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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

The Male Sprint Championship Conundrum

Points Offthebench wins 2013 SA Sprint Championship.
Photo: Benoit Photo


Can a horse win an Eclipse Award with only two starts? Should a horse who has not run since May be considered? Will a tragic passing sway the vote? These questions and more need to be answered before deciding on the 2013 Male Sprint Championship. 

In what likely boils down to as the most difficult of all Eclipse Award decisions, three horses can lay claim to the honor, but none of the three would seem to have a clear advantage over the other two. More often than not, this award is as simple as the Breeders' Cup Sprint. 11 of the last 15 winners of the race have gone on to be named champion. While Secret Circle was a popular winner ten days ago, his lack of racing in 2013 leaves his chances of becoming the 12th in 16 years, questionable indeed. 

Returning from an 18-month layoff, Secret Circle came back with a win over allowance/optional claiming foes on October 14 at Santa Anita. It was a sharp return, and the sub-1:08 time gave handicappers ample reason to believe he could win a few weeks later in the Breeders' Cup, but as a non-stakes race, just how much stock can it carry? He did come back to win the BC Sprint, and it certainly was the most important victory within the division this year, but does a single race trump multiple stakes win of others?



Sahara Sky does have multiple graded stakes wins in 2013, but his resume also has holes. A winner of two graded sprints in the first two months of the year, he beat good horses in both races, but neither qualifies as being fresh in the minds of voters. In the spring, he ventured east to run second in an unspectacular edition of the Grade 1 Carter. Shrugging that loss aside, he came back to get up in the final stride against a strong field in the prestigious Met Mile. Whether or not you consider this is a sprint comes in question, but if you do, it was a huge win. Unfortunately, he has not been seen since. Begging the question, can a very good record, accomplished in only the first five months of the year, be enough to carry the day?


Finally, you have Points Offthebench. Just an allowance performer until the end of July, the ill-fated gelding made his graded stakes debut a winning one with a hard-earned victory over Goldencents in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar. One grade 1 victory led to another, as once again, the Tim Yakteen trainee would defeat a valiant foe in Goldencents, this time in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Sadly the new sprinting star was lost forever when he broke down while preparing for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Did he do enough, in just two stakes, to earn a championship?


You can see my conundrum. I honestly believe that Secret Circle, seven wins, and two seconds, from nine lifetime starts, including two Breeders' Cup victories, is the class of the field, but two starts does not make a champion. I think Sahara Sky should get credit for his big win in the one-turn mile at Belmont, but the loss to Swagger Jack, coupled with inactivity over the last seven months of the year, have me believing that he finishes third in this race.


That leaves Points Offthebench. I have already changed my mind on this once, but when stacking it all up, this is the horse who I believe had the best overall sprinting year of 2013. I call for him to win the Eclipse Award posthumously. 




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Older Comments about The Male Sprint Championship Conundrum...

