This week we introduce the second edition of the “Eclipse Debates,” the “Chicago Dark Horse,” Chris Sorenson, and I will be looking at the 3 year old divisions.
Scott Dick: Let’s start with the 3 year old filly division. It really seems like a slam dunk for Royal Delta, but, It’s Tricky did defeat Royal Delta by nearly 7 lengths in the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. It’s Tricky also won the grade I Acorn stakes. Shouldn’t she be in the conversation for top 3 year old filly?
Chris Sorenson: Sure she would be in the conversation, and yes she did win the CCA Oaks, however I'm still high on Royal Delta. Head to head she won 2 of the 3 meetings and I just think she's the better filly.
SD: Should Plum Pretty even be a nominee? Yes, I know she won the Kentucky Oaks, but, to me, Turbulent Descent had a great year, she won the grade I Santa Anita Oaks at the 8.5 furlong distance, and she won the grade I test at 7 furlongs. She had a disaster of a trip in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, but overall, her season was strong. Shouldn’t she be a nominee over Plum Pretty?
CS: I do agree with that. Plum Pretty did have a good run this season, but outside of the Kentucky Oaks, she just couldn't quite hang with the other top fillies. Turbulent Descent, while not a classic distance horse, had the better season in my opinion.
SD: Couple Midwest guys agreeing here, quite strange! I think if you look at Turbulent Descent’s season as a whole, it stacks up stronger then Plum Pretty’s. Turbulent Descent won two grade I’s (Test Stakes, Acorn,) Plum Pretty was very impressive in the Kentucky Oaks, but, she floundered after that, she did win the Cotillion at Parx, but, the track was very speed favoring that day. Her performance in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic was awful considering the slow fractions she set.
SD: Royal Delta, a “Lebron James Toma-Hawk Slam Dunk” in this category, right? Her Ladies Classic was dominant, she buried It’s Tricky by over 2 lengths and Plum Pretty by 7. She has to be the Eclipse Award winner for top 3 year old filly, correct?
CS: My choice for sure, without a doubt!
SD: To me this is one of the easiest awards to give out. It has to be Royal Delta, end of story.
SD: Next to Horse of The Year, the Eclipse award for top 3 year old colt could be the hardest to give out. I’ll start with Shackleford. This son of Forestry has shown nothing but heart. He was a washed out mess before the Preakness, but, still fought like a champion to hold on for the victory over Animal Kingdom. Shackleford ran 2nd in the grade I Haskell, 2nd in the grade I Florida Derby, and 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Do you consider Shackleford a major contender for top 3 year old?
CS: I don't Scott and I'll tell you why. His only major win was in the Preakness. Every other graded stakes race people gave him a shot to win and he just couldn't come through. In fact, I'm even surprised he won the Preakness considering how washed out he was before that race. Don't get me wrong, he's a great horse, but there are others that deserve the 3 year old title.
SD: I agree. Shackleford is a nice gutsy horse. But, he’s just not on the level as the top two we’re about to discuss.
SD: Animal Kingdom, this will be an interesting argument depending on how each individual feels about the horse. He won the Kentucky Derby, finished 2nd to Shackleford in the Preakness, and basically lost all chance at the start in the Belmont, all though he did make a huge move into contention before tiring late in the race. What are you feelings on Animal Kingdom?
CS: You have to take your hat off to the Derby winner, without question. However, if I were to look at the entire body of work throughout an entire season, Animal Kingdom just hasn't done enough to earn the title. I personally like horses that are able to go for an entire season. Durability scores big points with me.
SD: You bring up a valid point, yes Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby, but, his only other stakes win was the grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, not exactly top company. But, shouldn’t winning the Derby mean more? Does his Derby stand out more than any other win from a 3 year old this year?
CS: The Derby is a big race for sure, and the horses have to fight a lot of traffic to win the race, but it's early in the three year old season so we still don't really know what we have in terms of contenders at that point. Now, if he would have won two of the triple crown legs, I may be singing a different tune.
SD: Little Caleb’s Posse is the only 3 year old colt or gelding with multiple grade I victories. He won the grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile and the grade I Kings Bishop. He also notched a grade III route win with his victory in the Ohio Derby. Donnie Von Hemel's Colt had most of his success going around one turn, does that hurt his chances in terms of winning the Eclipse Award?
CS: Not at all. In fact, I debated Brian Zipse in his blog about Caleb's Posse against Animal Kingdom. Durability and a complete body of work points me to Caleb's Posse. Sure, two turns may not be his thing, but he's a winner and to the victor go the spoils. Winning against Grade 1 company is hard to do no matter if you're going one or two turns.
SD: If Animal Kingdom went on to win, let’s say, the Travers, then get injured. Would that extra grade I win put him ahead of Caleb’s Posse?
CS: That's a real tough call. Yeah, I think if he would have pulled off the Travers it would have put him ahead.
SD: In the past, 3 year old colts that have ran the Triple Crown series, yet didn’t race the rest of the season, or ever again, have actually faired quite well in terms of the Eclipse award for top 3 year old colt, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex. But, the difference is both of those colts won multiple triple crown races and multiple grade I’s. I definitely think that point hurts Animal Kingdom the most. Don’t you agree?
CS: I agree 100%. Because the connections put Animal Kingdom on the shelf after the Belmont, that hurt his chances in my eyes. Again, yes the Kentucky Derby is huge, but the only other graded victory came from Turfway Park.
SD: Bottom line, Caleb’s Posse is your Eclipse award winner for 3 year old colt?
CS: Without a doubt.
SD: I really believe Caleb’s Posse deserves the Eclipse award for 3 year old colt. In fact, he should be in consideration for top sprinter, also. I even believe, had Caleb’s Posse won the grade I Cigar Mile, he could have been up for Horse of the Year. He’s won 2 grade I’s. He’s won graded stakes ranging from 6 furlongs to 9. He beat older in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He’s does everything that Von Hemel has asked of him and he deserves this award.