Dan, who completed his 2012 campaign with a victory in the Breeders’
Cup Mile, emerged as the favorite to be named Horse of the Year when
finalists for all 17 Eclipse Award divisions were announced on Saturday
by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which co-sponsors the
awards along with Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Wise Dan is one of three finalists for Horse of the Year, along with
Fort Larned, the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and the 3-year-old I’ll
Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The
glaring omission from that list is Little Mike, the Breeders’ Cup Turf
winner, who is a rival with Wise Dan for two divisional awards – older
male and male turf – but failed to earn enough first-place votes to be a
finalist for Horse of the Year.
Fort Larned, Little Mike, and Wise Dan are the three finalists for
older male. The surprise is that Little Mike, who won all of his races
on turf, made that list, knocking out Game On Dude, who was considered
the divisional leader prior to his poor performance as the favorite in
the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The male turf category, in which Little Mike and Wise Dan also are
finalists, has Point of Entry as its third finalist, the expected
outcome in what was considered one of the strongest divisions in 2012.
If Wise Dan were to capture Horse of the Year, and divisional titles
for male turf and older male, he would be the first horse to win those
three Eclipse Awards in the same year since John Henry in 1981. Forego
was Horse of the Year, champion sprinter, and champion older horse in
1974. Secretariat was Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old, and
champion turf horse in 1973.
I’ll Have Another, the other finalist for Horse of the Year, is the
overwhelming favorite to be named champion 3-year-old male, a category
whose finalists also include Bodemeister, the runner-up to I’ll Have
Another in both the Derby and Preakness, and Union Rags, the Belmont
Stakes winner. None of the three ran after the Triple Crown and all are
Voters from the three organizations were required to turn in their
ballots by Thursday. On Saturday, the three horses or individuals who
received the most first-place votes in their respective divisions were
announced as the finalists. The winners will be announced at the 42nd
annual Eclipse Awards dinner on Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park.
There were 272 eligible voters, of whom 254 submitted ballots.
The voters had a few surprises, most notably not ranking Little Mike
among the top three for Horse of the Year. Also, Morton Fink, the owner
and breeder of Wise Dan, and Charlie Lopresti, who trains Wise Dan,
failed to be named finalists in their divisions, as voters largely
adhered to the year-end earnings lists to glean finalists in those
The three finalists for owner are Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing,
which led the earnings list with the Dubai World Cup card included;
Midwest Thoroughbreds, which led in North American purse earnings; and
Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing, which owned I’ll Have Another.
The finalists for breederare Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, Sheikh
Mohammed’s Darley, and Brereton C. Jones, who were the top three in that
category in purse earnings nationally in 2012.
Trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, both of whom have won Eclipse
Awards in the past, are finalists again this year along with Dale
Romans, who had the best year of his career and is considered a slight
favorite. Pletcher and Baffert were one-two nationally in earnings, with
Romans fourth, behind Steve Asmussen.
Wise Dan’s jockey, John Velazquez, avoided a complete shutout for
humans connected to the horse. He is a finalist for champion jockey
along with fellow Eastern riders Javier Castellano and Ramon Dominguez.
Those riders were the top three nationally in purse earnings.
Voters also put great weight behind the Breeders’ Cup. Of the 10
divisions for horses on the flat, eight include at least one Breeders’
Cup winner among their finalists, with older male being made up entirely
of Breeders’ Cup winners, and male turf including two Breeders’ Cup
There also are two Breeders’ Cup winners as finalists for both older
female and female sprinter, with Groupie Doll, the winner of the
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, a finalist in both divisions.
Groupie Doll is a heavy favorite in the female sprint category, where
her rivals are the 3-year-old Contested and Mizdirection, the winner of
the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Royal Delta, who successfully defended her title in the Breeders’ Cup
Ladies’ Classic, is favored over Groupie Doll in the older female
category, whose other finalist is Include Me Out.
The unbeaten Shanghai Bobby, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is
an overwhelming favorite to be named champion 2-year-old male over
Uncaptured and Violence. Both Shanghai Bobby and Violence are trained by
Beholder is favored in the 2-year-old filly category against Dreaming
of Julia and Executiveprivilege, both of whom Beholder defeated in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Zagora emerged as the favorite to be named champion female turf horse
when she won that group’s Breeders’ Cup race, the Filly and Mare Turf.
The other finalists in that division are Marketing Mix and Tapitsfly.
Trinniberg is favored to parlay a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint
into the male sprint title, where his fellow finalists are Shackleford
and The Lumber Guy.
One of the closest calls could be for champion 3-year-old filly, in
which My Miss Aurelia and Questing are perceived as the two leading
contenders, yet the third finalist is the Kentucky Oaks winner, Believe
You Can. Contested failed to make the top three.
Steeplechase is also seen as toss-up, between Demonstrative and Pierrot Lunaire. Divine Fortune is the third finalist.
Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr. – the rider of Questing – and Angel
Suarez are the finalists for champion apprentice jockey, a category that
the three voting blocs have debated dropping in recent years. Ortiz was
an apprentice for all of one month in 2012.
2012 Eclipse Awards finalists
Horse of the Year
Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another, Wise Dan
Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence
Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege
Bodemeister, I’ll Have Another, Union Rags
Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing
Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan
Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta
The Lumber Guy, Shackleford, Trinniberg
Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection
Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan
Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora
Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire
Godolphin Racing, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Reddam Racing
Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones
Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans
Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez
Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Angel Suarez