Am I alone on an island on this? Am I the only observer who believes Zenyatta deserves Horse of the Year over Curlin? The announcement will be made tomorrow night at about 6:30 p.m. during the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Miami. TVG will televise, beginning at 4 p.m.
Last I saw, it doesn’t say anything in the Eclipse bylaws that distaffers have to beat males in order to be named Horse of the Year. Azeri didn’t do it in 2002, and she was named top horse of the year. In my mind, the award should go to the horse that dominates his or her division the most. When you look at the mediocre fields Curlin beat up on, sans the Dubai World Cup, and then look at how Zenyatta had to beat the likes of Ginger Punch and Cocoa Beach on Breeders’ Cup day to remain undefeated, that says it all to me.
And don’t give me this lame stuff about Curlin getting beat in the Breeders’ Cup because he didn’t like the synthetic track. Great horses win on all surfaces. End of story.
Joel Rosario and Garrett Gomez have each won once today at Santa Anita through the first three races, and it’s now a three-way tie atop the leaderboard between Rosario, Gomez and reigning champion Rafael Bejarano with 26 victories apiece.
It was at this meeting a year ago that Bejarano began his streak of five consecutive SoCal riding titles and if he’s to make it six, he’s going to have to beat a white-hot Rosario and the ultra-consistent, big-race rider Gomez to do it.
Rosario has a big shot to take over the lead in the fourth race. He’s aboard a live long shot in the Doug O’Neill-trained One Chin Again, who is 7-1 as the horses leave the paddock and head out onto the track.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 25
1st — $1 early pick four (Air Fair and Panorama Ridge in the first; Squeeze Now and Mr. Elroy in the second; Machismo, Johnny Eves, Six Pack Abs and Devoted Magic in the third; and One Chin Again in the fourth) that costs $16
4th — $20 to win on One Chin Again at 5-1 or higher
5th — $20 to win on the Emerald King at 5-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Cause
9th — $20 to win on Silent Trick and Vague Notion at 5-1 or higher
SATURDAY — No bets OVERALL — Minus $698 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,302
Curlin appears to be the favorite to be named Horse of the Year on Monday night in Miami, but each time I watch the replay of last April’s Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, when Zenyatta just inhaled a field that included defending Distaff Eclipse winner Ginger Punch, I am more convinced that no horse dominated its division like Zenyatta did the distaffers in 2008. She’s undefeated, folks, and Curlin lost twice, once on Breeders’ Cup day when Zenyatta ran her year’s record to 7-0 and lifetime mark to 9-0.
What’s scary is that she’s won 8 of her 9 races on synthetics. The Apple Blossom was on dirt, and it was arguably her most impressive effort to date. She’s not just a synthetic freak, and consider this — she might even be better on dirt. She should be Horse of the Year.
Joel Rosario has won three of the first five races at Santa Anita today, pulling into a second-place tie with Garrett Gomez in the rider standings with 24 victories — one behind Rafael Bejarano, who has won all five major SoCal meets since moving west in late 2007.
Rosario, who changed agents after a slow start at the Hollywood Park autumn meet, is the real deal. He enjoyed a banner 2008 and is off to a great start during the 2008-09 Santa Anita winter-spring meet. Vic Staufer, Hollywood Park’s announcer, is now booking mounts for Rosario.
If Bejarano is going to keep his streak alive, he’s going to have to earn it. Both Gomez, the favorite to win a second consecutive Eclipse Award as the nation’s top jockey in Miami on Monday night, and Rosario figure to be on his heels all the way.
The results are in for the day’s first Sunshine Millions race, the $250,000 Dash at Gulfstream Park, and the results were not surprising. Florida-breds swept the first three spots — 1. This Ones for Phil, 2. You Luckie Mann, and 3. Kelly Leak. There were only two Cal-breds in the 11-horse field, and Florida-breds hold a sizable edge overall in the eight races. There were 59 Florida-breds scheduled to run today as opposed to only 34 of their California counterparts.
Cal-breds have never won the points race in the six previous runnings of the Sunshine Millions, which awards five for a first, three for second and one for third. Only once, in 2006, have Cal-breds won more races. They held a 5-3 edge that year. I don’t think the Florida-breds’ dominance is going to end anytime soon.
Equidaily.com surveyed 10 Eclipse Award voters this week and nine of the 10 said they cast their Horse of the Year vote for reigning champion Curlin. The Eclipse Awards ceremony is Monday night in Miami. TVG will televise the event, beginning at 4 p.m. The Horse of the Year announcement is expected around 6:30.
My pick is Zenyatta. I think the fact she went 7-0 and won on Breeders’ Cup day against a high-class field trumps anything Curlin accomplished in 2008. Granted, he won the Dubai World Cup, but his other wins came against suspect competition. Zenyatta thoroughly defeated reigning Distaff champion Ginger Punch twice last year and also had to dispose of the talented Cocoa Beach in the Ladies’ Classic on Breeders’ Cup day. She wasn’t just a synthetic track specialist, either. Arguably her most powerful victory came on the dirt at Oaklawn Park in April when she toyed with
Does the East Coast bias still exist? I think so. It’s alive and well and about to help Curlin, a horse that lost twice in 2008, win Horse of the Year over a mare that is undefeated and dominated her division like no other horse.
Not a whole lot running today fits our system. Nice to finally hit one of our big ones yesterday when Talktoomuch came rolling home and returned $69. I keep preaching patience, but it’s really very true. It’s the undisciplined bettor who panics and bets money he or she shouldn’t that ends up losing in this sport. Pick your spots and be patient. I can’t emphasize that enough.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 23
6th — $20 to win on Gary’s Got Rhythm at 5-1 or higher
7th — $20 to win on When We Met at 5-1 or higher
8th — $20 to win on Sky Marni at 5-1 or higher
THURSDAY — Plus $610 OVERALL — Minus $678 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,322
THURSDAY, JANUARY 22
2nd — $20 to win on Dapper Gene at 3-1 or higher
4th — $20 to win on Mrs. Rocha
5th — $20 to win on Talktoomuch at 20-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Schill
8th — $20 to win on Flash Dance
MONDAY — Minus $60 OVERALL — Minus $1,288 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $712