Too often in sports, the argument for ‘the greatest of all time’ or ‘who is this years MVP’ tend to go down an abstract path of personal opinion. This is because it is nearly impossible to square up information when dealing with multiple variables. There really is no way to compare the value Madison Bumgarner’s brings to the San Francisco Giants to what a JJ Watt brings to the Huston Texans.
One is a phenomenal pitcher on a World Series Champion; the other is a dominant defensive player on a team that didn’t even make the playoffs. The only conclusion that can be made is that Bumgarner’s team was better than Watt’s and whatever contribution he made was in an effort to win the World Series.
In horse racing the same predicament comes up with the conversation for Horse of the Year. Although it is an individually based sport, where a horse’s record stands on its own merit; the value given to the division they run in, as well as the campaign of races that were chosen tend to alter the public and the media’s perception.This is the basis for my reasoning for why Main Sequence should be Horse of the Year. Traditionally (in America) the classic dirt winners are the quarterbacks of the horseracing world. The discussion for HOY starts with the Breeders’ Cup winner and works backwards from there. Which it will again this year, and rightfully so as it is the most lucrative division in American horse racing. Although it should be noted that in the last couple of years the unbeatable turf miler Wise Dan was Horse of the Year.
However, with no outright dominating horse in the handicap division, a case could be made for a handful of horses. You could say that Bayern is leading that conversation because he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Of course anyone contending that would say it is how he won it that weakens his case. They could also say that up until that race Bayern only showed a one-dimensional running style that got him in trouble in the Traver’s Stakes and had him not showing up in the Preakness.
You could also make an argument for the horse most affected by Bayern’s controversial win in the Breeders’ Cup, Shared Belief. Shared Belief who was last years two-year-old champ, had done nothing wrong all year and went into the Classic undefeated. For that reason, he also happened to have a big target on his back for a race with a 5 million dollar purse. When the gates opened he was badly pinched at the break, which compromised any chance he had for winning that day. Had Shared belief won that day, he would have certainly put the debate for Horse of the Year to rest.
Then of course there is California Chrome, the beautiful colt from the Golden State. California Chrome nearly brought a new generation of fans into horse racing had he won the Belmont Stakes, thus becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed did it in 1978. However a weak showing on Belmont day combined with a disappointing run in the PA Derby, pretty much took his name out of the bidding. To his credit, California Chrome did run a strong third in the Breeders’ Cup, which he followed up with a win on the turf in the G1 Hollywood Derby
Which brings us to who should be Horse of the Year. This year the top horse proved himself on the grass, and he did it without leaving any question of who was the best. Trained by Graham Motion, Main Sequence came back to the states after spending the last two years in England. The Kentucky bred son of the sire Aldebaran didn’t begin his year until forth of July weekend where he ran in the prestigious United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. In that race he went off at a cool 8-1 yet surged very late to get the win off the long layoff.
Following that impressive win, he went up to Saratoga, where he won the Sword Dancer Invitational. In that race he hit the gate on the break thereby spotting the field 4-5 lengths. Nevertheless he fought gamely to make up the difference and just catch challengers Twilight Eclipse and Imagining at the wire.
After that it was back down state a month later to Belmont Park where Main Sequence would run on his third different track in as many months. The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational would be something of a Sword Dancer rematch with the top three finishers from that day meeting up. A victory by Main Sequence would prove his victory in the Sword Dancer not to be a fluke. Again the five-year-old proved to be very classy and game competitor in getting up for the victory that day.
He then flew out to California to compete on racings biggest stage, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic. A field of 12 horses loaded into the gate that day. Main Sequence’s top competition would come from the Europeans he raced against in Europe. The top two horses in the betting were the Irish bred Telescope, and English bred Flintshire. Despite breaking from post 11, Main Sequence took money and went off at an honest, but respectable 6-1.
Again when the field turned for home the champion showed his true grit and professionalism, after being fanned six wide on the for home he straitened out to secure a tight run to the wire. After taking the lead in deep stretch Main Sequence dug down to hold off a late surge by Flintshire.
When two-time horse of the Year and racing hero, Wise Dan, went down before the Breeders’ Cup with an injury it all but guaranteed Main Sequence would win the Eclipse award for best Turf horse. Then when the three-year-old Bayern crossed the finish line first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (and not an older horse) it pretty much guaranteed Main Sequence would win for champion older horse. But what it really did was to put his name in the hat for the main award: Horse of the Year.
So why should he win it? Simply because it’s hard to argue against perfection, and all of his top rivals have some blemish on their record.
Although it would be fair to understand an argument coming from the connections of Shared Belief. Who won his forth G1 race of the year with a win in this past weekends Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. Backers of Shared Belief could make the argument that the only reason for the one loss was that he had a target on his back in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There is no doubt truth to that point, and there is also no doubt that a win by Shared Belief would have put a hammerlock on Horse of the Year. However the argument could also be made that the diminutive gelding never traveled outside of the comforts of California.
Main Sequence on the other hand went to four different tracks and defeated all challengers. He did it by displaying class and tenacity and was able to find that extra gear when he needed it. And most importantly he always knew how to get to the wire first; a quality all champion horses must posses.