America’s Best Racing’s inaugural Fan Choice Awards are currently underway, and fans of Thoroughbred racing have until Nov. 20 to get their votes in for a variety of categories, including two focusing on racetracks.
Which was the best race of 2019? Which announcer orchestrated the finest race call of the year? Make your voice heard and vote here!
Here’s a breakdown of each category:
Best Race of 2019
During an undefeated 6-for-6 campaign, Bricks and Mortar almost always made his connections sweat it out until the finish line with four wins by less than a length, and the Longines Turf was no different. After stalking the pace throughout, Bricks and Mortar dropped back in traffic on the final turn and had to close explosively to reel in United in the final sixteenth of a mile. The duo battled through the final 100 yards with Bricks and Mortar prevailing by a head to preserve an undefeated season and add to his Horse of the Year credentials.
This year’s Kentucky Derby had a little of everything, from the weather variable (sloppy track) to an incident where front-running Maximum Security ducked out on the final turn, to a storybook ending with a horse out of the claiming ranks crossing the finish line first. And all of that came before Maximum Security’s subsequent disqualification for interference gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first win in the race with Country House. Oh, the drama! Even today, ask a group of racing fans about the 2019 Derby and the DQ and you’re sure to start a heated argument.
Like the aforementioned Bricks and Mortar, Mitole built an impressive Horse of the Year résumé in 2019 and the Met Mile was a stellar performance. Facing a strong group that included multiple Grade 1 winner McKinzie and two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow, Mitole looked absolutely loaded throughout the race and unleashed a powerful winning bid at the top of the stretch. Both runner-up McKinzie and Thunder Snow tried valiantly to make up ground, but this was Mitole’s coming-out party as a budding superstar as he extended his winning streak to seven.
This race undoubtedly featured one of the best stretch duels of the 2019 season as star older females Midnight Bisou and Elate battled for virtually the length of the Saratoga Race Course stretch. They started out with a few paths between them coming off the final turn and then came together to battle stride for stride through the final sixteenth of a mile in an unforgettable finish that was too close to call – racecaller Larry Collmus said they were “inseparable on the wire.” Midnight Bisou pushed her nose in front to extend her winning streak to six by defeating a game, Grade 1-winning foe.
War of Will, one of the horses impeded in the Kentucky Derby when Maximum Security ducked out, surged clear in the stretch to earn a signature victory in what was a wide-open edition of the Preakness Stakes. The popular War Front colt had his ups and downs in the spring on the Derby trail but he delivered on the big stage at Pimlico to give trainer Mark Casse his first win in a Triple Crown race.
Omaha Beach was expected to be a formidable favorite in the Kentucky Derby before surgery for a breathing issue the week of the race forced him to the sidelines. He returned from a layoff of more than 5 ½ months in a Grade 1 sprint in which he faced freaky-fast Shancelot in a race much shorter than Omaha Beach’s preferred distance. He proved plenty fast and courageous in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship and he rallied on the inside to gradually wear down front-running Shancelot in a determined, goose-bump inducing victory that gave the Personal Ensign a run for its money when it comes to thrilling finishes in 2019.
Budding star sprinter Covfefe locked horns with Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in the Saratoga stretch and the result was an exhilarating final eighth of a mile with two tenacious 3-year-old fillies battling to the finish line. Covfefe earned her first Grade 1 win and would go on to prevail in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint while Serengeti Empress also tackled older females and ran third in the Longines Distaff.
Best Race Call
Pete Aiello: Pegasus World Cup
Simply a terrific race call from a true professional from start to finish as Aiello identified the much-anticipated showdown materializing between Breeders’ Cup winners Accelerate and City of Light, quickly realized on that day it was a mismatch, and dubbed City of Light’s Pegasus World Cup win “a romp in the rain.”
Larry Collmus: “I’m Elmer J Fudd”
This one was for all of the racing fans who grew up with Looney Tunes as Collmus paid special attention to Elmer J Fudd, the eventual winner, throughout and had some fun with this wascally call.
Larry Collmus: Personal Ensign Stakes
One of the best races of the year was matched by one of the best race calls of the year as Collmus’ pure joy from a thrilling horse race between a pair of stars – Midnight Bisou and Elate – came shining through from “these two lay it on the line” to “they were inseparable on the wire.”
Robert Geller: “Fat N Bitter”
Another professional call from one of the more eloquent race callers in the biz, but Geller showed off his dry wit at the end of Fan N Bitter’s 16-1 upset win to provide some additional color.
Frank Mirahmadi: Santa Anita Sprint Championship
Mirahmadi clearly picked up on how well Omaha Beach was running early in the race and let racing fans know he looked loaded as he closed in on pacesetter Shancelot entering the stretch. He did a terrific job with an unforgettable battle through the stretch, nailed the winner (Omaha Beach) in a photo finish, and immediately mentioned the significance of a great training job by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella.
Travis Stone: Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve
Nineteen horses on a sloppy track presents a difficult challenge for a race caller, but Stone came through with a great call from start to finish for the controversial 2019 Kentucky Derby as unbeaten Maximum Security “at the peak of perfection” crossed the finish line first.