal Delta to the tune of 8 ¼ lengths. We all know what Royal Delta did in the Ladies’ Classic without Havre de Grace to worry about.
Havre de Grace is not as good as Lady’s Secret, Azeri, Rachel Alexandra, or Zenyatta … but this year she does not need to be. All she needed to be was the best of 2011, and with a season full of running in topnotch races, while winning 5 out of 7, with a narrow 2nd, and a very respectable 4th in the Classic, she was just that.
Clear cut best juvenile filly does not get it done in most years, and I’m afraid that is true once again this year. No BC race of 2011 was given a lower Beyer number than the victory of My Miss Aurelia, and the Ragozin numbers agree. Where do you think she would have finished in the BC Juvenile against the males? No better than 4th is my belief. Meanwhile, the only knock against Havre de Grace is that she finished 4th in the Classic, but at least she tried to win the biggest of races, rather than taking the easier road in the Ladies’ Classic. For the majority of the 2011, Havre de Grace was successful in those big races. She’s your Horse of the Year.