A few thoughts that have been rummaging around my head during the post-Breeders' Cup malaise:
-I suppose it's awful of me to write this but I really could care less about the voting for Horse of the Year. To me, it's like finding out the winner of the Cy Young Award, NFL MVP, or the Heisman Trophy. It's nice to find out who people vote for but it really is irrelevant to my enjoyment of the sport. Furthermore, I find Horse of the Year significantly different than the awards in other sports because, frankly, the winner or loser of the award doesn't give a damn whether they receive it or not. The owners care. The trainers care. And certainly the fans care. But the horse? It's not like they are going to gallop up on stage to receive it and then demand a new five-year contract.
Awards, for the most part, are about recognition and ego...and I don't mean that in a bad way. Who among us doesn't like to be recognized for doing something well? It's a great feeling when your peers honor you for your accomplishments and achievements. But while it feels good for someone to recognize you as "the best" at something, it's really irrelevant in the big scheme of things.
I like to see what film wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards but it doesn't change my opinion of which movies I liked the best during the year. And I view Horse of the Year in a similar light.
So, while the debate over Horse of the Year once again rages on the pages of the DRF, TTimes and Blood-Horse, I'll wade into other issues because, for me, it really doesn't matter. Blame - he won the big one and had a fantastic year. Zenyatta - she proved her class in her defeat in the Classic. Each is deserving and which ever horse wins, so be it. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, regardless of the outcome.
-While Horse of the Year doesn't really excite me, the divisional honors do. I am especially interested at what the Eclipse award voters are going to do with the category of Champion Turf Male because this year didn't offer us a whole lot to choose from. Paddy O'Prado would seem like the logical choice given the fact that the actually won some races this year, although he never won against older horses. Or we could see Gio Ponti win it, although it's hard for me to envision the Turf Champion as a horse that won only two races all year long (although the Shadwell was very impressive). It's really a tough call and speaks volumes to the lack of depth of the U.S. turf horses.
-Thanksgiving is fast approaching, a day that I now reserve for watching horse racing as much as I do football. Churchill, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, and Hollywood will all have cards on the holiday, providing plenty of racing action until the turkey is ready.
-A story at DRF.com yesterday provided an overview of Todd Pletcher's plans for Uncle Mo in next spring (Uncle Mo to get a month on the farm), which confirmed some of the information from an article late last week regarding two preps and a run in the Wood prior to the Derby. This piece suggests that Uncle Mo's first start probably won't be a two-turn race and could be the 7 furlong Hutcheson at Gulfstream. I don't know how I'll feel about Uncle Mo if makes it to Louisville with a singe two-turn start under his belt during his three-year-old year.
-If you want to get a head start on your 2011 Kentucky Derby future book betting, Vegas is more than willing to oblige. Both the Wynn and Lucky's have posted their future book odds for next year's Derby (links below), and each has Uncle Mo as the favorite, but with much different odds. At Lucky's, you can get Uncle Mo at 12/1, while the Wynn (as their last update) will offer you 6/1. Both of those numbers on Uncle Mo represent post-Breeders' Cup odds.
-There's a decent amount of buzz around a Nick Zito juvenile that won at Churchill Downs on Friday in race 7 (Dialed In). Churchill has yet to upload the race replays from their fall meet from YouTube so it's been a bit difficult to track down a good replay of the race. There is a replay over at DRF.com (if you can get it to load smoothly, which I haven't been able to do). Anyway, the standard replay is a bit misleading due to the fact that the track announcer claims that Dialed In blew the turn, which he did not. He blew the break and raced near the rear early on, but he was no more than three or four wide on the turn. He was wide, but he didn't blow the turn.
If you are a TwinSpires member, they have a head-on replay available to view and I highly recommend taking at look from that angle.
A couple thoughts I had watching Dialed In was, first, he's really, really green. Watch as he runs down the backstretch for the first time with the way he's almost "climbing the ladder" with his front feet. I don't think this colt liked dirt being thrown into his face at all. Then watch him in deep stretch; the jock was having a brutal time trying to keep this colt in a straight line as he lugged in about as badly as a horse can lug in. At one point inside the final furlong, jockey Julien Leparoux is using the left handed stick while using his right arm to try and pull him to the outer part of the stretch. The colt was simply all over the place.
The impressive thing about that race is the fact that this colt got a ton of education, he still ended up winning and he looked to have a lot of horse left. Most of the urging by Leparoux in deep stretch was in order to keep the horse in a straight line and did not appear to be a plea for more run.
Dialed In is by Mineshaft out of a Storm Cat mare (Miss Doolittle), and one would think that he'll get better with extra ground.
-I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tragic breakdown of Buddy's Saint at Belmont Park the other day. Buddy's Saint won the Remsen and the Nasuha Stakes as a juvenile and was believed to be a top contender for the 2010 Kentucky Derby until injuries sidelined him for most of the season. He was working towards an undetermined comeback race when he suffered a fatal injury during his morning drill.
A sad and unfortunate part of the sport of horse racing is injuries, specifically fatal injuries. Regardless, I hope we never get to the point where we take these incidents for granted. While they may be unavoidable, the industry must continually strive to improve the safety of the animals.