So far this week, I have given you a look back at some great races of 2009 and a look ahead at some horses we are hoping from great things from in 2010. Today, I will present my list of the the top four horses of 2009, based on their performances throughout the year nearly completed. This will more of less be my answer to the pressing "Horse Of The Year" question and I hope there are some interesting categories covered in my selections:
#4 Ventura- Yes, I know she fell to Informed Decision on the Breeders' Cup stage, but she did plenty of great running in 2009 to overlook that one failure. All six of her starts during the year were with Grade 1 company and she was never worse than second. I tend to think that her loss in the Breeders' Cup was more a result of her predisposition to going a mile on the turf. After all, her last two wins, the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood, were at one mile on the turf. That Matriarch triumph was her last time on the racetrack as she has now been retired.
6 starts- 3 wins, 3 seconds, 0 thirds and $1,221,060 earned in 2009
#3 Sea The Stars- The European Horse Of The Year never ventured across the pond to test his mettle with the best of North America. It was a deep disappointment to the racing public when Sea The Stars shunned the Breeders' Cup to instead head to the breeding shed, but the fact that he did not come over here should in no way dampen his gallant performances in Europe this season. All Sea The Stars did was start in six Group 1 races in Europe and win them all. He won the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Coral Eclipse Stakes, Juddmonte International Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes, and the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. Can you even think of another horse that ever ran in all six of those races much less win them all? Also, his performance in the Arc was an instant legend as soon as he crossed the wire, and rightly so, for him to win from where he was seemed nearly impossible.
6 starts- 6 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds in 2009 and earned over 4.5 million pounds in 9-race career
#2 Zenyatta- She only ran five times and she didn't run outside the state of California. However, she won all five of those races and she became the first female horse in history to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. Much like Sea The Stars' Arc win, if you look at her Classic score, there is no way you can think she could win from there. Of her five races in 2009, four were in Grade 1s and one was a Grade 2. What is more important is that each of those five races felt like an event from the moment she entered the saddling paddock. The AP voted her #2 Female Athlete Of The Year (behind Serena Williams). That is a tremendous measure of respect, when you get grizzled sportswriters that no longer think of horse racing as worth their time to stand up and recognize you, you have done something special.
5 starts- 5 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds and $3,330,000 earned in 2009
#1 Rachel Alexandra- She started the year with connections that had no intention of trying to prove how great she was. That changed right after her most dominating win when she was sold and after that, there was no stopping her. For the first set of connections (including tremendously underrated trainer Hal Wiggins), she ran roughshod over the South with two wins at Oaklawn (one a Grade 2), another Grade 2 win at Fair Grounds, and a smashing 20-length score in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She was then sold to Jess Jackson and moved into Steve Asmussen barn and all hell broke loose. The first matter of business was to become the first filly in over 80 years to win the Grade 1 Preakness. Check! Next, came a record performance and another 20-length win in the Grade 1 Mother Goose. Check! OK, we'll follow that up with a score in the slop over the Belmont winner and all other three-year-old male pretenders in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth. Check! Finally, let's take on older males in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. CHECKMATE! That was the one that makes her Horse Of The Year. Quite simply, she did things no one else had ever done before and she did it consistently throughout the year. I have said before on this blog that she is the greatest horse since Secretariat and I sincerely believe that. Unlike Big Red, she is supposed to be heading on into her four-year-old season, and if it is going to be anything like her three-year-old year, I will just go ahead and say WOW!!! right now.
8 starts- 8 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds and $2,746,914 earned in 2009
There will be no post on Thursday for New Year's Eve. I hope you have a safe and happy celebration of 2010. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!