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Thursday, January 17
AQHA honors its divisional champs, top horsemen

Tailor Fit's storybook season closed with a fitting conclusion Wednesday as the American Quarter Horse Association named the sentimental sprint star its 2001 World Champion. The 6-year-old horse re-ascended to the perch he held two years ago when trained by the late Steve Van Bebber.

The AQHA announced its 15 equine divisional champions and four champion horsemen during its annual ceremony at the Heritage Place Sales Pavilion in Oklahoma City. A 90-member committee of AQHA members and media representatives conducted the voting. Tailor Fit nabbed 62 votes, 41 more than runner-up A Ransom.

Owned by Betty Jean Burlin of Navasota, Texas, Tailor Fit raced brilliantly in 2001 for trainer Janet Van Bebber, widow of the horse's original conditioner who took his own life late in 2000. Tailor Fit won four Grade 1 stakes events on the season, including his showdown with 2000 AQHA World Champion A Ransom in the Champion of Champions.

Tailor became the first horse to regain World Champion honors in 31 years. The 1999 World Champion bounced back to the top of the sport, joining 1968 and '70 champ Kaweah Bar on the short list of horses who have won non-successive titles. Overall, Tailor Fit is the ninth horse to win the title on more than one occasion.

Along with the World Champion crown, the committee also named Tailor Fit the 2001 Aged Champion and Champion Aged Gelding in its divisional honor roll.

Close calls in two divisions
The season's most spirited balloting came with the juveniles. Your First Moon ran way with Champion Two-Year-Old Filly honors as did Tres Seis in the Two-Year-Old Colt division. Voters had a devil of a time separating the sexes when it came down to overall Champion Two-Year-Old, each garnering 29 votes in the initial balloting. The deadlock forced a run-off, where the filly Your First Moon prevailed in a 46-42 vote with two abstaining.

Your First Moon made a strong case with her win over the boys in the Los Alamitos Million, where Tres Seis finished third. Tres Seis sported a runner-up finish in the All American Futurity to boost his credentials. Also in the juvenile ranks, Shining Sky earned 82 votes and was the overwhelming choice for Champion Two-Year-Old Gelding.

Another tight vote proceeded with the sophomores. All American Derby winner Stoli, crowned Champion Three-Year-Old Colt, and the unbeaten gelding Pivotal Decision, winner of the Dash For Cash Derby, squared off for the title of overall Champion Three-Year-Old. A second run-off vote produced a 44-42 victory for Stoli, earning his dual championship.

Ironically, Pivotal Decision's 7-for-7 record in 2001 did not earn him Champion Three-Year-Old Gelding. That honor, in a 50-40 run-off vote, went to Whosleavingwho, first or second in 11 of 12 starts on the season. As for the ladies, Tiny First Effort sprinted away with the Champion Three-Year-Old Filly title by winning five of seven starts. She tallied 76 votes.

Veterans continue greatness
Sign of Lanty, already etched into the books as one of the best route horses in AQHA history, won his second straight Champion Distance honor at the age of 7. He won six of eight starts on the season with two runner-up finishes and now has won 23 of 53 career starts. His 86 votes were the most in any category in 2001 balloting.

Corona Kool earned her second career title when her 84 votes easily earned the Champion Aged Mare title. She won four of five starts and was second to A Ransom in her lone defeat of 2001. In 1999, Corona Kool was AQHA Champion Two-Year-Old Filly as well.

Hawkinson, runner-up to Tailor Fit in the Champion of Champions, captured Champion Aged Stallion honors on the strength of his wins in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and the Go Man Go Handicap. Voters penned the 4-year-old in on 88 of 90 ballots.

Outstanding horsemen cap season with awards
Trainer John Bassett made the most of his 41 victories in 2001, proving that quality sometimes trumps quantity. He secured his first AQHA Champion Trainer award after his best season in the business. Bassett won his second All American Futurity on Labor Day when Ausual Suspect out-dashed stablemate Tres Seis to the wire, giving the barn a one-two finish in the season's richest race. The Bassett stable won 26 percent of its races, a number that helped overcome runner-up Janet Van Bebber's national-best 21 stakes wins on the year. Bassett won a 49-39 run-off vote with two members abstaining.

Joe Badilla, Jr. notched his fourth Champion Jockey crown on the heels of his success with Bassett and others. He now trails only Kip Didericksen's all-time AQHA record of five Champion Jockey awards. Badilla's mounts earned $2.7 million in 2001, including 17 stakes wins. He piloted Tres Seis to a win in the Golden State Futurity and runner-up finish in the All American Futurity. Badilla outpaced G.R. Carter 68-11 in the balloting.

In a season where its runners earned $969,565, Dutch Masters III secured its first AQHA Champion Owner Crown. Comprised of Dr. James Streelman and Denny Boer, Dutch Masters III sent out seven stakes winners in 2001, including Grade 1 Kindergarten Futurity hero Sassy Smith. The final voting margin was 65-10 over SMS Racing LLC.

For the eighth time in 10 years, Edward Allred brought home AQHA Champion Breeder honors. His vast operation witnessed 16 stakes winners in 2001 that were bred on his farm. Among those were Grade 1 winners Hawkinson and Marmet. Horses bred by Allred earned $1.9 million during the season. He tallied 68 of the 90 votes.

Quick Hitters
The 2-year-old gelding Royal Quick Wind was named AQHA Canadian Champion after winning his final four starts of the year, including the Canadian Cup Futurity ... Sizzling Lil, owned by Vessels Stallion Farm LLC, earned Champion Broodmare status. The 17-year-old mare is best known as the dam of 2001 Champion Aged Mare Corona Kool ... The awards ceremony will be shown on ESPN2 at 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 23 as well as 5:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 26.

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