"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 (a 5-3-1 scoring system) point values are assigned based on votes. Most points gets the glory. The ballot can be seen here but what follows is the explanation to get to it.
1. RAMBLING RICHIE 2. SOLAR FLAIR 3. A STEP AHEAD
Our top choice won both of the six-figure stakes for state-breds at Hawthorne, and he should prevail by a pole. SOLAR FLAIR was second in the Sun Power and won a minor stakes at Fairmount. A STEP AHEAD was second in the Edgar.
1. SASY MS ELIZABETH 2. LAKOTADREAMCATCHER 3. RICHIES SWEETHEART
Even though LAKOTADREAMCATCHER beat SASY MS ELIZABETH in the Whitworth, the track was playing against SASY MS ELIZABETH that December afternoon. That devalues the Whitworth (where our top choice was second) and has us looking at the wins at Fairmount and Hawthorne for our top choice. Winning a six-figure stakes for two-year-olds does get you on the ballot, as in the case of LAKOTADREAMCATCHER. RICHIES SWEETHEART was second in the Showtime Deb.
1. REDWOOD KITTEN 2. AMEN KITTEN 3. FEAR THE KITTEN
It's a clean sweep for the Kittens, those that claim Kitten's Joy as sire, the Ramseys as breeder of all three and owner of the top two. Being third in a G2 and second in a G3 is good enough for REDWOOD KITTEN who also won a six-figure stakes on Preakness Day. AMEN KITTEN won a small stakes at Calder and then cashed a check in the G1 Hollywood Derby. FEAR THE KITTEN was the twenty-first horse of twenty for the Kentucky Derby, and his money finishes in a pair of early sophomore preps get him votes.
1. MY OPTION 2. BOLD KITTEN 3. I O IRELAND
Even though BOLD KITTEN beat MY OPTION in the Purple Violet, the track that afternoon at Arlington played to speed and forward placements and took MY OPTION out of her comfort zone. When the track was more fair in the G3 Arlington Oaks, MY OPTION closed and scored. That win and a respectable third in the G2 Raven Run give this division to the incumbent frosh filly champion. BOLD KITTEN won the Purple Violet and was second in a division of the Hatoof Stakes on Arlington Million Day (ahead of MY OPTION) behind next-out Pucker Up winner I'm Already Sexy. I O IRELAND won the other division of the Hatoof. The only other stakes winner in the bunch was LEGAL MIND, who won a small stakes in the south.
1. WORK ALL WEEK 2. SIGNSEALNDELIVER 3. SWEET LUCA
Even though the three major stakes for state-breds had three different winners, it will be tough to deny WORK ALL WEEK the title. He won the Lightning Jet on the south side and the Tex's Zing at downstate Fairmount and was beaten a dirty nose to SWEET LUCA in the Cammack at Arlington. He also ventured out for open company allowance wins. SIGNSEALNDELIVER won the Molaro in the Spring at Hawthorne and a minor stakes in the Twin Cities, but was beaten twice on the square by WORK ALL WEEK in the summer at Fairmount and fall at Hawthorne. The only horse who has ever beaten WORK ALL WEEK is SWEET LUCA, winner of the Cammack who was third in the Lightning Jet.
1. MISSJEANLOUISE 2. ALGONQUIN POSSE 3. MY OPTION
This division as well saw three different winners of the major state-bred stakes throughout the year (Third Chance, formerly the Governor's Lady; Isaac Murphy, Powerless), but MISSJEANLOUISE won the Powerless for the second straight year and hit the board in the other two. ALGONQUIN POSSE won the Third Chance and finished ahead of our top choice (it helps when you're a house horse) post-disqualification at Fairmount in the Lady Riss. MY OPTION never defeated elders, but in a division of drawing straws drew some nice ones when winning the Pretty Jenny at Hawthorne and being third in the G2 Raven Run.
