by Dean Hoffman
Artsplace didn’t just politely defeat his rivals in 1992. He crushed them.
In his first 13 starts of the season, only once did a horse get within a length of Artsplace at the finish. He raced at tracks across North America and simply rolled over his rivals as if they were bowling pins in his path.
In September, Artsplace looked to dominate again at Delaware, Ohio in a non-betting race against two rivals. It seemed like easy pickings for the champ. The purse was only $31,500 and the other starters included his stablemate Camluck and Complex Trooper.
Driver John Campbell sent Artsplace to the front down the backstretch the first time. The first quarter was clocked in :27.3, a mere stroll for Artsplace. Once on top, Campbell slowed the tempo to a dawdling :29.4. There was simply no way that any horse was going to catch Artsplace after he’d had such a breather.
The champ led through a leisurely third quarter and Campbell looked over his shoulder and saw Camluck and driver Mike Lachance moving on the outside.
No problem, thought Campbell. Once I ask Artsplace to pace, Camluck will be left in the dust.
But Camluck wasn’t left. In fact, he got closer and closer to Artsplace. And even closer.
Expecting to see just an exhibition, the fans now were watching a real horse race. And maybe the upset of the year.
When they turned into the stretch, Camluck was just a neck back. Spectators rose to their feet and cheered.
But that was as far as Camluck got. Artplace held him at bay and won.
With the Breeders Crown at Mohawk next on his schedule, Artsplace suddenly looked vulnerable. What would happen when he faced an entire field of good pacers and not just Campluck? The owners of six other horses paid the Breeders Crown entry fee to find out.
Coming into the Crown, Artsplace had a winning streak of 14 races. But would it end there? Would his path to Horse of the year honors now be paved with landmines? Or could the Crown make it 15 straight?
Artsplace and Campbell eased to the lead past the opening quarter in the Breeders Crown and took a second-quarter breather. Then Campbell stepped on the gas. He wasn’t going to let the race and Artsplace’s streak come down to a sprint in the final quarter.
After a second quarter in :30.1, Artsplace sizzled the third quarter in :27.1. His pursuers struggled to keep up.
Artsplace didn’t relent. He tacked another :27.3 quarter to finish up a final half-mile in :54.4 and win the Crown by three lengths.
The King was back. And the King was unbeatable.
With one final victory in western Canada, Artsplace wrapped up a perfect season of 16 wins in 16 starts for trainer Bob McIntosh and owners George Segal and Brian Monieson. His feat evoked memories of Overcall winning 21 straight races in the 1969 season.
Artsplace was named Horse of the Year in 1992.