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Breeders' Cup 2017

Point - Counterpoint: Animal Kingdom vs Caleb's Posse for 3YO Champ

Animal Kingdom vs Caleb's Posse for Champion 3 Year Old Male
Who should be 3-Year-Old Champion?  Chicago Dark Horse Chris Sorenson and Managing Editor Brian Zipse of Zipse At The Track, debate the merits of BC Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

Twirling Candy

Jackson bend
Chicago Dark Horse
Chicago Dark Horse
Chris Sorenson:
So here we are at the end of another great racing season. It’s this time of year when we all put on our fortune-telling hats and try to determine who will win the awards in certain categories. There might not be a more difficult category to dissect than top three-year-old! While Royal Delta looks to be a sure bet on the female side, we have such a selection to choose from on the male side; The Factor, Shackleford, Wilburn, Ruler on Ice, Stay Thirsty, and Uncle Mo to name a few. My choice for top three year old is Caleb’s Posse. Obviously this horse likes to run at shorter distances better, but I think his body of work is enough for him to earn this award. First off, this horse has won HALF of all of his races! And these races were not non-winners of two claimers either. Second, he got his start at Arlington Park, which rules.
Starting off as a two year old he hit the board in five of six starts. Sure, he broke his maiden at Arlington Park, but had a very good third place finish in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (even had the lead at one point in the one-turn mile), then reeled off two more in a row including an allowance race at Keeneland and a huge victory in the Clever Trevor. So he had a good base for his three year old campaign!
For his campaign as a three year old Caleb’s Posse won the Smarty Jones easily on a good track at Oaklawn Park. Two starts later, even going two turns which is obviously not his forte, he finished second in the Rebel at Oaklawn at 24-1 while trying to catch speed-burner The Factor. (Note, he beats The Factor later…) The Arkansas Derby was obviously too long for him, and after that start the connections gave him a rest. This is when things start to get interesting. 

Returning to the track in June, he would go on to win his four of his next six starts! Let’s take a deeper dive into his accomplishments late in 2011: 1.Even at two turns, he took the Ohio Derby at Thistledown in June as the 2-1 favorite, sure he was well the best of that field, but you would have expected him to win this race, which he did. 2. Trying two turns again, he finished fourth in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. In this race however, he was near the back of the pack (as is his usual style of running) but at this distance he just couldn’t make up the room. His class showed as he was able to pass some of the rivals. The connections then sent him off on sprints for the next two races. 3. Caleb’s Posse really took to Saratoga over the late summer. He won the Grade 2 Amsterdam beating impressive company with the likes of Wine Police and To Honor And Serve. Then in impressive fashion, he took the Kings Bishop beating classy sprinters such as Flashpoint, Dominus, and even the “great” Uncle Mo. Pretty impressive, eh? And to add to that impressiveness, he set Beyers of 106 and 105 in upstate New York! 4. After chasing Wilburn and Shackelford in the Indiana Derby (two turns), he goes on to beat those very horses in the next race! And which race was that? Oh, only the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile! So on the world-stage Caleb’s Posse comes through with the very, very impressive victory! I mean, how can you beat that; at an event that showcases the best horses in the world?

Should we list some of the classy runners who he beat in the Breeders’ Cup? I’m assuming you’re saying yes. •WilburnShackelfordTrappe ShotThe Factor - Again, horses that he had once lost to before, he beats in the classiest race of the year.

So here Caleb’s Posse sits with a 50% win rate overall and a 10-5-1-1 record in 2011. This sprinter even won a two-turn Grade 3 stake to add to the resume! If this isn’t good enough to win top three year old, then I don’t know what is.

Brian Zipse:
Interesting that you listed six candidates for Three-year-old male Champion and you failed to mention the horse that I think is the most deserving – Animal Kingdom. I must admit this debate is a bit tough for me, because I would actually love to see Caleb’s Posse get the award, but much like my handicapping, I debate with my head, not my heart. As I see it, one of these choices won the biggest race for three-year-olds and was consistently good in the most important races for sophomores, while the other was a big cut below unless running in one-turn races. Perhaps Caleb’s Posse is better placed in the Sprinter of the Year category, because he does not stack up with Animal Kingdom in the races that most matter. And by the way, Animal Kingdom also began his career at beautiful Arlington Park.

