In many years the Horse of the Year title is a foregone conclusion, with the Breeders' Cup serving as a coronation of sorts.
This year, if some key logical race favorites win this weekend, the table could be set for the most contentious Horse of the Year voting ever.
There is no clear-cut standout this season. Up to six horses could be under consideration for the title should they win their respective Breeders' Cup test while other fail. Here is a rundown of the leading candidates:
\u25B6 Game On Dude (9-5) is favored in the $5 million Classic. He has won four graded stakes this year, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and Awesome Again.
\u25B6 Wise Dan (9-5) is favored in the Mile. He too has won four graded stakes this season, including the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile.
\u25B6 Next is Point of Entry (3-1), who is a slightly favored in the Turf. He has won four graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Man o' War, Sword Dancer and Turf Classic.
Point of Entry might have the hardest task of any horse on this list, facing first-class European grass invaders like Shareta (7-2) and last year's race winner, St Nicholas Abbey (7-2).
\u25B6 Royal Delta (9-5) in the Ladies' Classic has three graded wins, topped by the Grade 1 Beldame. Others think her test is even tougher than Point of Entry. She'll be facing the likes of undefeated Awesome Feather (3-1), My Miss Aurelia (4-1) and Questing (4-1) in a well-matched field.
\u25B6 A couple of long shots for Horse of the Year are two undefeated 2-year-olds in Shanghai Bobby (2-1) in the Juvenile and Executiveprivilege (2-1) in the Juvenile Fillies.
Shanghai Bobby owns two graded-stakes wins, led by the Grade 1 Champagne. Both of Executiveprivilege's stakes victories are Grade 1, in the Del Mar Debutante and Chandler.
\u25B6 Then there is a seventh potential candidate, and he is not running at Santa Anita.
It is I'll Have Another.
It is easy to forget about the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and Robert B. Lewis. I'll Have Another won all four of his starts in 2012.
It was a bummer that the Doug O'Neill colt was retired one day before the Belmont Stakes, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.
However, I suspect for I'll Have Another to win Horse of the Year, nearly all of the aforementioned horses would have to lose.
So, as contested as this presidential election has been, horse racing could see its own brand of campaigning this fall as owners and trainers promote the merits of their Breeders' Cup heroes.
■ RICH TWIN QUINELLAS - Station Casinos is upping the ante in its two twin quinella wagers for the Breeders' Cup. The pot will be $10,000 today, and on Saturday the twin quinella prize will be a rich $20,000.
Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.