Last week I wrote about the biggest disappointments of the year, it's only logical to follow up with my take on the most positive aspects of the racing year. Thoroughbred Times has actually come up with a survey asking the reader to vote of their favorite aspects of the 2008 season. Instead of reinventing the wheel I will simply put my hand to answering their 25 questions.
1. Who was the best horse to race in North America in 2008?
Curlin, he accomplished the most and I don't think any horse could beat him in a dirt route.
2. Which was the best accomplishment of North American racing in 2008?
I think Zenyatta going all year without a loss against some pretty spectacular fillies. You don't see seasons as flawless as that one very often.
3. Who is your pick for outstanding owner of 2008?
IEAH Stables had a super year and despite the negative feelings many have for them it's hard to deny them this honour. Big Brown, Benny The Bull and Kip Deville are likely the most accomplished and talented trio you'll find under any ownership. Godolphin/Darley also get quite a bit of consideration but when you take the size of the operations into consideration IEAH has done better. Even Ariege and Pure Clan had great seasons for IEAH.
4. Who is your pick for outstanding trainer of 2008?
The trainer who really outperformed this year was John Sadler but I can't make him my pick because of the way he handled the steroid issue. Bobby Frankel is the guy I'd want training my horses and this year was no exception. Aside from training good horses like Ventura he also conjured G-1 wins out of frauds like First Defence and Champs Elysees. He also showed his eye for a good horse in picking out the splendid Vineyard Haven.
5. Who is your pick for outstanding jockey of 2008?
Gomez is the guy you want in a big race. Unlike some other big race jockey's he is not afraid to come from the inside.
6. Which was the best Grade 1 Breeders' Cup race?
The Mile, it was simply outstanding. Goldikova but in the most impressive performance of the year.
7. Which race included the best stretch duel?
Maybe it's because I was rooting for Colonel John but I thought the Travers was the best duel of the year. The photo was impossibly tight, I still can't believe John got his nose down.
8. Which was the best victory by a closer in 2008?
I'll go with Visionaire in the King's Bishop.
9. Which was the best front-end victory of 2008?
Vineyard Haven in the Champagne. He dealt with heavy pace pressure but still overpowered his rivals. Many of which were very good horses.
10. Which was the best winning ride of 2008?
To me the best winning rides always come when a jockey gets an inferior horse home first. Alan Garcia on Da'Tara is the best example I saw of that this year. The entire year proved that Da'Tara is not much horse. For Garcia to coax him 12f on the front end in a G-1 was quite something.
11. Who was the best turf horse to race in North America in 2008?
Goldikova, she simply sparkled.
12. Who was the best synthetic surface horse to race in North America in 2008?
Probably Zenyatta, Well Armed had good claims for it but who knows what happened to him on BC day. Zenyatta was the most accomplished on the surface and the most brilliant.
13. Who was the best gray or roan horse to race in North America in 2008?
Forever Together narrowly bests Eight Belles for me. Eight Belles was special but Forever Together put in a better season overall and she showed up when it counted.
14. Who was the best gelding to race in North America in 2008?
Commentator in a walkover.
15. Best race contested outside of North America?
The Arc de Triomphe is the perennial leader in this category. The fabulous Zarkava saw to it that the streak continues.
16. Best horse to race in 2008 based outside North America?
Zarkava was the best horse of 2008 that we never saw in North America. She was breathtaking but at the same time one always got a sense of inevitability from her races. No matter what happened up front, even when a classy horse like Goldikova set for home you always knew that Zarkava would get there.
17. Best racetrack website?
Keeneland sets the industry standard. The information they make available is second to none
18. Best U.S.-based account wagering platform?
Not really sure about this one, I don't deal with any of them so I'll abstain from voting.
19. Best U.S. racetrack simulcast area?
Again I'm not really sure about this. I haven't been to any U.S. tracks
20. Best pari-mutuel tellers?
I don't have enough to compare to. I'll give Woodbine tellers the nod. I've never had any complaints with them.
21. Best synthetic surface used for racing in North America?
Tough question I guess it all depends on how you define best. I personally think the Pro-Ride surface played very fair so I'll give it a slight advantage over all the other synthetic brands.
22. Best announcer?
Larry Collmus is the most complete announcer in North America. Tom Durkin has begun to slip in my opinion. Larry should be given his shot on the national stage, races like the Derby and Breeders' Cup would suit him nicely.
23. Which was the best broadcast of a racing event this year?
I usually say the Breeders' Cup but it was horrendous this year. The Derby broadcast was much better especially if you don't include the special red carpet segment.
24. Who is the best television analyst/reporter?
Randy Moss is the best in this category. He has things to say and he says them clearly
25. Which is the better channel dedicated to horse racing?
My vote goes to HRTV. I like many of their feature shows better.