In assessing champions of 2001, give `Point' his due

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

January 06, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Before we turn the page and begin searching for our Kentucky Derby and Preakness horses of 2002, we have some unfinished business: voting for the champions of 2001.

Eclipse Award voting by turf writers and representatives of the Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association ended Friday. Winners will be honored Feb. 18 at the 31st annual Eclipse Awards dinner in Hollywood, Fla.

Here are my votes.

Steeplechase: Quel Senor. The National Steeplechase Association ran seven unrestricted Grade I races in 2001, and each was won by a different horse. Quel Senor, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Tom Voss at his Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton, won the biggest, the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.

2-year-old male: Johannesburg. This son of Hennessy defeated North America's top juveniles in the Breeders' Cup after winning all six of his races in Europe.

2-year-old filly: Tempera. This daughter of A.P. Indy ran like a champ when it counted the most: the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

3-year-old male: Point Given.

No contest.

3-year-old filly: Xtra Heat. Four 3-year-old fillies won two Grade I stakes apiece, and Unbridled Elaine won the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Of that quintet, Flute would get my vote because she won the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama.

No sprinter has ever won this award. But since no category exists for female sprinter, I have to assume that sprint races carry as much weight as distance races. On that assumption, the Laurel-based Xtra Heat is my choice.

She raced every month except December, winning nine of 13 (four of eight graded stakes). Her comment lines abound with the words driving, gamely, handily, ridden out and grudgingly. She finished second as the only female in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Its 14-horse field was supposedly one of the best sprint fields ever assembled.

Older male: Tiznow. He was best of a mediocre bunch.

Older female: No vote. When I can identify no deserving winner, I don't vote. I didn't vote for Horse of the Year in 1999 either. That's the year Charismatic won.

Sprinter: Squirtle Squirt. He finished first or second in his six races. And in the Breeders' Cup he beat them all, including Xtra Heat.

Turf male: Fantastic Light.

His one triumphant performance in North America, the Breeders' Cup, was enough to propel him past another mediocre group.

Turf female: Banks Hill. Ditto.

This 3-year-old French-based filly manhandled her opponents in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Breeder: Harry T. Mangurian Jr./Mockingbird Farm. Year-end statistics for breeders aren't available, but through Dec. 10, horses bred by this 74-year-old Floridian won 687 races, including 36 stakes, and earned $16.5 million.

Owner: Richard Englander.

Horses wearing this New York stock trader's green and white silks won 406 races and earned $9.8 million. Eight trainers, including Scott Lake and Dale Capuano, conditioned his top-level claimers.

Trainer: Bobby Frankel. Lake became the second trainer to win more than 400 races in one year, but the California-based Frankel, already a Hall of Famer, had a career year. His horses won 101 of 392 races, including a phenomenal 49 stakes, of which 18 were Grade I.

Jockey: Jerry Bailey. Year in and year out the best rider on the continent, Bailey piloted horses that won a record $22.6 million.

That was $7.5 million more than the second-richest jockey, John Velazquez.

Apprentice jockey: Jeremy Rose. This Laurel-based 22-year-old won 312 races, fourth most in North America, and his mounts earned $6.7 million. The next most successful apprentice, Rex A. Stokes III, lagged far behind, winning 201 races for $1.9 million in earnings.

Horse of the Year: Point Given. Tiznow's Breeders' Cup Classic was the race of the year, but Point Given gets my vote for Horse of the Year.

He won six of seven races, losing only the Kentucky Derby. He drew record crowds and generated the most excitement by a horse since Cigar. A stunning chestnut with an explosive temperament, Point Given captured five Grade I's: Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers.

The only knock against him is that he never beat older horses. He never got the chance. Racing lost its only star in August when this 3-year-old son of Thunder Gulch strained a tendon and was retired.

Breeders Assoc. hires Flynn

Mike Flynn, former executive director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., has been hired to replace Tim Capps, former executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Capps began working Tuesday as an executive with the Maryland Jockey Club.

Flynn has ties to Maryland. He graduated from Bel Air High School and ran the Curraugh, his father Desmond's horse farm in Cecil County. Flynn also operated horse farms in Virginia and New York.

"We needed a quarterback," said Mike Pons, president of the Maryland breeders' association, "and Mike is the New York quarterback we were able to lure to our team.

"He comes to the job almost more like the founders of our organization, as a horseman. He'll hit the ground running and throw a lot of touchdowns for us."

Flynn will start his new job in early February, Pons said.

Finish line

After re-evaluating year-end statistics, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that trainers John Scanlan and Tony Dutrow tied for winning percentage in Maryland. In 2001 they saddled 33.3 percent winners (Scanlan 20 of 60, Dutrow 52 of 156).

Two more Eclipse Awards for media excellence were announced last week. WTVI-TV in Charlotte, N.C., won for local television with a documentary about African-Americans' contributions to racing, and Janet Patton, a business reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, won for news and commentary writing with a story about scientists' search for a cause of the devastating foal losses in Kentucky.

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