With Horse Racing’s 2012 Eclipse Award ceremonies just around the corner, and the finalists already announced, I wanted to take a look at each division and each finalist to give you an idea what to expect on Saturday, January 19 at Gulfstream Park.
Actually, in several different categories, including Horse of the Year (Wise Dan, Fort Larned and I’ll Have Another) I’m not sure what to expect myself as we had a lot of either very close or wide open divisions.
The Eclipse Awards are named after 18th century racehorse Eclipse. Eclipse, who was named after a solar eclipse that occurred on his date of birth (April 1, 1765), was a remarkable racehorse and sire himself.
On the track, (in Britain) Eclipse won all of his 18 starts and was retired, not from injury or age but, from lack of competition. Evidently no horse in his era could run with him…thats a scary thought.
Upon his retirement the numbers (since it was so long ago) are a little sketchy. But from the research I’ve done Eclipse sired an eye popping 344 winners and won more than $250,000 (American dollars). Do you have any idea how much $250,000 was worth in late 1700’s?
Anyway, the Eclipse Awards are handed out to the equine (and human) individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of champion in their respective divisions. These awards are voted on by members of the NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and the NTWAB. (The awards ceremony will be televised live on HRTV January 19 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. EST)
The 2012 Eclipse Awards finalists are:
2-Year-Old Champion Male:
This category is one of only a few “slam dunk” awards winners.
Shanghai Bobby- was 5 for 5 including three wins in three of the country’s biggest races for two year olds. (Hopeful Stakes, Champagne Stakes and BC Juvenile).
In fact, that BC Juvenile race was most impressive (video below). He set a quick early pace and, although clearly tiring on the turn for home, this colt did not fold and showed pure guts and determination to hold off an oncoming He’s Had Enough in the end.
The facts that he is courageous, fast and can (evidently) get a distance should make him a threat in the Triple Crown races in 2013.
Violence– albeit this stretch runner by Megadlia d’Oro (who also sired the great Rachel Alexandra) didn’t make his first start until August 18, he won all three 2012 starts including the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct and the recent Cashcall at Hollywood Park. He has the breeding and running style to make some noise in this division in 2013.
Uncaptured- had an outstanding year. He won six of seven starts including five stakes races, but of those five, none were grade: 1
My Vote: Shanghai Bobby
Who Will Probably Win: Shanghai Bobby
2-Year-Old Champion Filly:
Dreaming of Julia
From where I sit, this is a close division.
Executiveprivilege– I believe she should win the award but she probably won’t. She dominated the west coast summer scene for two year old fillies as she rattled off five straight wins (including three graded stakes). She also showed versatility in winning from on and off the lead and durability as she made seven starts in six months time.
However, defeats in the BC Juvenile Filly and the recent Hollywood Starlet might hurt her in the voter’s minds.
Beholder– will probably take home the hardware based on her wire to wire score (albeit she took total advantage of a pretty serious speed bias) in the BC Juvenile Filly race. But this is troubling to me because, aside from the BC win, she shows only a maiden win and an allowance win in 2012.
Dreaming of Julia– looked like the second coming of Ruffian thru her first two starts (blow out wins), then showed great heart in winning the grade: 1 Frizette in her third start. Good looking filly is talented but the fact remains she finished behind the top two in here in the Breeders Cup
My Vote: Executiveprivilege
Who Will Probably Win: Beholder
3-Year-Old Champion Male:
I’ll Have Another
Another one of the few “slam dunk” award winners.
I’ll Have Another- generally speaking when a three year old male wins both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes its pretty much a foregone conclusion he’ll be crowned champion of the division. But if you add in nothing short of two thrilling stretch runs in the two aforementioned races and another grade: 1 win (Santa Anita Derby), you get a slam dunk three year old champion and a Horse of the Year candidate….like we have here.
Bodemeister– looked like a winner turning for home and in the upper stretch of the Kentucky Derby and definitely looked like a winner in deep stretch of the Preakness this year but was gunned down late in both races by I’ll Have Another and had to settle for second in both races.
Extremely fast and good looking this colt by Empire Maker, who dazzled in the Arkansas Derby, was one in along list of horses this year (and of recent past) that retired far too early.
Union Rags– speaking of thrilling stretch runs, this colt ran down the talented, but unlucky Paytner in deep stretch to win the Belmont Stakes.
He won the Fountain of Youth early this year as well but fizzled badly in the Florida Derby. The third best three year old in 2012 is about the right placement for him.
My Vote: I’ll Have Another
Who Will Probably Win: I’ll Have Another
3-Year-Old Champion Filly:
Believe You Can
My Miss Aurelia
Questing– gets the call here off the Coaching Club American Oaks-Alabama daily double as she won both “on the engine” and by daylight.
