Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cartier Awards - Goldikova is the Queen, but where is Harbinger?

The Cartier Racing Awards rewarding the best European horses, came out this week, and for the most part I agree with the winners. Goldikova being Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse makes sense. The mare was and is simply sensational. As I look down the list of winners, I can't see any mention of Harbinger, this year's highest-rated horse (rated135, 6 pounds more than the second one at 129!). How can that be? If Starspangledbanner is top Sprinter, and Rite of Passage is top Stayer, shouldn't there be a category for top Middle-Distance horse? It seems to me that since the middle-distances are the most sought-after races in Europe, it is a serious omission not to have an award for the best horse at those distances. The fact that this year, it happens to also be the highest-rated horse in the world makes this omission most glaring. Oh well, not that this would affect the horse's stud value, or connections' pockets, I suppose.


  1. does Harbinger really deserve an award based on one performance though?

  2. Scott,

    That's a good point, and thanks for sharing this. Let me try to answer through an analogy. In 2003, Hawk Wing won the Lockinge by 11 lengths, beat several Group 1 winners, and gave the highest-rated performance of the year. "Wonder-horse" was the Racing Post front page, but we all know what happened next. He never won again, actually came out sixth in his next and final start. His one-time performance gave him a world best ranking, but certainly no-one can argue that he deserved any award of the sort (except maybe special performance if they had one).

    Now take Harbinger. Crushing performance in a strong running of the King George with multiple Group winners. But there is more to it. In 2010, he's the undefeated winner of 4 Group races (2 G3, 1 G2, 1 G1). All his races were run at 12f and 13f. That achievement at those distances is as good as that of any other European horse (you could argue that Workforce won 2 G1's, but this is countered by the fact that he's been beaten more than 11 lengths by Harbinger, but the debate is not here). But my point here is not against Workforce (best 3-yr old) or Goldikova (Horse of the Year) . Far from it, Workforce was best 3-yr old and Goldikova is a deserved winner of HoY, no question in my mind, as I mentioned before. On the same line, I agree with StarSpangledbanner winning best Sprinter. Clearly the best Stayer category goes to the best horse over the 16 furlongs range and Rite of Passage gives the best indication of that. Between these 2 extremes, I see no award for distances ranging from a mile to a mile and a half (miler-middle distance range). I don't think that anyone will argue that the "best", most-sought Group 1 races in Europe fall into that category. From the Classic races, King George, Arc, Champion Stakes, QEII Stakes etc, so why not reward the best miler and best middle-distance horse? Some would argue that it can overlap the 3-year old category and the HoY category. But as we
    can see this year, it's not the case. Harbinger winning a middle-distance award would seem logical. Goldikova winning a best miler award would be equally deserving.

    So Scott, that's my view. I think of it more like the Oscars, where a movie might win Best Foreign Picture, but might still be eligible to win the Overall Best Picture category (if we can extend horse racing to movies!). This way, the awards not only reward the best in their categories (which is the whole point I would think), but also don't miss out on the horses that stamped their mark during the year. One world-beating performance certainly isn't enough for sure, although for the Eclipse Awards (American version of Cartier), this is certainly possible (watch Goldikova win best Female Turf for just her win in the Breeders' Cup), but that's an entirely different story...

    Thanks again for your thoughts.