Horse of the Year
There was some grumbling on Twitter about 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Invasor, with his career record of 11 wins from 12 starts, being among this year’s inductees into the Racing Hall of Fame — “No offense to Invasor, who was very good in several races,” tweeted Marcus Hersh, “but if he’s a Hall of Famer, I kind of fail to see the point of the HOF” — but this Invasor fan heartily approves that the world-traveling, world-beating Argentine-bred will be enshrined in Saratoga. Nine of his wins were in Group 1/Grade 1 races, spread across three continents. That’s exceptional.
Back in 2007, Hall of Fame voter Bill Finley wrote, “When the time comes, I will have a hard time voting for horses like Invasor …” Earlier this year, writing of his ballot, his position seemed less conflicted: “Invasor’s career was a brief one but he was the dominant horse of the middle half of the last decade.” Finley was obviously not alone in his evolution — that Invasor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick suggests that as careers have grown shorter, more guardians of the game’s history have begun to rethink what makes a horse plaque worthy.
In short, the vibe when you watch a Black Caviar race is one of assurance. The absolute certainty that Black Caviar is indisputably better than those around her.
This is no small thing. In this age of online commentary and social media, everything is up for debate. Everything can and will be refuted by someone, somewhere, and with venom.
You can’t troll Black Caviar.
She’s so freaky good, she converts even the skeptical: “[Black Caviar] takes us away from our daily grind … like some 21st century Pegasus.”
And now she’s 25-for-25, the winner of a record 15 Group 1 races in Australia after the T. J. Smith Stakes. “Her odds of $1.14 made her unbackable.” Did anyone care? “You’re beautiful,” they shouted when she entered the paddock.
More Black Caviar at Randwick on Saturday here, in this fantastic album posted to Facebook by photographer Bronwen Healy.
4/17/13 Update: Black Caviar has been retired.
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On Friday, Horse of the Year Wise Dan (pictured here in the post parade) returned a winner in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland (the odds were in his favor). He looked eager on the backstretch, but waited for rider Jose Lezcano’s cue to go. “He wanted to go on, but I wanted to slow him down,” said Lezcano. “I waited as long as I could, but he’s a champion, you know.”
The win was a relief to trainer Charles LoPresti: “I did not want this horse to get beat today. I would have been really sad if he got beat today.”
1:00 PM Addendum: Beyer speed figure of 99 for Wise Dan, via Dan Illman.
When Wise Dan makes his first start of the year at Keeneland on April 12, don’t bet against him. Returning Horses of the Year are 16 for 21 since 1972:
Favored returning HOTYs are 16 for 20. With a return of $43.50 on $40 bet, that makes favored returning HOTYs just about the surest bet in racing.
(The chart above is an updated version of one that appeared in a lengthier post about betting returning champions in March 2010.)
1:15 PM Addendum: So, how might you play Wise Dan? Hello Race Fans has some tips on factoring favorites, and singling and spreading.
I’ll Have Another has likely clinched Horse of the Year, but there may be an alternative to him in Joe Hirsch Turf Classic winner Point Of Entry.
I admit, I’m a little confounded that anyone thinks I’ll Have Another is a leading Horse of the Year contender, much less that he’s a lock. You have to go back to 1999 to find a Kentucky Derby winner who didn’t race past Triple Crown season named Horse of the Year, and that was Charismatic, honored:
… after a season that was so lackluster some felt no one had done enough to deserve the award. In fact, 11 voters abstained in the Horse of the Year category. Another apparent protest vote was cast for a steeplechase horse named Saluter, the winner of the four-mile Virginia Gold Cup.
This season isn’t over, but it hardly figures to end that badly. Game on Dude, Ron the Greek, Wise Dan, and Point of Entry all have strong claims to the title if any of them win their Breeders’ Cup races.
10/6/12 Addendum: Another vote for IHA as HOTY leader heading into BC. Clearly, I’m out of step. Must be my bias toward whole-year campaigns.
Filling in the post-summer meet, pre-fall championship season lull …
One thing we should all be in agreement with is that it is going to take a victory in the Classic and possibly one other race or two spectacular performances by Questing or Point of Entry to take Horse of the Year honors away from I’ll Have Another.
That should be easy. At this point, I’ll Have Another seems barely in the Horse of the Year conversation — there would have to be chaos coast-to-coast over the next eight weeks for him to be a factor — and even 3-year-old champion honors hardly seem assured — both Alpha and Dullahan are well positioned to claim the title, if either manages to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup (A)* or Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (D), and then win in the Breeders’ Cup.
*Never mind, re: Alpha and the JCGC. He’s going to Pennsylvania.