Division Rankings: Who’s in line for the human Eclipse Awards?

November 20, 2019 10:25am
With the race for most equine championships decided at the conclusion of the Breeders' Cup two weeks ago, I've already indicated my votes for most 2019 Eclipse Awards, with all but the 3-year-old female and 2-year-old male races seemingly wrapped up.

One caveat I have to mention that could greatly affect my ballot is the prospect of Omaha Beach shipping east to face Maximum Security in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. Although that seems like a longshot to happen -- the Malibu (G1) at home at Santa Anita was the original target -- the matchup could carry Eclipse implications.

So, what about the human side of these awards? I don't write about these nearly as often. It's time to see who's in line for the rest of the championships.

Outstanding Jockey

Last season it was 
Irad Ortiz Jr. who won the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse. I voted him No. 1 on my ballot and will do so again this year.

Checking in at 279 wins as of this writing, Ortiz Jr. will not match his 346 from 2018. However, with more than $32 million in purses already for his mounts, he easily surpasses his $27 million-plus in 2018.

The figure will lead all jockeys, and 
 big chunk of that purse money was won on Breeders' Cup weekend where he won four races on the big stage.

He was aboard Four Wheel Drive in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Spun to Run in the Dirt Mile and Bricks and Mortar in the Turf. Then Ortiz Jr. capped off a big weekend by taking the Classic aboard Vino Rosso.

The regular rider of Horse of the Year favorite Bricks and Mortar, Ortiz Jr. is tied with Javier Castellano with the most graded stakes won so far this season with 34. With a 22% win rate given his 148 graded stakes starts, he has finished on the board in 50% of those 148 graded stakes starts as well.

Outstanding Trainer

Chad Brown has won the Eclipse as Outstanding Trainer the last three years. If you are looking for a way to beat Brown for the Eclipse this year, good luck. He was better this year than last year in some categories and should easily win his fourth straight Eclipse.

While his win percentage of 27% is tied with last season, his 63% rate of hitting the board is his career top. His nearly $30 million in purse money won this year is also a career high, and he easily tops the trainer rankings in that category.

Although Bricks and Mortar is Brown's stable star, he has a multitude of other stars under his care, many of them Eclipse Award contenders. Sistercharlie, Uni, Gurana, and Structor all contributed to his eye-popping 52 graded stakes wins so far in 2019, which is more than double the amount of his next closest pursuer. Brown's 20 Grade 1 wins up to this point also easily lead the trainer rankings.

Outstanding Owner

This is a tough category. Some owners will show several hundred starts, putting up very good numbers, while others don't have the numbers but arguably gained more prestige. Case in point was 2009, when Godolphin won the Eclipse in this category with only 79 starters that season.

In 2019, the leading owner by money won will be the partnership of Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William H 
Lawrence. Most of their success this year was due to Bricks and Mortar. No doubt a great season for this partnership, which may get some sympathetic votes given it is breaking up, but I think others are more deserving of this award.

What about Peter Brant? Brant was well established owner in the 1980s who owned stars such as Gulch and Triptych. He
 re-entered the horse business in 2016 after nearly 20 years away and quickly re-established a reputation as one of the sport’s prominent owners. This is not an easy task, and should be applauded.

Although he is known now as the owner of Eclipse winner Sistercharlie, Brant also campaigned graded stakes winners Dunbar Road and Homerique. With 10 graded stakes wins this season, he is tied at the top in that category. In total, he has had 78 starters thus far this season, winning 29 of those for a 37% win rate and also hitting the board at a 67% rate.

This week's Division Rankings feature the Top 3 from each division that I plan to write into my ballot when the time comes. I take all three spots seriously, as No. 1 votes carry the most weight, but to be an Eclipse finalist is also a prestigious matter for connections.

Here's an updated look:
 
Older Dirt Males


1.
  Mitole – The Breeders' Cup Sprint winner will be the No. 1 horse on my ballot for this division. No other older male can match his resume: six wins at five tracks from seven starts. His four Grade 1 wins is double that of his next closest pursuer.

2.  Vino Rosso – 
Made it clear to everyone that he is the best 10-furlong dirt horse in the country with a powerful win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His margin of victory was the fifth-largest in the race's 36-year history. Winning three of six starts on the year, the Classic was his second Grade 1 win. Also remember he was disqualified in that Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), too.

3.  
McKinzie – The Breeders' Cup Classic favorite ran a game race finishing a clear second. He likely ends his season with two wins from seven starts and a win in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga.

Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  She tried her hardest, but she couldn't quite catch Blue Prize in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The loss not only spoiled her unbeaten season, but also her Horse of the Year chances. Maybe the long season caught up to her, or she didn't quite like the deep Santa Anita track. But she ends her season with seven graded wins.