I’m going to excuse that horrendous performance in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic (she finished last and was never in the race) because she came out of it with a pretty serious eye injury.
She probably wins a close call with the voters.
Believe You Can– is probably the best three year old filly in the land but her year was cut short (it ended in June) to, according to trainer Larry Jones, “recharge her batteries.”
A three time stakes winner, including the prestigious Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs the day before the Derby, she also won the Silverbulletday Stakes and the Fair Ground Oaks.
My Miss Aurelia– champion two year old filly of 2011 and very talented as well. But she only shows a minor stakes win and a win in the Cotillion Stakes at ParxPark.
A side from that she ran very well to be second on the BC Ladies Classic, and then an inexplicably came third in the Las Brea Stakes in California. I like this filly…a lot actually…but she just didn’t do enough in 2012.
My Vote: Questing
Who Will Probably Win: Questing??
Champion Older Male:
Wide open division…you can make a strong case for all three candidates.
Fort Larned- gets my vote based on several factors. First of all, his campaign started in February and ended in November…meaning he was on the track all year long with no breaks and, with the exception of one, (The Stephen Foster) he ran well in all nine starts.
Of course, winning three of his last four starts (the Breeders Cup Classic, The Whitney and Cornhusker with a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup) jumps off the page.
Both Little Mike (Florida Sunshine Millions, Woodford Reserve, Arlington Million and Breeders Cup Turf) and Wise Dan (Fourstardave, Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Mile and BC Mile) both had nothing short of spectacular years but they were on the grass and they should more duke it out in “Male Turf Horse” category as opposed to this one.
My Vote: Fort Larned
Who Will Probably Win: Fort Larned???
Champion Older Female:
Include Me Out
Royal Delta– after getting off to a shaky start this year (second in the Sabin Stakes in Feb and up the track in the Dubai World Cup in March), this newly turned mare with regal bloodlines (Empire Maker-Delta Princess by A.P.Indy) bounced back and won four of her next five including the Delaware Handicap, the grade:1 Beldame and, of course, the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.
Shouldn’t be any doubt in this category. Lastly, just FYI this mare worked three furlongs in :38 flat two weeks ago while preparing for her 2013 and 5 year old debut…can’t wait.
Groupie Doll– this filly was an unstoppable monster from April to November while winning five stakes’ races in a row including three grade: 1’s and the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.
She should absolutely waltz home with the Female Sprinter of the Year award but best older filly? Have to give this one to Royal Delta.
Include Me Out– well named mare started the year four for five but subsequent defeats in the Zenyatta and BC Ladies Classic set her back…nice mare overall but just didn’t do enough to win a championship
My Vote: Royal Delta
Who Will Probably Win: Royal Delta
Champion Make Sprinter:
The Lumber Guy
Trinniberg- will get my vote based on the four graded sprint races he won this year (Swale, Bay Shore, Woody Stephens and, of course BC Sprint). I know he completely mailed it in in the (important) King’s Bishop at Saratoga but he did enough other than that to earn the title.
That win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint race (against the best three year olds and older sprinters in the country) most likely sealed it for him. He finished the 6 furlongs in spectacular 1:07.4.
The Lumber Guy-scored wins in the Jerome (even though that race is at a mile), the Grade: 1 Vosburgh and a good second behind Trinniberg in the BC Sprint. I noticed his poor races (with the exception of the Malibu Stakes) were at a distance of ground. The second best sprinter in the country this year? I’m ok with that…
Shackleford- immensely popular, good looking chestnut colt was just 3 for 8 this year but only one of those wins came in a sprint race (Churchill Downs Stakes in May at seven furlongs).
I’m not quite sure how he makes the finalists list to be honest…if he wins Sprint Champion for 2012? I stop watching Horse Racing. I’m sorry; he just doesn’t belong in this category.
My Vote: Trinniberg
Who Will Probably Win: Trinniberg
Champion Female Sprinter:
Groupie Doll-as I stated earlier this mare was unbeatable from mid-April to end of November racking up three Grade: 1 wins and two Grade: 2 wins in the process.
A little disappointed she got beat in the Cigar Mile (in her last race) but that was at a mile against the boys so I’m going to give her a pass on that one.
Contested– good looking daughter of the wickedly fast Ghostzapper was four for five and notched three graded stakes win in the process (two Grade:1’s …The Test and The Acorn).
This stretch runner was heading for a showdown in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint against Groupie Doll but contracted a lung infection that knocked her to the sidelines.
Too bad, that would have made for a great match up. The good news is trainer Bob Baffert announced that the filly returned to training on Nov 1 and is gearing up towards a 2013 campaign.
