horse of the year

HRU picks the Horse of the Year

February 25, 2018

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Tonight, the 2017 Horse of the Year, Trotter of the Year and Pacer of the Year will be revealed at the Dan Patch Awards in Orlando, FL. Here’s our contributors’ picks for the big award winners.

Ron Gurfein

Pacer of the Year

I think Downbytheseaside had the best all around year with the exception of a few weeks where his stablemate (Fear The Dragon) shined. It would have been far more interesting if Ray Schnittker’s colt Huntsville stayed sound as I thought he was a phenomenal horse.

Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year

To me Manchego is Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year. She was better than perfect and was challenged week after week by another top filly in Phaetosive. The fact I trained and loved her dam has a bit to do with it. Manchego won almost $900,000 and was 12-for-12. I am not taking anything away from Hannelore Hanover. She has a fabulous record but she lost too many races to too many nondescript horses.

Jay Wolf

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside will be the Pacer of the Year. He outlasted the other colts in the sophomore ranks. No older pacer stood out this season.

Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year

Ariana G will be the Trotter and Horse of the Year in a mild upset. The Canadians picked Hannelore Hanover as their HOY, but the U.S. ballots were in before that result was announced. Ariana G won 12 of 15 and three major filly trots. Ariana G, Hannelore Hanover and Manchego are three great trotters that competed at the same time.

Garnet Barnsdale

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside. This Somebeachsomewhere colt danced every dance and was very consistent all year long. Several of his performances were memorable, including the Milstein at Northfield Park where he paced a phenomenal :53 flat back half while racing uncovered first up to chase down his stablemate Fear The Dragon.

Trotter of the Year

While this should come down to the two mares, I have to go with Hannelore Hanover on a “strength of schedule” type decision. Her dominant wins over her opposite gender in the Breeders Crown, the Maple Leaf Trot and the Allerage tip the scales for me. Her 1:49.2 clocking (the fastest trotting mile by a mare in history) at The Red Mile in the Allerage is just icing on the cake.

Horse of the Year

To me, beating aged horses on some of the sport’s biggest stages – a feat rarely tried let alone accomplished by mares – coupled with her scintillating 1:49.2 open-length win at The Red Mile sets Hannelore Hanover apart and that’s why I think she will win the 2017 Horse of the Year.

Murray Brown

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside. The leading moneymaker of the year. Ultra consistent. Tough from beginning to the end.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. In my view, a runaway, even with one the greatest 2YO fillies of all time, perhaps the great and one of the greatest 3YO fillies ever as her direct competition. In any other year, either of those would be strong choices.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. Fastest trotting female of all time. Ultra consistent. She took on and beat the boys, often with apparent ease.

Trey Nosrac

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside. Trey is not a deep thinker when it comes to titans of the track, but this horse is standing in Ohio, Joe Sbrocco once said Hi and I think I owe Adam Bowden money.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. What’s not to like, she’s a no brainer, a shoo in, but then again, I said that about Hillary.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hanover.

Dean Hoffman

Pacer of the Year
Downbytheseaside was the choice in the “glam” division of 3-year-olds and I expect he will get top honors among pacers—despite losing the Jug. Maybe the smaller track just wasn’t for him. I am big fan of the mare Pure Country, too.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover got all the votes in her division and I suspect she’ll win honors as top trotter in 2017. She closed the year so impressively: becoming the fastest trotting mare of all time at Lexington and later walloping the boys in the Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park.

Horse of the Year

My nod goes to Hannelore Hanover. I must add the caveat that I requested that name from Hanover Shoe Farms to honor my friend Hannelore Wurzinger, a top female amateur driver from Germany. And the two-legged Hannelore is understandably over the moon about her namesake.

Dean Towers

Pacer of the Year

This was a tougher choice for me, and although I think Downbytheseaside will take top honors, I think Pure Country deserves recognition. She, against a good group in her 4-year-old year, had a great season. She’s a special horse, and we were lucky to have seen her race as an aged mare.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover possessed a sheer brilliance along with big win after big win and she was magical to watch. I guess we should give an honorable mention to Twister B, though. How we’d all love to see what he could do in a full season here in North America.

Horse of the Year

We’ll go right back to the Queen of the trotting ranks. Sometimes Horse of the Year is a tough choice, but by beating the boys, trotting in sub-1:50 and thrilling us each time she raced, Hannelore Hanover deserves and should easily get the hardware.

Greg Blanchard

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside. The strapping colt put together a brilliant sophomore campaign where his immense talent and durability were on full display. He won several majors, earned a flashy new speed badge and banked more than $1.6 million along the way, which stamped him as one of the best glamour boys in recent memory.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. What else can you say about the trotting phenom that hasn’t already been said? She dominated her female counterparts while her male rivals often suffered the same fate. I give credit to Ariana G for making this particular category a horse race.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hannover. A true trotting superstar if there ever was one. A great case could be made for others but the way which she manhandled the boys in many of the sport’s biggest races is what tips the scales for me.

Frank Cotolo

Pacer of the Year

Had Brian Brown’s best of his top two, Fear The Dragon, not lost the interest of the inner harness circle, he would have (and I think still should have) beaten the other, but Downbytheseaside took advantage of his stablemate’s poor late season and will win Pacer of the Year.

Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year

She’s no CR Kay Suzie, but what Hannelore Hanover has done through her best season yet will easily afford her both titles usually awarded a male trotter.

Joe FitzGerald

Pacer of the Year

The blue blood filly Youaremycandygirl is my choice for Pacer of the Year. The freshman daughter of American Ideal won 9 of 11 starts and earned close to $900,000 for the Burke barn. Her wins included the Breeders Crown, Great Lady, Matron, Three Diamonds and a world record 1:50 win in a split of the ISS at The Red Mile. Pure Country was the first female to win her division at 2,3 and 4, but she only won five races. And Downbytheseaside failed to win the Pace, Cup or Breeders Crown.

Trotter of the Year

Ariana G is my choice for Trotter of the Year. The daughter of Muscle Hill won 12 of 15 starts with earnings of $1.1 million for Team Takter. She set a track and Canadian record of 1:51.4 in the Elegantimage, and also won the Oaks, Breeders Crown, Simcoe, and splits of the Del Miller and Bluegrass. Manchego was flawless but unchallenged, while the Hambletonian disqualification hurt What The Hill, who won half his starts, including the BC, CTC and TVG.

Horse of the Year

Ariana G is my Horse of the Year. The winner of 21 of 26 lifetime dominated her class in a brilliant fashion and earned more money than any other trotter in North America. Hannelore Hanover had an excellent year, but she dominated a soft bunch. For instance, the male winner Marion Marauder only won three times, and all of them were in races restricted to 4-year-olds.

David Mattia

Pacer of the Year

My choice is Downbytheseaside. I’ve never see him get an easy race — unless I missed some of them — and he’s always been under constant and hard-fought pressure. He raced long and hard and he’s given the fans some great thrills because sometimes he had to work really hard to win or to be there on the wire. Okay, maybe he didn’t win every single race, but horses who win every race do so because they can. Perhaps being unbeatable isn’t the main ingredient in the mix for what that makes a great horse great. Sometimes great horses can’t always win simply because they only have so much “all” to give. That’s great to watch. Ironically, getting beat every now and then, is what makes some horses seem even greater.

Trotter of the Year

Ariana G would be the obvious choice. She’s a monster, and like Hannelore Hanover, she has the main thing it takes to be a great trotter… talent. Her performance in the Hambletonian Oaks pretty much cinches her in my book. That was monumental – she might have beat the boys that day, We’ll never know, but it doesn’t matter. She will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. A few years back I wrote a piece for The Canadian Sportsman magazine about a great mare named Rosalind who won the Hambletonian in 1936. When I researched that piece, I was awed by Rosalind’s life story. Now, when I look at Hannelore Hanover on the track, I think of Rosalind and her incredible achievements all those years ago. In a sense, Hannelore Hanover is the Rachel Alexandra of harness racing. Unlike thoroughbreds, however, great trotters need to have great talent as well as great speed, determination and versatility. Hannelore Hanover possesses all of those attributes and she has the kind of talent that only a trotting racehorse can have. Without question, I choose Hannelore Hanover not simply because of races won or money earned, but because she represents, for me, everything that attracted me to harness racing when I was just a small child. If she had lived 40 years ago, she’d be a household name. It’s a bittersweet kind of greatness.

Tom Pedulla

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside. Overcame foot problems to lead North America with $1.6 million in earnings. Repeatedly displayed moxie.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. Indiana-bred delighted hometown fans when she became first female winner of Breeders Crown Open Trot in 19 years.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. Proved she could beat the boys. Repeatedly.

Bob Heyden

Pacer of the Year

Downbytheseaside raced from May 5-Nov. 30 and was better than ever at the end. Will win it despite Fear The Dragon getting some attention. Nice way to honor the memory of SBSW with a “Pacer Of The Year” title.

Trotter of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. Had the most votes for HOY last year among trotters (10). Three trotting ladies may be divvying up the most HOY votes, but she’ll reign supreme. Beat the boys.

Horse of the Year

Hannelore Hanover. The first trotter to be named HOY who had a million-dollar season prior. Her 1:49.2 world record was against not only the boys but two Hambletonian winners.

James Platz

Pacer of the Year

It’s a tough call between sophomore Downbytheseaside and Youaremycandygirl (no disrespect to the incredible Pure Country). As impressive as the filly’s freshman campaign turned was, Downbytheseaside hit the board in 19 of 22 starts, and won 14 in the glamor division. He gets my vote.

Trotter of the Year

Ariana G and Manchego may have turned in more dominating campaigns (fewer losses) in their respective divisions, but it’s hard to put either ahead of Hannelore Hanover for Trotter of the Year. She was the best in her division, and routinely beat her male counterparts on the biggest stages.

Horse of the Year

She became only the third mare to win the Breeders Crown Open Trot. She trotted in 1:49.2 at Lexington to become the fastest female trotter in history. She finished first or second in 15 of 17 starts. It’s Hannelore Hanover going away.

HRU Consensus

Pacer of the Year — Downbytheseaside
Trotter of the Year — Hannelore Hanover
Horse of the Year — Hannelore Hanover

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