No Horse of the Year pick here, but how about what you think?

ON HORSE RACING

January 02, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Call me chicken. Call it a cop-out.

I did not vote for Horse of the Year. I didn't think any thoroughbred racing in North America last year was worthy.

What do you think?

Let me know (see box), and in two weeks -- Jan. 16, the day before the winner will be announced at the Eclipse awards dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif. -- I'll report back to you with The Sun readers' choice for Horse of the Year.

The three finalists have been named based on voting by turf writers, racing secretaries and employees of the Daily Racing Form. They are Artax, Charismatic and Daylami.

If I had been forced to vote, I would have chosen Artax or Charismatic.

Here's why I didn't: Although Artax, the 4-year-old sprinter, matched or broke three track records this year, he won just four of 15 races, and although Charismatic, the 3-year-old Secretariat look-alike, captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he won just four of 10 races.

I cannot anoint a horse with a losing record as Horse of the Year. That's why I voted for the 2-year-old Favorite Trick, who was 8-for-8, over Skip Away for 1997 Horse of the Year. Skip Away demolished the field in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but won only four of 11 races.

As for Daylami, the 5-year-old owned by the sheiks of Dubai, he registered an impressive win in the Breeders' Cup Turf and perhaps established himself as horse of the world. But that was his only race in North America -- enough to earn my vote as our continent's turf champion, but not Horse of the Year.

I considered three others -- all fillies -- as perhaps deserving of thoroughbred racing's top prize.

Beautiful Pleasure, 4, was the strongest contender. She finished the year with three straight Grade I victories, including the Breeders' Cup Distaff, in a division strong until the end. Silverbulletday, 3, won four Grade I races, more than any other thoroughbred who raced in North America except Daylami, who also won four. And Soaring Softly, 4, won seven of eight races on turf, including the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

But none of these fillies won a race against males. Silverbulletday is the only one who tried, finishing seventh in the Belmont.

Here are the rest of my picks and the finalists in each category: 2-year-old male: Anees, Captain Steve, Greenwood Lake. I voted for Captain Steve, whose one Grade I and two Grade II victories led the division.

2-year-old filly: Cash Run, Chilukki, Surfside. I voted for Chilukki, who won six of seven races.

3-year-old male: Cat Thief, Charismatic, General Challenge. I voted for Charismatic, who lighted up racing during the Triple Crown.

3-year-old filly: Silverbulletday (unanimous vote). Obviously, I voted for her, too. She competed 11 times (all graded stakes, all but three Grade I), and won eight.

Turf male: Daylami, Silic, Val's Prince. I voted for Daylami, who won three Group I stakes in Europe before capturing the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Turf female: Coretta, Soaring Softly, Tuzla. I voted for Soaring Softly, who towered over her division.

Sprinter: Artax, Forestry, Kona Gold, Mazel Trick. I voted for Artax, who, when he was right, was fastest in America.

Older male: Behrens, Budroyale, Victory Gallop. I voted for Victory Gallop, who beat Behrens in their only meeting.

Older female: Banshee Breeze, Beautiful Pleasure, Manistique. I voted for Beautiful Pleasure, who finished first or second in six of seven races.

Steeplechase: Campanile, Lonesome Glory, Ninepins. I voted for Lonesome Glory, the 11-year-old gelding already a legend.

Owner: Beverly and Bob Lewis, Mike Pegram, Frank Stronach. I voted for Pegram, who won eight Grade I races with four horses -- Captain Steve, Real Quiet, Silverbulletday and the Maryland-bred Hookedonthefeelin.

Trainer: Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, W. Elliott Walden. I voted for Baffert, despite his lack of victory in the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. He won 20 Grade I stakes, two short of Lukas' 1987 record. Lukas dominated the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, but Baffert's horses won more money and won at a far higher percentage than Lukas'.

Jockey: Jerry Bailey, Jorge Chavez, Pat Day. I voted for Bailey, who proves day-in and day-out he's the best rider in America.

Apprentice jockey: Daniel Coa, Rolanda Simpson, Ariel E. Smith. I voted for Smith, who exceeded his rivals in earnings by $1 million.

Pick your horse

To record your vote for Horse of the Year or any other Eclipse-award category, e-mail Tom Keyser at tkeyser@erols.com, send him a fax at 1-410-857-7675 or write Tom Keyser, Sports Department, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, Md., 21278-0001. Include your name, telephone number and reasons for your selections.

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