Chris, this award is all about this year, and Animal Kingdom was unquestionably the best three-year-old male the first six months of the year. I don’t think anyone can argue that. He only had the chance to run five times in 2011, but they were all excellent: He just missed in a fast turf race to start the year. He easily defeated a big field in the Grade 3 Spiral in his next start. After that he rolled to an impressive victory in the Kentucky Derby, before following up with a huge rally to just miss in the Preakness. The Belmont did not work out, but he sure was gallant in defeat after being totally wiped out soon after the start. It’s a shame he did not get a chance to run anymore this year, and the door was open for another 3yo to knock him off the heap, but the truth is, no one did.

If “the Arkansas Derby was obviously too long for him,” I am not sure how he gets this award. The five most influential races for 3yo champion have always been: The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Travers, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Caleb’s Posse ran in none of them. Now if he was a truly dominant sprinter, then I think his candidacy holds more validity, but I don’t think he did enough to lay that claim.

First of all, the showcase event is the Kentucky Derby … not the BC Dirt Mile. While I already highlighted Animal Kingdom’s impressive and consistent campaign, let me compare it to that of Caleb’s Posse. While Animal Kingdom was clearly the best horse in the Triple Crown, Caleb’s Posse was in no position to even run in it after running 6th in the Southwest, losing the Rebel by 6 ¼ lengths, and finishing 12th in the Arkansas Derby. It’s no wonder that he did not even attempt the Triple Crown. I do not think performances like this can be just swept under the rug when analyzing his entire body of work this year. Throw in a nearly 9 length loss in the Iowa Derby and a more than 6 length loss in the Indiana Derby later in the season, and his resume for 3yo champion simply does not meet the eyeball test. As for his two wins going around two-turns this year, they were exceedingly cheap. I saw the Ohio Derby and it was nothing more than an allowance race, as evidenced by him being sent off as the 2-1 favorite coming off his Arkansas Derby drubbing. I have little problem in saying that Animal Kingdom beat more good horses in the Spiral than Caleb’s Posse beat in either the Ohio Derby or the Smarty Jones.

The BC Dirt Mile was an excellent performance, but isn’t it somewhat a race for horses that can’t quite hack the BC Classic? I mean how many champions won the Dirt Mile? The answer is none. See the Kentucky Derby, and even though he just missed, see the Preakness for the long list of horses that Animal Kingdom beat. There was a reason he was a big favorite in the Belmont.
If this award comes down to what have you done for me lately, than by all means give it to the horse that rebounded from a beating in the Indiana Derby to win the BC Dirt Mile impressively. If however, you want to reward the horse that had the most consistent  season, and was the best in the division’s most important races; than the decision is clear … Animal Kingdom is your three-year-old champion.



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Older Comments about Point - Counterpoint: Animal Kingdom vs Caleb's Posse for 3YO Champ...

