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Eclipse Awards Discussion: A Triple Crown Of Contenders

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.


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Older Comments about Eclipse Awards Discussion: A Triple Crown Of Contenders...

Fortunately I was able to attend the Kings Bishop race in Saratoga to see Caleb's Posse's win! He is a fantastic horse and knows how to win his race no matter the competitors. After his awesome win at Churchill Downs, I think he has proved himself worth of the Eclipse Award.
Caleb's Posse deserves it, but Animal Kingdom will win.
Winning the Kentucky Derby should definitely not be the deciding factor in winning Champion 3-YO Male. If that is the case, then there are several horses besides Mine That Bird that should have won the award. AK put in a gutsy TC performance, but I still think Caleb's Posse should win the award. There is nothing that says the award should be restricted to "classic" horses; people believe that because it is the "classic" horses that win the award more often than not.
One correction, Animal Kingdom didn't "tire" to finish sixth in the Belmont - he had a broken leg and still beat half the field.
HOTY- Animal Kingdom, hands down!
Though I think Caleb's Posse delievered one of the most powerful performances on BC weekend, AK would still get my vote. His derby win & 2nd in the Preakness surpass CP's 2 Grade 1 wins. On top of that, CP didn't hit the board in the Iowa Derby, ran 3rd in the Indiana Derby (though it was a prep). Just because Caleb's Posse ran all year doesn't mean he should get the award. He's being considered for the award for what he did in 2 of his last 3 starts as if ever thing before isn't being counted. So I believe AK's 3 triple crown races are better than CP's last 3 races.
You could have just gone back a decade for Tiznow. Then again he was about as good as any horse that has raced in the past 30 years. Riva Ridge probably got the short end of the stick. Champion @ 2 in '71 and Champion Older horse in '73. If not for the mud and Bee Bee Bee he'd be a legend.
If you stick by the theory that the Eclipse Awards are determined only by "Classic" races. Then you better be voting for Drosselmeyer Older Male and Horse of The Year. Riva Ridge won 2/3rd's of the triple crown in 72 and didn't win Champion 3 year old Colt, he lost to Key To The Mint who didn't even win a triple crown race.
The Spiral is certainly a credible win and the runner up finish in the Preakness does nothing to diminish his record, nor for that matter his Belmont finish when injured. So this particular year his Kentucky Derby win is huge. AK may not be an absolute standout when compared to lets say Shack who did dance all the major dances and has a Classic win, but he is compared to CP who was recently trounced by Wilburn and Prayer for Relief. The eclipse is a Classic award and Classic horses run in Classic races.
Dumpster diving is a little harsh. If the Kentucky Derby was the end all for the Eclipse Award, why wasn't Mine That Bird the Eclipse winner in 2009
  • Mike in SB · Mine That Bird didn't win because Summer Bird won the Belmont, Travers and the Gold Cup. no 3 year old did anything like that this year. Mine That Bird would probably win the Eclipse if he had run this year. · 2177 days ago
Everyone wants to win the Derby. Of course I agree with that. But, winning the Derby shouldn't stamp your mark on award, if your only credible win is the Derby that earns you an Eclipse Award?
With MTB i would guess the fact he was a gelding didn't help his cause, but probably more so his post TC failures none more than the loss at Mountaineer in the West Va. Derby likely did irreprable damage to his cause. Also Summer Bird was a late bloomer in every respect given he didn't make his first start till March and ended the year contesting six straight G-1's and did KO Quality Road in the JCGC and Travers at the Classic Distance on top of a Classic win in the Belmont. The Kentucky Derby is still and always will be the race EVERYONE wants to win.o
good resource;
Yes, Animal Kingdom won the Derby. He also lost to the same horse Caleb's Posse blew by in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Animal Kingdom won two races in 2011. One of them was the Spiral Stakes where he beat who? Decisive Moment? Caleb's Posse beat Shackleford, Jackson Bend, The Factor, To Honor and Serve, Arch Arch Arch,Uncle Mo, and Trappe Shot. I think that stacks up against anything Animal Kingdom beat.
To win a classic award such as the Eclipse you should at least be enough horse to contest the classic races and the Kentucky derby remains the biggest race in America.. Dumpster diving for minor derbys in Iowa, Ohio and Indiana and getting soundly defeated in Iowa and Indiana is not the stuff of a champion. Also he was crushed by ArchX3 and The Factor in Arkansas. As I see it his claim to fame is the BC Mile and he is a mere sprinter who only defeated one of the major contenders (Shackelford) and the win only evened their head to head record. At best he is a distant 5Th to AK, Shack and Stay Thirsty ROI.
I think Animal Kingdom will win. I would vote for Caleb's Posse.
if the narrative of the eclipse voters is the triple crown, ak obviously performed better than any other tc contestants. if the narrative is who raced the most, and won an appreciable amount their entries, then i have to agree with the caleb's posse argument. he was 5 for 10.
Personally, I don't even consider Animal Kingdom a contender for Champion 3-year old. As both Chris and Scott agreed on, AK's Derby win does not make up for the fact that his only other graded stakes win was a G3. Then he was out for the second half of the year. I would definitely consider Shackleford over AK. In a blog I wrote about a month ago, I also picked Caleb's Posse. In a year that has seen very little consistency, you have to give the award to the one-turn specialist who has more wins to his credit than any of the classic distance colts.
The ply problem with your theory is Animal Kingdom never dominated the triple crown. He was 1/3.
The Triple Crown dominates 3 year old racing. Animal Kingdom, I believe, will be the Eclipse Winner, although the division was very weak and he will be one of the least accomplished winners.

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Meet Scott Dick 















My journey into the sport of kings has been different than most. I do not boast a royal pedigree, and in fact, before my interest in horse racing, my family thought the Kentucky Derby was the only race of the year! I'm the son of a minor league baseball player and a homemaker, which doesn't exactly scream grade I winner.

My passion for the sport started about 8 years ago.I was watching as Funny Cide was making his triple crown run. The “Gutsy Gelding” had my eyes glued to the television with each of his triple crown races. After watching Funny Cide on TV. I decided to make a trip down to our local track, Indiana Downs.This would be an experience that would change my life.

I looked over the program, while having no idea what I was doing,I decided to put my 5 dollars on a horse named Apollonea. As the gates broke and the announcer began his race call, I heard the words Apollonea to the lead. My excitement grew as I watched my horse lead all the way around the track, eventually drawing to win by an easy five lengths. Apollonea paid 58.00 to win, I was hooked from that point on.

For the past 8 years my life has been horse racing.  I've tried to educate myself on every aspect of the sport and learn about it's past. The incredible run of the Super Filly Rachel Alexandra would also change my life. It was my intense passion and love for Rachel that would bring me to meet some of the greatest  people in the world. I owe a lot to Rachel and this sport for introducing me to such wonderful people.

I want this blog to show that Indiana Racing stacks up with any track, anywhere! It will also show what great value can be found in Indiana for the bettors, and not to mention, the incredible purses for the owners and trainers.

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