2011 Eclipse Award Picks From the Jersey Shore

2011 Eclipse Award Picks From the Jersey Shore
Photo: mdracing69

In the first year of Racing at the Jersey Shore at Horse Racing Nation I got to see several of the Eclipse Award finalists run or train at either my home track of Monmouth Park or on the New York circuit.
At Monmouth I saw Stacelita begin her American campaign with a troubled third place finish against the boys in the United Nations. I spent time with Shackleford on the backside as he prepared for his game second place finish in the Haskell.  Perfect Shirl ran third in the Matchmaker.
On Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Havre de Grace and Royal Delta ran one-two while dominating the Beldame.  Cape Blanco won his third straight US grade one stake in the Joe Hirsch. Stacelita recorded a very impressive win in the Flower Bowl.
To wrap-up the year, here are my choices for the 2011 Eclipse Awards.
Two Year-Old Male: I was very impressed with Union Rags’ campaign and I have tremendous respect for his trainer Michael Matz. Famous for his work with Barbaro, Matz is a world champion equestrian. Less known is that Matz survived the 1989 Iowa cornfield plane crash of United flight 232 and saved three siblings that were travelling alone.  Heroics aside, Hansen won the Breeders’ Cup battle with Union Rags and thus the Kentucky based colt gets my Eclipse pick.
Three Year-Old Female: A rare unanimous vote should go to My Miss Aurelia. In the past six years only Blame in 2010 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009 have won with all the votes.  See my December article Dissecting the Eclipse Award Vote for more details.
Three Year-Old Male: Injury forced Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to have a shortened campaign.  Caleb’s Posse’s victory in the King’s Bishop over Uncle Mo was one of the most exciting races of the year. Mo’s awesome performance in the Kelso made Caleb's Posse look even more impressive. With a tremendous rally to win the Dirt Mile Caleb’s Posse gets my pick. 
Three Year-Old Female: The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Royal Delta, is a clear-cut choice for the fillies.
Older Male: It is hard to argue with five straight graded stakes victories to end the year. I would have liked to see Acclamation run outside of California, but the three grade ones get him the Eclipse.
Older Female: Blind Luck showed her courage by defeating Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap, what many consider to be best race of the year. However, Havre de Grace gets the nod because Blind Luck had to take an early retirement.
Male Sprinter: Amazombie won the most important sprint race of the year at the Breeders’ Cup and should win the Eclipse since Caleb’s Posse is the top three year-old pick.
Female Sprinter: Musical Romance won on the big stage at Churchill and deserves the trophy.
Male Turf Horse: Three consecutive grade one wins on two different tracks gets Cape Blanco my pick.  It took a gutsy effort to win the Joe Hirsch on the heavy Belmont turf while suffering an injury that would end his career.
Female Turf Horse: In a division that really had no dominant horse, my pick goes to Stacelita.
Trainer:  What a trio to choose from Baffert, Pletcher, and Mott.  Winning both the Ladies Classic and the Classic at the Breeders’ Cup was an amazing accomplishment.  Plus Bill Mott continued to win a race at Saratoga each year on his July 29th birthday.
Jockey: Three New York jockeys vie for the Eclipse. Ramon won 100 more races and more money, but Johnny V. took the Kentucky Derby and two Breeders’ Cup races. Day in and day out I would rather have my money on Ramon Dominguez.
Apprentice: Kyle Frey won races at a 17% clip with 153 trips to the winner’s circle and over $4,000,000 in earnings.  Ryan Curatolo received mixed reviews throughout his year in the New York. Let’s give the Eclipse to Kyle Frey
ABC’s of the Monmouth Hall of Champions -Today Nashua – Nashua won the Monmouth Handicap on July 14, 1956, in his third to last career start.  That career covered 30 races in three years earning his owner Leslie Coombs II $1,288,565 from 22 wins. Swaps kept him from winning the Triple Crown when Nashua finished second in the Derby. Of course Nashua avenged that defeat in the famous 1955 Match Race with Swaps.  When he retired he was only the second horse to be a millionaire and was the leading money winner of all-time. Nashua was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965. Nashua ranks 40 in the Horse Racing Nation 250 Top Horses of All-Time with an 8.64/10 rating.


Meet Matt Shifman

In the 70s I was another one of those kids that went to the track with their fathers, and I immediately became enthralled with the excitement and challenges of handicapping.  And then the charisma and dominance of Secretariat gave me a hero to follow. To this day, I still get emotional when I hear Chic Andersons call of the 1973 Belmont, Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine.

There have been many great horses run at the shore. In 1976 I watched Majestic Light win the Monmouth Invitational, now the Haskell, in track record time, defeating Honest Pleasure, the big favorite who was in from New York.  This was one of my first big wins at the track.
In the 80s, as a disciple of Andy Beyer, I made my own speed figures because they were not available to the public. Needless to say I visited Monmouth frequently to test out the figs.
The 90s allowed me to learn about the backstretch as a part owner of a few claimers that were stabled at Philadelphia Park.  Not a typical owner, I mucked stalls, cooled out the horses, and watched morning works.  Also, I met my wife and discovered that her grandfather bred, owned, and raced thoroughbreds on the West Virginia, Maryland circuit.  Today our office is decorated with winners circle pictures and a vast collection of Kentucky Derby glasses.
Todays electronic age makes it so easy to gather information about racing.  I hope you use this blog to learn about Racing at the Jersey Shore.


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