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A Fan's Eclipse Awards

Will Take Charge Clark 615 X 400
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 nostril.

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 last year.

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 miler around.

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

The 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 

 

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Older Comments about A Fan's Eclipse Awards...

I'm really not on board with Will Take Charge as HOTY, but I like the cases you make for the others and agree, or at least don't completely disagree, with the rest.
Connections BUTED up old Slew o'Gold at season's end so heavily he was sick with gastritis for weeks after the 84 Breeder's Cup CLassic. Can't find ability in a prescirption. I was there to watch him HANG badly down the lane that afternoon.
The introduction of truth, common sense, and horse racing knowledge will do you no good here.
I could see the cases for the changes, especially She's A Tiger. But for two year old male, you can't take it away from a late starting Shared Belief. Yes he is unproven on dirt, but his wins were devastating, against the best out here on the West coast. Everybody thought highly of Kobe's Back and Tap It Rich but the money came on Shared Belief in that race and he may be unbeatable. He is so handy that with his speed he can get right into position for his stalking trip of the pacesetter from any post, and then at the final turn he always has enough left to finish. He has another gear that I have seen in only a handful of horses. I could be proven wrong in the long run, it is horse racing, but if we are gonna see another Triple Crown winner, I think this is our best chance.
I see some of your points, but not all. Will Take Charge was a deserving winner of the Three-Year-Old male title, and he could have made a case for Horse of the Year IF he took a couple more of those decisions. He reminds me a bit of Slew O' Gold with his high and low points through the season with a strong end of the year push. Honor Code, as much as I do like him, would not get the title off of a Grade 2 win and a Grade 1 placing. I agree with the voters about Shared Belief. I also thought Mizdirection should have taken the female sprint title. She is a bit of a horse for course obviously, but she did beat the best turf sprint males again this year. I also am a Game on Dude fan and thought he should've taken the older male title. I could've made the Wise Dan argument last year based on his multi-surface success, but as he was turf focused this year it should have gone to the Dude.
Good analysis. I was grateful for the huge margin she's a tiger won by. This filly gave it her best every race and the dq didn't seem justified The award was well deserved
Have to say I agree with most of it but have different thoughts on the 3yr old males and I believe Wise Dan deserved every Honor he won!

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