Dissecting the Eclipse Award Vote

January 08, 2012 10:26am
The Eclipse Awards are sponsored by the NTRA, the Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association, and have been presented as thoroughbred racing’s highest honor since 1971.  The awards take their name from Eclipse who did not begin racing until he was a five year-old, yet he went on to win all 18 of his starts.
The Thoroughbred Racing Associations’ website says that, “The Eclipse Awards are presented annually to recognize those horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories.”  There are no specific guidelines for the selection of the winners, thus there is a plenty of room for debate about which horses deserve the year-end honors.

Every year following the Breeders’ Cup there is two months of debate about the Eclipse Awards. Yet in the past six years there have only been a few categories that actually have ended in a truly close vote. Even the last two Horse of the Year debates, that have focused on Zenyatta, did not end in  close votes. In 2010, Zenyatta won HOTY by a margin of 10.9% and in 2009, Rachel Alexandra prevailed by 13.3%.
Recently the closest votes for divisional champs had Miesque’s Approval nosing out the 2006 turf male title by 1.8% over The Tin Man, and Leroidesanimaux winning that same division the prior year by 1.1% over Artie Schiller.  The vote count in 2005 was actually 119 to 116.
Interestingly over the past six years there have been only two unanimous winners. Blame took the 2010 Eclipse Award for Older Males with 100% of the vote and Rachel Alexandra  swept the votes for the 2009 three year-old filly championship.
Can the vote for Horse of the Year among Havre de Grace, Acclamation, and Caleb’s Posse produce a close finish? I think Havre de Grace will win it by a solid margin of at least 15 to 20%.
The three year-old male championship will probably be more contentious.  Animal Kingdom leads the way because his season ending injury doesn’t leave a lot of reason to knock him. Certainly Caleb's Posse, Shackleford, Ruler on Ice, and To Honor and Serve will get their share of the votes.
The older male category will see a lot of horses get votes.  Acclamation, Drosselmeyer, Flat Out, Game On Dude, Tizway, and Wise Dan are all worthy of consideration.
Acclamation is also a leading candidate for the turf male award.  Here he faces Cape Blanco who went three for three in American grade one races with extremely impressive victories.  Could Acclamation end up not winning any Eclipse Award?
The battle between Hansen and Union Rags for the juvenile male award may end up being just as close as their Breeders’ Cup race.  Will Hansen once again win by a narrow margin?
Another interesting question about this year’s voting is whether there will be any new unanimous award winners.  My Miss Aurelia has had a brilliant unbeaten four race campaign.  Royal Delta will take the three year-old filly title with her year ending dominance, but will she sweep the votes? 
Finally Havre de Grace is likely to be named Horse of the Year, but what will the voting show for the older female Eclipse?  No doubt that Blind Luck will get votes based on her impressive Delaware Handicap victory over HDG.
On January 16, 2012, in Beverly Hills, CA, the Eclipse Award winners will be announced and the best horses of 2011 will be honored. It will be just as interesting to find out how the votes were distributed in each of the categories.   


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Older Comments about Dissecting the Eclipse Award Vote...

