August 22, 2009

Is it Too Early? The Zipse Awards

Don’t look now but the first decade of the 21st century is winding to an end. Four months and a few days and we will be entering the 2nd decade…where did the time go? With the end of the decade speeding towards us, I have decided to get a jump on things for a change. I am previewing the Zipse Awards, which will be awarded to the best horses of the decade in their respective divisions.

Champion Two-Year-Old Colt: Unless something big happens this year, 2-year-old of the decade will be a tough call. My selection right now is Vindication over War Pass and Street Sense. Street Sense clearly has the best single performance winning the BC Juvenile in 2006 by 10 lengths, but falls short with only two wins from five starts. War Pass and Vindication’s juvenile campaigns were very similar. Both went 4 for 4 culminating with easy wins in the Breeder’s Cup. I give Vindication the edge by virtue of more travel and winning the 2002 BC Juvenile on a fast track.

Champion Two-Year-Old Filly: A very strong division this decade with several worthy candidates. The strongest contenders, Stardom Bound, Indian Blessing, Sweet Catomine, Halfbridled, and Storm Flag Flying all won the BC Juvenile Fillies in impressive fashion to cap their excellent years. It will be very difficult for any 2-year-old filly this year to top my top selection for juvenile filly of the decade, Halfbridled. The daughter of Unbridled gets the nod because of her undefeated 4 for 4 record and by overcoming the adversity of having post position 14 in her biggest race of the year, the 2003 Breeders' Cup.

Champion Three-Year-Old Colt: Many nice 3-year-olds in the decade, unfortunately in several cases their campaigns were cut short. Smarty Jones, Barbaro and Afleet Alex did not get a chance to run after the Triple Crown. Tiznow was not a factor the fist half of the year. Big Brown did not finish the Belmont, nor the year. Bernardini was beaten in his biggest race. That left it to either Curlin or Point Given. Very tough decision, and I have gone back and forth, but at this time I am siding with Point Given. He failed when he ran 5th in the Kentucky Derby, but he proved his class winning each of his other six races of 2001. They were easy scores in the San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers.

Champion Three-Year-Old Filly: Of this decade and just about any other is Rachel Alexandra. Sorry Rags to Riches’ fans, but the answer is definitely Rachel Alexandra.

Champion Older Male Horse: Tiznow, Mineshaft, Ghostzapper, St. Liam, Lava Man, Invasor, Lawyer Ron, Curlin…how can I pick just one? Well I will pick just one, I promise, just not today. Give me four more months to chew on this one.

Champion Older Female Horse: A two horse race between the great, Californian mares. Azeri and Zenyatta both thoroughly dominated their divisions and compiled impressive win streaks. I am going to give the edge to Zenyatta, as she is still undefeated, while Azeri was beaten in six out of her last nine races.

Champion Sprint Horse: There has been a lot of sentiment expressed to me lately in favor of Midnight Lute off his consecutive wins in the last two BC Sprints. Being the man of integrity that I am, I will not be swayed in my decision. I am going with the champion sprinter of 2000, Kona Gold. Unlike Midnight Lute, Kona Gold had a lengthy career that finally ended at age nine. Even at nine he was a stakes winning sprinter. I am not sure his record of running in five consecutive Breeders' Cups will ever be broken. He only won the BC once, but he was the old man to fear in the big sprint stakes the first four years of this decade.

Champion Female Sprint Horse: I have one word for you: Xtra Heat. OK, I know that is two words, but what a sprinter she was. 26 wins in 35 races and the last 34 were all stakes . Enough said.

Champion Male Turf Horse: Again I am going with the consistently excellent career over the short term greatness. That is why my selection here is English Channel over High Chaparral. English Channel never quite reached superstardom, but he was the best American grass horse over a three year span. His sparkling career was made complete with a seven length score on the soft BC Turf of 2007. High Chaparral and his consecutive championships was very, very tough to deny though.

Champion Female Turf Horse: Ouija Board was a super turf mare worldwide during her entire, illustrious career and overshadows all the other great turf mares that have run this decade. During her trips to America, she won the BC Filly & Mare Turf twice and was second once in a three year span. Not even repeat BC wins this year by either Goldikova or Forever Together could surpass Ouija Board’s accomplishments.

Horse of the Decade: Too early to call, or maybe I don’t want to give this one away just yet. I will tell you that I have six horses still under consideration.

Remember these are only previews, the actual awards have not been decided yet and will be announced after Christmas. Horses had to run in America to be considered for the Zipse Award. 2-year-old and 3-year-old divisions are single year awards, while all the other divisions are cumulative awards for the decade. Let the debate begin!


Celeste said...

End of the decade already? I'm going to have to do some homework and get back to you, but I'm in complete agreement with you at least on Ouija Board and Zenyatta. Lava Man stole my heart for his courage and style, but there are so many it's way too hard.

LDP said...

Sorry, and i'm am being objective, but three year old goes to Curlin for me. Point Given, while impressive, ran only against 3yr olds, while Curlin faced older horses twice, and won each time. I wasn't all into racing while PG raced, so i don't know who he face, except for Manarchos, but because of who Curlin faced, never finishing out of the money as a 3yr old, and beating older horses i'd give him top three year old.

My top three for older horse are Invasor, Curlin and Lawyer Ron, in no particular order. Both Invasor and Curlin did basicly the same thing, winning a BC and the World Cup. Lawyer Ron was fantastic up to 1 1/8, dominating the older ranks of his year. I would can't seperate Curlin and Invasor, both faced good horses, both were dominant as older horses on dirt. Tiznow did win the Cup two years but he race like twice as a four year old, Zapper was fast but raced like four times that year. If you put a gun to my head right now, i'd have to go with the horse i like best and that is Curlin. I agree with everything else though. It is a very good list.