Horse Racing: 2013 Eclipse Awards Preview

With the 2013 Horse Racing season officially over it’s time to look back at the year, with all its ups and downs, and crown our 2013 Eclipse Awards champions.

Named after the great 18th-century racehorse and sire Eclipse, who was undefeated in 18 starts, the Eclipse Awards are given out every year to recognize Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories.

The Eclipse Awards are presented by the Daily Racing Form, the Breeders’ Cup and The Stronach Group and will be held on January 18, 2014 at Gulfstream Park Sport of Kings Theater at 6pm EST.

2013, like most years, had a few categories where the winners are “slam dunks” while most of the categories were very difficult to figure out. Lastly, I put the finalists in the top three spots. The “Honorable Mentions” that you see below each category is my own addendum.

 

Two Year Old Colts & Geldings

 

This division is deep which, in turn, makes for what could be an exciting Triple Crown series in 2014. I saw lots of two year old males that flashed brilliance, but none more than Shared Belief. This gelding was nothing short of spectacular in winning all three starts with relative ease. (He won those starts by a combined 20 ½ lengths with speed figures of 83, 99 and 106). He is capable of devastating, push button, Big Brown-type acceleration that he used to annihilate his foes. Bottom line is he is the most impressive two year old male I’ve seen all year and if he can transfer his synthetics form to dirt, stays healthy and continues to improve, 2014 could be a long year for the other three year old males.

New Years Day finished a late running third in his racing debut on August 14, came back just two weeks later to break his maiden (Both races at Del-Mar), then takes more than two months off before closing from eighth position early to win the Breeders Cup Juvenile at some 10 ½ to 1 odds. The BC Juvenile carries a ton of weight when crowning the champion of this division and this year will probably be no different. Its’ a shame this colt fractured a sesamoid in one of his hind legs and had to be retired.

Havana darn near broke the Saratoga  track record for 5 ½ furlongs in his debut at Saratoga then jumped way up and won the prestigious Champagne Mile at Belmont just six weeks later. He seemed to be on the cusp of the championship but in the BC Juvenile he came from off the pace to take a two length lead in the stretch only to be run down late by New Year’s Day. To me, it looked as though he couldn’t get the distance but I’m completely sold on that fact as of yet. Nice colt for sure…I’m just not sure you can hand him the Eclipse Award after blowing a clear lead in the stretch of the biggest race in the county for two year olds.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Honor Code is very well bred (A.P. Indy- Serena’s Cat by Storm Cat), from a great barn (Shug McGaughey) had a good and very exciting year. I knew we were onto to something after watching his racing (over a sloppy track) debut when he came from some 22 lengths behind to win going away by 4+ lengths and did all that in just seven furlongs. He then came back to finish a late, hard charging second in the prestigious Champagne Stakes at Belmont before showing an enormous amount of guts and determination to win the Remsen Stakes. (In the Remsen, he was passed in the stretch, but dug in, battled back and refused to lose). Cairo Prince took the lead in the aforementioned Remsen only to be gunned down by Honor Code. But this Nashua Stakes winner certainly showed he has immense ability. Strong Mandate was awesome in the Hopeful Stakes while winning by almost 9 but “mailed it in” in the Champagne Stakes and then was the victim of a bad ride in BC Juvenile (He was sent to the early lead, when it was proven this horse performs better running from off the pace).Outstrip, shipped over from England to win the BC Juvenile Turf. I look forward to his connections bringing him back to this country and running him on the dirt. In Trouble, who must have been named after me, is 2 for 2 and won the Futurity at Belmont in September.

