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Monday, January 2, 2012

New York's top horse in 2011

By Bob Ehalt

It was former NYRA track announcer Marshall Cassidy who first gave the words meaning and context.

While calling the 1989 Whitney, the normally reserved Cassidy became rather exuberant in detailing Easy Goer’s victory and described him as “New York’s Easy Goer.”

He wasn’t the nation’s horse. That award, specifically Horse of the Year, went to Sunday Silence.

But Easy Goer was indeed New York’s Horse of the Year, especially since he notched his lone victory over Sunday Silence in the Belmont Stakes, right here in New York.

More than two decades later, Cassidy’s words can spark an interesting debate. Havre de Grace seems destined to be named the industry’s Horse of the Year. But was she New York’s Horse of the Year? Taking into account her only two races in the Big Apple -- wins in the Woodward and Beldame -- did she accomplish more in her NY races than anyone else?

Let’s ponder that, shall we?

As in any awards competition, there needs to be criteria to judge the candidates.

In this case, New York’s top races needed to be sorted so that graded stakes victories can be weighed and judged properly.

For starters, the Belmont Stakes has to stand alone and be an A -- the only A. There’s simply no way to top the importance and magnitude of a race that can turn a horse into a Triple Crown champion.

After that, sticking with 3-year-olds, the Travers deserves an A-minus. It’s not the Belmont, but it’s certainly the next best thing.

Behind the Travers, with a B-plus, come the Whitney, the Met Mile and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, followed by the B races: the Woodward, the Beldame, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the Alabama, and the Wood Memorial.

All of the other Grade 1 stakes are B-minus. Grade 2 stakes rate a C-plus and Grade 3 stakes are a C-minus.

Now let’s put that criteria to work, giving us 2011’s Top 5, which will be delivered in a style borrowed from Dave Letterman, NY’s No. 1 talk show host -- now that Regis Philbin has retired.

5 -- Cape Blanco: He won the Man o’ War and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, both Grade 1 stakes, making him New York’s Turf Horse of the Year by a couple of furlongs. You had to admire the courage he showed in winning the Turf Classic despite suffering a career-ending injury in the race.

4 -- Flat Out: He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Suburban, a Grade 2 stakes. He was also second in the Whitney and Woodward and a victory in either one of them would have earned him the No. 1 spot.

3 -- Havre de Grace: Number one in the nation, but only number three in New York. She was a perfect 2-for-2 in New York, winning the Woodward, where she beat the boys, and the Beldame. That gave her two B’s, which is a better than average grade for most horses, but not enough to win this competition.

2 -- Tizway: The key element for him is that the Whitney outweighs the Woodward. They are both Grade 1 stakes contested at Saratoga, but the Whitney, which comes first, seems to draw a better and deeper field on a year-in, year-out basis. He was also an easy winner of the Met Mile, giving him two B-pluses, which would normally be difficult to top.

1 -- Stay Thirsty: And here is your winner, who gets the nod for his consistency in the year’s two biggest races of the year in New York. He won the Travers and was second in the Belmont Stakes which puts him right alongside Tizway and Havre de Grace. What vaults him to the front of the line are wins in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 3 Gotham. Just to be safe, he was 3rd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which is quite impressive for a fifth line on the resume.

Put all of that together and Stay Thirsty ran five times in New York -- more than Tizway and Havre de Grace combined -- and won the Travers and two other stakes, with a second in the Belmont Stakes and a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, to boot

Stay Thirsty may have loathed Churchill Downs, but in the Big Apple he gets the nod from this corner, as being New York’s Stay Thirsty.

And what are your thoughts? Who would you crown as New York’s Horse of the Year?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Horseman,
I am new to horse racing and stumbled upon your site while googling.
I am from New York but am currently in Hong Kong on work and am sure you are aware of the notorious fan following Hong Kong racing has.do you know if there are any sites in NY that gives some basic info on horses and odds? I'd like to get serious with this. A friend here referred me to this local site http://fasttrack.hk/category/sports/horse-racing

~Mikey

Horseman said...

Hi Mikey,
Do want sites for USA racing or Hong Kong.
Start with http://www.equibase.com/stats/View.cfm?tf=meet&tb=jockey#tab=jockey&page=1 and we can go from there. GOOD LUCK...

Horseman said...

Mikey,
Here is another one.

http://www.brisnet.com/cgi-bin/HTML/brisnet.html

These are sites you can get some good info from.

Horseman said...

http://www.hkjc.com/home/english/index.asp

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