Horse of the Year 2016 will be announced Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Florida, and while it’s certain to be either Arrogate or California Chrome, the outcome could be closer than Arrogate’s dramatic half-length victory over Chrome in the $ 6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic run at Santa Anita last Nov. 5.
Voters had to submit their ballots by Jan. 3.
They had to weigh whether Arrogate’s victory over Chrome, despite it being only the second stakes race ever won in a brief six-race career, was enough to warrant the crown, or whether Chrome’s overall body of work that included six straight triumphs from Dubai to California before he yielded grudgingly in the final yards of the Classic, trumped Arrogate’s win in their lone head-to-head meeting.
This is the quandary voters, fans and horsemen pondered, as did private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, who, though he did not have a vote, did have an opinion.
“Over the years when there are two great horses and it comes down to the Breeders’ Cup, the winner of the Classic usually gets Horse of the Year,” Young said. “The year that pops into mind is 1989 when Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer and was named Horse of the Year.
“That year, Horse of the Year pretty much came down to whoever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Obviously, Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer and got the award. But that was a different kettle of fish, because they had a year-long rivalry, whereas Arrogate and Chrome only had a one-race rivalry.
“I guess Chrome is going to get it because of his body or work and his popularity, but if I had a gun to my head, I’d probably vote for Arrogate. I know they weren’t that far apart in price in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Chrome was the 9-10 favorite, Arrogate the 17-10 second choice), but I’ve been a huge Arrogate fan for a long time and I don’t think what happened on Nov. 5 was an accident.
“Based on his body of work, Chrome might win it, but it’s pretty tough when two horses stand out as much as they do to vote against the horse that won in their only match-up.
“I know Victor (Espinoza, Chrome’s regular rider) took some heat for his ride in the Classic, and when you’ve got a three-length lead at the eighth pole and get beat, you don’t have many excuses in my book, although I’m not faulting him at all. Both ran races that would have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic four out of five years. Chrome just happened to get beat by Arrogate that day and it was their only match-up.”
Arrogate and California Chrome are scheduled to meet in the inaugural $ 12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream next Saturday, Jan. 28, but the race will have no bearing on Horse of the Year since votes for 2016 honors are already in. The winner will be announced on TVG2 live at approximately 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time tomorrow.
“I think people who voted for Arrogate have a valid point, and I think those who voted for Chrome because of his victories in the Dubai race, the Pacific Classic and the others, also have a valid point,” Young said.
“Both horses are very good. It’s not like they’re evenly matched. They’re quite a bit better than everything else in the country. It’s kind of what we hoped we would get with Shared Belief and California Chrome before Shared Belief’s unfortunate death.
“From a fan’s standpoint and being selfish, you’d like for them to continue on all year, but with Chrome going on to stud, it’s probably not going to be feasible.
“Arrogate is a terrific, terrific horse, and his workout (last Sunday) and his gallop Wednesday morning makes me feel he’s going to run a very good race in the Pegasus. Unfortunately, it could not be run before the (2016) calendar year ended, because it could have been the determining race for voters.
“Even though they both deserve it, because Arrogate won their only match-up, I probably would have given my vote to Arrogate.”
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