A few facts about past Horse of the Year champs and some 2023 Dan Patch honorees

by Bob Heyden

In early February, the talk is usually all about Horse of the Year and Dan Patch award winners, so let’s join the discussion.


Jean Louis Arsenault had the best vantage point in 2007 taking care of Somebeachsomewhere when he got started. He remembers those days quite well.

“He only had six starts at 2 and the decision was made to stop with him,” Arsenault said. “It was the right decision. He had really nothing left to race for at 2… He needed time to grow. We knew we had a special horse on our hands. Plus, I knew he was coming back into my barn. I was still the groom and second trainer of him.”

SBSW was the 2008 HOY but a decade later we lost him. He never did have that HOY son/daughter.

“After his first start at 2 he was great and Paul [MacDonell] never got him to stop until the top of the turn,” Arsenault said. “Bill Robinson’s people were trying to buy him and went all the way to $750,000 but we kept telling them he was not for sale. He was a great training colt; always wanted to go forward; always full of life; never tired and enjoyed his work. Size-wise he was medium size but needed some filling to age 3.”


His son San Pail is the 2011 HOY, yet few seem to remember and few mention his name. Maybe because he was in a crop of early standouts like Enjoy Lavec, Self Possessed, Angus Hall and CR Commando in 1998 as a freshman. Maybe it’s because he is probably more known for a few comebacks than his numbers. Either way, San Pellegrino, trained early on by Jimmy Takter, gets my vote for the most obscure HOY sire of the 21st century.


In the summer/fall of 2022, Bulldog Hanover was the horse that everyone wanted a photo/selfie of. But, in the fall, winter, early spring of 1965 it was Bret Hanover that was in high demand. Everyone wanted to see the towering presence of the 24-for-24 HOY with his caretaker Avery Fisher and trainer/driver Frank Ervin. Both Bulldog and Bret loved a camera.


Who was the youngest trainer and/or driver to have back-to-back HOY titles with the same horse? The answer is Paige West in 1960-61 with Adios Butler. West was 28 and then 29 for the two-year ride.


There was no HOY award in the 19th century, but no matter, Goldsmith Maid was more like the Horse of the Century anyway. Goldsmith Maid banked $364,200 racing until age 20, her 13th and final year on the track in 1877. Her career slate was 123 97-16-7.


Three times a horse has made over $2 million lifetime before winning their first HOY trophy: Artsplace (1992), Real Desire (2002) and McWicked (2018).


• Rainbow Blue slipped through the cracks in 2002 at the New Jersey Classic Yearling Sale for $10,500. She was from the first crop of Artiscape.

• In 1963, Fresh Yankee sold for $900. Raise your hand folks if anyone thought she would become the first million-dollar earner bred in North America and 1970 HOY.

• Fermer Perry paid $15,000 in 1974 for a son of 19-year-old Bye Bye Byrd named Keystone Ore. Walter Marks trained him at 2. The same formula that worked out perfectly a half dozen years earlier, with Albatross, was again put in play. Stanley Dancer took over the training and Ore was the easy choice for HOY in 1976 at 3.

• Bunny Lake was $37,000 at the 1999 Harrisburg Yearling sale. Hip #371. Even Chad Brown was giving her a look. Her sire was 1991 HOY and single-season record holder for earnings, Precious Bunny.

Bunny Lake was not only a regional star but a standout everywhere and the 2001 HOY.

• In 1968 at Harrisburg, Albatross sold for $7,000 to Tim Rooney. Harry Harvey campaigned him first to an award-winning freshman season (1970), and then he walked into the history books for Stanley Dancer as both a sire and racehorse and HOY in 1971 and 1972.

• Green Speed sold as Hip #40 on 11/3/75 at Harrisburg. This powerhouse would wind up being the 1977 HOY for Team Haughton.

• At Harrisburg in 2004, nobody thought too much of Glidemaster before, during, or after the sale, to the same man who paid $16,000 for Real Desire in 1999, Blair Burgess. How could they if they let Glidemaster go at $10,000?


In 1970, the Pacer and Trotter of the Year awards debuted. Sweet Lou could become the 11th pacer to both win that honor and sire the winner of the same, Confederate. He would join Most Happy Fella (Cam Fella, twice), Albatross (Niatross, twice and Fan Hanover), Niatross (Nihilator), Abercrombie (Artsplace), Cam Fella (Camtastic, Precious Bunny, and Cams Card Shark), Beach Towel (Jennas Beach Boy), Precious Bunny (Bunny Lake), Real Desire (Tell All), Rocknroll Hanover (Rock N Roll Heaven) and SBSW (Captaintreacherous, twice).


It’s a pretty good bet that Tactical Approach (19 10-3-4, $1.6 million, the No. 1 trotting earner) is going to be named 2023 Trotter of the Year. This fact will then see Nancy Takter join her dad Jimmy as having both Trotter/Pacer winners of this award, a father-daughter first. Nancy had Tall Dark Stranger in 2020 who doubled up as HOY. Jimmy’s 2016 Always B Miki joined his trotting winners Malabar Man (1997), Moni Maker the next three (1998-2000), Kadabra (2002), and Pinkman (2015).


Ake Svanstedt has a way of doing that. He won four Breeders Crowns as a trainer and three driving. Those three driving Crowns were his three biggest purse wins of 2023: Warrawee Michelle ($700,000) in the 2YOFT, Bond ($600,000) in the 3YOFT, and Southwind Tyrion ($600,000) in the Open Trot.


Pardon me I was just adding up, progressing I guess you could say, the ages of the last five winners of the USHWA Driver of the Year. Dexter Dunn, four straight and now Scott Zeron.


At 27 years of age, in 2016 with Marion Marauder, Zeron became the youngest driver to take down the title of Trotter of the Year. He’s thus, the only driver under 30 to ever do this!