1. COALPORT 2. THE PIZZA MAN 3. SUNTRACER
Only two horses had more than one stakes win this year, COALPORT and THE PIZZA MAN. COALPORT won a richer open stakes, the Franklin-Simpson Mile, during the fall at Kentucky Downs and COALPORT beat THE PIZZA MAN head-to-head in the Black Tie Affair at Arlington. THE PIZZA MAN will get some support for being third in the G3 Stars and Stripes, but that is matched in this voter's eyes by COALPORT finishing a respectable fifth in the G1 Shadwell "Turf Mile" (that was washed off and contested on synthetic at 1 1/16 miles). No knocks on THE PIZZA MAN for winning the Illinois Owners and R. F. Carey Memorial and hitting the board in the G3 Stars and Stripes on Preview Day; he had a solid campaign from Spring to Fall. SUNTRACER didn't win all year, but he sure nibbled at some good pies through the year: fourth in the Black Tie Affair behind the top two, runner up in the G3 Stars and Stripes, runner up in the American Saint Leger on Arlington Million Day, third in the G3 Kentucky Turf Cup.
1. LA TIA 2. KATIE THE LADY 3. GOLDWAY
Even though LA TIA only win a third level allowance and the Lincoln Heritage, she bested a next-out stakes in the allowance and would be third in the G3 Modesty at Arlington, the connections tried some tough spots in the G1 Beverly D. and G2 Canadian. Not going to hold the third in the Illini Princess against KATIE THE LADY against her, as KATIE THE LADY didn't stray from the confines of Illinois-bred foes. Plus LA TIA bested KATIE THE LADY in the third-level allowance early in the Arlington meet. KATIE THE LADY out gunned LA TIA in the early stages of the Illini Princess and that gave her a win to go with two others on the year. It gets her "what have you done lately" sentiment and a strong second in this poll. GOLDWAY was second sandwiched between KATIE THE LADY and LA TIA in the Illini Princess and was fourth in the Lincoln Heritage. She also was second in the off-the-turf Indian Maid on the opening weekend of Hawthorne Fall.
1. COALPORT 2. THE PIZZA MAN 3. WORK ALL WEEK
Both COALPORT and THE PIZZA MAN won two open stakes and just as the ballot was cast with COALPORT over the PIZZA MAN in the turf category, it sees that same one two (same reasons: COALPORT beat THE PIZZA MAN head-to-head and COALPORT won a richer open stakes) at the top. COALPORT also was second on dirt in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap at Hawthorne, an additional trump card in this category. WORK ALL WEEK claimed the title of best older sprinter off a nose loss in the Cammack, two open allowance wins, and two state-bred stakes wins in the Tex's Zing and Lightning Jet. Props to LUV BANDIT FOR two stakes wins: the Milwaukee Avenue (over COALPORT) and a fifty-grand stakes at Fairmount, but WORK ALL WEEK's open allowances knock him off the podium.
1. LA TIA 2. MISSJEANLOUISE 3. KATIE THE LADY
Horse of the Year: COALPORT. I wanted to vote for the only Illinois-bred horse to win a graded stakes this year, MY OPTION, but she tried elders only once and was fourth in the G2 Falls City. Scratch that. So instead we land on a horse with a state-bred stakes win (the Black Tie Affair), a state-bred second (the Milwaukee Avenue), and the open stakes win at Kentucky Downs (Franklin-Simpson Mile). While his last two starts in the G1 Shadwell "Turf Mile" and G3 River City were clunkers, he did beat eventual G2 winner Nikki's Sandcastle in an allowance early on Arlington Million Day. You'd like to see your state-bred champions win beyond the confines of a hundred-grand stakes at Arlington or Hawthorne, and at least COALPORT did that. COALPORT may not be named like the three-year-olds that swept the category, but he's by Kitten's Joy, bred by the Ramseys, and owned by them. We've seen Ken and Ramsey decked out in a wreath on Arlington Million Day, this voter sees him and his wife Sarah trucking home trophies from Hawthorne.
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