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Friday, October 24, 2014

Why is it so Difficult for a Freshman Filly to be Voted HOY?

This time last year Bee A Magician was number one in the Top Ten Poll and about to draw off from Captaintreacherous. Unless she lost—an unlikely occurrence—the HOY race was over. This year things are more unsettled; Sebastian K is still on top, but after consecutive losses, second place Father Patrick is threatening. And if those two implode coming down the stretch there is always the undefeated freshman filly, JK She’salady. That would be an interesting development in that no two-year-old filly has ever been voted HOY.

There have been many great freshman fillies from the trotting and pacing ranks, but circumstances, perhaps a dominant player from the sophomore or FFA ranks or simple prejudice against the fledgling set, have always prevented them from scoring the ultimate prize. For instance, in 1973 the Hickory Smoke filly Starlark Hanover won 21 of 22 starts for David Wade. She won 15 major stakes races, earned $145,000, and set nine track records along the way. She beat the boys—11 of them-- in the Harriman at Yonkers Raceway from the second tier. Starlark received only three HOY votes. And her contemporary, two-year-old Delmonica Hanover, who was voted HOY in 1974, received two votes that year.

Handle With Care was also a freshman in 1973, winning all 17 starts for Bill Haughton, including the Matron, Belle Acton, Hanover and La Paloma. HWC was voted HOY in Canada, but received only one vote in the US. The overwhelming choice that year, garnering 187 of 216 votes, was the trotting bred FFA pacer Sir Dalrae. He won 20 of 27 starts and earned more than $300,000 for Jim Dennis. The son of Porterhouse, who had no success as a trotter, swept the inaugural US Pacing Championship Series at Sportsman’s Park, Roosevelt Raceway and Hollywood Park, matching the Roosevelt track record of 1:57.4 in the process. That being said, it’s hard to justify Starlark, Delmonica and Handle With Care getting only six votes.

In 1964 freshman filly Armbro Flight won 20 of 26 starts, earning more money than any two-year-old filly ever had--$107,452. The sourpuss daughter of Star’s Pride was voted HOY in Canada. Her problem in the US was Bret Hanover, who became the first two-year-old to win HOY honors. He won all 24 starts, set nine track records for his class, and earned more money than any two-year-old ever had. Bret got 174 of 182 votes, so there weren’t many left for Armbro Flight.

Flamboyant, the great Florican filly trained by Bill Haughton and driven by Haughton and John Chapman, was an outstanding freshman, but ran into a similar Bret Hanover problem, as the great pacer captured his third HOY title in 1966.

George Segal’s Albatross filly, Three Diamonds, won nine of her ten starts and more than $233,000 for Gene Riegle in 1981, but Fan Hanover captured 133 votes thanks to her precedent setting win in the Jug. There were only nine votes available to Three Diamonds.

Three years later freshman Davidia Hanover won 12 of 13, set a world record at The Meadows, and earned more than $500,000, but Fancy Crown won the division handily, with On The Road Again and two-year-old Nihilator also receiving quite a few votes. There were just two left for Davidia.

Follow My Star won 13 of 14 in 1985, but Nihilator and OTRA took all the votes. Four years later Peace Corps won a unanimous decision in her division off of 15 wins, including the Merrie Annabelle and the Breeders Crown, but four-year-old Mack Lobell cashed his 17 wins in for the title.

 In 1991 Miss Easy, who, like Armbro Flight and Peace Corps,  was anything but easy to deal with, won 15 of 17, including the BC, Three Diamonds, Countess Adios and Sweetheart, but Beach Towel trumped that by winning the NA Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Tattersalls Pace.

The No Nukes filly Immortality swept her division at two in 1992, with the BC, Three Diamonds and Sweetheart being among her 13 wins, earning her over a million dollars, but she received only 14 HOY votes, compared to 244 for Mr. Perfect, Artsplace.

In 1995 NA Cup and Maeadowlands Pace winner Cam’s Card Shark beat BC and Nat Ray winner Pine Chip 206 to 180, leaving CR Kay Suzie in the dust with 12 measly votes. She got her title the following year when she took the Yonkers Trot and the WTD. Continentalvictory was her victim.

Eternal Camnation took 12 of her 13 starts in 1999, but six-year-old Moni Maker was voted HOY.

At two the great Snow White won 11 of 13 and swept her division. She set a world record on a half and earned more than $1.2 million, however, Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity and CTC winner Donato Hanover received 189 votes to 11 for her.

Honorable Daughter was an outstanding freshman, but SBSW got in her way. Check Me Out won 14 of 16 and set a world record, but her eight HOY votes were no match for the 93 San Pail received.

JK She’salady has a better shot at getting over the HOY hurdle than many of the fillies listed above: Sebastian and Patrick both have blemishes on their records that an undefeated filly can exploit. If her two elders stumble over the course of the next month, while she remains upright, there’s no reason she can’t be the first freshman filly to be voted Horse of the Year.

Joe FitzGerald

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