Which Horse Will Be Three-Year-Old Of The Year For 2012?

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DerbyDeals.com Picks I'll Have Another

2012 has been terribly harsh for the three-year-old division in American thoroughbred racing. What promised to be a solid class of horses in January has turned into mixed bag in September. The year began with Union Rags and Hansen getting a lot of press as the top Kentucky Derby contenders, but both of them have retired and injuries and illness have cut down what turned out to be the two hottest horses of the spring, Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another. It’s the disarray in the division that seems to make the selection of a horse of the year a tough choice.

Recently, there has been talk of Alpha being a leading contender for an Eclipse this winter. Without a doubt the Kiaran McLaughlin colt has enjoyed a successful season. In seven races, he has finished first four times and placed another. Three of those four wins came in graded stakes races, with the most notable being the Travers Stakes, where he came away having to share the victory with Golden Ticket. Most recently though, Alpha had a rough time in the Pennsylvania Derby, where he left the starting gate as the favorite. He stumbled a bit to start the race and had to push himself to make up for it and by the end of the event, he seemed to run out of gas, fading in the final furlong. He can still get back in the horse of the year talks with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bob Baffert’s now retired Bodemeister is another horse who had a solid season on the track. In six 2012 starts, Bodemeister finished first twice and second four times. In winnings he places third on the year within the division by piling up over $1.3 million. Yes, this is the horse that narrowly missed winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but his only other big claim is a victory in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. That’s a quality win, but it doesn’t hold up when compared, across the board, to the victories of Alpha and I’ll Have Another. A case could be made that Bodemeister did some really good work while most of the toughest horses in the division were still intact, but a race is a race and no matter the competition, it’s the wins that matter. Bodemeister simply falls short in that area.

The horse that is likely to bring home the Eclipse Award for the three-year-old male division is I’ll Have Another. That’s a decision that shouldn’t be very difficult to come to, regardless if he ran his last race in May. In 2011, Doug O’Neill’s colt had one good showing, aside from his maiden race win, and that came in the Best Pal Stakes, where he finished second to Creative Cause. That didn’t exactly put I’ll Have Another very high on the Derby hopeful list, but that suddenly changed when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and then the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. Those victories were half of what turned out to be an amazing four race run from the Paul Reddam owned horse. He reeled off back to back, come from behind wins in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. In both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, I’ll Have Another had to run down the speedy Bodemeister at the wire to take home the victories. The day before he was to have taken a shot at racing immortality in the Belmont Stakes, he was retired due to a leg injury. He was sold to a Japanese horse farm shortly afterwards and left everyone talking about what could have been. Despite having not run again after May, I’ll Have Another had four impressive and important victories and finished his year undefeated and still leads all horses in earnings for the year with a total of $2,629,600.

One can only hope that 2013 will be a stable and injury free season for all divisions, but particularly the three-year-olds. I’ll Have Another captured the imagination of hard core fans and passive fans alike and having super star athletes who can develop rivalries and make headlines is a way to keep thoroughbred racing in the minds of all sports fans. It can only be good for the sport if there is a great competition among a variety of horses that may be able to lay claim to being the best in a given year. Here’s to 2013 being that year!

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