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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Handicapping the HOY Candidates

Frequent VFTRG contributor Joe F. has taken a look at the Horse of the Year candidates and shares his thoughts with us.

Last year at this point the HOY race was still an open affair. The eventual winner, San Pail, had won the Glorys Comet, Maple Leaf, Nat Ray and Credit Winner. And his connections were committed to the Allerage in Lexington.

No two-year-old filly trotter had ever won HOY honors, but Check Me Out was making a case for being the first. By early September she had won the Reynolds, Tompkins Geers, Merrie Annabelle and the Champlain.
Foiled and We Were See were both contenders. The former had failed to repeat in the Levy, but he had captured four legs of that series. He also had wins in the Graduate, Molson and Battle of Lake Erie. By Labor Day WWS had big wins in the US Pacing Championship, Franklin and Canadian Pacing Derby.

And of course Peelers was very much a factor, with wins in the EBC, Rooney, Fan Hanover, Tarport Hap and Valley Forge. Unlike the others mentioned, the clouds had already started to form above her due to a bad loss in the Nadia at the end of August.
What about this year? Do we have a clear-cut leader as of Labor Day?

If there is a leader, I suppose it is Check Me Out. She’s got nine wins in eleven starts, and one of those losses came in her seasonal debut, while the other came when she broke stride in the Oaks. CMO has accumulated wins in the Elegantimage, Hudson Filly, Miller and Zweig. She also won three PASS races. She leads her division in earnings and is second only to Hambletonion winner Market Share among sophomore trotters.
There is one big minus on CMO’s resume—that loss in the Hambletonion Oaks. The Breeders Crown and the Oaks are the two most prestigious races on her calendar and she has lost one of them.

Some have been touting Casie Coleman’s Michaels Power as the top three-year-old pacer, off his eleven wins in thirteen starts and more than a million dollars in earnings, but his only open wins are a division of the SBSW and the Confederation Cup. Most of his wins have been in restricted races and that’s where most of his money comes from. Colts like Michaels Power and Heston Blue Chip, that keep to the SS path, racing in an occasional open, don’t tend to get rewarded for their success by the voters. Michaels Power, unlike HBC, is scheduled to start in the Jug, so that could change.
A Rocknroll Dance, despite his fourth place finish in the Cane, is still the top candidate from the sophomore pacing ranks. He only has four wins in twelve starts, but he raced against the iron nine weeks in a row and has made the board nine times in his twelve starts. While some in that division have been in the habit of winning eliminations and losing finals—Kingcole and Sweet Lou—A Rocknroll Dance won the Meadowlands Pace, Hempt and the Battle of Brandywine. He was second in the Adios. Dance has finished first or second seven times in his last eleven starts.

The fact that he’s only won a third of his starts is a minus factor. Finishing seventh in the NA Cup also hurts his chances. Being picked up by Bolt The Duer in the Adios is another thing that doesn’t help.
Bolt The Duer has been campaigned conservatively so he doesn’t have the win or money totals of some others, but he’s consistently performed at a high level. He has five wins and three seconds in ten starts for 458K. That puts him eighth in earnings among the colts. He won the Adios and the Simpson, and finished second in the Rooney and the Hempt. He won his Hempt elimination. He also has a couple of dominant wins in the KYSS. Several of those ahead of him on the money list have gone sour but Duer seems to have retained his edge.

Duer didn’t compete in the NA Cup or the SBSW and he finished tenth in the Pace. Still, he’s staked to the Bluegrass, Tattersalls, Progress, Matron and BC. Plus, he’s one of the few colts staked to the Messenger. There’s lots of time for him to enhance his reputation.
Chapter Seven has only made five starts, but he’s made them count. He set a 50.4 WR his first time up in the Titan Cup Prep, and he matched that the following week in the Titan Cup. He also won the Nat Ray and the Maxie Lee. On the negative side, he was beaten by Mister Herbie in the Maple Leaf.

Herbie has started nine times and he won six of those. He took the Glorys Comet from San Pail and also won the Cutler, Maple Leaf and Frank Ryan. Herbie is up about 250K on Chapter Seven. The Credit Winner is this week, and Chapter Seven, Herbie and Daylon Magician are all staked to the Allerage at The Red Mile.
Captaintreacherous has five wins in six starts, good for 747K. He won all three of his major stakes races. His 49.3 win in the Wilson represented a track and stakes record. It was the first sub-50 mile ever at The Meadowlands by a two-year-old. The Captain also won the Nassagaweya, as well as his Metro elimination and the final. He’s way out in front in the earnings department.

Captaintreacherous did lose to Odds On Equuleus in a nw1 cd pace, but he came back and beat that one in the Metro. A good showing in Lexington and a BC win, in tandem with some bad luck for some of the other HOY contenders, could put him over the top.
Put On A Show has been the queen of the best division in the sport. She has notched ten wins, one of them a WR performance. Money wise she ranks behind Anndrovette, who has one more start, and Rocklamation, who has two extra starts. The money is very close. Show’s problem is that she’s been great at winning opens but keeps messing up in stakes races. She lost in the Overbid series, finished second in the Betsy Ross, second in the Artiscape, and lost in the Golden Girls. As great as she’s been, these high profile losses will diminish her chances of being named HOY.

Golden Receiver, who has won twelve times, and Betterthancheddar, have looked like the best pacers in training at various times this year. GR won the Haughton, US Pacing Championship, Graduate, Presidential and the Spring Pacing Championship. However, he lost in the Franklin, Canadian Pacing Derby, Dan Patch and Mohawk Gold Cup.
Cheddar sits third in earnings behind Foiled and Golden Receiver, and he looked every bit the king of the division in the Franklin. He also won the Des Smith. His problem consists of losses in the Mohawk Gold Cup and the Canadian Pacing Derby. Losing the two top tier Canadian FFA paces on his home track is a problem.

It doesn’t take too many high profile losses for a horse to fall off the HOY ladder. After convincing wins in the Fan Hanover elimination and final—setting a 48.2 WR-- and the Lynch elimination and final, it looked like American Jewel would dominate her division in a big way. But a second to Major Look in the Shalee, a third in the EBC and a second to Romantic Moment in the Valley Forge, have markedly discounted her stock. Yet, to her credit, she did just sneak under the wire of this surveys timeline with a 49.4 thrashing of an overmatched field in the Simcoe on Labor Day. overcoming those three losses will require some stellar performances in Ohio, Kentucky and Ontario.
At this point I’ll stick with Check Me Out. A case could be made for her winning last year, so sweet justice may come into play this time around.

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