My Vote: Shared Belief

Who will probably win: New Years Day

 

Two Year Old Fillies

 

She’s a Tiger had the Breeders Cup Filly Juvenile stolen from her as far as I’m concern. In that race, which of course, the winner usually wins the division championship, this filly took the lead from the start, carved out sizzling fractions including a :45.1 half mile and 1:09.1 for the first six furlongs and was battling as hard as she could to successfully stave off a late run from 30-1 shot Ria Anonita. The two bumped ever so slightly during the heat of battle and She’s a Tiger was DQ-ed for the bump. No way should they have taken her down and her effort that day was one of the bravest and gamest I’d seen through out both days of the 2013 Breeders Cup. Tack on a 6 start and never worse than second year and a Grade: 1 win in August at Del-Mar and she gets my vote.

The aforementioned Ria Antonia won the BC Juvenile Filly on a DQ but had done very little up to that point. No way can I vote for her.

Chriselliam is the female version of Outstrip except she won the BC Juvenile Filly Turf, hope she comes back to America also but I cant see giving her this award off one race (over the turf) in this country.

Honorable Mentions: Sweet Reason won her first two races by a combined 13 ½ lengths before breaking poorly in the Grade: 1 Frizette and racing greenly in the BC Juvenile Filly. Streaming broke her maiden first time out then came back to win the Grade: 1 Hollywood Scarlet just three weeks later. Artemis Agrotera won her first two races including the Grade: 1 Frizette but was clearly beaten in the BC Juvenile Filly race. She did, however, finish fourth and was almost 30 lengths in front of the fifth pace finisher. My Conquestadory won two stakes races to start her career (Including a titanic middle move to win the Alcibiades) but failed in the BC Juvenile Filly Turf. Stopchargingmaria won a pair of graded stakes’ in New York to finish the year.

My Vote: She’s a Tiger

Who will probably win: She’s a Tiger

 

 

 

Three Year Old Colts and Geldings:

This division was one of the craziest in recent memory. Orb dominated the beginning of the year, Palace Malice took over in the middle of the year and Will Take Charge finished the year the strongest of anyone. Now throw in a Preakness win by Oxbow and a Haskell win by Verrazano and you have 5 different horses vying for the title here.

That being said, you have to give it to Will Take Charge. Yes, I know, he did absolutely nothing in the Triple Crown series (8th in the Derby, 7th in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont) but he got good….real good….from that point on including wins in the Travers the Pennsylvania Derby, a “just miss” second in the Breeders Cup Classic and then finished off the year with a huge win over top older horse Game On Dude.

Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner always merits respect in this category, but for all intensive purposes, stopped running after his sensational Derby win.

Palace Malice, who reached a peak in the summer after winning the Belmont Stakes and the Jim Dandy, but it was, for the most part, all down hill from there.

Honorable Mentions: Oxbow, who won the Preakness but was injured shortly after and was retired. Departing, it’s no secret I like this good looking bay gelding who was 5 for 8 this year including wins in the West Virginia Derby and the Super Derby. I expect a big year from him in 2014. Revolutionary was at the top of my Derby list for quite a while earlier in the year, but was somewhat disappointing in the Triple Crown series and was put on the shelf after the Belmont Stakes. Verrazano, who for a brief moment looked like the second coming but overall disappointed, did manage 5 stakes wins including the Haskell and Wood Memorial.

My Vote: Will Take Charge

Who will probably win: Will Take Charge

 

Three Year Old Fillies

Perhaps the toughest category of all… I started saying weeks ago the Princess of Sylmar, off wins in the Kentucky Oaks, the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama, and the Beldame (over Royal Delta)…all very prestigious races… should win the three year old filly title easily….but hold on, her connections decide to take her out west and run in the BC Distaff, where she broke poorly and was decimated by the speedy Beholder.

Beholder, who was 5 for 7 this year including 4 Grade: 1 wins, is obviously no slouch and that BC win move may have cost Princess of Sylmar the title.

Close Hatches was brilliant while winning 5 of 8 races this year and was second in two others but didn’t show up in the Kentucky Oaks.

