THE PONY AWARDS
As 2014 draws to a close, let’s take a quick look at a few deserving athletes in the world of Thoroughbred racing and recognize them with …a Pony award.
THE UNSUNG HERO- This Award goes without question to Bayern. Wait a minute…how could the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner be an unsung hero? Make no mistake, this three-year old son of Offlee Wild is a hero. Unraced at two, Bayern cut a rug while making it to the dance floor ten times in 2014. His six wins this year included triumphs in the Woody Stephens (grade 2), Pennsylvania Derby (grade 2), Haskell (grade 1), and of course the Classic. It would have been seven wins had he not been the victim of an inquiry that placed him second in the Derby Trial (grade 3). Always eager to get out front and just run, Bayern proved time and again if the big dog was allowed to eat, it was lights out for the competition. His performance in both the Pennsylvania Derby and Haskell were jaw-droppers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic win was talent and guts coming together. Sure there was a rough beginning in the Breeders’ Cup, but that is just a part of the game. Watch the 2014 Preakness beginning and you will quickly see how Bayern was seriously comprised because of some paint trading. Bayern is a real racehorse.
THE COURAGE AWARD- These four-legged athletes are scary powerful, but at the same time are very fragile. The line between triumphant warrior and a career cut short by tragedy is very fine. Wise Dan proved once again why he is among the top of the heap in 2014, but it was not necessarily because of his four graded stakes wins in four starts. Now, what makes the seven-year old gelding’s story courageous is the fact serious tummy troubles in June resulted in a surgical procedure. At his age, it would have been easy for the defending two-time horse of the year to hang it up for the season after two grade 1 wins. But because he is a warrior, Wise Dan returned to the track and won two more races. Proving he is still a titan of the turf, this son of Wiseman’s Ferry picked up wins at Saratoga and Keeneland before a leg injury in October sidelined him the rest of the year. Because he has the heart of a champion, it is odds-on that Wise Dan will be back for an eight-year old campaign in 2015.
THE BRIGHT FUTURE AWARD- Because of several factors, 2015 looks to be a big year in the world of Thoroughbred racing. To the average sports fan, the game is about one thing…the Kentucky Derby. With that in mind, Texas Red gets the nod here. This two-year old son of Afleet Alex may have won only twice this year, but one of those came at the Breeders’ Cup and was as big as the state he is named after. Last following a sizzling opening half mile, Texas Red began picking off the opposition like Davy Crockett at the Alamo. As the horses turned for home, he unleashed a powerful move that left his 10 challengers inhaling his dust. Winning by a widening 6 ½ lengths for trainer Keith Desormeaux, Texas Red put himself in the fast lane on the road to Kentucky Derby 141. What makes this Kentucky-bred colt especially intriguing is he was a $17,000 yearling purchase by a group looking to enjoy the pleasures of the sport. If Red can turn in that kind of run on the first Saturday in May, the fun will just be beginning.
HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARD- The past year has featured many bright stars, the brightest, however, was California Chrome. The entire Chrome story is a made for TV script. Rising from his owner’s dream, California Chrome captivated a nation with his dynamic runs. Winning six straight races including the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness, this son of Lucky Pulpit put the sport in the living rooms of Joe and Jane Public. Finishing only a couple of lengths from Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup glory, this California-bred represents the American dream as his owners had about $10,000 initially invested. Closing the year strong by finishing third by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and winning the grade 1 Hollywood Derby on the Del Mar grass in his first ever race on turf, California Chrome provided thrills from beginning to end in 2014.