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Zipse At The Track

Is 3 Enough for My Miss Aurelia and an Eclipse?


I have little doubt that the best three-year-old filly I saw run this year is My Miss Aurelia, but with only three races, two wins, and one grade 1 stakes victory in 2012, I wonder if the George Bolton and Stonestreet owned, and Steve Asmussen trained, filly has done enough to garner the nod as the champion sophomore filly this year.


With an easy win in the listed Mandy’s Gold Stakes at Saratoga, a tenacious victory over Questing in the $1,000,000 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing, and an excellent performance when second to the champion older mare, Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, it would seem that My Miss Aurelia has made a strong claim for her second Eclipse Award in two seasons of racing, despite her short seasons. Did she accomplish more than her main competition for the championship? The answer may well be yes when you consider the shortcomings of her competition.


The Competition

Questing might be the strongest of her divisional rivals considering her two big, grade 1 wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. She has three wins in seven starts this year, but has never won a stakes race outside of Saratoga. Perhaps most damaging to her case is her 0-for-3 record against My Miss Aurelia, including 0-for-2 this year.


Lady of Shamrock has been the most consistent sophomore filly over the entire 2012 season with a 7-4-1-1 record, including four stakes wins, with two grade ones. Her entire argument, though, rests on the turf vs. dirt argument, as all of her wins came on the grass. Was she dominant enough on the turf to win the award? A 5th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, while not a poor race, does not bolster her chances.


Believe You Can was the clear leader of the division back in the first week of May when she collected her third stakes win of the year in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks, but has only run once since, that being a disappointing and well-beaten 3rd place finish in the Mother Goose. Her inactivity has left her as the forgotten horse in the chase for a championship.


Contested has an excellent 4-for-5 record this year, including impressive wins in the Grade 1 Acorn and Grade 1 Test, but in her only try around two-turns, she failed miserably when finishing up the track in the nine-furlong Mother Goose.


Grace Hall and In Lingerie were good enough to each collect three graded stakes wins this year, but unfortunately, neither could beat the very best in several tries, including out-of-the-money finishes in their respective Breeders’ Cup races.


With the competition outlined, the next question would be: Is there precedent for My Miss Aurelia to win an Eclipse Award with such little racing? The answer is yes … and no.


The Precedents


In the juvenile divisions, it has become almost commonplace to earn a year-end championship with only three races. See undefeated juvenile champions, Indian Blessing, Uncle Mo, and Hansen for proof of this, but then again, they all went perfect in their championship seasons. Perhaps the 2003 Eclipse Award for Action This Day provides the best hope for My Miss Aurelia. His 3-2-1-0 record is identical to hers, but keep in mind, his other two races, other than his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win, were both in maiden special weight races. So the precedent has been set by two-year-olds, but what about more experienced horses?


In my research, I could not find a single horse of three or older that won an Eclipse Award with as few as three starts during their championship season; having said that, I did find several examples that may make it more acceptable for My Miss Aurelia to be rewarded, despite only three races this year.


In 2004, Ghostzapper was not only named Champion Older Male, but he took home the big one, Horse of the Year, while only making just four starts that year. Voters recognized that Ghostzapper was the best of the year, and were more than willing to vote accordingly, despite only four races.


In 2002 and 2003, High Chaparral made ten combined starts, but it is interesting to note that he won back-to-back Eclipse Awards, despite only one race in America each year, and one of those was a dead-heat to Johar. More recently, no one had any trouble with awarding consecutive championships to Goldikova after only one start a year in the United States.


And finally, consider the case of Left Bank, who in 2002, was named the Champion Older Male. That year, he ran only four times, winning the six-furlong Bold Ruler, running 5th in the Met Mile, winning the seven-furlong Tom Fool, before winning the nine-furlong Whitney. Meaning he won an Eclipse Award traditionally reserved for distance dirt horses while competing in only a single two-turn race the entire year.


My Miss Aurelia’s claim to a championship seems to be looking stronger all the time, but of course, each Eclipse Award is unique and very much tied in to the strength (or lack thereof) of their competition.


So the question remains … has My Miss Aurelia done enough in only three starts to deserve the three-year-old filly award? My opinion, as you may have guessed by now, is yes, she was able to prove best of her division in only the three races. 


