Richard Linihan: Picking my horses of the year
BY RICHARD LINIHAN Horse Racing
Saturday, December 15, 2012
12/15/12 at 5:34 AM
AS WE APPROACH the end of the year we turn our attention to which horse should win Horse of the Meet at Remington Park in Oklahoma City and which horse should be considered Horse of the Year nationally.
It was a difficult choice for Horse of the Meet at Remington for a number of reasons. The three biggest races every fall season in this analysis are the Governor's Cup, the Oklahoma Derby and the Springboard Mile. Deadline for the votes to be in is Tuesday.
Alternation won the Governor's Cup in what, in this writer's opinion, was the race of the year at Remington Park, just barely beating out the Springboard Mile.
It's uncertain if there has ever been in the quarter of century of Remington Park racing a more prolonged stretch battle between better horses than the one staged by Alternation and Prayer for Relief, both horses who were in the national spotlight for a while in 2012.
Alternation endured to the finish, winning by the length of his nose, to win that $200,000 race. He also became a millionaire with that win. It is traditionally the top race for older thoroughbred horses at Remington every year.
Alternation and Prayer for Relief battled for the lead in the 1 1/8th mile race down the backstretch, each of them in front for a period. Jockey Louis Quinonez asked Alternation for some run with 3/8ths of a mile to go and took the lead at the quarter pole. Prayer for Relief dug in and did not give an inch until they both hit the wire almost as mirror images. When the mirror of the photo finish picture returned, it was Alternation by that nose.
"I just had to let him do what he does," said Quinonez. "I know my horse is going to try hard. He's a fighter, and I knew he wasn't going to let me down."
Earlier in the year, Alternation, trained by Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Famer Donnie K. Von Hemel, won five of his six stakes races during the 2012 calendar, but only this one at Remington. But it's hard to penalize a horse with national stature simply because there are no other events that fit his profile.
For this reason, he was my selection for Horse of the Meet. There were only three horses that won two stakes races during the fall meet, and they just didn't match up to the quality of this race.
One of those multiple stakes winners at Remington was Alsvid, who took the David. M. Vance Stakes and the Remington Park Sprint Championship. He got my vote for Champion 3-year-old and Champion Sprinter. It was a photo finish between him and Politicallycorrect, who won the Oklahoma Derby.
Other winners on my ballot were Texas Bling for Champion 2-year-old male, winner of the Springboard Mile, the top 2-year-old race every fall; American Sugar, Champion 2-year-old female, winner of the E.L. Gaylord Memorial Stakes; Sticks Wondergirl, Champion 3-year-old Female, who took them wire-to-wire in the Remington Park Oaks; Tulsan Dr. Robert Zoellner's She's All In, Champion Older Female, winner of the Oklahoma Classics Distaff ; Ridge Road, Champion Turf Performer in a wide-open race (Strategic Leader, Lockout, Patty's Pride and Conkigo certainly will get votes); Okie Ride, Champion Oklahoma-bred, winning the Oklahoma Classics Sprint and the Silver Goblin Stakes; and finally Queen Lilly Kay for Champion Claimer, winning three of four starts at Remington, two of them under claiming conditions for some tough, tough horses.
It may seem like Fifth Date should easily outclass these horses; that may be the very reason I didn't vote that horse's way. Fifth Date won the Oklahoma Classic Cup, but won two races under claiming conditions, same as my choice. It was a toss up.
On the national front, it should be a walkover for Wise Dan. Anyone who votes otherwise should have their scruples examined.
All he did was solidify his footing for this award when he ran the fastest time in history of the Breeders' Cup (Turf) Mile and broke the Santa Anita record. He beat formidable Europeans in a race they have owned. And he had three huge wins in a row to end the year.
Original Print Headline: Picking my horses of the year
Richard Linihan is marketing director for Fair Meadows in Tulsa.