Race of the Week 2017

East vs. West Eclipse


As quickly as the horses stormed down the stretch and into racing immortality, the Breeders' Cup is spiraling off in time behind us and leaving in its wake the talk of year end championships. Already nearly two weeks in the past, Eclipse Award talk is raging stronger than ever. Nearly every category now has a definitive leader, while some remain TBD. The decision for the three-year-old filly award may possibly be the most talked about, with it truly remaining unknown to whether Beholder or Princess of Sylmar will claim the award as theirs.


It’s a classic East vs. West matchup. Both striking and talented young fillies have dominated their competition throughout the course of the year on their respective coasts. Princess of Sylmar all but seemed to have the award wrapped up following her fourth consecutive Grade 1 victory in the Beldame on September 28th, but was knocked from her pedestal following her dull and uncharacteristic-like last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Beholder, as we all know, swept to an emphatic 4 ¼ length victory in the Distaff to match Princess of Sylmar’s 4 G1 wins on the year and in doing so put herself in the running, and arguably on top, for divisional honors.


These two fillies are about as opposite as two horses can be. Kentucky bred and bathed in fame since her juvenile year, Beholder has been competing on racing’s highest level since the 3rd start of her career, winning her first G1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her fifth start and being awarded juvenile filly honors. Princess of Sylmar came from inauspicious beginnings, bred in Pennsylvania, being sired by a horse who wasn’t originally even supposed to be her sire, and breaking her maiden at Penn National. While Beholder is a frontrunner and been competing in graded stakes since her third start, Princess of Sylmar is a closer and didn’t start in her first graded stakes until April of this year.


I am one that believes Beholder likely claimed the award as her own on that warm first day of November. Those who know me, or have read my past couple articles, know how dearly I love Princess of Sylmar and this is a topic that comes with literal heartache to me. Knowing that she almost certainly lost the award at the end of the year, in her final race of the year, sends an invisible dagger through my heart. I’m writing this article to put up a fight for the horse I so much adore, and while I’m sure it’s fruitless (I mean, who listens to 15-year-old girls around here?) it’s always worth getting your voice out to the public in the most minute of ways. I just wish this is something the voters will consider before casting their ballots.


Throughout this year, Princess of Sylmar has raced a total of eight times and reigned victorious in six. Her combined winning margins have totaled 25 ½ lengths. Of these six wins, two have come in ungraded stakes while four have come in Grade 1’s, those four wins coming consecutively. She has defeated 14 separate graded stakes winners this year and was the only horse to win two Grade 1 stakes during the Saratoga meet. She travelled to a total of five different racetracks and won from distances ranging a mile and seventy yards to one and a quarter miles, three wins coming at the 1 1/8 mile distance. She received a two month layoff, from the time between the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club American Oaks.


Throughout this year, Beholder has raced a total of seven times and won five. Her combined winning margins have totaled 14 ¼ lengths. Of these five wins, one came in an ungraded stakes while the other four have come in Grade 1’s, two in the first half of the year and two in the second. She has defeated 14 separate graded stakes winners this year. She travelled to a total of three different racetracks and won from distances ranging one mile to one and an eighth miles, two wins coming at a mile and two coming at 1 1/16 miles. She received a four month layoff, double of what Princess of Sylmar received, from the time between the Kentucky Oaks and the Torrey Pines.


Throughout this year, both fillies have defeated the powerhouse mare of Royal Delta once, Beholder in the Distaff and Princess in the Beldame. Despite her steady fall from grace, Royal Delta was considered the horse to beat in both affairs and was installed the favorite in each. During the Breeders Cup Distaff, Royal Delta gave way entering the far turn and was already six lengths back entering the stretch, leaving Beholder with clear sailing to the wire. During the Beldame, Royal Delta had assumed the lead by the ¾ pole and had the lead from Princess of Sylmar entering the stretch, causing Princess to battle with Delta before taking the lead and continuing onto victory. By saying this, I’m not intending to take anything away from Beholder’s Distaff victory. Her win was breathtaking. I’m just pointing out the fact that, unlike Princess, Beholder didn’t have to deal with Royal Delta in the stretch run.


The Kentucky Oaks is a race that I believe comes more into play than people are actually seeing it as. Putting a line through Princess having to travel to California for the Breeders Cup, the only time both fillies travelled out of the states they’re based in, was to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks. As we all know, Princess of Sylmar upset Beholder by a half length to claim the lilies. With the Breeders' Cup being held at Santa Anita, Beholder had the home track advantage and an obvious speed bias on her side. Can we assume that if the Breeders' Cup would have been run in New York that there would have been the same outcome? Or even in Kentucky? The Oaks is really the only example of these two fillies competing on a level playing field. No home track advantage. No speed bias.


