We are about to come to the halfway point of 2010, which makes this as good a time as any to examine what is already a fascinating race for the Horse of the Year title. A look at the main contenders and their chances:
It looks as if owner Jerry Moss will attempt the same strategy he used unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2009 in his quest to win the Horse of the Year title for his brilliant mare. That means a careful campaign in which she stays close to home, runs in the same races she always runs in and then goes for broke in the Breeders’ Cup. She shouldn’t have any problem winning the Clement Hirsch and the Zenyatta (Lady’s Secret) against the same old, same old. Should she win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which she is denied Horse of the Year. If Zenyatta is beaten in the Classic by a Horse of the Year contender, runs in the Distaff or is injured before the Breeders’ Cup, she might just fall short again. Moss could help his cause by trying something a lot more daring than the Hirsch and Zenyatta Stakes lead-up to the Breeders’ Cup, but he seems unwilling to do so.
Quality Road (5-2)
Unquestionably the best older make in the sport, he’s 3-for-3 and it doesn’t look like there’s a male horse out there who can touch him right now. The best guess is that he will run in and win the Whitney and then the Jockey Club Gold Cup. If he does that and makes it all the way to the Breeders’ Cup, that could set up a race-for-the-ages type of showdown in the Breeders’ Cup Classic between Quality Road and Zenyatta, with the winner being named Horse of the Year.
Rachel Alexandra (6-1)
Hard to believe she’s even in the discussion after she got off to such a bad start in 2010. But she finally put it together in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, where she looked like the old Rachel. If she maintains her Fleur de Lis form in whatever upcoming races Jess Jackson decides to run her in, it may not be too late for her to win back-to-back Horse of the Year crowns. Look for her to go next in the Aug. 1 Ruffian at Saratoga, where she’d be favored to win her first Grade 1 race of the year. Like Zenyatta and Quality Road, she might find herself in a situation in which winning Horse of the Year depends solely on her winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The problem is, she’s run out of time to do the spectacular things she did in 2009, like beating males three times.
Lookin at Lucky (12-1)
Though he won only one-third of the Triple Crown, Lookin at Lucky is clearly the best 3-year-old in the country. If he can prove as much in the Haskell and/or Travers, he, too, can put himself in position to win it all. As good as he is, though, he appears to be merely the best of one of the most ordinary groups of 3-year-olds we’ve seen in a long time. Hard to imagine him beating older males or Zenyatta and Rachel.
If someone is going to beat Quality Road before Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra get their crack at him, it’s Blame. This is a very good horse, and he will take on Quality Road in the Whitney, which should be one of the best races of the year. Should he beat him there, he, not Quality Road, becomes the biggest threat to deny Zenyatta Horse of the Year.
Super Saver (50-1)
He’s going to have to do something else besides win the Kentucky Derby, his only victory on the year. But a Derby win plus one or two other big wins might just get him there.
The Field (50-1)
With Zenyatta, Quality Road and Rachel Alexandra all out there, it’s hard to imagine anyone else coming out of the woodwork to wrest away the title from such a strong group of horses, but you never know. A horse like Rail Trip could string together some victories and then win it all in the Breeders’ Cup. Stranger things have happened than a late surge by Devil May Care, Misremembered, Gio Ponti or someone else that carries them past the big boys and girls.
Originally Posted on ESPN
By Bill Finley