Back some six weeks ago, I tried to handicap the Horse of the Year race for 2010. With all the major players having competed since then, let's do it again. A look at the main contenders and their chances:
She beat a stable pony, two Budweiser Clydesdales, a mule and an outstanding 3-year-old pacer from Cal Expo in the Clement Hirsch last week at Del Mar. But, hey, a win is a win and perfection is perfection. I know I will be accused of letting my rampant pro-West Coast bias affect my opinion, but, sorry, Zenyatta is the best horse in the country. Next up, she will compete in the Lady's Secret (I refuse to call it by that other name) where the competition is set to include Zippy Chippy, a wiener dog and Rosie O'Donnell. That will be win No. 19 and set her up for the Breeders' Cup. Presumably owner Jerry Moss will then run her in the Classic, where a win would give her the Horse-of-the-Year crown she missed out on in 2008 and 2009. (Could Moss actually choose the Distaff? He's so protective of her unbeaten record that it's not impossible). There will always be a lot of carping about her soft schedule through the first 10 months of the year and Moss's stubbornness and his unwillingness to challenge such a wonderful horse, but there will be no denying her Horse of the Year this year if she wins the Classic. Zenyatta's win in the Clement Hirsch did absolutely nothing when it comes to moving her closer to the Horse-of-the-Year title, but she still had a good day because Quality Road, considered her main threat for the crown, went down in the Whitney and no longer looks like a super horse.
Original odds: 7-5
Yep, he's the real deal. With Quality Road getting so much hype, Blame had been largely overlooked, even after he whipped a pretty good field in the Stephen Foster. Now it turns out that he, and not Quality Road, is the best older male in the country and the biggest threat to Zenyatta's quest for Horse of the Year. He was very good in the Whitney, catching Quality Road after Quality Road was allowed to coast on the front end through a slow half-mile in :48. Blame will go in the Jockey Club Gold Cup next and then the Breeders' Cup Classic. He's absolutely good enough to run the table and steal the crown from Zenyatta.
Original odds: 15-1
Lookin at Lucky (7-1)
His Haskell was terrific. Against perhaps the best field of 3-year-olds assembled this year outside of the Kentucky Derby, he dominated. The knock on him at this point in his career is that he may simply be the best of a well-below-average crop of 3-year-olds and not good enough to beat the best older horses. That could be the case, but underestimate this horse at your own risk. He is very talented.
Original odds: 12-1
Quality Road (9-1)
There was nothing good about his Whitney. Absolutely nothing. He could still rebound and win the Woodward and the Classic, which would be more than enough for him to earn the Horse-of-the-Year title. But after the Whitney, it's hard not to conclude that he was overrated.
Original odds: 5-2
Rachel Alexandra (15-1)
She won in her only start since my original Horse of the Year projections, but, in the process, managed to become even more of a long shot when it comes to Horse of the Year. She beat a mediocre field in the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth, where the competition was every bit as weak as the cast assembled to race against Zenyatta in the Hirsch. And she did so in lackluster fashion. Rachel will head into late August having won nothing more important this year than a single Grade 2 race. At this point last year she had won four Grade 1 races, two of them against males. Even a win in the Classic, which she seems incapable of doing, might not be enough for her to win back-to-back crowns. Rachel just hasn't been anything special this year.
Original odds: 6-1
The Field (75-1)
Hard to imagine anyone else out there being good enough to move past the main contenders for Horse of the Year. But it's not impossible. Forget about Super Saver. But someone like Rail Trip, Gio Ponti or Devil May Care could come from out of nowhere if the Big 5 all stub their toes.
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.