On January 16, 2012, at the Beverly Wilshire, in Beverly Hills, CA, thoroughbred racing’s royalty such as top trainers, jockeys, owners, and racing writers will gather for the 41st annual Eclipse Awards. These awards will honor the top racehorses, jockeys, owners, and trainers for their achievement for the previous year. The Eclipse is horse racing’s equivalent of the Academy Award.
Three voting groups of racing writers who decide the winners of the awards are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, and the Daily Racing Form. The way the voters create the list of finalists is by their top three selections. The top three selections are determined by a 10-5-1 point basis. The winner of the Eclipse Awards are determined solely by the first place votes. Every group of finalists is announced in advance with the exception of Horse of the Year, which is announced at the Award ceremony.
This sport involves very, VERY rich men and women, and very talented trainers all with HUGE EGOS. I mean, the idea of “My horse is better than your horse.” just permeates this sport. I mean, I have met a lot of these owners and trainers, and they are very nice and friendly, but they are also business people.
An Eclipse Award means a lot. I remember all too well the whole drama over Rachel Alexandra vs Zenyatta when Rachel won the Horse of the Year Award in 2009. The next year, there was more drama when Zenyatta lost to Blame in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup and there was whining and crying about that at the Eclipse Awards if Zenyatta didn’t win. Of course, she won Horse of the Year that year, so that drama was over. It was kind of too bad, because I think fans and others lost out on appreciating three excellent horses.
This past year, horse racing fans , at first blush, didn’t have a horse that really was all that dominant such as Rachel Alexandra , or Zenyatta. Several horses had their turns in the spotlight such as Uncle Mo, My Miss Aurelia, Hansen, Union Rag, Game on Dude, etc. However, it was this filly, Harve de Grace who really shone. She won the Whitney over males. She dominated the Beldame. Drosselmyer won the Breeder’s Cup Classic . Cape Blanco dominated on the turf. The horse who is the likely front runner for Horse of the year is Harve De Grace.
In this blog, I will list the Finalists for Horse of the Year. (Source: http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/racing-news/2012/01/05/few-surprises-among-eclipse-award-finalists.aspx) I will give my personal picks as a fan. I will also give my pick for Horse of the Year even though the finalists are not picked
Two-year-old male-Creative Cause, Hansen, Union Rags
I think the “race” is between Hansen, the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Winner and Union Rags who finished 2nd in that race (previously unbeaten.) I would go with Union Rags. Rags had the Champagne Stakes win. Pick: Union Rags
Two-year-old filly- Grace Hall, My Miss Aurelia, Stephanie’s Kitten
My Miss Aurelia finished an undefeated season with a win at the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies. Slam Dunk winner. Pick: My Miss Aurelia
Three-year-old male- Animal Kingdom, Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford
I know Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby and got hurt in the Belmont and was second in the Preakness. I know Shackleford won the Preakness. I just can’t justify picking them. By process of elimination., and the fact that Caleb’s Posse won the Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile……Pick: Caleb’s Posse
Three-year-old filly- It’s Tricky, Plum Pretty, Royal Delta
Plum Pretty won the Kentucky Oaks. Nice. However, Royal Delta had the better year, and won the Ladie’s Classic. Pick: Royal Delta
Older male- Acclamation, Game On Dude, Tizway
All three had good seasons, but Game On Dude stood out with the Santa Anita Handicap win and the second place finish by a nose in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. Pick: Game On Due
Older female- Awesome Maria, Blind Luck, Havre de Grace
This award was won in the Beldame, despite being beaten by Blind Luck earlier in the year. Slam dunk if I ever saw one. Pick: Havre de Grace
Male sprinter- Amazombie, Caleb’s Posse, Regally Ready
I don’t keep up much with the sprints, and since they all won in the Breeder’s Cup, and the only horse I am familiar with is Caleb’s Posse, I think I will go with him. Pick: Caleb’s Posse.
Female sprinter-Hilda’s Passion, Musical Romance, Sassy Image
I am not familiar with these sprinters so I will pick Musical Romance. Pick: Musical Romance
Turf male- Acclamation, Cape Blanco (Ire), St Nicholas Abbey (Ire)
The horse that is the stand out of the three is Cape BIanco. He is the winner of the Arlington Million, and the Man O’War defeating the great Gio Ponti in both races (Gio Ponti, now retired, was a prior winner of both the Million and the Man O’ War). After the Million, he suffered a knee injury, and was retired. Slam dunk. Pick: Cape BIanco
Turf female- Dubawi Heights (GB), Perfect Shirl, Stacelita (Fr)
I will be picking the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl. Pick: Perfect Shirl
Steeplechase horse- Black Jack Blues (Ire), Decoy Daddy (Ire), Tax Ruling (Ire)
I don’t follow the Steeplechasers. Just a guess here. Pick: Decoy Daddy
Owner-Midwest Thoroughbreds, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Team Valor International
I am really not the one to judge this category. Pick: Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Breeder- Adena Springs, Brereton C. Jones, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Another category I am not an expert at: Pick: Adena Springs
Trainer- Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher
All three of these guys were awesome. However, I think Bob Baffert’s year was outstanding, especially his handling of Game On Dude. Pick: Bob Baffert
Jockey- Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez
Of the three outstanding riders, Ramon Dominguez had the best year. He and Havre de Grace had a really outstanding year. He and his other regular mount, Gio Ponti, had a tough year, with only one win, the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, which I attended, but overall, Dominguez had a very successful 2011, and finished Number 1 on the National earnings List for Jockeys in 2011. Pick: Ramon Dominguez
Apprentice jockey- Ryan Curatolo, Kyle Frey, Rosario Montanez
The Apprentice Jockey category is being re-voted because of a data glitch according to Thoroughbredtimes.com. http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/national-news/2012/01/07/eclipse-award-voting-for-apprentice-jockey-to-be-redone.aspx
Because of this, I have no pick for this category.
Horse of the year:
Harve de Grace won the Beldame, the Whitney , and the Apple Blossom . I think she is the one who stands out from other horses. Pick: Havre de Grace
Well, those are my picks for the Eclipse Awards. Good luck to all the finalists.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead