Zipse: Early Eclipse Award predictions and scenarios

September 09, 2019 09:45am

In a little less than two months, Santa Anita Park will host the Breeders' Cup for a record 10th time. While the 14 world championship races held Nov. 1-2 will be an important indicator in how the Eclipse Awards are decided, some runners will have a championship already wrapped up before the two-day event. The following selections are how I expect the 2019 Eclipse Awards to be won... Champion Two-Year-Old Colt: Dennis' Moment In most years when the Breeders' Cup is held in California, the West Coast colts hold an advantage. I don't expect that to be the case in 2019. Six months before the Kentucky Derby, look for a pair of 2-year-olds from New York and Kentucky to vie for the top spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. I like both, but I like Dennis' Moment a shade better than Green Light Go. The son of Tiznow will win Churchill Downs' Iroquois Stakes (G3) on Saturday, and then the Breeders' Cup Juvenile seven weeks later to clinch the championship. Champion Two-Year-Old Filly: Bast While the West does not look best on the male side, I feel differently about the girls. In fact, trainer Bob Baffert is holding a trio of aces in Bast, Immediate Impact, and Quality Response. Each young filly could prove tops in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but fresh off her smashing score in the Del Mar Debutante (G1), I believe Bast is most likely to prove best. Like the boys, the Breeders' Cup will be the decider in the Eclipse Award race. Champion Three-Year-Old Male: Code of Honor Maximum Security is the current leader of the division, having finished ahead of Code of Honor in both of their meetings. However, I predict that the division leader will be beaten in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) by the streaking Mr. Money, effectively opening up the Eclipse Award race. In will step Code of Honor can build upon his Dwyer (G3) and Travers (G1) wins with a victory against older in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). With no 3-year-old getting it done at the Breeders' Cup, Code of Honor's win against older will be enough to sway the voters. Champion Three-Year-Old Filly: Guarana While I'm on record stating that I believe Dunbar Road is the best of Chad Brown's star 3-year-old fillies, I believe another one is set up to win a championship. Dunbar Road will challenge the top older mares in the Beldame (G2), while Guarana will have an easier assignment in the Cotillion (G1). Getting the job done at Parx on Sept. 21 would mean her third consecutive Grade 1 victory. With neither likely to win the Breeders' Cup against Midnight Bisou and the rest, I believe that will be enough. Champion Older Dirt Male: McKinzie This award will likely come down to who can win the Breeders' Cup Classic. At Santa Anita, I believe McKinzie will get the distance and prove best of the older dirt males. As the current leader of the division, the Whitney winner could also take the back door to an Eclipse Award if something out of the ordinary happens in the Classic. Champion Older Dirt Female: Midnight Bisou Elate gave Midnight Bisou everything she wanted last time at Saratoga, yet still it was not quite enough. Undefeated in six graded stakes this year, Bloom Racing's 4-year-old filly has already done enough to win the Eclipse Award. Perhaps most impressively, Midnight Bisou has gotten it done all over the country, winning at five different racetracks in 2019, and has beaten her main rival three times. Champion Sprinter: Mitole In one of the strongest divisions going, there can be little doubt that Mitole has done the most. Still, with competition like World of Trouble and Imperial Hint out there, his job is not complete. Should that pair both win Breeders' Cup races, one on turf and one on dirt, either could take the award from Mitole. Still, I believe the Steve Asmussen runner will maintain his advantage at the Breeders' Cup, by proving best whether it be in the Sprint or Dirt Mile. Champion Female Sprinter: Come Dancing Like last year, this appears to be a wide-open division. With that said, Come Dancing has only been beaten by one horse this year, and that was Midnight Bisou. Judging from her recent performance in the Ballerina (G1), she appreciates the tricky seven-furlong distance of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. It won't be easy heading West, but she looks like the one to beat right now. Champion Male Turf Horse: Bricks and Mortar No matter what happens at the Breeders' Cup, be it the Mile or Turf as the race choice, I cannot see any horse stealing this award away from Bricks and Mortar. He's undefeated in five starts this year, including four Grade 1 races and a Grade 2. If he runs in the 12-furlong Breeders' Cup Turf, may likely find the ultimate test waiting for him in the shape of the great English mare, Enable. Win, lose, or draw, he has clearly earned an Eclipse Award this year. Champion Female Turf Horse: Sistercharlie It's deja vu all over again. Last year, the consistent excellence of Sistercharlie, which included a victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, was too much even for Enable's stirring victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf to overcome. I look for exactly the same thing to happen again in 2019. Horse of the Year Midnight Bisou The season's biggest award could wind up being the toughest to decide. If Midnight Bisou can win both the Beldame and the Breeders' Cup Distaff, she would complete a magical 8-for-8 season. It would be very difficult to deny her the ultimate award. The last two won't be easy, but I think the daughter of Midnight Lute can get it done. Still there's Bricks and Mortar, also putting together an excellent 2019. A loss in the Breeders' Cup would do little to relax his hold on the division, but it might be enough to tip the Horse of the Year scales in favor of Midnight Bisou.

 

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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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