Election polls sometimes give respondents the chance to answer “none of the above.”  And that category often wins.  This outcome seems to apply to the election of 2014 American Horse of the Year, as there ostensibly is not a standout that people agree upon.

On the contrary, there is a standout.

In 2010, when there was a vigorous debate over whether Zenyatta or Blame should be named HOY, I suggested a point system for making the HOY determination instead of leaving it to the subjective voting system that is used (the point system correctly identified Zenyatta as HOY).  The current system is particularly vulnerable to recency bias (recent events should weigh more) and confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out information that confirms our opinions).

Here is the system I proposed, followed by what the numbers say about who deserves to be named 2014 HOY.


Race Type

Grade I and Group I win =20 points,  place=10,  and show =5

Grade II and Group II win = 10 points, place = 5, and show = 0

Grade III and Group III win = 5 points, place = 0, and show = 0

All other race classifications = 0 points

Points accrue for races conducted during the relevant calendar year, beginning January 1 and ending December 31.  A horse based anywhere in the world is eligible for U. S. HOTY as long as it has competed in at least two Grade I races in the USA during the current calendar year and has won at least one of these.  If this standard is met, Group races outside the USA shall contribute points toward HOTY.

Award 50 bonus points for winning the American Triple Crown.

Give 20 extra points for winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Add 10 points each time a filly or mare wins against males in a Grade I (or Group I) race.

Add 10 points for a horse that has won Grade 1 races on two separate racing surfaces (any combination of dirt or synthetic or turf).

In the event that horses have exactly the same point total, the tie breaker shall be the best record in head-to-head meetings during the current calendar year.  If there were no such meetings or the horses split evenly, the horses shall be declared Co-Horses of the Year.

Based on this methodology, point totals for 2014 HOY are:

California Chrome = 110 points (including wins in four G1 races and over two different types of surfaces in G1 races)

Main Sequence = 100 points (including four G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf)

Shared Belief = 95 points (including four G1 races and only one career loss)

Bayern = 90 points (including two G1 races and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic)

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business

If you don’t like the forgoing point system, construct your own and see how your calculations turn out.


  1. The only people who could vote for Bayern as Horse of the Year are his connections and Andy Beyer. California Chrome and Main Sequence both won twice as many G1 races as Bayern. California Chrome won early in the year and late in the year and won G1 races on dirt and turf. He is the hands-down overall champ for 2014 as well as 3-year-old of the year. Main Sequence won G1 races on two continents. Bayern’s PP don’t measure up to these two horses.