2.  Blue Prize
 – Joined Bayakoa and Paseana as Breeders' Cup Distaff winners bred in Argentina. After losing the first three starts of her season, she got hot and won her last three.

3. It's undecided between Elatewho went 2-for-7 this season and capped her career with a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Come Dancing, who was 4-for-6 and didn't run her race in the Filly & Mare Sprint but did win four graded events in 2019.

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Maximum Security – The No. 1 horse here since early May, he will likely stay in this spot for the remainder of the season. Clearly has the best overall resume of any in this division with two Grade 1 wins, and he has hit the wire behind only one horse in his whole career. Though controversially disqualified from that victory in the Kentucky Derby, the image of him overpowering the field in a wire-to-wire performance won't be forgotten by this voter. The only thing that could change this for me is a matchup with Omaha Beach in the Cigar Mile.

2.  
Code of Honor – Off the board in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Travers (G1) winner simply didn't fire over the Santa Anita track. He finished the season with four wins from eight starts, with one of those via DQ in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

3.  
Omaha Beach – Runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to fellow 3-year-old Spun to Run, he may run again in the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita in late December, or ship to Aqueduct for the Cigar Mile. He has run in four graded stakes this season, winning three.

3-Year-Old-Females

1. 
Covfefe
- Will likely get my vote for the Eclipse in this division based on her outstanding season.

2.  Serengeti Empress 
- The Kentucky Oaks winner ran a full season and should be commended for it. She ran a big race when third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

3.  Guarana - Her Cotillion loss and non-participation in the Breeders' Cup will cost her the Eclipse in this division.

Turf Males


1.  
Bricks and Mortar – If he isn't a unanimous choice in the vote for this division, there should be an investigation. Simply an outstanding season and is set to join Wise Dan, Kotashaan and John Henry as the only grass horses to win Horse of the Year in the Breeders' Cup era.

2.  Arklow - 
There's quite a gap between Bricks and Mortar and everyone else. You can take any one of half a dozen horses and round out the second and third spots on your Eclipse ballot in this division. Although he was up the track in the Breeders' Cup Turf, Arklow won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and placed in four other graded stakes.

3.  World of Trouble - 
Thinking outside the box here, but this guy was brilliant on the grass, winning all three of his starts on that surface in 2019.

Turf Females

1.  
Sistercharlie  Had a six-race win streak snapped when third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. As the incumbent Eclipse winner of this division, Sistercharlie’s three Grade 1 wins this season are enough for me to place her above her main rival for the Eclipse, Uni. 

2.  Uni 
– The Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine was spectacular in victory over Got Stormy. Overall on the season she won two Grade 1 races with three wins from four starts. She won’t dethrone Sistercharlie on my ballot. Both ran four times, but Sistercharlie did more with her four starts.

3.  
Vasilika – Validated her season-long ranking here with a game runner-up performance in the Filly & Mare Turf. Overall on the season she won five graded stakes.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Mitole  A lock for the Eclipse in this division, he is one of the best sprinters we have seen in the last 20 years.

2.  
Imperial Hint – Scratched from the Breeders' Cup Sprint, he won two Grade 1 races before that, finishing 2-for-4 on the season.

3.  Shancelot
 - The Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up is certainly a talented colt. But I acknowledge it's a stretch to place him third on the ballot with a single graded win. Others could be considered here.

Female Sprinters

1.  
Covfefe –  Simply overwhelmed the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint competition. Finished her season with five wins from six starts, and she bagged two Grade 1 wins this season. A sure bet to win the Eclipse in this division.

2.  
Come Dancing – Was the leader of this division before her showdown with Covfefe in the Breeders' Cup, where she simply didn't fire in her sixth-place finish. She won four graded stakes this year, including the Ballerina (G1).

3.  
Belvoir Bay -  The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint heroine started her season in January and won her first two starts before her narrow loss in Dubai's Al Quoz Sprint (G1). She finishes her season with three wins from six starts.

2-Year-Old Males

This division is still wide open with a few meaningful races yet to be run. Currently, Storm the Court, the upset Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, leads my list. Champagne (G1) winner Tiz the Law could pass him pending results of the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Nashua (G3) winner Independence Hall of Four Wheel Drive, the Juvenile Turf Sprint winner, could end up on my ballot, too. Juvenile Turf winner Structor is 3-for-3 with two graded wins.

2-Year-Old Females

1.
  British Idiom – Narrow winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she will win the Eclipse in this division. She finishes her season 3-for-3 with a pair of Grade 1 scores.


2.
  Donna Veloce - Remarkable runner-up finish to British Idiom in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after making her career debut only one month earlier.

3.  Bast 
 Found the top two a bit too much to handle in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after working near the front end early but was the best of the rest. Previously won the Chandelier (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1).

 

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