That being said, I’m still going to vote for “Princess” being that those four aforementioned wins were all more elite races for three year old fillies than the ones Beholder won and the fact she beat Royal Delta, which if you ask me, she had no business doing

Honorable Mentions: Midnight Lucky, who other than a hiccup in the Kentucky Oaks, was nothing short of sensational. Emollient, who although has been plagued with inconstancies (win one, lose one, win one, lose one) through out her entire career, did manage to win the Spinster and the Ashland. Unlimited Budget, I thought this Amazonian filly would be a dominant forced this year, but as I was afraid of, she didn’t come out of the Belmont Stakes the same way she went in.

My Vote: Princess of Sylmar

Who will probably win: Beholder

 

Older Males:

When I look at this category, I look at dirt runners first. Game On Dude rattled off 5 straight wins (three Grade: 1’s) from February to August and was clearly in the driver seat in this division. However, two huge late season defeats including one in the Breeders Cup Classic as the favorite and the other in the Clark Handicap may have voters rethinking the situation.

Wise Dan won six of seven starts this year with a very valid excuse in his lone defeat. Of his six wins, four were Grade: 1’s and of course all on the turf.

Mucho Macho Man toiled earlier in the year without much success, but came on strongly at the end winning back to back Grade: 1’s in the Awesome Again and, of course, the BC Classic. Not sure if he was finally rounding into form late in the season or, like he’s shown in the past, he just loves the Santa Anita surface. Either way, don’t think he gets the award off just two Grade: 1 wins even with one of them being the biggest race in the country.

Honorable Mentions:  Flat Out, with wins in the Westchester Mile, the Suburban Handicap and the Cigar Mile, might tally a few votes. Ditto for Graydar, who won the Donn Handicap, the New Orleans Handicap and the Kelso but suffered injuries between the NO Handicap and the Kelso, then another after the Kelso to put him into retirement. He won all three starts this year and 5 of 6 in his career. This colt, readers, could have been a superstar but just frustratingly couldn’t stay healthy. Cross Traffic, speedy colt by Unbridled’s Song put himself squarely in contention in this division after winning the Whitney at Saratoga and running a pair of bang up, fast races prior. But a late season injury derailed him too. Ron the Greek (Florida Millions and Jockey Club Gold Cup) probably didn’t do enough.

My Vote: Game On Dude

Who Will Probably Win: Wise Dan

 

Older Females:

Royal Delta, who was clearly declining and not the same filly/mare we’ve seen the last two years, probably still get the award in this category almost by default. I mean , she only won three races this year and yes, two were grade one races but still she was defeated by a filly 2 years her junior and then flopped in the BC Distaff. The question is, who can I give the award to if not her?

Joyful Victory was 3 for 5 this year but with only one grade win.

Tiz Miz Sue won a grade one, but was injured and retired back in May.

Honorable Mentions:

The only one who comes close is Dank, who was 2 for 2 in this country with a dominant win in the Grade one Beverly D and a solid win in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. But since there is a “Female Turf” award, she is much better fitted for that. Mizdirection was 4 for 5 this year and, with the exception of one race, did all her damage in sprint races and (like Dank) on the turf. I suppose you can make an argument for her. After that, who else is left? Authenticity was a model of consistency and registered three wins this year, but none in a grade one race.

My Vote: Royal Delta

Who Will Probably Win: Royal Delta

 

 

Best Sprinter (Male)-  

Tough, tough vote…Points Offthebench was 4 for 5 last year including back to back Grade: 1’s and would have been the favorite in the BC Sprint but broke down and was euthanized shortly before that race. He gets the slight nod in this category.

Secret Circle’s comeback and win in the BC Sprint was nothing short of amazing, but he just didn’t do enough through out the year.

Sahara Sky was the best sprinter on the west coast this year and was 3 for 4 in 2013 including winning the Met Mile but I just don’t think he did enough either.

Honorable Mentions:

Goldencents had a strong year but only ran in a few sprint races; he’ll be a force in this division in 2014 if his connections choose to go that way.