With Princess of Sylmar tucked away for the winter, Beholder can very easily come out and strike again, and it appears she may do just that. If she does so, she would unanimously score her second consecutive Eclipse Award. Even today, I can see Beholder taking home the award, since most voters only have their eyes locked on the Breeders' Cup while determining their vote, I still hope and pray daily that Princess’s name will be called early next January at Gulfstream Park. While most will still believe the award is Beholder‘s, I hope after reading this a few may be left thinking, even only if just a little bit. Both of these striking fillies are so talented in their own right and both so deserving of this award, that I can’t help but think “if only we still lived in the day and age when co-champions were awarded”.


~Written by Averie Levanti 


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Older Comments about East vs. West Eclipse...

Wise Dan would never have run this long had he been not gelded and since I think that his greatness is due to his interest in racing, I can guarantee he wouldn't be as successful either. And, let's be honest, if you retired Wise Dan, who is going to breed to a Wiseman's Ferry out of a Wolf Power mare? Unless you ship him to South Africa, no deal.
Wise Dan should win again. Whoever gelded him should be ashamed. The best horsemen do not have to resort to that with a horse that has great breeding.
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • MaynardRunkle · Maybe they're not ashamed. I didn't say they were. I said they should be. Look at his conformation.Look at his Pedigree: Princequillo three times, Secretariat and Northern Dancer twice, Mr. Prospector, Round Table - a veritable who's who. Of course, there is no proof he would not have been a grade one winner without having been gelded. Horse racing is a game of speculation and you surely have as much right to your opinion as I do mine. As a champion, his story should be written into a book and probably will be after he finally retires. Then we'll hear why his potential genetic contribution to the breed will never be realized. What do you think of his pedigree? · 1469 days ago
  • Mary Z. · I think his sire was pretty obscure until he came along. They kind of all have champions if you go back far enough. I'll try to stalk down the reason for his snipping if the trainer ever said why. There are other cases of ones with so-called excellent breeding, close-up, that had to be gelded or they would not have been able to race. One I just pet recently. If I find the gelding reason, I will post it here. · 1469 days ago
Responded, but not on this main page.
Blame beat Zenyatta in the BC Classic and lost the HOY. Maybe history will repeat itself.
  • MaynardRunkle · Zenyatta had been passed over the year before despite competing in the Filly and Mare championship at the Breeder's Cup. Blame had also lost that year and a head victory at his home track running a much shorter total distance hardly showed he was clearly superior. Zenyatta is one of the most charismatic racehorses ever. · 1469 days ago
  • MaynardRunkle · Rachel Alexander had a great three year old season and Zenyatta was passed over despite winning the Classic. Despite Curlin losing the Classic he still got HOY. Does anyone think this year's Classic winner will get HOY? No. The Eclipse awards are great and the controvrsey and debates add interest in horse racing during a time of year when horse racing has few big names in action gets even less attention from the general public. · 1469 days ago
purse size. trophy. competition. there are 3 legit reasons why it is more important. I do agree its not fair for east coast horses. but it is what it is
If the BC ever goes back to trying to be a world championship and not a mid-Fall Santa Anita meet, I would be okay with the premise that the BC should count more than any other. As it is structured now, though, I would ask why the Gulfstream winter meet, the Churchill spring meet, the Saratoga summer meet and the Belmont fall meet should be considered less important than the fall Santa Anita meet (you can even throw in the the Santa Anita winter to early spring meet to my list if you think I'm favoring the East too much).
yes a prior champ has everything to do with it if ur damn near undefeated. to unseat a champion u have to have an overwhelming performance, close aleways goes to the champ.
I never claimed that we should only look at the breeders cup, but it should hold the most weight, by a long shot, over any other race. when its close like beholder and POS, then it should easily settle the arguement. as for no 3 yr old bc races, thats because in north america we consider 3.5 yr olds mature.
buds: If it really were set in stone that the BC should be the championship for three year olds, why aren't there 3 YO only races in the BC? And regardless of whether or not there are, if it was set in stone that a 3 YO winner of the Classic/Distaff would get an Eclipse in their division, don't you think the Princess' owners would have placed emphasis on the BC and not the Oaks/CCA/Alabama races that were their targets form the beginning of the season? Now granted, they took their shot at more and came up short, but if it had been Street Girl who had won the Distaff would you really be advocating for her to win the 3YO filly Eclipse? And another thing, being a prior year BC winner should have NOTHING to do with the current year awards. It's an annual award, not a Hall of Fame award.