Mizdirection- another well named filly that certainly deserves props for her 2012 campaign as well.
She was also four for five this past year and shows two wins in stakes races (including the BC Turf Sprint) and two wins in Handicap races as well.
Although this makes no difference in the voting she did start of 2013 on the right foot with a (repeat) win in the Monrovia Stakes.
Not crazy she never left the state of California in 2012, but an exceptional mare none the less.
My Vote: Groupie Doll
Who Will Probably Win: Groupie Doll
Champion Male Turf Horse:
Point of Entry
Any of the three deserve to win…tough choices.
Wise Dan– will get Horse of the Year considerations, and rightfully so, based on his five wins in six 2012 starts.
Finished the year strong (three straight Grade: 1 wins…Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Mile and BC Mile Turf).
Obviously a quality racehorse as he shows 13 wins in 20 career starts.
Little Mike– one would think if you have a horse that wins three grade one races (including the Arlington Million, the BC Turf marathon and the Woodford Reserve) and a Florida Millions race, he or she would be a lock to bring home the hardware right?
Maybe not….its a very good argument of who had a better year this guy or Wise Dan. However, Wise Dan won one more Grade: 1 race and if this horse didn’t throw clunkers in Joe Hirsch Invitational and the Shoemaker Mile, it’s probably a different outcome.
Point of Entry– I had this well bred (Dynaformer-Miss Matlacha by Seeking The Gold) good looking colt penciled in as champion of this division as early as August after scoring come from behind wins in the (Grade:1’s) Man O’ War Stakes and Sword Dancer Stakes, but albeit he had a tremendous year, the other two were slightly better.
My Vote: Wise Dan
Who Will Probably Win: Wise Dan???
Champion Female Turf Horse:
Zagora- five wins (all in Graded Stakes races) in eight starts (and finished second once and third once) capped off by a win in the BC Filly and Mare Turf should be more than enough for her to win this division.
Late running mare banked almost $1.7 million in the process.
Marketing Mix– three Grade Stakes wins and a good (close) second behind Zagora in the aforementioned BC F & M Turf definately makes her among the elite horses in this division. But she was beaten fair and square Zagora (she actually had the lead in mid-stretch of the BC F & M race and was passed by Zagora) when they met in the biggest race of the year.
Tapitfly– three time stakes winner recorded a mark of 8-3-1-2 for the year. Third best grass mare in the country this year is exactly where I would put her.
My Vote: Zagora
Who Will Portably Win: Zagora
Champion Steeplechase Horse:
Tough division….hurdlers usually take turns beating each other.
Pierrot Lunaire– gets the nod off wins in the Lonesome Glory and Grand National (where he defeated Demonstrative)
Demonstrative– scored wins in the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase Handicap and Colonial Cup was beaten by Pierrot Lunaire last time they met
Divine Fortune– how do you vote for a horse to be champion off one allowance win all year long??
Horse of the Year:
I’ll Have Another
Horse of the Year honors are perhaps the most wide open category this year.
I’m not sure how but Wise Dan appears to be the favorite to win the award. I’ve seen several online voting websites and he leads on all (or most) of them.
But to me, I’ll Have Another’s three grade: 1 victories (Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness) are far superior to Wise Dan’s three grade I victories (Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Mile and BC Mile Turf).
I’ll Have Another had an electrifying run in the spring classics. Along the way, he defeated a deep and talented class 3-year-olds including Bodemeister, Paynter, Union Rags, Dullahan, and Creative Causeamongst others.
Who, exactly, did Wise Dan defeat? The horses that finished second and third behind him in the Shadwell Mile were (over) 100-1 and 48-1, respectively, and the horse that finished second to him in Woodbine Mile had never even run on grass before.
Lastly, Fort Larned, for whom I like a lot, is certainly no slouch. He won the Cornhusker Handicap and Whitney at Saratoga, and then showed great heart and determination while refusing to let Mucho Macho Man pass him down the stretch in the Breeders Cup Classic. Tack on two more stakes wins (The Skip Away Stakes at GulfstreamPark and the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs) and you have a heck of a year.
My Vote: I’ll Have Another
Who Will Probably Win: ???
As far as the human connections are concerned, my votes will be:
Owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds– put up staggering numbers including 542 winners and over $10 million in purses
Breeder: Adena Springs- also put up dominating numbers.
Trainer: Dale Romans– had far and away his best year as a trainer including 125 winners and almost $12 million in purses
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez– had 341 winners and amassed over $25.5 million in purses
Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano rode 225 winners and even though Irad Ortiz Jr. had more money won, I’m going with Montano.
Thanks for reading