The Eclipse Awards are only a week away, and with the
nominations already released, people can now choose from the top three horses
chosen for each division. Before I give mine, I feel it prudent to mention a
very noticeable snub. While I love Shackleford, and respect the season he had,
Stay Thirsty accomplished more with three graded stakes wins, a grade three,
two and one, with two more grade one placings. The Travers is the Mid-Summer
Derby, he won that beating Shack. Many will knock the fact that Thirst did not
win outside of New York this year, well, then tell me why Animal Kingdom, who
raced half a year, and never won outside of Kentucky, gets the benefit while
Thirsty doesn’t. No matter the spin you put, it was a snub, plain and simple.
Now that I have completed my rant, I’ll go get down off my
snub soap box and up on my Eclipse box.
All three nominees are deserving horses. All showed up big
time, not only in their preps but also on Breeders’ Cup Day. All have
outstanding records, but in the only head to head match up, Hansen came away with the victory.
Union Rags very well may be the best, but the way I see it, he may have been
wide, but he had a clear trip and took dead aim and could not get past. Hansen
was up against it from the moment he entered the break. Big class jump and a
style that was not holding well over the tiring Churchill Downs track. He
overcame, and he should get the award.
The Juvenile Fillies was a no brainer. My Miss Aurelia just dominated from start to finish. She showed
heart on several occasions, but in her final two starts, it was no contest. She
was unbeaten going in and was unbeaten going out.
Three Year Olds
Three Year Old fillies were taking turns knocking one
another, and at one point, was a very contentious division. Then Royal Delta
came to her best and asserted her superiority. She is one great one away from having three grade
ones this year, but two dominant wins over her peers in the Alabama and
Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, give her a large lead over It’s Tricky and Plum
The males in this division are a little more up in the air.
There are many who believe there should be no award given, since no horse
really met the standard. Animal Kingdom has two stakes wins, but there are a
lot of people that aren’t satisfied with just the Kentucky Derby, as his only
big win. Caleb’s Posse was the first three year old to snag two grade ones, but
both were earned at distances less than “Classic.” Shackleford danced every
dance, but failed to make the top three in the Derby, Belmont, and Travers. My
choice here is Caleb’s Posse, his main losses were at distances he was not at
his best at. He has two grade ones, both defeating some of the best horses in
Female Sprinter is Hilda’s
Passion. Musical Romance had a nice year, but she only had one big win, which
came in a race were most of the best horses either underperformed, or were not
in the gate. Hilda was one of those. Up until her injury she was sheer
brilliance. She raced at the top tracks, won top races, and when at her best,
which was often, was easily the fastest female sprinter in the land.
Top Sprinter is Caleb’s
Posse. Until the distance of a mile out of “limbo” there is no reason to
say that it is not a sprint. It is an elongated sprint, but if not a route then
it’s a sprint. You simply can’t have it both ways. He won the Amsterdam over
several of the most talented three year old sprinters in his division. He
followed that up with a big win in the King’s Bishop, again beating the best,
then in the BC Dirt Mile. He beat his own peers and Trappe Shot, who was
considered among the best sprinters. Amazombie ran admirably, but Caleb just
blew them all away.
No female really wowed this year, but the one that barely
rise up to the top is Stacelita. Two
grade one wins in four starts, and nobody else really ever rose to the
occasion. I admire horses like Never Retreat, who always show up, but you
should not be named the best for not finishing first.
Again, the males also have me torn, but for the opposite reason.
Two horses rose, but never faced off. Typically, I then go to strength of
season, but both had very strong wins in top races. Acclamation was a
California monster and Cape Blanco dominated in the East. I would say both
horses only faced mediocre horses, I say that because Gio Ponti, while a
champion, is simply not as effective at longer distances as he was two years
ago. It would not upset me to see either horse to get the award, and while I do
feel Cape Blanco is deserving, I have to stick to my guns and say Acclamation.
Older female is no contest. Those pulling for Blind Luck are
looking through rose colored glasses, and that filly did not have a
championship year. Havre de Grace,
will win the division this year. The score between her and her rival is 1-1,
not getting around it, that is a fact. Besides that Gracie went on to win two
more grade ones, one against males. She was easily the best of this division,
but was put in the Classic. She ran well enough, finished fourth, not beaten by
much. She is an easy choice.
The Older Male division was probably one of the weakest, but
there is no question that the nominees all deserve to be on the ballot. Tizway
was brilliant winning the Met Mile in near record time dominating the Whitney,
but got knocked out due to injury. Game on Dude has two grade one wins, and
placed in the most prestigious races in his division. He is a hard knocker, and
I would not be opposed to him taking the trophy. However, Acclamation has three grade one wins, one being in the Pacific
Classic. Five consecutive stakes, three of which were grade ones, gives him the
On the human awards, the only ones I’m overly sure on are
the trainer and jockey. Top Trainer for me is Bob Baffert. He trained two big Classic horses earlier this year in
First Dude and Game on Dude, a sprinter in The Factor, and did a heck of a
training job with Plum Pretty, readying her for the Kentucky Oaks. He simply
dominated from start to finish. For top
Jockey I’m taking Johnny V. He was
on the Derby favorite, who got scratched just before the race, hops on an
unknown in Animal Kingdom, and guides him to Derby glory and a Preakness place.
In addition he also took two races during the Breeders Cup, both on Ladies Day.
First with Stephanie’s Kitten, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, then with a bomber
by the name of Perfect Shirl in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Horse of the Year
No horse particularly shined this year, and there are
several horses that could have cases made in their favor. Cape Blanco and
Acclamation, both dominated, and Acclamation is nominated for two divisions.
Game on Dude danced every dance winning two grade ones, placing in two others.
However, the one horse that dazzled repeatedly, and took things to a whole new
level on several occasions was Havre de
Grace. She was dominant in her own division, but her win in the Woodward is
what pushes her over the top.