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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Wise Dan should repeat as Horse of the Year

As 2013 winds down it is time to start considering horses for various year-end awards. As a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters I have a vote in this traditional way of naming our yearly champions.

In this column I’m going to focus on Horse of the Year honors where defending champion Wise Dan  is the leader of the pack. This 6-year-old son of Wiseman Ferry raced seven times in 2013 with only one defeat and that was in the Shadwell Turf Mile, which was taken off the turf and run over a rain-soak Polytrack at Keeneland. The track was in horrible condition and a loose on the lead speed horse (Silver Max) won.

Wise Dan avenged that loss when he beat Silver Max in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He also raced on five different tracks in 2013, which can’t be said of all his competitors.

Another contender is Mucho Macho Man who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but that was only his second win out of five races in 2013. Both his wins came at Santa Anita Park and it’s obviously he likes the surface. It was announced on Dec. 4 that he will race in 2014 as a 6-year-old and I’m glad to hear that. I hope he puts together a much better campaign in 2014.

Game On Dude will draw some support for Horse of the Year because he had five wins out of seven starts in 2013, but he failed terribly on the biggest stage: the Breeders’ Cup Classic. And it was over his home track. It seems that when “Dude” faces adversity in a race, he fails to produce. If you let him alone with an easy lead, he’s happy. If pressured, he wilts.

Another colt that will get some votes will be Will Take Charge, and he will get my vote of 3-year-old champion, but not for Horse of the Year. He had five wins out of 11 starts in 2013 and he was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against older horses and won the Clark Handicap on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs, also against older horses.

But this award is for Horse of the Year and Will Take Charge’s first half of the year was less than spectacular. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran the colt seven times between January and July and had two wins to show for his efforts. He did win the Travers and Pennsylvania before his effort in the Classic and Clark.

Will Take Charge’s future still is undecided. Owner Willis Horton has said the colt is for sale and it would be up to new owners to decide if he races in 2014.

Wise Dan will return in 2014 as a 7-year-old and seek new mountains to climb, but as far as 2013 is concerned he’s at the top of the heap.

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