Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Wise Dan on track for 2012 Horse of the Year?

With another dazzling display on Saturday, Wise Dan has done something than no horse could do in the past five months … he has supplanted Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another from the top spot on the ballot I send in every week for the NTRA national poll. The Lord of Versatility, as I like to call him, has proven himself a topnotch racehorse over every possible racing surface throughout his career, but now as a mature and robust five-year-old, the son of Wiseman’s Ferry has taken things to a spectacular level. His strikingly easy win in the $750,000, Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile was just more of the same for the horse I now consider the leader of the 2012 Horse of the Year race. This race is far from over, however; and with the World Championships less than four weeks away, it looks like everything will come down to the Breeders’ Cup. Let’s take a look at the HOTY frontrunners.

Wise Dan has run 5 races this year with 4 wins. He began the year in April by winning the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on a synthetic surface at Keeneland by 10 ½ lengths, while earning a 117 Beyer in the process. His lone defeat of the season came in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on the dirt when he was beaten by a short head to Ron the Greek. In the grand scheme of things a loss is a loss, but I believe he was best that day as he gave the winner weight and suffered a horrid trip into the first turn, while only losing the race in the final few yards. Since then he has dominated the middle distance turf races like no American horse has done in many a year with sublime performances in the Grade 2 Fourstardave, Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and Saturday’s  Shadwell Turf Mile. The names of some of these races may not hold as much romance as a few other horses on this list, but his body of work is now strong enough where his brilliance can no longer be denied. It is yet to be determined whether he runs in the BC Mile or Classic, but either way, I believe a win will earn him the big prize.

I’ll Have Another only ran 4 races this year and won them all. He’s won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and of course the pair of American Classics in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. While his margins of victory were not comparable to some on this list, his courage and tenacity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in successive Triple Crown races against a most stubborn foe in Bodemeister, was simply extraordinary. You cannot do any better in importance than the string of four wins he put together, and the fact that he did not lose this year helps, but the fact that all of his races came within the first 4 ½ months of the year is a negative. When he was retired, we all knew that his HOTY chances would only last as long as it took for another horse to piece together a really strong full-year campaign. It looks like that is now happening … although a few important defeats in the Breeders’ Cup and he could move right back to the top of this list.

Game On Dude has run 6 races this year with 4 wins. He’s won a pair of grade 2’s, the San Antonio and Californian, and two grade one’s, the Hollywood Gold Cup and Awesome Again in dominating style. On his least favorite surface of Del Mar, he was passed late by Dullahan to finish a good second in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Unfortunately, a trip across the globe for the world’s richest race turned into a nightmare as a bad start and a tired finish saw him come home 12th in the Dubai World Cup. Despite that, the five races in California not only point him out as far and away the top handicap horse in the West, but also the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. If he can better his runner-up finish in America’s richest race last year, he would become the HOTY favorite, and only another romping victory by Wise Dan would threaten him in the vote.

Point of Entry has run 6 races this year, all on the grass, with 5 wins. He’s seemingly come from nowhere of late to thrust his name into the Horse of the Year race with five successive wins. After finishing fourth in a fast allowance race this February at Gulfstream, the son of Dynaformer changed his game to distance racing and the results have been devastating. A strong allowance win at Keeneland, has been followed by easy victories in the Grade 2 Elkhorn, Grade 1 Man O’ War, Grade 1 Sword Dancer, and Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. While he is undoubtedly the best distance grass horse in America, it remains to be seen whether he can handle the firmer footing at Santa Anita while facing a much stronger international cast in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. If he does, and Wise Dan and Game On Dude both lose on the same day, it would be hard to deny the horse with six straight wins, the last four being grade 1, even if he is not in America’s glamour division.

Of the rest, only a strong win in the Classic, by a horse with solid seasonal credentials, such as Mucho Macho Man, Ron the Greek, or Fort Larned, would be enough to overtake what I’ll Have Another has already done. As far as some of the sensational fillies out there like Royal Delta, Groupie Doll, Awesome Feather, Questing, My Miss Aurelia, and Executiveprivilge, I’m sorry to say even with a Breeders’ Cup win, their body of work would not be quite enough to become the 2012 Horse of the Year, or at least that is how I see it.


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Older Comments about Wise Dan on track for 2012 Horse of the Year? ...

