"Picks and Ponderings" is proud to announce that it is voting for equine champions in Illinois. Votes are made for Illinois Horse of the Year, as well as in a number of different age- and gender-restricted categories. Said voting is conducted by the Illinois Breeders and Thoroughbred Owners Foundation (ITBOF).
Voters cast votes for first, second, and third and weighted point values are assigned based on votes. Most points gets the glory.
1. CHATFIELD ROAD
3. SMOKIN' GLOCK
Any winner of both of the Sun Power and Edgar Futurity is a slam dunk to take this award. This year, there was a split among the victors. CHATFIELD ROAD beat LASSELL in the Edgar Futurity, but the latter won the Sun Power. The head-to-head victory is the edge here. No eligible juvenile earned more than LASSELL, who was second in the Edgar to go with his victory in the Sun Power. A solid case can be made for him as the winner in this category. It's far back to SMOKIN' GLOCK, stablemate of LASSELL. He was second in the Sun Power, fourth in the Edgar, and third among aggregate earnings.
1. MY OPTION
3. INDYGO KISS
Same reasons, different gender. MY OPTION bested Showtime Deb winner JULMAE in their head-to-head match-up in the Whitworth Debutante. With a much wider margin of victory and an undefeated year, MY OPTION should be a solid winner in this category. JULMAE won the Showtime Deb and put in an okay fourth around two turns in the Whitworth. Another check-collector, INDYGO KISS, rounds out the top three. Worth noting that INDYGO KISS as well as my 2-3 for the male ballot all have the same owner/trainer combination of Asiel Stable/Carlos Silva.
1. THE PIZZA MAN
2. LUV BANDIT
3. SANDIA CREST
This category is a slam dunk. THE PIZZA MAN's only on-track blemish is his sixth in the G3 American Derby. That race was a bridge too far at the time and featured a dawdling pace that works against his come-from-the-parking lot style. Beat elders twice in Illinois-bred stakes company and earned the most of among the eligibles. The only other eligibles to win more than once on the year were SANDIA CREST, LUV BANDIT, and REPORT CARD. LUV BANDIT won two $50,000 stakes at downstate Fairmount and closed out the 2012 campaign winning an open two-other-than at Hawthorne. SANDIA CREST won the Springfield, head-to-head against REPORT CARD and the choice for third also had an allowance win at year's end.
1. LA TIA
2. LEADING ASTRAY
3. DOLLY PEACH
This was a category I struggled with, as both fillies put up very award-worthy campaigns. It should be noted that the Hatoof was split in divisions, so LEADING ASTRAY didn’t beat LA TIA head-to-head; the Hatoof was split into two separate divisions. The trump card to me was that LA TIA won a race out of town, the La Lorgnette Stakes at Woodbine. Should also be noted that LA TIA annexed the Purple Violet Stakes on Prairie State Festival Day and the G3 Arlington Oaks. LEADING ASTRAY’s pair of victories in the Hatoof and G3 Pucker Up and pair of checks in the G3 Valley View and G2 Mrs. Revere are almost even, if not even, to LA TIA’s trio. DOLLY PEACH blew up the tote during the Illinois Champions Day Program in Hawthorne Spring. She showed that was no fluke when she was second in the Purple Violet and won an upper-tier allowance in the final days of the Arlington meet.
1. RIVER BEAR
3. NAGYS PIGGY BANK
Even though RIVER BEAR only won one of the three major upstate sprint stakes for Illinois-breds (Molaro Handicap during Hawthorne Spring), he won two open stakes for fifty thousand, one each at Turfway and Prairie Meadows. And he won the Tex's Zing Stakes at his home base of Fairmount. SIGNSEALNDELIVER did beat RIVER BEAR in the Lightning Jet, but RIVER BEAR has a 3-1 head-to-head advantage on him. But SIGNSEALNDELIVER was second in those three victories by River Bear, twice out of town in open company. NAGYS PIGGY BANK may have won going a route of ground in a $50,000 stake at Fairmount, but his fall skein is pretty good: Fairmount win, Lightning Jet second, upper-level allowance win, upper-level allowance third. That streak gets him a vote.
1. THIRD CHANCE
3. ALGONQUIN POSSE
My ballot in this category matches point-for-point with Horse Racing Nation's Brian Zipse. THIRD CHANCE’s three stakes wins--Governor’s Lady, Isaac Murphy, and Addison Cammack--make her the best of the category and then some. She added an allowance race win at Arlington as well, and--if she does not race again--will have one of the Illinois Champions Day stakes during Hawthorne Spring named for her. MISSJEANLOUISE was second in the Governor’s Lady and won the THIRD CHANCE-less Powerless during Hawthorne Fall. ALGONQUIN POSSE was second twice in six figure state-bred stakes--the Murphy and Powerless--and second at Fairmount in another stakes for fifty grand.
