Last week I listed seven horses with Horse of the Year aspirations. After the Breeders' Cup, only two are left, Wise Dan and I'll Have Another, and the former will be an overwhelming favorite.
Wise Dan capped a fabulous season with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile. With ease, he dispatched of Excelebration, one of the best Europeans this side of Frankel.
Wise Dan won five graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile and Woodbine Mile. His lone loss in six starts was by a head to Ron the Greek in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
He ended last year by winning the Clark Handicap and Fayette in the fall. Thus, trainer Charles Lopresti can claim no horse has been better the past 12 calendar months than Wise Dan.
I suggested last week a lot of things would need to happen for I'll Have Another to gain leverage for Horse of the Year. It almost occurred.
Game On Dude, Point of Entry and Executiveprivilege all lost their Breeders' Cup races. Wise Dan, Royal Delta and Shanghai Bobby won theirs. But this is where style points kick in.
Shanghai Bobby was gritty in winning the Juvenile but looked like a drunken sailor staggering down the lane. It's hard to imagine him winning the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby unless maturity equals stamina.
Royal Delta bested a class field in the Ladies' Classic. However, I thought she needed to win in over-the-top fashion to overcome two losses this year.
If Wise Dan had lost in the Mile, I'd be voting for I'll Have Another as Horse of the Year. Now it seems safe to assume that Wise Dan will be the chosen one.
In another year, the perfect 2012 resume of I'll Have Another would be enough. He won all four of his starts in the Preakness, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita Derby and Robert B. Lewis. Plus, he generated enormous excitement this spring on the verge of a Triple Crown run in the Belmont Stakes.
■ ROME'S REWARD - Sports radio personality Jim Rome has invested a lot of time and money and, to some degree, his reputation in being a big supporter of thoroughbred horse racing.
While many have publicly pummeled horse racing like a large pinata, Rome and other celebrities such as chef Bobby Flay and baseball's Joe Torre are ardent fans. This adds credibility to racing because they see what goes on in the sport and have no reservations being involved. So, when Mizdirection, owned by Rome's Jungle Racing, won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, it was a rich reward for all that he has given to the sport.
This was a great training job by Mike Puype, who nine months ago said the Breeders' Cup was the ultimate goal for Mizdirection. In a game where plans can go awry in a second, long-term goals are risky business.
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.