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Dean Hoffman's Blog


'Beach hasn't raced enough down here'

Published: November 24, 2008 6:02 am ET

Last Comment: November 26, 2008 1:18 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Recently an American who votes in the Top 10 and Horse of the Year poll told me why he doesn’t rank Somebeachsomewhere first.

“He just hasn’t raced enough down here,” he said.

I guess I don’t get it. I don’t see borders. I see racing in Canada and the U.S. as virtually interchangeable. It’s not that I give a horse more brownie points for a performance at Chester than I do for one at Flamboro or something like that. There are good tracks and good horses on both sides of the border and they should be given equal consideration.

I’ve never seen my vote for Horse of the Year as for the American Horse of the Year. I see it as a vote for the best North American Horse of the Year. Certainly the award doesn’t have any requirements that the horse must have started X times in the United States to be eligible. It’s for the best horse. Period. Reasonable people might disagree over which horses is best in any given year, but I don’t think it should have parameters of having to race X times in any jurisdiction.

After all, Beach made all of his starts last year in Canada and was still named the best freshman male pacer in North America.

This year he has made 14 starts with five of them south of the border. He raced twice at the Big M, twice at Lexington, once at Yonkers, and he will go again this weekend at the Meadowlands.

What I do consider important in bestowing such awards is some versatility and willingness to travel and show up for the big races. I know lots of people will forever hold it against Beach that he skipped the Jug; I don’t.

I do give him kudos for his half-mile track performances. Too many times today trainers treat half-mile tracks as if they are leper colonies and you don’t ever want to go there. Sure, the game gets a bit riskier on a twice-around; post position and the trip are far more important. So I give Beach lots of credit for his spectacular miles at Flamboro and Yonkers.

His wins in Ontario Sires Stakes, in the words of Shania Twain, “don’t impress me much.” Restricted programs, even one as good as Ontario’s, still are a notch below open competition. They have served in Beach’s case, I think, as preps for bigger tests in open competition. That’s good management on the part of his trainer.

The other two contenders for Horse of the Year honors at Deweycheatumnhowe and Mister Big. Both have had wonderful seasons. Mister Big has raced and won impressively on all-size tracks from half-mile to mile and yet he ended his season with perplexing collapse at Balmoral with Tony Morgan filling in for Brian Sears.

Dewey has won 12 of 14 starts and his victories include the Hambo, Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, and World Trotting Derby. He took his 1:50.4 mark over the sun-baked clay oval at DuQuoin. He dropped the elim of the Canadian Trotting Classic and finished third, beaten two lengths, in a heat of the Kentucky Futurity. He skipped the Yonkers Trot on a half-mile track and, in fact, hasn’t raced on anything smaller than a 7/8-mile oval, but he’s earned $2.1 million this year.

His two wins at Vernon Downs, one in August and one in October, were little more than qualifiers with a purse. He stood out so much that no win betting was permitted.

So who will be Horse of the Year? There are several worthy candidates, but Beach and Dewey rank at the top.

I suspect it will be determined this weekend. Beach will have to fill his hobbles to beach Shadow Play, who is primed and ready to rumble. Dewey had a scare last week, but if he starts, Ray Schnittker says he’ll be 100 percent and thus isn’t looking for excuses.

Tell me your thoughts on Horse of the Year.

November 26, 2008 - 1:18 pmNo one horse has done more

Scott Waddell (not verified) SAID...

No one horse has done more for racing than the Beach at a time where racing is at an all-time low in popularity as opposed to other sports and i's superstars. Maybe due to the fact that the Beach is Canadian owned is a factor. But I can tell you one thing, people now know where the Maritimes is and it's due to the success of the greatest horse to look through a bridle. SBSW should be horse of the year not only in Canada and the U.S but on the continent.

November 24, 2008 - 3:42 pmPerhaps USHWA should be

Anne (not verified) SAID...

Perhaps USHWA should be renamed to help eliminate any bias--real or imagined---against horses racing in Canada. Perhaps NAHWA would be more fitting.

November 24, 2008 - 2:28 pmMany harness racing

Anne (not verified) SAID...

Many harness racing fans--whether or not they have a HOY vote---like to be Judge and Jury. I'll admit that I, too am guilty. Perhaps it's because we'd like to see a horse race at a track close enough that a road trip is possible. Or the fact that we'd like to see all the top horses show up for a throw down in all the big races. In essence, we would like to manage the horse instead of the trainer and the owners :)

USHWA members--who actually DO vote for HOY--are also guilty to some extent. I'm sure most of us remember the battle between Windsong's Legacy (RIP) and Rainbow Blue for HOY and the strong opinions it evoked. "Legacy" was the first horse in 32 years to win the trotting Triple Crown and won all 5 of the finals he contested that year. Trond and the owners thought he had done enough, and retired the horse before the Breeder's Crown. It was held against the horse by many, and Rainbow Blue went on to be horse of the year.

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