Many Eclipse Finalists Visited Big Apple

Union Rags wins 2011 Champagne.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
From Havre de Grace to Caleb's Posse, Union Rags to Tizway, Cape Blanco to Royal Delta, finalists in nearly every category for the upcoming Eclipse Awards turned in outstanding performances on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit in 2011.

The winners of the divisional awards, along with the finalists and winner of Horse of the Year honors, will be announced during the 41st Eclipse Awards on Monday evening, January 16, at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Havre de Grace, one of three fillies in the Older Female category and considered a leading candidate for Horse of the Year honors, joined the great Rachel Alexandra as the only fillies to ever beat males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Larry Jones for Rick Porter, Havre de Grace followed her historic win with a dominating performance in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park, in which she defeated eventual Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta by 8 ¼ lengths.

Another contender in the Older Female category is Awesome Maria, winner of the Grade 2 Shuvee and the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park for Trainer finalist Todd Pletcher, the defending Eclipse winner who topped the NYRA standings for the second straight year in 2011.

Also a finalist among Trainers is New York-based Hall of Famer Bill Mott, whose 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer won the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic and whose Ladies' Classic heroine Royal Delta, winner of the Grade 1 TVG Alabama at Saratoga, is a finalist among Three-Year-Old Fillies.

Joining Royal Delta among sophomore filly finalists is It's Tricky, who flashed her potential by winning an allowance and the Busher during the winter at Aqueduct and then won the Grade 1 TVG Acorn at Belmont and Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at the Spa.

Caleb's Posse, winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and a finalist in both the Three-Year-Old Male and Male Sprinter categories, sparkled in two outstanding races at Saratoga. After taking the Grade 2 Amsterdam early in the meet, the colt then upset last year's juvenile champion, Uncle Mo, in a thrilling edition of the Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop on Travers Day.

The undefeated My Miss Aurelia launched her juvenile campaign at the Spa, winning her debut on July 22 and returning to post a hard-fought victory in the Grade 2 Adirondack. Owned by Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton, she then swept to a 5 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park prior to her win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Joining her on the ballot in the Two-Year-Old Filly category is Grace Hall, winner of Saratoga's Grade 1 Spinaway.

Union Rags, a finalist in the Two-Year-Old Male category, stamped himself a horse to watch on the upcoming Triple Crown trail in his 7 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Saratoga Special. Trained by Michael Matz, the Dixie Union colt returned to Belmont Park in October with an equally impressive 5 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Champagne.

Hilda's Passion, a finalist in the Female Sprinter category, did some of her best running in New York, taking the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont and the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga for Pletcher.

Male Turf Horse finalist Cape Blanco criss-crossed the Atlantic to take two of Belmont Park's most prestigious grass races, the Grade 1 Man o' War in July and the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in October. Also in October, Female Turf Horse finalist Stacelita added the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational to her resume with a convincing two-length victory.

Tizway stamped his credentials as a finalist in the Older Male category with a brilliant victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, racing to a 2 ¾-length victory in 1:32.90, the second-fastest Met Mile in history, and came back to win the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Whitney by three emphatic lengths.

Ramon Dominguez, the defending Eclipse champion rider and the nation's top money earner in 2011, is joined by fellow New York regulars Javier Castellano and John Velazquez on the Jockey ballot. Ryan Curatolo, New York's leading apprentice rider in 2011 and a top 10 finisher on the NYRA circuit, is a finalist in the Apprentice Jockey category.


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