My Vote: Points Offthebench

Who Will Probably Win: ????

 

Best Sprinter (Female)

Another tight category….Groupie Doll’s 2013 was not as good as her 2012’s but I still have a lasting image of her battling her rear off in deep stretch to prevail in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

Dance to Bristol did very little wrong as she won 7 of 10 races (with two seconds) with six of those wins coming right in a row, but the bottom line is she was beaten by Groupie Doll in the BC F&M Sprint.

Mizdirection had a tremendous year winning 4 of 5 races including several in graded stakes. However, most of the damage she did was on the turf and for some reason, voters will probably frown on that.

Honorable Mention:

Reneesgotzip….she certainly does…but only ran 3 times in 2013 registering just one win. Judy The Beauty was as consistent as the day is long with her 6-2-3-1 record in 2013 and beat Groupie Doll back in October, but one graded stakes win just isn’t enough here.

My Vote: Groupie Doll

Who Will Probably Win: Groupie Doll

 

Male Turf Horse:

Wise Dan remember the “slam dunk” winners I mentioned in my introduction? Well, here’s one. The chestnut gelding continues to impress and added four more grade:1 wins to his record in 2013….logical choice.

Point of Entry won a pair of grade: 1 races but an injury midway thru the year may have cost him any chance of knocking off old Danny boy.

Magician by the great Galileo and won the BC Turf impressively but I’m just not one for giving awards for winning just one race (albeit a big one) in the country.

Honorable Mention:

Big Blue Kitten won back to back Grade:1 races over the summer but seemed to tail off a bit in the fall. Little Mike won one Grade:1 race but wasn’t nearly as good as he was in 2012, then again, his 2012 year was almost impossible to top.

My Vote: Wise Dan

Who Will Probably Win: Wise Dan

 

Female Turf Horse:

Another slam Dank…I mean…dunk. Dank won the Grade: 1 Beverly D. and the BC Filly and Mare Turf in dominant fashion.

Laughing owned summer racing while registering graded stakes wins in June, July, August and September but finished a disappointing seventh in the BC F & M Turf.

Mizdirection see above…she had a great year but doing most of her damage in sprint races probably hurts her chances in this category. Be sure to note the two straight BC Turf Sprint wins

Honorable Mentions
Tiz Flirtatious won several graded stakes races earlier in the year but she too disappointed in the BC Turf and disappointed again in her last race of 2013 (5th in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park). Egg Drop won 5 of 9 including three in a row (all graded stakes) to close out 2013

My Vote: Dank

Who Will Probably Win: Dank

 

Best Steeplechase Horse:

Divine Fortune, Gustavian and Italian Wedding each only had one victory all year long but give the advantage to Gustavian for being the most consistent of the three

 

Best Trainer:

 

Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Bill Mott

Todd Pletcher…who else? The man continues to win everything in sight.

My Vote: Todd Pletcher

Who Will Probably Win: Todd Pletcher

 

Best Jockey:

Another very close one….Javier Castellano broke a record in 2013, it seemed Joel Rosario won every single major race in the spring and summer and Gary Stevens who won the Preakness and recorded one of single greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen.

My Vote: Joel Rosario

Who Will Probably Win: Joel Rosario

 

Best Apprentice Jockey:

Victor Carrasco, Manuel Franco, Edgard Zayas 

Ok, I know I’ll catch heat for this because it’s a bit of a “homer” vote but I’m going with Manuel Franco…the man did a great job this year when ‘we” hoisted him up on “our” horses.

 

 

Horse of the Year:

I’d love to vote against Wise Dan with his somewhat cushy schedule, but really who else can I vote for?

Will Take Charge’s year ended with fireworks but the beginning of the year was…well…ugly, and Game On Dude’s was the complete opposite, he started the year on fire but tailed off in his last two races.

My Vote: Wise Dan

Who Will Probably Win: Wise Dan

 

Thanks for reading….