Saratoga Springs, NY, February 11, 2009--Back in the early days of the New York-bred industry, when Dr. Dominic DeLuke’s Assunta Louis Farm and the great Mike Hernandez were winning everything in sight, led by a horse that turned out to be one of the program’s foundation sires, prolific Fratello Ed, 2008 might be the year that Big Apple breeding pioneers dreamt about.

No one is confusing the relatively young New York breeding industry with traditionally established powers in Kentucky and Florida yet, but no longer is the local program considered something less-than either. When Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby in 2003, everyone had little choice but to finally get with the program.

This year, 45 New York-breds, 22 males and 23 females, were nominated in nine different divisional categories, 10 including New York-Bred of the Year, and all but a few of them made their bones in open company. If the purpose of the drill is improvement of the breed, New York horse people are doing their fair share.

The 45 nominated horses stepped outside the restricted stakes ranks on 109 occasions this year and earned more W’s than L’s. New York breds won a total of 22 open non graded stakes and placed in 12 more, finishing out of the money only eight times in 42 attempts.

Buzz-kills might argue this is an indication that overall quality of the modern thoroughbred has fallen dramatically. But then it can’t be argued that New York breds overachieved nor can the judgment of the owners and trainers who picked out those open company spots be disparaged.

But New Yorkers tried the graded ranks, too, and fared just as well. New York breds won 14 graded stakes, including the Carter, Black-Eyed Susan and the Whitney, placed in 27 more, and finished off the board only 26 times.

Two of the losses came in the Kentucky Derby, one each in the Preakness, Belmont and Pennsylvania Derby, while two fillies were blanked in the Black-Eyed Susan and Alabama, respectively.

In all, New York-bred horses were entered in a total of 109 open company stakes and won 83. Contextually, this year’s nominees placed a cherry on the cake that Funny Cide helped bake.

The winners among the 45 equine nominees--some qualified in several categories--will be honored by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders in the near future. Unlike the Eclipse Awards, there is no voting for horsemen and women. Those winners are determined by statistical tally.

Voters, New York-based turf writers, are required to make three selections in each category in order to have their ballots validated. Here, then, is one man’s opinion:

Two-Year Old Filly: Grade 2 Matron winner and G2 Adirondack-placed Doremifasolatido
over Mother Russia and R Betty Graybull. A very difficult category after getting passed the Adirondack winner.

Two-Year Old Colt: Flip a coin, the accomplishments were so disparate. Dagnabit off his Tremont win, over Trinity Magic and Cribnote. (Sorry, Haynesfield, the Count Fleet was run in 2009).

Three-Year Old Filly: G2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Sweet Vendetta won half her six starts, over Weathered (6-for-11), and late starting Under Serviced (4-for-6 with two state-bred stakes).

Three-Year Old Colt: G2 Indiana Derby winner Tin Cup Chalice went 6-for-8 in one of the feel good stories of the New York season, over G3 Tampa Bay Derby winner, Big Truck, and G3 Discovery winner, Wishful Tomcat.

Four-Year Old Filly or Mare: Redoubtable multiple graded-stakes winning J Ray, easily, over Chestoria and Love Cove.

Four-Year Old & Up Male: Multiple graded stakes and G1 Whitney hero Commentator over undefeated G1 Carter winner Bustin Stones and hard hitting Stormin Normandy.

Female Turf: J Ray earned her older mare portfolio on this surface, over possible heir apparent I Lost My Choo and Chestoria.

Male Turf: Wishful Tomcat ended season with three straight stakes, 4-for-5 in all, including a graded and open class score, over hard hitting Banrock and lightly campaigned Pays to Dream.

Female Sprinter: Open stakes winner and G1-placed By the Light, over Keep the Peace and Under Serviced.

Male Sprinter: G1 Carter winner Bustin Stones retired (via injury) undefeated in six lifetime starts, over Ferocious Fires and Stormin Normandy.

New York Horse of the Year 2008: Commentator, who this year will attempt to win his third Whitney, over Bustin Stones and Tin Cup Chalice.

The winners will be announced and feted in ceremonies at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, the night of April 13.