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Breeders' Cup 2017

O'Neill Says I'll Have Another Horse of the Year

Doug O’Neill is nothing if not a realist. If he had his druthers, he would love it if I’ll Have Another is named 2012's Horse of the Year when the Eclipse Award winners are announced at Gulfstream Park a week from Saturday on Jan. 19.

But the 44-year-old trainer of the only winner of three Grade I races on dirt last year--the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes--realizes full well that voters chronically suffer from short attention span disorder, and since I’ll Have Another didn’t race the final seven months of last year, despite going unbeaten and winning all four of his starts, all stakes, he has virtually no chance to win Horse of the Year honors against the other two finalists, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned and favored Wise Dan.

Despite his vested interest, O’Neill can live with that.

“Obviously, we’re very close to that picture, so it’s hard to be real impartial, but he’s Horse of the Year in our minds,” O’Neill said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse. Anytime you win the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, that’s quite a feat. The horse is a real champion.

“He brought Mario Gutierrez world-wide recognition, and that was huge in itself. I’ll Have Another was great to us and I think great for racing.”

No doubt about that. Now sold and retired to stud in Japan, I’ll Have Another was within a 36-hour countdown of making a bid for a Belmont Stakes victory and racing history by becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner, when a tendon injury put an end to that quest and ultimately resulted in his retirement.

Rival Horse of the Year finalists Fort Larned and Wise Dan had their day in the sun in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Fort Larned capturing the Classic and Wise Dan setting a course record of 1:31.78 in winning the Mile. For I’ll Have Another, it was out of sight, out of mind.

“I do think if you’re not running on Breeders’ Cup day, the voters definitely look down on that,” O’Neill said. “Because I’ll Have Another didn’t compete the last half of the year, he wasn’t fresh in their minds.

“Still, it’s an honor to be nominated. We’re all going to Florida and have a fun time. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have a great time.”

Team O’Neill will take solace with an Eclipse Award for I’ll Have Another as outstanding 3-year-old male of 2012, but O’Neill, never one to count his chickens before they hatch, was prepared in any case.

“We should be good there,” he said, “and if we’re not, that’s OK too.”


Sham Stakes winner Goldencents could make his next start on the Triple Crown trail in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 9, trainer Doug O’Neill indicated Thursday morning.

“We’re going to meet with his owners next week,” O’Neill said, “but one of the things we’ve talked about is maybe the San Felipe being his next start.”



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Older Comments about O'Neill Says I'll Have Another Horse of the Year...

I agree with Doug 100% he should be horse of the year but probably wont.
If you look at the winners of the Horse of the Year before 2008, the last majority were either older Classic distance main track males or 3 year old Classic males. Since then we have had 3 female winners and now a turf miler being the best horse in the United States. Now I'm for Girl Power as much as the next guy, but what this says to me is that the way horses are trained and campaigned today we are not producing older males and 3 year old males that are capable of a Horse of the Year worthy record. Today our older males only run 5-6 times and the 3 year olds are having trouble making it through the year. These are the glamour divisions of racing, the most important races at almost every track are for handicap males or 3 year old Classic males. We need stars in these divisions.
I am all for the Eclipse voters not being allowed to speak to each other because I know of at least one guy who may be influenced by his cronies in his thinking( I haven't said that to his "face" yet), but I realize that it is probably not feasible to sequester the voters. Also, I feel that it is complete laziness to abstain from any category, such as steeplechase or apprentice jockey. First, how long does it take to review all of the top steeplechase races for the whole year? How many minutes of bar time does that use? And another thing is, it is NOT an affront to Ramon Dominguez for an apprentice who starved himself or herself, risked life and limb, struggled to begin their career, trying to emulate their respected jockey idols, to win an Eclipse. These are actual awards. If one chooses to be lazy and feel they are above voting on these categories, renounce your votership, because there are those who would make the effort to do the research to make a knowledgeable vote.(All of that about the abstains was said to the voter's face.) On a personal note, I have, in the past, preferred a horse that won longer distance routes to take Horse Of The Year,but then I have to consider if I'm being distance biased and not considering the whole-year campaign. Thank you, Joy. I hope you enjoy a nice weekend of racing.
I agree Mary, several horses did step up at the end of the year. I'm not saying those horses are not great horses, because they are. There could have easily been six horses that are contending for Horse of the Year: I'll Have Another, Fort Larned, Royal Delta, Wise Dan, Little Mike and Groupie Doll. All six, in my opinion, deserved to be in competition together for the 2012 Horse of the Year category. Maybe we should have four or five horses in coming years as finalist in the Horse of the Year competition. I was at the Breeders' Cup races this year. Fort Larned impressed me very much, as did Little Mike, the Queen, Royal Delta and Groupie Doll. Wise Dan deserves the honor, too. I think Wise Dan is being full court presssed as the winner of Horse of the Year by some very powerful people in the racing industry and a lot of people are going along with it because it's just easier to go along with it than to voice a differing opinion, which would draw unwanted attention. That is unfortunate. I believe which races during the year are won, how they are won, and the real worldwide ranking/status of those races should be more consideration as opposed to whether the horse ran all year with little to no competition in many of their races. Not all G1 races are the same, some are much more substantial and prestigious than others, IMO. Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, Kentucky Oaks, Breeders' Cup Classic races have more prestige and trumps over all other races. I hope next year the contestants are expanded to 5 for HOY, because Royal Delta, Little Mike & Groupie Doll were a little short-shifted this year. Thank you for the lovely comment, Mary. I do agree with some of your points, although I still think I'll Have Another is the 2012 Horse of the Year. He certainly won the Top 2 best races of the year in terms of thrills, excitement and importance - The Preakness and Kentucky Derby. It was very nice speaking with you. Have a good weekend!
He can make a case, but without going into all of the detail about each race or past winners, if a horse wins HOTY for two legs of the Triple Crown(plus his other stakes, I know) that's because no other horse stepped up and had a better overall campaign. This year, several older horses had winning, full year, top stakes, campaigns. I think that's the difference this time.
I definitely thing I'll Have Another is the 2012 Horse of the Year. I think it stinks that voters are turning themselves inside out trying to justify giving the Horse of the Year award to a horse that is a grass miler, something that has always been kind of anathema to voters in prior years. The award is very rarely given to grass horses or milers. I think the criteria should be the same as it has been for decades, dirt horses winning at distances of over a mile, as the Gold Standard and marker of superior horses. I'll Have Another has met all of those criteria this year, several times over, winning ALL of his races, and in spectacular fashion. He deserves both Eclipse Awards, Horse of the Year & 3 Year Old Male of the Year. The public still loves you, I'll Have Another. You are not forgotten by US.

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