Secret Circle deserves it
In theory Goldencents is a better horse than those being considered for the Eclipse award as a top sprinter.In Reality,judge him by his races up to 7F.That is a sprint,1 mile races are the middle distance. Regardless if he is running and winning the Cigar Mile..Other than maybe Groupie Doll,he will not be facing any sprinters in this race.So how can he be rewarded and credited with a sprint victory. Judge him by what he did in sprints.He did nothing,he lost to horses that were nothing special.Yes he was close,but bottom line he lost.Any horse during a race can have bad luck.Regardless of who wins the award,there will be controversy.There is no clear cut winner,that is not a good enough reason to try and invent one.
I agree 100% that IF Goldencents wins the Cigar Mile he should be sprint champion! A one turn mile is closer to a sprint than a route, so he should qualify!!
I don't know that Goldencents is a better sprinter than the other two, if you meant Sahara Sky and Points Offthebench, LennyGeorge. Sahara Sky beat Justin Phillip twice earlier in the year, not grade 1s, but grade 2s, however good sprint fields, of course in California which somehow gets an asterisk, and he ran the 6f in under 1:08. Why I mention Justin Phillip is because he was a ,imo, should have been DQ away from his second grade 1 win this year and he is one of the older male sprinters that ran a full campaign, 10 races including 3 wins--2 in graded stakes and 4 graded stakes placings , and had he been able to win the BC Sprint would have easily had the Eclipse this year.
Otherwise we all know Goldencents is better than the other two but does he qualify...he would be my choice he had nad luck losing his 2 sprints before the breeders he is the best in the country right now up to a mile with Wise Dan
When a horse comes off a 18 month layoff wins 2 races one of which is the Breeders and registers a sub 1:08......Dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Is a one-turn mile considered a sprint and a two-turn mile a route?
Why not Goldencents, particularly if he takes the NYRA Mile?
The problem is that today when horses race only four or five times the Breeders Cup becomes more and more important, if either Points Offthebench or Sahara Sky had 4 or 5 Grade One wins or they had faced all the top sprinters on the track then there would be little argument about who should win the Eclipse. But neither horse has had a great year, it would be hard to make a case for any of these horses to win most years in the pre Lasix past. Today in many divisions, including the Sprint, the Breeders Cup is the only time horses from all parts of the country and ages face each other on the track. To win the Breeders Cup has to count for more than winning two sprints at Santa Anita and the Met Mile and a Grade 2 and Grade 3. Hey I am not saying this is a good thing, but if horses are going to race only 4 or 5 times a year they will have trouble having a body of work that tops a Breeders Cup win in my opinion. Remember that last year, except for the 3 year olds, every Eclipse winner won a Breeders Cup race.
Sullivan, Sahara was also so against the track in the Carter. Unfortunately that never comes in to play. He was so much the best that day.
vodkak, I direct your attention to ' I think Sahara Sky should get credit for his big win in the one-turn mile at Belmont, but the loss to Swagger Jack" < the loss to Swagger Jack should not matter so much as the second in a G1 seeing as he beat him next time out
Cmorales.It would not matter to me 1 way or another.But if Goldy did win the Gigar,i could accept him more than Secret Circle
Sahara Sky was and imo would have been best sprinter overall, but I think the late Points Offthebench will get the award due to the two grade 1 sprint wins, unless Sahara Sky can come back , but not sure when that may be or what graded stakes sprints are left in '13. My comment at the time was that he started out in the Carter in Buffalo. If only he'd gotten there in time. Hard to say about the Met Mile or any mile counting for a sprint, but great win for him. Should be either of these two anyway, not Secret Circle, unless of course he wins another grade 1, but what race?
Points Offthebench should will win the award posthumously. I hope so, at least. With no standout, I think it should be his.
So Mike,you mean to tell me that a very strongly diminishing Victory is so difinative.Are you now saying that if the race was 2 feet longer ,then Laugh Track should be the Eclipse award winner. My point,if he demolishes the field ala Beholder,as much as i would still disagree. I at least woul listen. No 1 race should ever b a determining factor,unless it is pre-billed as the Champion naming even. To many variables. Some horses are penalized for racing all year and are not at full strength,others may not like the surface.Some are not 100 % physically fit.To many as i said to reward a Johnny come lately.
The Breeders Cup is becoming more and more important as horses run fewer times during the year. Should the Breeders Cup winner automatically win the Eclipse Award? Well in some divisions probably yes, although the 2 year old filly division this year is totally confused because of the disqualifaction, 9 out of 10 times the Breeders Cup winner will be the 2 year old filly champion, and the Sprint division is another where the Breeders Cup has a great influence. I don't see how anyone can say any sprinter accompolished more that Secret Circle in winning the Breeders Cup Sprint. They may have run more times but winning the Sprint is a much bigger accomplishment that what any of the other sprinters were able to do this year.
Sullivan, I invite you to reread Brian's article. Nowhere did he say SS wasn't quality only that he wouldn't vote for him.
I do not know who will or should win this Honor. Personally,my only strong opinion regarding this division is.If they ever gave the award to Secret Circle,then close down the doors . This award and all others are not designed to select the best in their respective divisions. That is to subjective. It is designed to reward the horse with the best overall accomplishments. If it means that a horse basically sat out the entire season,came back and won an immitation4 horse race.Then won the Breeders Cup sprint within a diminishing margin.Why consider any race.Change the rules of the game,get rid of all the media voters. Set a Breeders Cup that the winner of the race will be named the Champion.If you dominated all year ,but cannot show up for whatever the reason. It is your tough luck.That is exactly the message the industry would be sending if the named Secret Circle as the top Sprinter.
Goldencents' BC victory greatly flattered Points Offthebench's two G1 Cali victories. Secret Circle is undeniably brilliant, but his lone stakes win shouldn't trump a full year of racing, even if that lone win came in a BC race. I've changed my mind, too, but I'll probably change it again. Just you hide and watch.
Brian, I invite you to watch the Carter again. SS got moving too latr to win, and was not defeated by Swagger Jack in a manner that should make anyone think he isn't quality

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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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