CHICHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Snow Fairy and Eddie Ahern win The Blue Square Height Of Fashion Stakes from Pipette at Goodwood racecourse on May 19, 2010 in Chichester, England (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)
Like the Eclipse Awards here in the Untied Stakes, the Cartier Awards recognize the top horses in Europe each season and are decided by points earned in "Pattern race", opinions of a panel of turf writers, as well as by readers of the Racing Post (UK) and the Daily Telegraph (UK). Below are the winners of this year's awards for each division.
Horse of the Year: Goldikova (IRE)
Top Older Horse: Goldikova (IRE)
Top Stayer: Rite of Passage
Top Sprinter: Starspangledbanner
Three-year-old Colt: Workforce
Three-year-old Filly: Snow Fairy (GB)
Two-year-old Colt: Frankel
Two-year-old Filly: Misty For Me
Award of Merit: Richard Hannon
With all the attention paid to Workforce, Goldikova and Harbinger this year, the three-year-old filly Snow Fairy (GB) quietly produced a fantastic season, topped off by her win in Japan last Saturday. Prior to her win at Kyoto, Snow Fairy won both the English and Irish Oaks at 12 furlongs and was second to Midday in the Yorkshire Oaks in mid-August.
Midday (GB) also had a strong case for top honors, as she not only defeated the winner at York, but she also won two other Group 1s during the season - the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp and the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Midday finished off the year by losing a tight finish to Shared Account in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and you have to wonder where the loss at Churchill to an unheralded American horse that had never won a Grade 1 race in her career cost her the title.
The Stayer category recognizes distance and "marathon" runners, although the definition of a "marathon" is quite different than here in North America. Twelve or 14 furlongs is about the limit of what you'll find for a race in North America, while the Cartier Stayer champion, Rite of Passage, won a race at 16 furlongs (2 miles) and two races at 20 furlongs (2 1/2 miles). I'd say that qualifies as a stayer.
I've always liked the idea of the Marathon at the Breeders' Cup, even if it lacks a ton of "star power" in the field. My only issue with the race is the distance of a mile and a half or a mile and three-quarters. It would seem to me that if you want to have a true "marathon" type of race, and you want to attract a different kind of horse (a stayer as opposed to a mile and a quarter type tying to get just a bit more ground), that it would make sense to have the BC Marathon at something like 2 miles. If the race was ever moved to the turf, then I think even more distance would be warranted in order to create a clear distinction from the Turf, perhaps even lengthen it to 2 1/2 miles.