There is nothing like late summer at Kentucky coffee shoppes. The smell of pumpkin spice lingers in an air filled with the sounds of racing’s hoi polloi discussing Horse of the Year.
OK, so that place might be a hybrid of an actual coffee shoppe and Twitter and exist only in my head, but ‘tis definitely the season for mythical matchups and what ifs as we march toward the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and end-of-year stakes races.
Last year, Justify clinched Horse of the Year in June when he won the Belmont Stakes (G1) and became just the 13th horse in the history of the American Turf to sweep the Triple Crown after already winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).
Justify had to withstand a late challenge from Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Accelerate, but in the end, the vote was not close.
Nor should it be this year as of August 31, 2019, but there is plenty of racing left, and while four-time Grade 1 winner Bricks and Mortar is the clear leader based on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll, he’s no slam dunk.
Bricks and Mortar garnered 84.1 percent of the first-place votes in the August 26 poll, a decrease from the 92.3 percent he curried the previous week. Cutting into his margin was Midnight Bisou, a nose winner over Elate in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) on August 24 (Travers Day) at Saratoga Race Course. The tale of the tape for both horses this year is impressive: Bricks and Mortar is undefeated in five starts with four Grade 1 wins and $4.5 million in earnings. Midnight Bisou is undefeated in six starts with three Grade 1 wins and $1.68 million in earnings.
For me, the choice right now is clear: Bricks and Mortar has won more prestigious races than has Midnight Bisou and done so in races open to all competitors. Midnight Bisou has won races available only to fillies and mares. If the connections of Midnight Bisou want my Horse of the Year vote, they have to defeat males.
Now, this does not have to come in the Breeders’ Cup. A Distaff (G1)-Clark (G1) double would more than do the trick for me even if Bricks and Mortar wins out. Of course, if she were to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic then it’d be a season on par with what Zenyatta accomplished in 2009—maybe even a little better since Enable and Come Dancing are both better than any filly or mare Zenyatta faced that year (that 2009 Classic field, however, was among the best ever and likely to be better than this year’s).
Speaking of the Classic, Horse of the Year is more likely to go through that race than any other historically, but any male outside Bricks and Mortar is going to need to win the Classic to be in the Horse of the Year picture.
Whitney Stakes (G1) winner McKinzie leads the charge. Closing the year with a Grade 1 double of the Awesome Again-Classic would make it tough to deny him the top honor. Ditto for either Maximum Security (Pennsylvania Derby-Classic) or Code of Honor (Jockey Club Gold Cup-Classic). McKinzie is more in the driver’s seat, however, since he maintains a pair of first-place votes in the aforementioned NTRA poll (4.5 percent of the electorate, down from 7.7 percent last week).
After that the picture gets really cloudy and subjective. Mitole has impressed many with his three Grade 1 wins this year, but none have come beyond a mile, and the Vanderbilt (G1) loss is likely to smart with voters. He could back into it with Bricks and Mortar losing a Breeders’ Cup race plus chaos in the Classic. Winning a two-turn Grade 1 race would help as well.
If I had to vote today my ballot would go Bricks and Mortar, Mitole, and Midnight Bisou. I don’t mind voting Midnight Bisou third because only first-place votes count toward determining the winner whereas second- and third-place votes contribute only to finalist tallies.
Ed DeRosa’s biweekly columns are available exclusively in the Brisnet Betting Guide. Follow him on Twitter, @EJXD2.
|1 BRICKS AND MORTAR (36)||5-H||5-5-0-0||387||1|
|2 MCKINZIE (3)||4-C||5-2-3-0||337||2|
|4 MIDNIGHT BISOU||4-F||5-5-0-0||272||3|
|6 WORLD OF TROUBLE||4-C||4-4-0-0||156||6|
|7 IMPERIAL HINT||6-H||3-1-0-2||116||7|
|8 MAXIMUM SECURITY||3-C||6-4-1-0||75||8|
|10 HIGHER POWER||4-C||7-3-1-1||42||–|
Other horses receiving votes: CATALINA CRUISER (33), THUNDER SNOW (31), DUNBAR ROAD (27), CONCRETE ROSE (27), VINO ROSSO (19), RUSHING FALL (15), GUARANA (14), GOT STORMY (12), MR. MONEY (10), YOSHIDA (9), VASILIKA (9), COVFEFE (7), SHANCELOT (7), X Y JET (6), CATHOLIC BOY (6), SEEKING THE SOUL (5), ROY H (4), OMAHA BEACH (2), CHANNEL MAKER (2)