1. IOYA BIGTIME
2. THE PIZZA MAN
Credit to trainer Chris Block for turning IOYA BIGTIME from a horse that couldn’t hit the board in a weak renewal of the G3 Connally Turf Cup to a graded stakes winning marathon type. When IOYA BIGTIME stretched out on the grass in the mile-and-a-half G3 Stars and Stripes, he sat off an honest pace, then kicked clear and won at 41-1 odds. He showed that was no fluke with a second in the inaugural iteration of the (G2/G3 quality) American St. Leger on Million Day, a win in the G3 Kentucky Cup Turf, and a second in the G3 Sycamore during Keeneland’s fall meet. Sophomore male champion THE PIZZA MAN had a nearly flawless campaign (see above), and beat elders in the Buck’s Boy at Hawthorne. SUNTRACER’s first half of the year was a lost half-season due to an eye injury. His second half was much better, which the high point being a win in open company in the Carey. Loss in the Buck’s Boy is the demerit against SUNTRACER. Even though THE PIZZA MAN beat SUNTRACER, the 2-3 in this category was a source of internal debate since SUNTRACER won in open company and had a third in a G3 whereas THE PIZZA MAN’s best open company showing is clearing the first-level allowance condition. We'll give our tip to THE PIZZA MAN for the head-to-head win over elders.
1. LEADING ASTRAY
2. PEYOTE PATTY
The Illinois-bred turf females were a group that drew straws all year. PEYOTE PATTY drew the most of them, with wins in the Illinois Owners’ and Illini Princess. But LEADING ASTRAY’s pair of major wins were both in open company, the latter being the G3 Pucker Up. As with many prior Pucker Up winners, she’s acquitted herself well with checks cashed in a division of the G3 Valley View and the G2 Mrs. Revere. Even though she's not the best three-year-old on my ballot, she was the only one of the eligibles to defeat open company and did it twice in stakes company. The aforementioned PEYOTE PATTY gets second on the strength of her two stakes triumphs. CUMULONIMBLE drew one of those straws, winning the Lincoln Heritage in June and hitting the board in three of the four state-bred sod stakes this year. Only two other females did that this year: PEYOTE PATTY (who was voted second) and KATIE THE LADY, who had no wins in stakes company.
1. IOYA BIGTIME
2. RIVER BEAR
(See link for photo of IOYA BIGTIME winning the July 14 G3 Stars and Stripes. He's at the farthest right with the green shadow roll.)
Among the individual division champions, we have IOYA BIGTIME (Turf), and RIVER BEAR (sprint). Graded stakes edge goes to IOYA BIGTIME, for reasons outlined in the Turf. Two open company stakes wins for RIVER BEAR to go with state-bred wins in the Molaro and Tex’s Zing at Fairmount give RIVER BEAR another chance to be on the podium. SUNTRACER’s second half of the year was as steady as IOYA BIGTIME’s, just not quite the same level. However, he beat open company in the Carey and restricted company a week before the Arlington Million.
1. THIRD CHANCE
2. PEYOTE PATTY
3. SEANS SILVERDANCER
THIRD CHANCE romping in the September 22 Cammack Stakes at Arlington.
Only two horses among the eligible candidates won more than one stakes all year, sprinter THIRD CHANCE and turfer PEYOTE PATTY. THIRD CHANCE was a sprinting buzzsaw that had a flawless 2013 with three Illinois-bred stakes victories. PEYOTE PATTY won two stakes--the Illini Princess and the Illinois Owners’ (split by gender). Along with the 3-2 edge, THIRD CHANCE dominated her division while PEYOTE PATTY had a more contentious division to rise out of. SEANS SILVERDANCER won the Peach of It during Hawthorne Spring and also grabbed a third place check in the Bungalow at Fairmount. She also had a win in open N2X/$35k allowance optional claiming company at the end of Hawthorne, and note that was claimed out of that triumph by trainer Wayne Catalano.
Horse of the Year: IOYA BIGTIME
The only mulitple graded stakes winner of any Illinois-bred is this Team Block homebred trained by Chris Block. His mid-summer and fall top-two streak from the Stars and Stripes to the Sycamore, all in graded or graded-quality events, gets the honors here. He also grabbed a fourth place check in the G2 McKnight, further solidifying his status as one to watch in long-winded turf races in 2013.
IOYA BIGTIME photos courtesy of Jamie Newell. THIRD CHANCE photo courtesy Four Footed Fotos.