Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. isn’t about to go all Buddy Delp on us and proclaim Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio the best horse since Man o’ War. Yeah, Dutrow likes to talk up his horses (remember Big Brown in 2008?), but he’s not out there campaigning for White Abarrio for 2023 Horse of the Year.
There are, after all, two other bona fide contenders for the honor in female standout Idiomatic and Cody’s Wish, who will earn many votes on the strength of the tear-jerking story alone.
If you go purely by record, Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Idiomatic earns the prize based on eight victories in nine starts, five graded stakes and three Grade I wins. White Abarrio’s résumé includes only two graded-stakes victories, both Grade I’s, and Cody’s Wish won four of five starts, including three Grade I’s.
What say you, Mr. Dutrow?
“I think that he’s (White Abarrio) the best one going around two turns in this country right now,” he said. “I think Cody’s Wish is the best one that is not going around two turns in this country right now. Cody’s Wish had a huge year, one more Grade I than (White Abarrio) and that’s all great.”
Right now Dutrow has his sights set on the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 24. He believes the Race Day colt is one of the best horses in the world as he readies to embark on his 5-year-old season.
“I would be comfortable running him in the Saudi Cup in his next start,” he said. “I would be comfortable. I’m going to be pushing for it. I think that’s where this horse belongs. From all the horses we’ve seen run, I think that it’s going to take a big effort for a good horse to beat him in his next start.”
Then Dutrow decided enough was enough and decided to indeed go Buddy Delp on us and talk up White Abarrio like the latter gushed over Spectacular Bid during his career. But before you reach for your keyboard to type an email, I am in no way comparing White Abarrio to the sensational Spectacular Bid.
“I’ve already bought all the ChapStick that I can because I’ll be licking my lips everywhere with this,” Dutrow said. “I just don’t want him to get all rustled up, you know, when you guys are interviewing. But that’s what we can’t wait for and I want to make sure that he is on top of his game when he goes into that race. It means everything to us.”
What if he doesn’t win Horse of the Year? Dutrow says there’s always next year.
“I’m not putting my vote in for (White Abarrio), but if they gave it to him I will be behind it a million percent,” he said. “We’ve got next year for him. We can do it with him next year. As long as he stays the way he is right now. He can get Horse of the Year next year. That’s if they don’t give it to him this year. I mean, we’re not doing the voting.”
Brad Cox, trainer of Idiomatic, made a strong case for his 4-year-old Curlin filly taking home the top Eclipse Award of the year.
“She totally deserves to be in there,” Cox said. “She was not just a horse of the fall or a horse of the summer. She was a horse that danced a lot of dances through the season. She has a beautiful record and I’m proud of her.
“Look, there are a lot of good horses. White Abarrio, Cody’s Wish … her. They probably all deserve it. She gets my vote and I don’t have one.”
Of course, the story of Cody’s Wish is the feel-good story that turned tragic Sunday when 17-year-old Cody Dorman died after a “medical event” on the family’s way home to Kentucky the day after his namesake won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in dramatic fashion over National Treasure.
It’s a tale and a journey that just might earn Horse of the Year for the son of Curlin.
If so, who could argue with it?
Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73
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