@gregriessland his onnly weakness was mud? His only weakness was mud where another horse plows into him and he tripped fracturing a bone. He still managed to beat 6 horses under those conditions.
Caleb has the best resume in Graded Stakes. He id get beat by 6 lengths in Indiana, but he also didnt have Rajiv riding him there either. He is 3-0 on Caleb, he just knows how to ride him perfectly. If AK hadnt been injured it probably would have gone to him, but I dont think one race should determine the whole year.
Its a crazy year when the horse that runs 4th in the Iowa Derby is considered for 3yo champ.
I think a win in the derby & 2nd in the preakness means more than a win in the King's Bishop & BC Dirt Mile (though they were admittedly impressive). Got to lean slightly towards AK.
animal kingdom, his only major weakness this year was mud. he closes strong, great at the distance, could handle nearly every surface. one thing i have learned the horse that can run well on turf and dirt is a dangerous horse.
Animal Kingdom!!! HORSE OF THE YEAR! He is a stunning horse, I have no doubts he'll come back full force in March and win at Dubai.
Animal Kingdom we hardly got to know you before you got sidelined Best of Luck in your new career! Caleb's Posse,was well handled and I'm glad to see him nominated as 3YOR of the Year! Just as I'm happy for ROI and SHACK's connections!
The sad fact of the matter is that I don't really like either of them for the award! But based entirely on the races they've run in ALL YEAR (because this is a YEAR END award) I would vote Caleb's Posse, who has four graded stakes victories, including two G1's, to Animal Kingdom's G3 and G1. Yes, if Animal Kingdom hadn't been injured in the Belmont, then he probably would be winning this award easily. We can't, however, give out an Eclipse award based on "what if"s or "probably"s.
between a flash in the pan and a serious race horse? Caleb by a mile
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Champion_Three-Year-Old_Male_Horse Take a good look at this list and find the last time a "sprinter" won this award. The best run the best races and against the best. Caleb Posse avoided the top races every where he went. Kudos to the management of this horse but not award worthy.
A very good debate actually. Not sure if Animal Kingdom 2011 resume is any better then Stay Thirsty. Caleb Posse won 5 races in 2011. 4 of these races were graded, including a Breeders cup race against older horses. He did win a grade 3 at 8.5 furlongs. The shorter distances are a minor blemish on his sterling 2011 resume. His handlers did the VERY BEST job at managing a busy 3 year compared to any other 3 year old. He gets my vote for 3 year old of the year
Animal Kingdom is my choice for more than one reason. He made all three Triple crown races, winning, arguably, the world's most famous one! He recovered from extreme adversity in the Belmont Stakes. Close examination of the beginning where he stumbled lets me know he could have dropped the jockey with one breath. Instead of that, he somehow righted himself seemingly to keep the rider from going off & then continued gamely to the finish! that's enough for me right there.
  • bigfootmauler · AK made an awesome recovery in the belmont and not only did he recover that well, but by the end of the race no one was really pulling away from him.. thats good in my books~ · 2172 days ago
  • bigfootmauler · AK made an awesome recovery in the belmont and not only did he recover that well, but by the end of the race no one was really pulling away from him.. thats good in my books~ · 2172 days ago
Animal Kingdom... Horse of The Year!
  • bigfootmauler · be great if he got HOTY but we all know that wont happen.. he hasnt really had a year but this summer.. man.. if he didnt stumble, he would have taken the belmont! · 2172 days ago
Caleb's Posse was un-beaten going around 1 turn in 2011. What more could he do in terms of sprinting?
Hey dad you won money on Animal Kingdom when you were yelling at the TV
C'mon dad you can do it!
Exactly ... if he was dominant in sprints that would be one thing, but he wasn't, hence his odds in his latest. I really can't vote for a horse who was beaten by more than 6 lengths in half of his starts.
With regard to this award you can go back to 1971 with Canonero and you;ll see they are exclusively Classic Horses. Not a mere late runing sprinter in their midst. Why lessen the award to accomodate this horse who was trounced by Shack and Wilburn just last month and showed "mild late interest" against Prayer For Relief who isn't even in the conversation for an Eclipse? Good horse but far from dominaint in his division, wining but 50% of his 2011 starts.
I have to go with Caleb's Posse, I'm not a big fan of the distance argument, if the horse is dominant in his own division that should be enough, unless the other contender was more dominant, which is not the case. Caleb's Posse is the only multiple grade I winner in this conversation, I can't see Animal Kingdom beating Caleb's Posse at 6 furlongs, so why punish Caleb for not being a "classic" horse. Caleb's Posse had a strong YEAR, Animal Kingdom, in my opinion, was a horse that was peeking at the right time. Caleb's Posse drubbed Shackleford at Shackleford BEST distance, Animal Kingdom couldn't get past Shackleford in the Preakness at HIS best distance.
Calebs Posse @ two turns: ungraded win at a mile (Smarty Jones) and a Grade 3 win at the testing distance of 8.5 furlongs in the Ohio Derby. Harshly spanked at Indiana Derby @Hoosier (beaten 6 lengths) and Prarie Meadows Iowa Derby (9 lengths). Crushed by The Factor& ArchX3 in Arkansas. AK has a win in the biggest race in America at 10F, a hard fought place in the Preakness in addition to the Spiral victory, prior to injury in the Belmont . Additionally, there is a big difference between a horse missing time due to injury and voluntarily opting out so AK has no need for apologies, nor would Uncle Mo, had he been a better performer at the end. Calebs Posse is developing into a nice late running sprinter and gets credit for remaining sound, but was also smacked around too many times to be considered a champion.

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