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Older Comments about Is 3 Enough for My Miss Aurelia and an Eclipse?...

My Miss Aurelia worked Monday at Santa Anita. Could a run in the Grade 1 La Brea, hoping to strengthen her Eclipse resume, be next?
It would suggest a terribly weak division if three starts won the prize
I honestly don't know who to pick here. I am not a fan of just 3 starts. That isn't her fault, but that just isn't a year worth of performances. With Questing, I think you have to toss the LC. That race reminded me of LAT at Churchill in 2010. I would be different if Questing simply went to the lead like she always does and ended up fried by the pace, but she never got into the race. Based on that, I think that is a toss race and you have to count her other races over the dirt, and in those, she is 3 for 4 with only a head loss to MMA after a long stretch duel. That race is what makes it difficult for me to decide, because I am a person who believes head to head match ups are the deciding factor. My only issue is that the distance was perfect for MMA, and probably not so much for Questing. I really wish we could see these two one more time, the Gazelle possibly, but we know that won't happen. Since that is the case, I have to say based on her consistency and brilliance, up until and injury to her eye cause her to pull up, that I choose Questing. But only very narrowly. I would not argue with anyone who said MMA.
This is the biggest question for me these days. I still can't decide. Good piece. Left Bank <3
Grace Hall.
MMA All The Way.................. That's how I "met" Lady Of Shamrock. Some people only watch the TC and the BC.
It appears Lady of Shamrock is getting more love here than on the homepage poll.
I think My Miss Aurelia is the best 3 year old filly to race this year and will receive the Eclipse Award. Ghostzapper is the horse that typifies racing today, notice that all the precedent examples are since 2000. Few horses today, in any division, have records that would win Eclipse Awards just 20 years ago. If racing doesn't change, in the future there will be a lot of Eclipse winners with only 2-4 starts.
  • MarcelloMarocco · Ghostzapper won HOTY because he WAS the BEST horse running in North America. he ALSO won WORLD horse of the there is no bias involved. · 1834 days ago
Do I even need to say it? The defeat of Questing and then every horse except Royal Delta in the Breeders' Cup makes MMA the 3YO filly of the year.
  • MarcelloMarocco · Please.....Questings Alabama beats ANY run MMA has put in. Beating Questing by a head in the Cotillition is not gonna give her 3yr old of the year. · 1834 days ago
Questing on level weights at a 1 1/4m is the better horse, and she has proved it at the distance. Next year we will see those two gals lock horns in the Delaware handicap.
  • MarcelloMarocco · Sorry she hasn't proved it vs MMA at the distance but her Alabam score was visually one of the most stunning runs of the year. She did what Bodiemesiter couldn't do and that was run them off their feet at 10f. · 1834 days ago
Lady of Shamrock, IMO.
MMA without a doubt had a great year once she made it to the track, but I agree with Mary Z. I think Lady of Shamrock had the best, most consistent year of any of the 3-YO fillies. She was only 2 1/2 lengths away from it all in the BC F&M Turf, so that's not a terrible finish. She has 2 Grade 1 wins, which is good considering that not many were able to piece together a year that included more than 2 Grade 1's. Her biggest downfall is that she is a turf filly, but I don't think that should detract from the year she's had.
My Miss Aurelia could very well be the best 3yo dirt filly. She's a fighter and that was a very impressive place to Royal Delta in the BCLC in MMA's third start this year, but with only one graded stakes win in 2012, I think she can not win an Eclipse this year. To me, Lady Of Shamrock had the best overall year. There is not a 3yo filly turf Eclipse, so she contends in the 3yo filly category. Her 5th place finish in the F&M Turf, while of course out of the money, was not such a bad race, but that may be another discussion, although her top rival for the Eclipse, Questing, finished last in the BCLC, having been pulled up with a reported eye injury, so, both fillies may only be judged on their pre BC performances. Questing will likely take the Eclipse due to beating graded stakes winners in the CCAO and Alabama, both grade prestigious grade 1's at Saratoga. I'd say she was helped by getting away on the lead, and in the Alabama, Zo Impressive was injured, but Questing did take those top races. I think had she had to duel, she would not be a two-time grade one winner. My Miss Aurelia is tough as nails. Too bad she had to have such a long recovery, but if she runs in 2013 she may be the one to give Royal Delta a tough time, at least up to 9f.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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