With December knocking on our door, the 2012 horse racing campaign for Horse of the Year is drawing to its conclusion. As in the past few seasons, without a clear-cut choice who everyone can agree upon, the debates for the Horse of the Year honor are already in full swing.
Not since the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, where Curlin was the obvious choice, has the award voting been a cut-and-dried affair. This year appears especially difficult, in determining which horse is the most deserving winner.
Making the voting process challenging, is there are no hard rules that govern who one chooses, and there are multiple categories of races (with many of the contenders never having faced each other). Also, some horses race more often than others.
That gives rise to arguments regarding worthiness of a horse's campaign. Some voters will point out that a horse who runs in fewer (more prestigious) races and wins them, is more deserving than a horse who piles up wins against lesser opponents. The popularity of a horse may come into play, making the variables involved when voting for Horse of the Year a mixed bag.
During 2012, a steady and dominant contender for the award has been Wise Dan. The winner in five out of six 2012 races (three of them Grade Ones), Wise Dan compiled winnings of $2,622,037. In his lone defeat, by a head, he encountered a troubled trip and was spotting weight to the eventual winner (Ron the Greek).
Many believe Wise Dan is a slam dunk for Horse of the Year. I disagree. Although Wise Dan won the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile, his handlers chose to dodge stiffer competition in the Breeders' Cup Turf. With that in mind, while I see Wise Dan deserving of consideration, there are two other candidates who I believe are more deserving of 2012 Horse of the Year.
I'll Have Another is one of them. By winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (and the Santa Anita Derby), I'll have Another won three Grade One stakes. With 2012 earnings totaling $2,629,600, I'll Have Another had the distinction of thrilling the horse racing world with his Triple Crown pursuit.
If not for being a late scratch from the Belmont Stakes, we will never know if I'll Have Another could have achieved immortality as a Triple Crown Winner. However, I see this 2012 Kentucky Derby winner as a more deserving Horse of the Year candidate than Wise Dan. Going undefeated in four races, and excelling on the bigger stage, are what make I'll Have Another a better candidate to me.
Little Mike is my other leading candidate for Horse of the Year. Little Mike won four out of seven races in 2012 (three of them Grade Ones), with earnings of $2,668,742. I see his 2012 campaign as equal to Wise Dan's, with the exception of taking my tie-breaker—winning the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Deciding between I'll Have Another and Little Mike boils down to a combination of campaign and popularity. I'll Have Another has both of them going for him.
That makes my choice, for 2012 Horse of the Year, I'll Have Another.