It's been a rollercoaster ride of a year for thoroughbred horse racing in 2010. From coast to coast there have been ups and downs throughout the year in a sport that continues to make strides when on the national stage, but shoots itself in the foot off of it. We'll take a Post Time view of how the year unfolded month by month for our year-end review.
*January: Quality Road won the Donn Handicap by over 12 lengths at Gulfstream Park. The Road started to gather steam as the "buzz" horse and rocketed into the early favorite perch for Horse of the Year. First Dude broke his maiden in the Sunshine Millions and would go on to finish second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.
*February: The Derby preparatory races start to dominate racing this month. Eskendereya breaks onto the scene winning the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and starts showing up on everyone's Derby Top Ten list. A potential matchup between 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic champ Zenyatta and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra is posed by Oaklawn Park's owner for April in the Apple Blossom Stakes.
*March: The Derby preps continue as Ice Box wins the Florida Derby by a nose, Odysseus wins the Tampa Bay Derby by a nostril over Schoolyard Dreams and a horse named Super Saver comes in third. Gloria de Campeao wins the world's richest race,the Dubai World Cup. In a prep race for the Apple Blossom, Rachel Alexandra is upset by Zenyatta's stable mate Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies Handicap. Team Rachel decides to take a pass on the matchup with Zenyatta, disappointing racing fans across the country.
*April: Eskendereya continues to roll. winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and looms as the Derby favorite. Lookin at Lucky is upset by Sidney's Candy in the Santa Anita Derby, but still has a gate in the Derby due to his second place in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Zenyatta wins the Apple Blossom easily in her second lifetime start on dirt. One week before the Derby, Eskendereya was scratched due to a leg injury. With Lookin at Lucky unluckily drawing the rail, the Derby looks to be wide open. Blind Luck wins the Kentucky Oaks by a nose .
*May: For the second straight year the Run for the Roses is raced in the slop. Trainer Todd Pletcher capturing his first Kentucky Derby victory with Super Saver holding off a late closing Ice Box by 2 1/2 lengths. Two weeks later in Baltimore, we learn that the Triple Crown will not be won for a 33rd straight year when Lookin at Lucky, with new rider Martin Garcia, holds off First Dude to win Preakness 134. Quality Road wins the Met Mile over Musket Man at Belmont Park on Memorial Day weekend to maintain the throne as top handicap horse. Monmouth Park unveils its Elite Summer Meet, which turns a number of heads in the industry as purses, handle and attendance all climb.
*June: Drossel-who? The unheralded Drosselmeyer wins the Belmont Stakes over Fly Down and First Dude. NYRA officials replace "New York, New York" and Sinatra for "Empire State of Mind" and it flops so badly that ABC cuts away mid-song. Winchester upsets Gio Ponti in the Manhattan and Proviso wins the Just a Game on a brilliant day in the Big Apple. A solid handicap horse named Blame emerges in the Stephen Foster at Churchill to be a threat to Quality Road and setting up a midsummer matchup at Saratoga.
*July: Ibboyee wins the New York Derby at Finger Lakes Race Track and the track sees a rare appearance from New York jockeys Edgar Prado and Mike Luzzi. Big Red Mike wins the Queen's Plate, but finishes third in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie Race Track. Golden Moka, a lightly raced horse from Panama, upsets the field on a beautiful day at the border oval. Saratoga opens its summer meet a week earlier and will extend to 40 racing days in 2010 for the first time. A Little Warm wins the Jim Dandy on the final weekend of July and Proviso wins the Diana.
*August: Genting is awarded the Aqueduct video lottery terminal (VLT) contract and hope springs eternal. Blame noses out Quality Road in a thrilling Whitney Handicap to take a hold of the reigns in the handicap division. Debussy pulls an upset in the Arlington Million, while Paddy O'Prado emerges as a solid turf horse winning the Grade 1 Secretariat on the same day. Blind Luck puts away Derby starter Devil May Care in the Alabama, taking control of the 3-year old fillies division. Zenyatta wins her fourth straight of the year, just nosing out Rinterval in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar. Afleet Express wins a photo over Fly Down in the Travers, but is retired shortly thereafter due to injury. The 2-year-old Uncle Mo emerges with a monster performance on the Travers undercard.
*September: Saratoga ends with Quality Road winning the Woodward and Boys at Tosconova wins the Hopeful for 2-year old colts. Blame skips the Woodward and points to the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October as his final race before the Breeders' Cup. Rachel Alexandra retires after a disappointing 4-year old campaign.
*October: The Secretariat movie is released starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich to mixed reviews, mostly positive. Blame is upset in the Jockey Club Gold Cup by a front running Haynesfield. Zenyatta wins her tune up for the Breeders' Cup in her final race in California. Lookin at Lucky wins the Indiana Derby in the slop and also assumes a potential Classic challenger to the big three.
*November: The Breeders' Cup is run for the fifth time at Churchill Downs and draws more than 110,000 fans over the two-day event. The Cup is marred by a jockey fight, an incorrect gate load and the Life at Ten debacle on day one. Day two went more according to Hoyle and was capped by the third straight Breeders' Cup win by Goldikova and the scintillating win by Blame over Zenyatta in the Classic. Garrett Gomez claimed his first Classic victory on Blame for trainer Al Stall. Uncle Mo surfaced as the early Derby favorite, for none other than Todd Pletcher, winning the Juvenile handily.
*December: The final month has had more downs than ups, with the shuttering of the New York City OTB and the takeout rise signed into California law by the Governator himself the lead stories. In reply to the takeout increase signed by Schwarzenegger, a horseplayers group has formed named playersboycott.org that is staging an all-out boycott of California racing. After an unsuccessful run using a synthetic surface called Pro-Ride, Santa Anita re-installed the real stuff and will have dirt racing in its upcoming winter meet. Lastly, the Horse-of-the- Year debate has raged on pitting Blame against Zenyatta, which will be decided next month at the Eclipse Awards.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com. He handicaps and blogs every Friday at the Sports, Ink blog at www.buffalonews.com and can be found on Twitter (@EquiSpace).