The Art Major pacer JK She’salady is the first filly to be voted Horse of the Year since the award originated in 1947. She is obviously expected to do extraordinary things during her sophomore campaign. While questions about Mission Brief taking on the boys in the Hambletonian are a given, as dominant as JK She’saldy has been, expectations of her being entered in the pacing classics are understandably less common. Still, the winner of all 12 starts, including the Breeders Crown, Three Diamonds, Eternal Camnation and Shes A Great lady, will be expected to crush her peers.
Her world record matching 1:50.1 mile in the latter at Mohawk was very impressive. I Luv The Nitelife’s 1:48.4 5/8 world record taken at Pocono Downs is certainly in her sights, and breaking Shebestingin’s 1:47 mile record, raced at The Red Mile, would constitute a giant step on the road to glory. Will she make us forget about Put On A Show, See You At Peelers and American Jewel? World record holder; perfect record; Horse of the Year: I guess it’s a done deal. Not so fast.
Sometimes the slippage on the part of the anointed is subtle, while in other cases it can’t be missed. The 2013 pacing division champs, Precocious Beauty and He’s Watching, serve as examples of the former. At two Precocious Beauty, a paternal sister to JK She’salady, tied a world record of 1:50.1 in the International Stallion Stakes and won 7 of her 11 starts, with 3 second place finishes. Like JK She’salady, she swept the Canadian stakes—the Eternal Camnation, Shes A Great Lady and Champlain. (The Three Diamonds, which she did not start in, was raced at the Meadowlands). In 2014 Precocious Beauty still managed to bank $315,000, but she only won four times and the American National and Empire Classic were the best of them.
After an undefeated season in the NYSS at two, with a world record 1:50 mile at Tioga, He’s Watching won the Pace in a world record 1:46.4 and earned $825,000 on 5 wins in 13 starts. But the Empire Classic was his only stakes win in the last five months of the year, and that one is a restricted race. Overall, one would have to label the diminutive American Ideal speedball a disappointment.
In 2011 Sweet Lou impressed with a 10 win freshman season, capped off with a decisive world record 1:49 mile in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine. Unfortunately, his only noteworthy open win the following year came in the Tattersalls Pace. He took an elimination of the North America Cup, another in the Meadowlands Pace and he won a heat of the Jug, but he couldn’t shake his Mr. Elimination moniker. Lou obviously achieved a measure of redemption in the aged ranks, becoming the first horse to win in under 1:48 four times (in succession), and falling only five votes short of JK She’salady’s winning tally in the Horse of the Year voting.
And one could say the same thing about his predecessor in the “next big thing” ranks, Big Jim. The Western Ideal colt, who set the world record Lou broke when he won the Governor’s Cup in 1:49.1, didn’t win any open stakes during his sophomore season; a Pace elimination was as close as he got. And he was retired early due to injuries to both rear ankles. The debate over who should be driving him ran out of steam in a big hurry.
French Chef (Meadow Skipper) was a great two-year-old, winning 21 of 23 starts and setting world records on half, 5/8 and mile tracks. He only won 3 of 14 starts at three, and retired with a faster mark at two than he had at three. He was a foul-gaited sort and being out of a Nevele Pride mare made him stand out—not necessarily in a good way. Still, he sired Beach Towel, Frugal Gourmet and Amity Chef and was the grandsire of Jenna’s Beach Boy and Miss Easy.
The Abercrombie colt Sportsmaster won more money--$727,000—than Western Hanover at two. He won the Wilson and a split of the International Stallion Stakes, among others. But he only managed to bank $28,000 the following year and was subsequently sold to Walker Studs in Illinois for $200,000, where he was a high volume, successful regional stallion.
Jate Lobell suffered a measured fall from grace at three. He won his division, just as he had done as a freshman, when he triumphed in all 15 starts, leading to a $12 million syndication deal. But there were holes in his game. Call For Rain beat him in the Breeders Crown and the Slutsky Memorial; Frugal Gourmet did the same in the Meadowlands Pace elimination and final as well as the Prix d’Ete; Redskin took him out in the Messenger; Run The Table also beat him a couple of times. He went on to sire plenty of solid pacers, including Riyadh, but he failed to extend himself. If JK She’salady won her division in 2015 by staying one step ahead of the rest, the way Jate did, she’d be deemed a disappointment.
Truluck, Max Hochberg and Lou Resnick’s fleet Torpid colt, who raced against a stout class back on the late 60s, is another who was ahead of the pack at two, but got caught the following year. He won his freshman division, banking more than $167,000—good money for a two-year-old in those days. And he finished the year with a dramatic win in the $94,000 Roosevelt Futurity, as George Sholty overcame Roland Beaulieu’s artless drive on Columbia George. The following year the latter was very good; Most Happy Fella became what Dancer referred to at the time as the best pacer he ever had; plus there was a supporting cast of Shreik, Keystone Pat, Adover Rainbow and Ferric Hanover. Truluck was competitive all season and was one of the favorites in the Messenger in November, but he couldn’t win a major stakes race.
Will the cream of the class catch up to JK She’salady in 2015? It’s hard to see that happening. Sassa Hanover, the star of Rocknroll Heaven’s first crop, was very strong in the NYSS, and she did win her split of the International Stallion Stakes in a world record 1:50.1, a tick faster than JK She’salady won hers. But final impressions stand out and, while Sassa was clearly better than the rest in the Breeders Crown, she was no match for the winner. Then again, one would have been justified in saying the same thing after Sweet Lou gutted the field on his way to a world record mile in his freshman level Breeders Crown start, with A Rocknroll Dance a distant second. We’ll know soon enough.