by Bob Heyden
Niatross 1979-1980 Horse of the Year
The last 2- and 3-year-old to win the award, Niatross had 369 combined votes for him.
At 2 he got 131 votes, but seven other horses got consideration: Hot Hitter (60), Try Scotch (24), Sonsam (9), Chiola Hanover (6), Abercrombie (4), Rambling Willie (2), Classical Way (1).
At 3, Niatross got 238 votes. French Chef received a single vote.
Niatross’ largest margin at 2 was 17 1/4 lengths at Liberty Bell. His largest margin at 3 was 15 lengths in his career finale at Pompano Park.
Niatross was the first horse to be unanimously chosen his division’s best two straight years.
Only once was there ever a horse within a single length of him in a race he won (Whamo was 3/4s of a length back in the 1979 Wilson elimination).
Saratoga is often referred to as the “Graveyard Of Favorites”. Niatross lost there when he fell over the rail July 5, 1980. Secretariat lost there, as well.
The first sire to have a son or daughter win three straight Horse of the Year titles: Bret Hanover in 1964-65-66.
Sired five straight Jug wins — 1958-1962
The last female pacer to win two legs of the Triple Crown? A daughter of Adios — Countess Adios — won the 1960 Messenger and Cane.
Through 1962, 12 of the top 48 money-winning pacers of all time were by Adios.
He won the Triple Crown in consecutive years as a sire — 1959 Adios Butler all by himself and 1960 Countess Adios won the Cane and Messenger, while Bullet Hanover the Jug.
His Adios Harry was the first standardbred to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955.
In the 1980s, the leading money-winning pacer did not get voted HOY eight out of the 10 times. The only horses to buck that trend were Niatross in 1980 who set a single-season record for earnings of $1,414,313 and his son Nihilator in 1985, who also set a single-season record of $1,864,286.
Is THAT a fact?
When Bunny Lake bested Syrinx Hanover in the 2001 HOY ballot — the last time the ladies went 1-2 in the year-end tally — a pair of Hall of Famers were bypassed: Real Desire and Bettors Delight.