They need to be trained period. Not just for a course. You have no idea what you're talking about and without any firsthand experience you have nothing to back up what you say. My point is a horse needs to be trained to jump period. You do not throw them onto a track and expect them to clear a 4f jump. Until you have trained a horse, flat or jump you do not know.
Beautiful rhyme, Ms. Pugh. I agree that they must be trained to jump before they go over a course. Clearly I am not getting through to you but perhaps you will loose your daft mirage of what you think I'm saying and join me in a splendid debate.
You can talk all night, it doesn't make you right. Those horses have to be trained to jump before you put them on a steeplchase course. I have done brush jumps before, and guess what, I had a horse run through that on me too. I've seen it dones as well, just as i have seen them run through poles and even wooden gates, if they are not trained. Again, you obvously lack the experience. If you had it you would know full well its not "easier." If a horse doesn't know how, they won't jump. If they do, most likely senario is they crash because they don't know how to use themselves. Once they learn that they are fine, but if they don't you'll see them crash through the jump.
Usually is a key word in my sentence, Ms. Pugh. I didn't say they were untrained, I said it was easier. Also, horses generally run through pole fences in an arena, Ms. Pugh, and you in all your experience should know that. With hedges, Ms. Pugh, horses either refuse of go over, very simple. Hedges also usually do not have poles, especially in steeplechase. And it can be easy if done correctly. I can get riled up if that's what you want Ms. Pugh. I can talk the hide off a mule just with a chair and a mouth.
Wrecks? Most of them can be trained into very good jumper. And have you ever trained a jumper/hunter, the statement that it is not hard would say that you haven't. Before you make that kind of a statement, please hop on the back of an untrained OTTB and point him at say a 3ft oxer. He won't jump it, he will most likely either run through it or run out on it. If the horse is brave enough to try and jump it then he'll take down every pole with him because of hitting an awkward distance and not knowing how to properly jump. It is not easy, so before you go making statements such as that, please get the firsthand experience, or talk to a person who has trained the horses. On my name, I don't care, however do not get insulted for me showing the same casualness that you did towards me.
I didn't know you didn't like Dani. I can call you pugh. Or Ms. Pugh. Or Miss Pugh. I'm good for any, really. Just not honorable master. Any way, OTTBs are usually wrecks, unsuitable for breeding, continued racing or they are just geldings. A lot of the geldings try jumps, or the video I watched made it seem like that. Most of the OTTBs I see don't even know to run in a straight line, just to run. And it isn't all that hard to teach a horse to jump when there are other horses doing it.
cocoa, if you want to shorten my HRN name I'll feel free to do it back. My exp is first hand by the way. Having trained and seen many OTTB's trained, or re-trained. They have hardly any idea how to jump even a single cross rail. The amount of horses that come off the track having no idea of what to do other than run in a straight line, disproves you. There may be a few trainers who will take their steeplechasers and run them on the flat, that could easily be true. However, again, the amount of OTTB that have no idea how to jump greatly disprove what you say.
I'm not an expert on BSF. But, I know that closers, or off pace horses generally do not get as good beyers.
Glad we can agree.
No cocoa2, I meant on the turf vs. Dirt thing, and the Sprint vs. Route thing. But on the BSF's she is wrong.
Actually, my name is Cocoa2. Coming from a person who has been watching the Grand National since he was born and has jumped 4.5ft, I think you need to recheck. As for where I found this information, a special on TVG and a interview with a trainer lead me to this.
cocoa, how is it anywhere close to the same? Coming from a person who has jumped horse as well as let my horses go around a flat track, it's nowhere close to the same. To compare running, what 25-30mph while jumping 4f jumps with spreads that can be just as wide, is not even close to the same as galloping 35-40mph in an oval. I don't know of many high level flat competitors that go over the jumps, most OTTB have to be completely retaught how to jump, so your statement that many trainers alternate between running their horses over jumps and just running over a flat surface is unfounded.
Dani is actually not correct rafirox. I don't expect that you would know that though, so no worries.
Contrary to dani's misinformation, Jumping or steeplechase as it is called in the US, is very close to flat racing. Infact many trainers will run their horses on the flat or over the jumps, alternating, to keep their horses interested and improve endurance. Steeplechase usually is longer than our flat racing, and the pin point of steeplechase is The Grand National at Aintree. Jumps racing is much more interesting than flat racing, while being surprisingly alike. Interestingly enough Saratoga has a steeplchase course but rarely runs horses over it.
dani is completely right, everything she has stated. IHATC, are you saying turf horses and sprinter are AAA Ball and Dirt and route is the Big leagues. That metaphor is absurd..... Mike in SB, I agree with your ending comment of the comment. :P. To me, they can get bonus by routing, because that DEFINES a T-bred. Totally agree with THAT statement.
so a division III player should be eligible for the heisman trophy? a AAA ball club should be able to win the world series?
Jumping and Harness are a completely different typ of racing however. The others, marathon, sprint, turf, dirt are not. It is TB racing broken down into divisions. That is all. No division should get more or less credit than the other.
I would argue that just like it takes different skills to race in harness or steeplechase, it takes very different skills to race a sprint, marathon, turf, dirt, mile, 11/4 miles etc...
I can think of only two horses that were Horse of the Year that races exclusively on grass, Kotashaan and All Along. And except fof the 2 year old HOYs, I believe most if not all raced at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 mile or won a Classic race. I don't care that much about the surface, grass and synthetic races should count as much as dirt races and Wise Dan has won on all surfaces, but I do think that a horse should get extra credit for wiinning at a Classic distance. Being fast over a distance of ground is what defines the Thoroughbred.
BTW, the richest race in the World is on synthetic. The most interational races in the world are held over turf and synthetic. In Japan, the Japan Cup gets the most attention, not the Dirt Cup.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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