3-Year-Old Filly: Beholder and Princess of Sylmar, with four Grade 1 wins each this year, clearly stand above the fillies in their crop. Either would be a worthy winner of the year-end honors, but my vote goes to 1) Beholder. She won the one race all fillies and mares strive to add to their resumes—the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in which she not only beat Princess of Sylmar and two-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta, but did it with authority, besting the field by 4 ¼ lengths. In addition to this, Beholder won the Las Virgines (G1), the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), the Zenyatta (G1), and was second, by a half-length, in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). 2) Princess of Sylmar won the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), the Alabama (G1), and the Beldame Invitational (G1), in which she beat her elders, including the aforementioned Royal Delta. She finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff after a bad start. 3) Close Hatches finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and won two Grade 1s—the Cotillion and Mother Goose.
Older Male: This is where the voting gets tough for me. It’s easy for me to make the nominees Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man, and Wise Dan, but determining the order is difficult. Since voting is opinion based, every voter will have to come to his or her own conclusions on how to vote. I like to “spread the wealth” with my votes when faced with two deserving candidates in which one can lead multiple categories. 1) Game On Dude won five straight races this year—the San Antonio (G2), Santa Anita Handicap (G1), Charles Town Classic (G2), Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and the Pacific Classic (G1). His only losses were his ninth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the head bob to Will Take Charge in the Clark Handicap (G1). 2) Wise Dan, with four Grade 1 wins, two Grade 2 wins, and an excusable second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), could easily win this category, but he’s getting my vote in the top male turf category. 3) Mucho Macho Man didn’t get his first Grade 1 career win until September when he won the Awesome Again (G1) over Paynter. He proved that wasn’t a fluke by following it up with his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G2) victory. However, I don’t think that’s enough to put him ahead of Game On Dude and Wise Dan.
Older Female: 1) Although Royal Delta was twice beaten by a couple of fillies, she still won two Grade 1s this year, the Personal Ensign Handicap and the Delaware Handicap. She also won the Sabin Stakes (G3), was second in the Beldame Invitational (G1) and Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), and traveled across the globe to make a start in the Dubai World Cup (G1) against the boys. 2) Joyful Victory won the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) and the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G2). 3) Before suffering a minor setback that eventually led to her retirement, the 6-year-old Tiz Miz Sue finished in the money in four starts this year, including wins in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) and Azeri Stakes (G3).
Male Sprinter: 1) Points Offthebench was poised to go favored in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), but sustained a fatal condylar fracture in a workout days before the Breeders’ Cup. He won four out of five sprint attempts for the year, including the Bing Crosby (G1) and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). 2) Secret Circle, sidelined for 1 ½ years due to a 2012 injury, won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint after only one prep race. Coming back after that much time to win the year’s top sprint race, after one prep, is pretty impressive. 3) Justin Phillip won the Albert G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) and missed winning the Vosburgh Invitational (G1) by a neck. He finished no worse than fifth in 10 starts (all but one a graded stakes) this year and in the money in seven of them.
Female Sprinter: 1) Groupie Doll did not show the same brilliance this year as she did last year, but she shined at the Breeders’ Cup when she earned a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). She also repeated with a win in the Presque Isle Downs Master (G2). She closed out the season with a fourth place finish in the Cigar Mile (G1) against the boys. 2) Mizdirection excelled in the turf sprints, with a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) against the boys, and wins in the Monrovia Stakes (G2), Buena Vista Stakes (G2), and Las Cienegas Stakes (G3). 3) Dance to Bristol slowly moved up the ranks and garnered seven wins in 10 starts for the year, including the Ballerina Stakes (G1), Honorable Miss Stakes (G2), and the Bed o’ Roses Handicap (G3).
Male Turf: As mentioned earlier, Wise Dan could have easily gotten my vote for top Older Male, but I’m giving him top honors in the Male Turf division. In addition to winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), he won three other Grade 1s, two Grade 2s, and was second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) that was taken off the turf and run on the wet Polytrack. 2) Big Blue Kitten won the United Nations (G1) and the Sword Dancer (G2), and lost the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) by a nose to Little Mike. 3) Point of Entry won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) and the Manhattan Handicap (G1) before a condylar fracture sidelined him. He returned nearly five months later to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
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