I have little doubt that the best three-year-old filly
I saw run this year is My Miss Aurelia, but with only three races, two wins,
and one grade 1 stakes victory in 2012, I wonder if the George Bolton and
Stonestreet owned, and Steve Asmussen trained, filly has done enough to garner
the nod as the champion sophomore filly this year.
With an easy win in the listed Mandy’s Gold Stakes at
Saratoga, a tenacious victory over Questing in the $1,000,000 Cotillion Stakes
at Parx Racing, and an excellent performance when second to the champion older
mare, Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, it would seem that My
Miss Aurelia has made a strong claim for her second Eclipse Award in two
seasons of racing, despite her short seasons. Did she accomplish more than her
main competition for the championship? The answer may well be yes when you
consider the shortcomings of her competition.
Questing might be the strongest of her divisional
rivals considering her two big, grade 1 wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks
and the Alabama. She has three wins in seven starts this year, but has never
won a stakes race outside of Saratoga. Perhaps most damaging to her case is her
0-for-3 record against My Miss Aurelia, including 0-for-2 this year.
Lady of Shamrock has been the most consistent sophomore
filly over the entire 2012 season with a 7-4-1-1 record, including four stakes
wins, with two grade ones. Her entire argument, though, rests on the turf vs.
dirt argument, as all of her wins came on the grass. Was she dominant enough on
the turf to win the award? A 5th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly &
Mare Turf, while not a poor race, does not bolster her chances.
Believe You Can was the clear leader of the division
back in the first week of May when she collected her third stakes win of the
year in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks, but has only run once since, that being
a disappointing and well-beaten 3rd place finish in the Mother Goose. Her
inactivity has left her as the forgotten horse in the chase for a championship.
Contested has an excellent 4-for-5 record this year,
including impressive wins in the Grade 1 Acorn and Grade 1 Test, but in her
only try around two-turns, she failed miserably when finishing up the track in
the nine-furlong Mother Goose.
Grace Hall and In Lingerie were good enough to each
collect three graded stakes wins this year, but unfortunately, neither could
beat the very best in several tries, including out-of-the-money finishes in
their respective Breeders’ Cup races.
With the competition outlined, the next question would
be: Is there precedent for My Miss Aurelia to win an Eclipse Award with such
little racing? The answer is yes … and no.
In the juvenile divisions, it has become almost
commonplace to earn a year-end championship with only three races. See
undefeated juvenile champions, Indian Blessing, Uncle Mo, and Hansen for proof
of this, but then again, they all went perfect in their championship seasons.
Perhaps the 2003 Eclipse Award for Action This Day provides the best hope for
My Miss Aurelia. His 3-2-1-0 record is identical to hers, but keep in mind, his
other two races, other than his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win, were both in maiden
special weight races. So the precedent has been set by two-year-olds, but what
about more experienced horses?
In my research, I could not find a single horse of
three or older that won an Eclipse Award with as few as three starts during
their championship season; having said that, I did find several examples that
may make it more acceptable for My Miss Aurelia to be rewarded, despite only
three races this year.
In 2004, Ghostzapper was not only named Champion Older
Male, but he took home the big one, Horse of the Year, while only making just
four starts that year. Voters recognized that Ghostzapper was the best of the
year, and were more than willing to vote accordingly, despite only four races.
In 2002 and 2003, High Chaparral made ten combined
starts, but it is interesting to note that he won back-to-back Eclipse Awards,
despite only one race in America each year, and one of those was a dead-heat to
Johar. More recently, no one had any trouble with awarding consecutive
championships to Goldikova after only one start a year in the United States.
And finally, consider the case of Left Bank, who in
2002, was named the Champion Older Male. That year, he ran only four times,
winning the six-furlong Bold Ruler, running 5th in the Met Mile, winning the
seven-furlong Tom Fool, before winning the nine-furlong Whitney. Meaning he won
an Eclipse Award traditionally reserved for distance dirt horses while
competing in only a single two-turn race the entire year.
My Miss Aurelia’s claim to a championship seems to be
looking stronger all the time, but of course, each Eclipse Award is unique and
very much tied in to the strength (or lack thereof) of their competition.
So the question remains … has My Miss Aurelia done
enough in only three starts to deserve the three-year-old filly award? My
opinion, as you may have guessed by now, is yes, she was able to prove best of
her division in only the three races.