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The Race of the Year Candidates (so far)

Photo finish of 2012 Travers dead heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket.
Photo: NYRA
After watching the epic battle between My Miss Aurelia and Questing down the Parx stretch on Saturday, I’ve decided to take on the enjoyable task of ranking the very best races of 2012. Yes, I know there are still three months left in the year, but I figure it’s never too early to celebrate a horse race so exciting that it makes your heart pound and your palms sweat. Here’s to hoping that these memorable five have plenty of company in the coming months. The criteria are simple: quality and a high thrill factor. Without further ado, let’s start the countdown with number 5 …
 
 
 
With the three top turf milers on the West Coast lining up for the Del Mar Mile Handicap, it looked like a good one going in, but no one could have anticipated this type of finish. It was just a question of how far new star, Obviously, could carry his speed, and whether Mr. Commons or Jeranimo could come get him. Jeranimo proved not up to the task, but Mr. Commons was … or was he? It took not only a blistering mile in 1:32.10, but a long look at the photo finish to decide this thriller, because to the naked eye, it was just too close to call. Obviously, I was hoping my boy, Mr. Commons, got there.

 
 

 
Speaking of too close to call, how about the finish of this year’s Mid-Summer Derby? It was a rather weak Travers, but when long shot, Golden Ticket remained resolute on the rail, with favored Alpha wearing him down from the middle, and Nick Zito’s Fast Falcon flying on the outside, the lack of quality did not matter. In the end, it was a tie between the first two, causing trainers Ken McPeek and Kiaran McLaughlin to high five each other in the winner’s circle. Who would have ever thought we would see two canoes in the Saratoga infield lake?

 
 

 
On paper, the Met Mile looked like a doozy with veterans To Honor and Serve, Caleb’s Posse, Jackson Bend, and Shackleford all ready to rumble. First Jackson Bend dropped out, and then To Honor and Serve weakened down the lane, leaving the prestigious race down to the speed of Shackleford versus the late run of Caleb’s Posse. Just when it looked like the rally of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, Caleb’s Posse, would prove irresistible, the 2011 Preakness champ dug down deep and found one final surge to win a Met Mile for the ages.

 
 

 
Questing had become the clear leader of the three-year-old filly division with overpowering wins in a pair of Grade 1 affairs at the Spa, but the one problem for her was, she had yet to see the sophomore version of the unbeaten filly who had dominated her in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup. Proving that she was back and as good as ever, My Miss Aurelia hooked the favorite as the pair floated wide spinning out of the far turn. From there it was a ding-dong showdown the entire stretch run of the Cotillion. My Miss Aurelia prevailed by a head, but Questing fans point to seven pounds as a must reason for a rematch at Santa Anita.

 
 

 
As wonderful as the Cotillion was, I could not rate it higher than this year’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. It was the best two sophomore colts going at it, and the stakes could not be much higher. Bodemeister wanted revenge for a tough Kentucky Derby defeat, while I’ll Have Another wanted to move one step closer to racing immortality. Bodemeister led from the get go and looked home free early in the Preakness stretch, but I’ll Have Another simply refused to give in. With each heart pounding stride, the Derby winner reeled in the Preakness favorite, until finally, and almost miraculously, he got there. If only we could have seen either talented colt run again.
 

 

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Older Comments about The Race of the Year Candidates (so far)...

In my opinion they were the best two horses at that time. Most people consider the Kentucky Derby as a test of the best, and generally the 3 yr old dirt horse races are the most illustrious races. I dont think its that ignorant to say that at the time of the Preakness that those two were the best. You don't have to agree but you can't say those two horses were two of the best at that time.
I Loved The Met Mile!
The Met Mile
Union Rags winning Belmont deserves to be on this list. imho. proved all his naysayers wrong and in a triple crown race. then flattered when paynter dullahan and street life all came ut of race to win.
G.D. and J.C., tv, where's your pick? Whatever. So IHATC was exuberant. Almost any statement with "on the planet" is. I thought the Cotillion was the most thrilling and best duel out of the races listed.
best two horses on the planet? Wow that is an ignorant statement.
Preakness hands down..
Those were both amazing but I still think the preakness because you had the 2 best horses on the planet going head to head. plus the importance of the preakness itself.
The Cotillion was the best race I've seen in a long time. Head and head the length of the stretch, bumping and shoving. Neither giving an inch. That's the race I'll remember for a long time!
Gotta go with the Travers, only photographed dead heat in the history of the race.
Preakness was the best moment in sports, not just horse racing so far this year.
I had to watch them again and even though Shack is my favorite, The 2012 Preakness still gives me goosebumps
My vote would go to the Preakness. I absolutely loved that race. Though it is hard to overlook the Catillion and Met Mile. But I wonder what happened to the original call of the Preakness? o.O
belmont should be at least #5 on the list
I know it wasn't as an exciting a finish as your top 5, but Wise Dan's Ben Ali certainly has the top "wow factor" race so far this year in my opinion.
The Cotillion was amazing. Wish you could have been there for that one!
Re watching the race I have to say how much it reminded me of the 07 JCGC. Ron has the lead at the top of the stretch, Curlin trying to close, Ron holding on as best he could, but could not withstand the relentless strides of Curlin.
Glad to see you and I have the same number one ;)
Glad to see the Met Mile made your list. That was by far one of my favorite races this year.
We were there for that one, weren't we, Matt? ;-) Good, but not better than the 5 I chose.

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