Shortly after the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, I made my Eclipse Award selections. For most of the categories, I stand by my original selections, but there are a few divisions in which some end-of-the-year races caused me to change my mind. You can view my previous selections along with my commentary on each here. With the Eclipse Awards ceremony looming this evening, I now present my revised selections for each division as I get in on the Eclipse Award discussions.
My 2010 HOTY vote was for the legendary Zenyatta despite her BC Classic loss, and, based on that, you would think that I would vote for Union Rags for this category. Well, I gave the flashy colt a lot of consideration, but, when it came right down to it, both him and Hansen entered the BC Juvenile undefeated, and only Hansen exited with his record intact. Sure, Union Rags had the better year on paper, but he also began his two-year old season two months before Hansen did. Because juveniles all start at different points in the year, I can hardly fault Hansen for not having made it into bigger races in the time that he had prior to the Breeders’ Cup.
This division has caused an on-going debate for the last two months. Based on his Kentucky Derby and Vinery Spiral victories along with a great showing in each of the Triple Crown races, many believe that the award should go to Animal Kingdom. Those who love a horse that shows up for each and every race and runs his heart out vote for Shackleford. Then there are those that believe that if Animal Kingdom should be considered without having won a race outside of Kentucky, then Stay Thirsty, the New York monster, should also be considered. Personally, none of these three do it for me. As much as I liked Stay Thirsty, he was my second choice, and Shackleford was my third choice. If Animal Kingdom had not been injured, then I would have been willing to give him the nod, but Caleb’s Posse gets my vote based on his year-long record. Sure, he did not do well at the “classic” distances, but when he ran at his favorite distance, he was nearly unbeatable.
This is a division that requires a disclaimer. For Champion Three-Year Old Male, I knocked Animal Kingdom for not running the entire year, but I am willing to give Acclamation the award for this category. Here’s why: in Animal Kingdom’s half a year, the colt only put together two wins. Acclamation, on the other hand, put together a five race win streak, with two wins in Grade 2 races and three wins in Grade 1 races.
I would love for Blind Luck to win this division. She owns the rivalry between herself and Grace, but unfortunately the Delaware Handicap took a lot out of her and she had to be retired early. Winning the division over Grace would certainly provoke a lot of controversy since Grace is likely to be named Horse of the Year, and winning HOTY without winning her division would be an almost unheard of occurrence. I love Blind Luck, but Grace beat the boys and ran well in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so I have to stick with convention here.
Sorry DeadHeat, but Caleb’s Posse is NOT a sprinter. I would rather leave the mile in limbo than try to categorize it as an extended sprint or a shortened route. I know there are already a lot of divisions, but I would be very happy to see the creation of a Mile Division. That’s just my personal opinion. Amazombie propelled himself from the allowance ranks in 2010 to being a Grade 1 winner in 2011. He had a stellar year facing some very good sprinters, and he deserves the award.
Right after the Breeders’ Cup, I chose Turbulent Descent because a three-month layoff and a troubled trip had resulted in her 5th place BC finish. However, she then went on to run poorly in the La Brea and was not even made a finalist in her division. After reviewing the past performances of the three division finalists, I ultimately chose Hilda’s Passion because, of the three, she had the most graded wins. Sassy’s Image had two Grade 1 wins to Passion’s one, but Passion had more than just three graded stakes victories. Therefore, she gets my vote.
I originally chose Acclamation for this division, but Cape Blanco was shipped in from Ireland three times and won all three of his starts in the States. All three races were Grade 1s, so, after some tough consideration, I changed my vote and gave it to the Irish invader.
Goldikova was my first choice here, but she was not made a division finalist. This division was perhaps the toughest for me to choose a winner. There was not a clear standout, but Stacelita had the most Grade 1 wins, so she gets the nod here.
His Breeders' Cup record in 2011 speaks volumes.
Horse of the Year: Havre de Grace
As for the Owner, Breeder, and Steeplechase awards, I really am indifferent to the three, particularly the latter since I admittedly do not know as much as I should about the sport. I will happy with whoever wins the award for these three divisions, so I will not throw out my personal selections here. These are my selections, and I invite you to tell me where you think I went wrong or which divisions you agree with me on.