The thing is buds - horses are living beings, not machines. If a horse wins every race over the course of a season, then has an off day (perhaps runs an infection, has a sore foot, whatever) the day of the championship, do they really deserve to be tossed from consideration? (See Game on Dude controversies).
It’s a simple fix. If you don’t want biased opinions and politics to get into the game then have a championship race where all the good horses get together and race each other. We could name the winner a “Champion”, and then we wouldn’t have to have a popularity contest and vote… Oh wait we already have that, it’s called the Breeders Cup! I’ve never seen such a group of people that want to take away what horses (athletes) have accomplished, or put so much emphasis on a race in May. The Kentucky Oaks isn’t the championships. I’m the first to say it, although I don’t agree, if POS didn’t run in the BC Distaff she probably (unjustifiably) would have won her division. But Like I said several times before the race, if Beholder won it, she deserved 3 yr old filly award because she would have been a 2 x BC winner that only lost 1 race this year. Some of us on her need to look up in the dictionary the word Championships, and see what it says.
I'd actually be in favor of a points based system to determine the chanpionship awards, much like the ones in place for BC qualifying. More points go to grade one races, and maybe certain grade one races get more points than others. It's guaranteed to be hated by purists, but at least it's a method to quantify a horse's season without putting all the pressure on one race at one track.
Kay,to me it has nothing to do with awards.At one time not only these 2 tremendous fillies,where on top of their sport. Issuing an Award to the so called top of the class cheapens their accomplishments. People take sides in trying to bolster their favorite.In the process,directly or indirectly they wind up trashing the other horse and taking away from their accomplishments. Eclipse Awards serve their purpose,it gives the Blue Bloods and excuse to go to an event and mingle.After that,i personally see no use in them.If the public and the racing industry so thirst for a Champion. Then set the parameters as such in the Breeders Cup.Let every connection World wide know the ground rules in advance.This way,if the award i so important to them .Then they can plot their racing schedule to the point that they will have a fresh and willing race horse for that one day.The negative to this,many would start skipping races to insure they are ready. Same thing like in Sports,they still call it the MVP.How can one quantify who is more valuable than someone else. Just let the horses run,take away these silly public relations popularity votes.
As someone who does not live on either coast and has no axe to grind (in fact, we do not even have a thoroughbred track in my state) - I cannot and will not complain either way the decision goes. Both of these fillies are very deserving and had wonderful years. This sort of reminds me of the year when both rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were fully deserving of HOY honors. It is a shame they will not allow horses to share year end honors in such cases.
Baker i could not agree with you any more,This filly had done it all , she defeated one of the legends in modern racing times in the Beldame . I guess that is what happens when owners get caught up in the Media Blitz. iI just hope that Lukas and company are paying attention with WTC . Has nothing to do with winning or losing.It is all about at what cost to the Horse.Once the decision is made for any 3yo to run them as 4 yos' .Why continue to push the envelope.
Let's just be thankful that you don't have a vote, Averie Elizabeth, because it would most certainly not be an unbiased one. And perhaps if Princess of Sylmar's owner had stuck to his original plan and put her away for the year after the Beldame, her chance of winning champion 3yo filly would be that much greater today.
Shores, it would be wonderful to see another rivalry such as that of Blind Luck and HDG. Those two fillies always laid it down on the track whenever they met. Great for the fans, great for the sport.
In my opinion both deserve to win. Can't ignore beholders distaff win and from off the pace. Or princesses four grade ones in a row. Both beat delta. Both are superb fillies. A lot of people are forgetting though that princess might get more votes than people think because princess beat a beholder who was pretty much at her best in the oaks. Beholder beat a princess who was at her worst. What would have happened if princess was at her best in November? I think that is the answer the voters will have to answer themselves
I'm a 16 year old girl so I'd be more than happy to listen to this. I think you present a great argument and I think ultimately it's going to have to come down to what is freshest in the minds of voters come January. I've seen both race in person and they are two of the most exciting fillies to watch. Whoever wins the award deserves it, and nothing is to be taken away from the loser. And plus, we still have another year out of both of these fillies, and I'd like to see a little rivalr develop, just maybe...

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