Gun Runner proved again in the Pegasus that his 2017 Horse of the Year title was well deserved. He blitzed many of the same horses he had been beating, including at the Breeders' Cup. But one super season, preceded by a couple of good but not great ones, shouldn't qualify a horse for the Hall of Fame at Saratoga, a honor some are saying is inevitable. While Gun Runner heads to the breeding shed, racing's beat goes on with a huge weekend of 3-year-old stakes, which put Triple Crown prep season into high gear.

Gun Runner was the Horse of the Year for 2017. No argument. He earned it and proved decisively he deserved it again in the Pegasus, which is more the last piece of unfinished business from the previous year than the first big race of the new campaign.

Gun Runner should have been a unanimous Eclipse choice, but there’s always one contrarian voter, or in this case, two.

But let’s put this into perspective. Every year has a Horse of the Year.

I maintain what I have throughout Gun Runner’s career. Attrition was his best friend. He wasn’t good enough in the 2016 Triple Crown. He wasn't good enough in the Travers and he wasn't good enough when Arrogate was at his best. Arrogate beat him 15 lengths in the Travers and when you consider Arrogate's trip from Hell in Dubai, he might have been even more superior in the desert.

Gun Runner didn’t become a world-beater until his world had shrunk. The best of his generation, the horses he couldn’t beat in the 2016 Derby and avoided in the Preakness and Belmont, went to the sidelines early. He also took the course of least resistance at the Breeders’ Cup, skipping the Classic and Arrogate in favor of the Dirt Mile and he didn’t win that. He wound up second to Tamarkuz.

This year, the winners of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont never faced older foes and didn’t race at all after August. It was an extraordinarily weak year for older horses once Arrogate went sour.

So let's give Gun Runner his due for this year but let's not put him in the category of the truly great horses of recent years; Arrogate, California Chrome and Steve Asmussen’s other HoY’s , Curlin and Rachael Alexandra.

Horse of the Year is sufficient reward for a super year. It shoudn’t be a win- and-you’re-in for the Hall of Fame.

Most wonderful time of year

Older horses had their day at center stage in the Pegasus but they will be taking a step back for the next few months as the newly turned 3-year-olds rev their engines for the road to the Triple Crown. From this weekend through the middle of April, there will be only one weekend, Feb. 24-25, without a major Triple Crown prep.

This weekend brings Triple Crown preps in Florida, New York and California. Kiaran McLaughlin holds strong hands in both stakes east of the Mississippi.

Firenze Fire will be favored to add the Withers at Aqueduct to his impressive credit sheet, which includes the Champagne and Jerome but my money will be on Nashua winner Avery Island, a horse I’ve liked since his first start at the Spa. I suspected his second to Catholic Boy in the Remsen was a learning experience and McLaughlin confirmed as much this week. Besides, he has the huge advantage of coming up from Florida, where horses never miss a beat in their training. Firenze Fire has been wintering in New York where horses train when it isn’t too cold, isn’t snowing and the track isn’t frozen. Big edge to Avery Island.

McLaughlin also has the likely favorite, Kentucky Jockey Club winner Enticed, in the super loaded Holy Bull at Gulfstream. Dale Romans has the strength in numbers. He has entered four and will run three, he said. Tiz Mischief, second by a head to Enticed at Churchill Downs, is the nominal strength of Romans’ ticket but if Romans opts to start Breeders Futurity winner Free Drop Billy, he’s my choice. His Breeders' Cup was so uncharacteristically awful that it must be thrown out and it could help his price.

Nothing jumps off the page among those entered for Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis. However, in recent years the Lewis has produced outstanding runners Mor Spirit, Dortmund and 2012 Derby winner I’ll Have Another.

Eclipse runnerup Bolt d’Or and his new rider Javier Castellano have the March 10 San Felipe as their first major target of 2017.

Remsen champion Catholic Boy is expected to make his 3-year-old debut a week from Saturday, Feb. 10, in Tampa Bay’s Sam. F. Davis. Romans says if Free Drop Billy skips the Holy Bull, he will cross the state for this one. (Eclipse turf champion World Approval is also expected to make his 2018 debut on that card.)

It’s probably coincidental but the Davis has been more an indicator of success in the Belmont than the Derby. Tapwrit, who went on to win the Belmont, was second to McCraken last year and Destin, who missed in the 2016 Belmont by a nose, won that year’s Davis.

Mask, the eye-catching winner of the Mucho Macho Man, was scheduled to make his two-turn debut in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 17 but an injury, described as minor enough to cause only a two-week break in his training, will cause Chad Brown to regroup and look elsewhere.

Brown is also looking for a spot for Eclipse champion Good Magic. Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth on March 3 looms the most likely landing spot.

To borrow a title from a Christmas standard, for racing this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Breeders’ Cup moving?

To pick up on something which got short shrift last week due to the Eclipse Awards and Pegasus, it’s nice to see the Breeders’ Cup is considering something I’ve been advocating for a couple of years, moving the two-day event later in the year.

The proposal floated at the meeting of the Breeders’ Cup last week would push the Breeders’ Cup into mid-December to move it away from the glut of college football competition on TV the first week in November. As with almost any new suggestion for horse racing, it elicited a chorus of howls that it is a horrible idea. One objection is it would discourage participation from Euros, whose season essentially ends by mid-October.

Nonsense! Has anyone noticed how many top Euros go to Japan for their monster-money stakes in December?

Ticking off the Japanese was given as another reason not to move the Breeders’ Cup. Yeah, we wouldn’t want to lose all the Japanese horses who have come to the Breeders’ Cup.

A mid-December Breeders’ Cup would also take cold-weather locations in Kentucky, New York and even Maryland out of the mix.

Unfortunately, the idea I have been proposing for several years, which would achieve the ends the Breeders’ Cup desires without the side effects, isn’t being considered: stage the Breeders’ Cup over Thanksgiving weekend.

The day after Thanksgiving is the only Friday of the year when many Americans are off work and available in great numbers. There are a handful of college football games on TV but, by this point in the season, many have no great national impact.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving usually does feature some big rivalry games but not the packed lineup of other Saturdays in the fall. Thanksgiving weekend would only require horses to extend their season by three weeks, which shouldn’t be a burden for even the Euros.

Weather could be an issue in the Midwest and East but Churchill Downs and NYRA have traditionally run a big slate of major races on this weekend. NYRA even pushed the Cigar Mile, Remsen and other stakes back an additional week into December this past season and there were no significant weather issues. What’s more, every indication is the Breeders’ Cup is going to be held in California more often than not in future years.

The cavalcade of big races, which have always been held on or around Thanksgiving, negates the argument that a Breeders’ Cup would steal the holiday from horse people.

Now more than ever, with a possible shift on the table, I’m not going to give up pushing this proposal until someone convinces me why it would be a bad idea.