Very Early Predictions for the 2017 Eclipse Awards

January 04, 2017 08:08am
Songbird Cotillion 615 X 400 Averie
Photo: Averie Levanti

In less than a month, we will know the 2016 Eclipse Award winners. I’ve made my picks, but that was relatively easy; this is hard. As has become tradition, I’ve decided to fire up the ZATT time machine and jump forward just a little bit. Call it a fool’s mission if you must, but I’m only trying to have a little fun with some reasonably well thought out projections for the 2017 racing season. My very early picks for the 2016 awards should be rewarded with a trio of winners in California Chrome, Songbird and Beholder. Let's see if I can have as much success this year.

It goes without saying that my juvenile picks are shots in the dark, but they represent a couple of yearlings that I was very impressed with at the Keeneland November Sale …

Champion Two-Year-Old Colt – (Union Rags - Trensa, by Giant's Causeway)

Champion Two-Year-Old Filly – (Speightstown – Bahama Bound, by Empire Maker)

Nothing like putting a little pressure on a barn by selecting both the male and the female champion three-year-olds to come from the same trainer. As unlikely as that feat may be, there is no horse that I like better from each division than what Mark Casse has in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, and the fast closing Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up. They are my current top picks to win the big races at Churchill Downs five months from now, and that's good enough for me to make them my early Eclipse Awards picks as well.

Champion Three-Year-Old MaleClassic Empire

Champion Three-Year-Old FillyValadorna

Yes, Arrogate would be the obvious choice in the older male division. Sometimes you get a hunch, though, and my gut tells me that he may be retired well before we reach the Breeders' Cup of 2017. For that reason, I am going with another newly turned four-year-old who would seem to have everything going for him heading into next year. Connect is talented and tough. I am expecting very big things from the colt who bravely fought on to victories in the Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile. And of course, for the older female, I am only expecting more of the same from the great daughter of Medaglia d'Oro.

Champion Older Dirt MaleConnect

Champion Older Dirt FemaleSongbird

The choice of Drefong was so obvious that I almost decided against him, but in the hands of Bob Baffert, I suspect the son of Gio Ponti will be even better as a four-year-old. That would be a scary proposition to his sprint competition. On the female side, I am leaning towards youth, but with the same trainer as my male selection. If sprinting becomes the main game of American Gal in 2017, look out for the talented daughter of Concord Point.

Champion SprinterDrefong

Champion Female SprinterAmerican Gal

Hard to look past Tepin, and her chances of winning a third Eclipse Award next year, but on the other hand, what has Lady Eli done wrong in her three seasons of racing. With much of 2016 lost due to recovery, I like her to come back with a big year as a five-year-old. On the male side, I decided to stick with America's top turf trainer, Chad Brown. Annals of Time is very lightly raced, but looked like a million bucks in blowing by the Hollywood Derby field. I think he can win at multiple distances, and it doesn't hurt to know that he likes the Del Mar turf course.

Champion Male Turf HorseAnnals of Time

Champion Female Turf Horse - Lady Eli

Picking a female to win the Horse of the Year Award is always a risky proposition, but as good as Songbird is, much of the risk falls by the wayside. Let's look forward to another big year for the Fox Hill Farm superstar.

Horse of the Year Songbird

There you have it, eleven predictions sure to entertain at least a ghost of a chance for 2017 glory. Don’t laugh, this was not easy … Have any very early predictions of your own?  


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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, American Pharoah and Justify. 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. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter 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 hosting 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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