I’ve had a splinter underneath my fingernail for the past few days, and today is the day I pull it out … If one more person says the reason that I’ll Have Another should not be considered a legitimate Horse of the Year winner is because he only ran in “restricted” races, I might blow. Sure, by strict definition the Kentucky Derby is "restricted" to three-year-olds, but calling the Kentucky Derby restricted is like calling the Super Bowl restricted because it is only for football teams. The Kentucky Derby is not restricted!
How can I say this when the fine print clearly states that the Run for the Roses only allows for three-year-olds to run? Simple; the Kentucky Derby is the one race that everyone wants to win. From the owner to the groom, from the trainer to the jockey … winning the Derby is the dream.
Look at it this way: When a thoroughbred is born, the ultimate hope instantly becomes winning on the first Saturday in May. It doesn’t matter if the horse is regally bred or bargain basement, from Kentucky or Oklahoma, or even a colt or a filly. That horse and their connections have approximately three years to see if they have what it takes to win the Derby, and nothing else would be quite as good. Because of this, I say the Kentucky Derby is the least restricted race in America.
Did I’ll Have Another win only against three-year-olds this year? Absolutely, but he also won the most important race. The Kentucky Derby is the most important race, considering all facets, just ask anyone in the industry. He also won three other stakes races, including two grade 1 stakes, and the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, without a loss.
Do I think I’ll Have Another will be, or should be, Horse of the Year? That remains to be seen, and the Breeders’ Cup results will rightfully have a big say in the answer, but I cannot stress enough that running in “restricted” races, like the American Triple Crown, should not be the reason he does not … see Seattle Slew.
Now if you want to argue that a horse who only ran four times, or ran only in the first half of the year, should not be awarded Horse of the Year, that is an argument that holds more validity, but is another debate for another day.