A lot of the events that happened last year could be copied and pasted with minor alterations and no one would notice the difference. A filly is the likely horse of the year (Rachel Alexandra 2009 and Zenyatta 2010), the three-year-old colts performed the one and done symphony in the Triple Crown, and there is a lack of depth in the older males division.
Havre de Grace’s rise to the top was not a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination. She had to face her nemesis Blind Luck twice and her last start against her foe was a gut wrenching nose defeat going 1 ¼ miles. She rebounded with an authoritative score against males in the Woodward and aired against her own gender in the Beldame. Those two late season scores came against the likes of Flat Out and Royal Delta, not bad company. The season ended sourly for her with a defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not detracting from her record of five wins from seven starts and three grade one victories. Unfortunately she has come along after two years that featured the brilliance of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Goldikova. If her record was separated from this group of years and placed in a different generation, she would be held in much higher regard.
The three-year-old colts played hot potato with division leader status all year and that is why we are in this predicament. After Uncle Mo, the default leader defected from the Derby there was much changing of the guard. Animal Kingdom was crowned leader only to beget by Shackleford who then was thrashed by Ruler On Ice only to be squashed by Coil who was uprooted by Stay Thirsty. Outside of the traditional classics there was some consistency with Caleb’s Posse and To Honor and Serve. Caleb’s Posse won four graded stakes ranging from six and half furlongs to one mile and a sixteenth with two of those victories being in grade one company. Outside of the Classic flop To Honor and Serve did little wrong from August to November with three wins, one being against the brass of the division in the Pennsylvania Derby and the other against his seniors in the Cigar Mile. He will be set up for a big run in 2012 with a likely start in the Met Mile.
As for the case against making Caleb’s Posse best of his division, it is hard to understand why he wouldn’t be considered for the honors. The horses that competed in the classic races of the spring were not that good or fast; Animal Kingdom may be a one-time wonder, Shackleford looked weak outside of one freak performance in mid May, and Ruler On Ice ran the race of his life in the Belmont. Caleb’s Posse at least posed some sort of consistent form throughout the season and should be awarded for it even though he took an unconventional route in doing so.
Gio Ponti was made champion older colt after a strong season on turf in 2009, Cape Blanco may do the same thing this year after an uninspiring year for the older dirt runners. Tizway was considered the beast of the east before hitting the sidelines, but with only two grade one victories and an extremely spaced out schedule from April to August it has put his chances of winning the title on the rocks. Flat Out tried usurping the title from Tizway with wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Suburban, but was exposed with three loses at Churchill and two losses at Saratoga. Game On Dude was very game in his performances, but a two for seven winning record in stakes company is tough to put a title on.
A year that started out with a murky picture for the keynote divisions did not improve and in some cases got even darker. This was a strange year for certain. There is no despair here though. With a New Year upon us new things come to fruition like a renewal of the reliable Derby failure five, featuring this year’s Juvenile hero Hansen! Likely there will be other twists and turns along the way too. Remember that Stormy’s Majesty is always lurking in the weeds.