I made a list of the dozen horses I consider to be the biggest disappointments in 2013. Some have simply been done in by injuries while others lost their touch for no obvious reason. A pair from the recent past who merit inclusion in the all-time head-scratcher list are One More Laugh and We Will See. The former won the Governor’s Cup at two and went on to beat Heaven in the Meadowlands Pace during his sophomore season. He also won the Cain that year and earned more than 1.5 million. In the three years since he has earned about 440K and has only taken in 50K in 27 starts this year. During the season following his successful three-year-old campaign he won only twice.
Another member of the Head-Scratcher HOF is We Will See, who was retired to stud after one 2013 start. Although he earned 800K at three, WWS made his bones as a four-year-old in the FFA ranks. In many ways he set the stage for the pack of newly minted four-year-olds who have had such a profound influence on the pacing ranks this year. Like OML, WWS has earned about 2.5 million, but unlike that one he took the Franklin, CPD, Allerage and USPC at four. He banked more than 1.2 million that year. Last year, at five, he only won twice in 21 starts and banked about 400K.
This year’s list, in no particular order:
1) To Dream On
Last year when To Dream On and Bee A Magician traded wins in the Peaceful Way and the BC it looked like we would witness a classic battle in this season's sophomore filly division; Bee more than held up her end of the bargain but TDO came back as a very ordinary facsimile of what she had been. At two she romped in the BC and also took the Merrie Annabelle and a split of the ISS. She won her division. TDO beat Bee 115 to 25 in the Dan Patch voting. This year she did manage to win the KY Filly Futurity, but she only won twice in 14 starts. A last place finish in her BC elimination may rekindle thoughts of retirement.
2) Wheeling N Dealin
Like his female counterpart, To Dream On, WND had that star quality about him. He won all nine starts and banked almost 700K. Wins in the BC, Wellwood and Champlain earned him a Dan Patch as well as an O’Brien. He received 135 of 142 ballots cast for the Dan Patch and got 51 of the 52 votes turned in for the O’Brien. This year he went winless in 10 starts and banked only 115K.
3) Heston Blue Chip
At two HBC won the Dan Patch off of wins in the Meadowlands Pace, BC, EBC and Progress. He banked more than a million dollars. This year he hasn’t been able to keep up with the FFA class so he’s been chasing open and high end condition wins at Tioga, Saratoga, Vernon Downs and Harrah’s. His 5 3 3 record in 15 starts doesn’t look bad but his earnings of 155K tell the story. He’s one who has not benefited from the Gural rule, requiring potential stallions to come back at four.
4) Check Me Out
CMO is one of the best trotting fillies ever. A WR holder at two and three, she earned 955K last year as a sophomore, winning the Del Miller, Bluegrass, Hudson Filly, Elegantimage and Zweig. She won both the Dan Patch and O’Brien at two and three. This year Check me Out has only two wins in nine starts and earnings of less than 50K.
5) Googoo Gaagaa
Back in the day plenty of trotting breds earned their keep pacing and a select few pacing breds were successful trotters: Skipper Walt and Speedy Romeo, to name two. The latter is rare today, but Goo, with his top line pacing lineage, was an exception. He set a WR on a half at two and on a 5/8 at three. He was the fastest three-year-old trotter ever on any size track. He won the Simpson, Beal and Colonial last year, embarrassing Market Share in the latter. Physical problems knocked him out of action for two months during the heart of the season and a year-end attempt at a comeback fell flat. Many looked forward to his presence in the FFA ranks, but he only managed three starts in 2013.
6) Drop The Ball
Some thought Ross Croghan was out of his mind when he entered Drop The Ball in the Meadowlands Pace eliminations, but it soon became apparent that she possessed the speed to go with any of them. The Western Terror filly had won the Countess Adios at two and she took the Shalee, Shady Daisy, Matron and a split of the Bluegrass at three. The problem is that, despite her lifetime earnings of 1.3 million and constant presence in the open mare’s class, she has never maximized her speed. DTB took the Allerage Mare last year and the Lady Liberty this. The WR holder on a 5/8 track has won five times and earned 290K this year, but her break and subsequent last place finish in Saturday’s BC Mare is more typical than not.
7) Odds On Equuleus
Odds On was number two behind The Captain in this year’s Hoof Beats/Trackmaster Looney Tunes Predictive Rankings. He was expected to be CT’s primary challenger. Last year he won the Nassagaweya and a split of the ISS. He was also handed a controversial DQ after winning a Bluegrass split. All told Equuleus had five wins and banked more than 400K. This year in 12 starts he has no wins.
8) Michaels Power
Michaels Power won the Jug and 14 other heats last year. He beat TOL by a 4/1 margin in the O’Brien voting and got a very respectable 50 votes to Heston’s 68 in the Dan Patch voting. Many of his wins were of the OSS variety but, aside from the Jug, he also had a big win in the Confederation Cup. He earned more than 1.4 million and finished second overall to Market Share in that department. Like his US counterpart, Heston Blue Chip, he hasn’t been able to establish any traction in the FFA class. He finished seventh at 30/1 in the BC Open the other night. He’s yet to crack the 100K barrier in 11 starts.
9) Thinking Out Loud
The winner of last year’s NA Cup just hasn’t been able to stay on the track. He earned more than 1.2 million last year, with the Cup and a Bluegrass split serving as the highlights, but he’s only started five times in 2013. His one win was a brilliant :47.2 mile at M1 in August. He’s banked 122K this year.
10) Panther Hanover
Panther is another one who hasn’t been able to stay on the track: he has made only one 2013 start. Last year he won the Simcoe and the New Jersey Classic. In the latter Kingcole escorted him to a season’s record :47.2 mile.
11) Big McDeal
The McArdle mare won the Champlain and an ISS split at two. In the latter she nosed out Jewel, matching that one’s WR of :50.2. The following year she won five times, earning 425K. In a PASS race at The Meadows in July McDeal set a WR for a filly on a 5/8 track and also established an all-age mark for pacing mares at that track. This year has been disappointing. She won twice in 16 starts and banked less than 50K.
The Justice Hall gelding opened mouths with his dominant performance in last year’s BC, but this year he never got untracked. After a curious early stint in the Quebec SS he missed a couple of months with a foot issue. When he came back he impressed us with a big time win in the Credit Winner. Then we got Saturday’s fade job in the BC. The problem is that he isn’t staked to the TVG, so unless he is supplemented to the Am-Nat we’ll probably carry the memory of Saturday’s failed performance into next year.