Lenny from bh agrees with me about barring for life the Frankel voter.
HAHA.. Mary I concede RD was the best older MARE hands down...
Wow, just wow, way to make it about that. See ya Tuesday.
I give up.
Did Union Rags get voted in third or second for 3 Year Old?
??? Groupie Doll not receiving all of the votes for top female sprinter. Any abstains or no votes. Then renounce your votership. Shanghai Bobby not receiving the unanimous vote for 2yo male, I'll Have Another not being voted top 3yo male unanimously. The 3yo filly vote being close. Questing and Lady Of Shamrock had the campaigns, with Questing taking the prestigious Saratoga grade 1s. Beholder getting the BC award at the Eclipse awards. Someone who should NEVER be allowed to vote on these awards, ever again, voting for Frankel for Horse Of The Year. Did Frankel race in North America and that didn't make the news? Those are my questions/complaints. Add Wise Dan taking three Eclipse Awards. Arlington Million, BC Turf Classic Little Mike. Top NY turf routes, Point Of Entry. Not even close? Really? P.S., I'm perfectly okay with Groupie Doll's older female votes and Tim Smith's 1 vote for It's Tricky. Those are deserving females.
Just watch out for Royal Delta next year, if she takes the Dubai world cup and continues racing long she'll be one to watch.
I would say Grace gets it again for horse of the year. However, I do think 2012 will end the female streak. The male division looks loaded with some nice horses coming back in PrePeg, MMM, Nehro, AK, Trickmiester, etc. You also have many nice three year olds looking to step up.
Bad typo--HORSE
Seems like Havre de Grace will be Hore of the Year.
Drosselmeyer??? it is horse of the YEAR, not horse of the month
I'll make a bold prediction and say that Royal Delta or Drosselmeyer win HOTY!!! And my other shocker for 3YO honors, and deservedly so, is Caleb's Posse. Looking at his pedigree and race record he has the look of a promising stallion in the near future.
Here are my Eclipse predictions, not necessarily my choices, but who I think will win the awards: HOTY-Havre de Grace, 2YO-Hansen, 2YOF-My Miss Aurelia, 3YO-Animal Kingdom, 3YOF-Royal Delta, Older Male-Acclamation, Older Female-Havre de Grace, Male Sprinter-Amazombie, Female Sprinter-Turbulent Descent, Male Turf-Cape Blanco, Female Turf-Never Retreat
I think Turf Male will once again be a really close vote between Cape Blanco and Acclamation and that My Miss Aurelia will be unanimous.
I believe this is part of what makes this sport great. There is no mathematical formula that can be used to decide who is better than who (just look at college football). But, as long as it is flesh and blood making these decisions, unanimity will be as rare as a triple crown winner.
Yes, that's why it is so curious ... So close to unanimous, but did not receive 2 votes in 2008, and 1 vote in 2009 and 2010.
I would say that 99.6%, 99.6% and 99.2% for Zenyatta rounds up to an average of 100%. Estimating 235 total votes, that means virtually only 1 of the votes was not for her for Older Female.
  • annmatt · Hand slipped and hit enter...LOL...cont'd. Considering that there was such acrimony about Zenyatta (there were a few who would not vote for her for any reason!!!), a 1 vote away from 100% was truly "unanimous" and was a real compliment to her. In years to come, Zenyatta's legacy will be assured as one of the greats. She proved herself on and off the track, many times over, and her win and near loss in the two Classics gives the measure of her abilities. That her connections didn't choose to be more aggressive in the types of races she ran is likely the reason that she was able to run for 3+ seasons (many would have loved to see Zenyatta burned out like Rachel was). As big as she is, I don't tihnk she would have withstood a harder campaign. She will always draw a heated debate, but, in the end, the great Zenyatta took home the awards that count in the sport, and I'm happy about that. Last year at this time, I along with many others, were furiously campaigning for her for the HOY award, and that really was heated and contentious. We couldn't vote, but our hearts broke not because she lost the Classic, but because we thought those that were against her would use that as a reason to deny her for the third year in a row the HOY award. Now, this year, it's not even an issue for Havre de Grace coming in 4th (duh) in the Classic, and HdG WAS beaten by Blind Luck, and HdG has never won at the classic distance of 1 1/4 mi, yet, I'm betting she gets the HOY award. I certainly won't begrudge her, but I do think that Blind Luck deserves an honorable mention somewhere! I was saddened that she left the stage without any fanfare or honor for the fantastic run she had. · 2932 days ago
When the BloodHorse had a vote on the best of the twentieth century, Willima Nack tells the story of one voter who ranked Secretariat 10th in order to assure man O'War's beign top ranked. He suggested bias...No kidding!!
Great info on the past votes, Matt ... it's funny that Zenyatta never received 100% of the Older Female votes.

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In the 70’s 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 Anderson’s 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 80’s, 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 90’s 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 winner’s circle pictures and a vast collection of Kentucky Derby glasses.
Today’s 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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