Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Horse of the year — Will Take Charge
Some may not like the fact I did not pick Wise Dan, but I have a reason. By no fault of his own, Wise Day took took an easier path to the Eclipse Award this year as he did last year. This year, we EXPECTED Wise Dan to win the races he was in because he won them on the same terms last year. Will Take Charge may not have been the most consistent through the first half of his three-year-old campaign, but what a racehorse this horse is. Running eleven times, which I may add is more than any other eclipse award finalist, he put in some great races in the Smarty Jones, the Rebel, and after he grew into himself, he pulled off the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby before losing the Breeders' Cup Classic by a whisker to Mucho Macho Man.
Two-year-old male — Honor Code
After a maiden win in the slop and covering over 22 lengths to
beat the field, Honor Code stamped his name into everyone's minds. There was
never a question of class or distance in the regally bred son of A.P. Indy. His
next start would would be the G1 Champagne and he would lose by only a whisker
to Dunkirk colt Havana. Skipping the Breeders' Cup didn't even get this colt
mentions in the Eclipse Award finalists, but it was the best thing for the colt
to stay home and face the then 2-for-2 Cairo Prince in the Remsen. Honor Code
was much the best when it appeared Cairo Prince was going to run right by.
Honor Code would have none of that and battled back to nip the wire by a
Two-year-old filly — She's a Tiger
Breeders' Cup Juvenile filly winner (but was DQ'ed) has never
finished worse than 2nd in any of her starts. She is fast, flashing, and
probably would like the Oaks distance. She was easily the best filly of the
later half of 2013. Debuting in June, she easily took the 5f maiden race. Every
race she has run has increased in distance by at least 1/16 of a mile, and she
keeps getting to the wire before every other horse. She was easily the best
Three-year-old male —Will Take Charge
After he looked to be legitimate Derby contender, Will Take
Charge went on a losing streak. After winning the Rebel, he did not win
another race until the Travers in August. Although a close second to Palace
Malice in the Jim Dandy, Will Take Charge did not seem to put it all together
until the later part of the season, adding the Pennsylvania Derby and the Clark
to his resume.
Three-year-old filly —Princess of Sylmar
In 6 of 8 races in her 2013 campaign, Princess of Sylmar reached
the wire first. She took her show on the road, traveling between Aqueduct,
Churchill Downs, Saratoga, and Belmont to show off her late kick. On her
resume, she has the Busanda, the Busher, The Kentucky Oaks, the CCA Oaks, The
Alabama, and the Beldame, the latter being the race she defeated two time
Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta. With a resume like this, how could she not be
the Eclipse Award winner?(why not ask the voters that question)
Older male — Game On Dude
Sorry once again to Wise Dan, but Game on Dude needs recognition here. In 2013, he was undefeated heading into the Breeders' Cup
Classic. Winning the San Antonio, Santa Anita Handicap, the Charles Town
Classic, The Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic before finishing 9th
in the BC Classic and a respective 2nd to Will Take Charge in the Clark. He had
to be the most consistent older male on dirt.
Older female — Tiz Miz Sue
I am going to go out on a limb and choose this 7 year old mare.
In only four starts this year before being retired to a second career as a
broodmare, Tiz Miz Sue did not finish out of the money in any of her starts.
She finished first twice, second once, and third once. She defeated the likes
of Centring and Authenticity in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Don't Tell Sophia in
the Azeri (G3). She was a consistent mare and you could always plan on her at
least making a showing.
Male sprinter — Points Offthebench
This Benchmark gelding was the most consistent sprinter in 2013,
he only finished second once out of six starts. All the others were him headed
to the winners' circle.He also made a tremendous jump in class when he moved
from an allowance horse to a G1 sprinter. He beat highly regarded sophomore
Goldencents twice in two outings in both the Bing Crosby and the Santa Anita
Sprint Championships. Sadly, this gelding won't be racing in 2014. He was put
down after suffering a life ending fracture in his right front.
Female sprinter — Mizdirection
Easily the fastest of her category, Mizdirection only managed to be
out of the money once, and that was when she traveled outside of the downhill
course at Santa Anita and she stretched out to a mile, which is not to her
liking at all. I know I say any horse who hides shouldn't be a finalist or
winner, but this mare beat the best and fastest horses in her division. She won
back to back BC Turf Sprint's against the males, and with ease I might add. One of the fastest
horses our generation has seen.
Male turf horse — Wise Dan
As badly as I wanted to choose Point of Entry for this award, it
is hard to go against the Titan of the Turf. Wise Dan is just about as
unbeatable on the grass as they come. A mile is his forte and turf is his
specialty. Unbeaten on turf since August of 2012, he is obviously the best turf
Female turf horse — Laughing
In all her starts in 2013, she only finished out of the money
once, that being the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She raced in only
graded stakes company and she raced against only the best. She beat
Dayatthespa, Pianist, Tannery, and Stephanie's Kitten in the span of only four
races. Her fifth start would be her last. We recently lost Laughing to colic.
She is a deserving winner in my mind.
Owner — Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
If we had more owners like Ken and Sarah Ramsey, our breeding
programs would not be so filled with fragile horses and there would be distance
loving horses everywhere the eye could see. Ken and Sarah took a chance and
stood their stallion Kitten's Joy, hoping the long winded turf horse would
attract some breeders and make a name for himself. Their risk came with reward.
Breeder — Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Kitten's Joy topped the General Sire's list of 2013 and his
updated 2014 stud fee is now $100,000 dollars. Kitten's Joy is 1 of the 6
stallions standing in the united states for $100,000. He joys Bernardini, Smart
Strike, Street Cry, Distorted Humor, and Medaglia D'Oro. Only two stallions
cost more than these six and that is Tapit and War Front.
Trainer — D. Wayne Lukas
An award of merit is not enough for this 78 year old trainer.
With just his two big three year olds Oxbow and Will Take Charge, this trainer
took the Smarty Jones, went 1-2 in the Rebel, won the Preakness, the Travers,
and the Pennsylvania Derby before barely losing the BC Classic. To not be
nominated in the category for an eclipse award is an insult.
Jockey — Gary Stevens
comeback kid. Just to name a few stakes in the less than a year campaign ride
of Gary Stevens, he has taken the Zenyatta (G1) on Beholder, the John Henry
Turf Championship (G2) on Indy Point, the Awesome Again (G1) on Mucho Macho
Man, the BC Distaff (G1) on Beholder, and the missing race from his record, the
Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) on Mucho Macho Man. He easily deserves this award.
~Written by Casey Laughter