2012 Horses of the Year
As we wind down the 2012 racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a season which finishes up on Wednesday, November 21, it’s about time to start celebrating some of the outstanding equine performers who have shined for the Pocono faithful this year. In other words, it’s time to honor our horses of the year.
This is a tough task for those of us who do the choosing each and every year, but 2012 has been particularly competitive and, as such, it’s been darn near impossible to distinguish the best from the very, very good. What makes it even more difficult is that so many top horsemen are bringing their horses through Pocono, it’s hard for any horse to sustain consistent success, especially in the highest classes of racing.
Still, it’s fun to look back and recall some of the outstanding horses we’ve seen throughout the campaign, and, after careful deliberation, we came up with four standouts who were just a notch above the rest. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2012 MSPD Horses of the Year.
CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: MCSOCKS
Many horses in the claiming ranks move up and down the ladder until finding a spot that fits them. By contrast, McSocks settled into the $25,000 claiming class for 4-year-olds and just couldn’t be dislodged from the winner’s circle. The gelding won five times in that class at Pocono, including an amazing four-race winning streak in the month of August. He set his career-mark in one of those races with a 1:50:2 mile. His early speed was simply too hot for most of his foes to handle, and, in typical claiming fashion, McSocks won for four different trainers at Pocono this year, as he scored for Doug Berkeley, Pete Pellegrino, PJ Fraley, and Jason Robinson.
MARE OF THE YEAR: TUI
One of Pocono’s fan favorites, this 4-year-old mare from the Don Wiest barn showed off her prodigious talent in 2012. In 20 races this season, she hit the board in 12 and won seven times. All of the wins came with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, as Anthony would usually send Tui to the front and dare everyone else to play catch-up. The mare was fearless, winning at five condition levels racing primarily against male horses. The highlight of her season came back on May 25, when she scorched the Pocono track to the tune of 1:52:3, a new track record for 4-year-old trotting mares.
TROTTER OF THE YEAR: ANDERS BLUESTONE
This 6-year-old stallion proved himself among the finest trotters on the grounds a year ago, but he was even better in 2012. Week in and week out, the pride of the Eric Ell barn went up against the finest trotters on the grounds and always acquitted himself well. He finished in the money in every one of his eight starts at Pocono this season, and each of those starts came in either Open company or in our highest condition group, the winners of over $25,000 lifetime. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Anders Bluestone won three of those races, with the highlight coming when he beat former Breeders Crown champ Arch Madness in October.
PACER OF THE YEAR: BILLMAR SCOOTER
I can’t remember a year where the top pacing award went to a mare, but this standout from the Amber Buter made it just about impossible to pick anybody else. She was the closest thing to unbeatable that we witnessed at Pocono this season. The 7-year-old won her first two starts at Pocono after arriving from New York in May. After a fourth and a second in her next two starts, Billmar Scooter reeled off four straight victories against the best mares at the track. To add an exclamation point, she followed it up after a stint at Yonkers with back-to-back wins in the fall. Tallying everything up, she won 8 of her 11 starts at Pocono against extremely stiff competition, certainly an award-worthy performance.
Next week in this column, we’ll be wrapping up the 2012 season by honoring the season’s finest drivers and trainers and recapping some of the year’s most memorable races.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 Horses of the Year