Below, we go through each award for Horse, Trainer, Jockey and Owner and give our selection to who we feel will win the respective honors for the 2013 Eclipse Awards. Please feel free to comment at the bottom with your thoughts or selections.
HORSE OF THE YEAR
At the beginning of the year, there weren’t many who had heard of Fort Larned. By the end of the year, the entire racing World had heard of him due to his impressive win in the Breeders Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. He won the Skip Away Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in March, but the 2nd half of 2012 is where he really made his mark. He won the Cornhusker Handicap (G3) at Prairie Meadows, Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1) at Saratoga before finishing 3rd in the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. He came back to take the BC Classic. Quite the feel good story.
I’ll Have Another could have won the triple crown for the first time since 1978 and quite possibly gone undefeated the entire year with the way he was running had he not been injured just prior to the Belmont Stakes. Instead, he was retired and sold to a Japanese breeder. His resume is quite impressive as he won all four of his races. The committee will give bonus points for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) wins. His other two wins came in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) both at Santa Anita.
Wise Dan was dominant when turned back to turf after successful stints on the all weather and dirt. He won 5 of 6 races in 2012, with the lone loss a 2nd place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. He won the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on all weather in record time for 1 1/8 miles, Fourstardave Handicap (G2) at Saratoga, Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) at Woodbine against North American and European challengers, Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland and finally the Breeders Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita in record time for one mile on the turf.
Additional merit is always given to the Kentucky Derby winner. It actually helps the cause if the horse becomes injured as he can’t hurt his chances by losing in the following races. We saw this last year with Animal Kingdom. He won the Kentucky Derby, lost in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and never raced again in 2011. He still won the award for top three year old male despite not racing in the final half of the year. This year, I’ll Have Another won the first two legs of the triple crown and never raced again. I believe he will get his fare share of votes, but it won’t be enough to topple Wise Dan and his stellar year. The track records on two occasions will propel Wise Dan to the award.
WINNER: Wise Dan
TWO YEAR OLD MALE
Uncaptured won 6 of 7 races with five in stakes company in 2012. Of those five races, the Lion Heart colt won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. A good resume, but not enough to win the award. A Grade 1 victory would have helped the cause.
Violence missed some time after winning his debut in August at Saratoga. He made up for lost time by capturing the Nashua Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in November before flying out to Santa Anita and winning the CashCall Futurity (G1) at BetFair Hollywood Park. Again, a great first season for the Medaglia d’Oro colt, but unfortunately for him, he will lose to his stablemate.
Shanghai Bobby broke his maiden back in April at Aqueduct. Just over two months later he won the Track Barron Stakes at Belmont Park. Another two months later, the winning continued as he won the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. The difference of being nominated for the top two year old male award and winning the award came in his next two starts. He won the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park by an easy five lengths before shipping to Santa Anita and taking the Breeders Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita in a hard fought battle with He’s Had Enough. A perfect 5 for 5 season will be capped of with Top Honors. The winner.
WINNER: Shanghai Bobby
TWO YEAR OLD FEMALE
Executiveprivilege, winner in five of seven races as a two year old. I think the number of races might have caught up to her in the end. She was unbeatable in her first five starts including her first graded stakes, the Sorrento Stakes (G3) at Del Mar in July. The first Grade 1 win came in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1) in early September. She was dominant in a 6 1/4 lengths win in the Chandelier Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita later in the month. She lost a hard fought battle with Beholder in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on November 2. Her last start was a distant 4th which didn’t resemble the same horse we saw in her first 6 starts. Some much needed rest is needed.
Dreaming of Julia won her first three races including the Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on October 6. She was handily defeated by both Beholder and Executiveprivilege in the BC Juvenile Fillies. She was 3rd, 4 1/4 lengths and one length back respectively.
Beholder finished 4th in her debut on June 28 at Hollywood, but quickly came back to break her maiden at Del Mar. She lost by a mere nose to Executiveprivilege in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes. She won an Allowance race at Santa Anita before defeating Executiveprivilege by a length in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita.
This will come down to which race is given more merit. Beholder won the biggest of the two year old filly races, but Executiveprivilege won three graded stakes in total including two Grade 1. That should be enough to win this award.
THREE YEAR OLD MALE
This award should be for the best three year old who became injured and was forced to retire. It was a shame to see all three of these colts bow out so early in their career.
Union Rags won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park to kick off his three year old campaign. He finished 3rd in the Florida Derby (G1) and 7th in the Kentucky Derby before getting his 2nd career Grade 1 win in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 9. Shortly after, he was retired.
Bodemeister didn’t race as a two year, but it didn’t take him long to show the racing World how good he was. After finishing 2nd in his debut on January 16, he broke his maiden less than a month later. He finished a tough 2nd to Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. He put his stamp on the season by crushing the competition by 9 1/2 lengths in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.71. He will go down in history with gutsy runner-up performances in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Probably the best horse to not either race. He was retired after the Preakness.
I’ll Have Another will win this award for winning all four of his races and in dramatic fashion. He won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at odds of 43/1, then the Santa Anita Derby (G1) before taking both the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs and Preakness Stakes (G1) at the Pimlico Race Course. He was 15/1 in the Derby and still not the favorite in the Preakness. That honor went to Bodemeister. Four wins and four races not as the betting favorite. I’m sure if we looked back in history, we would find all other three year old Eclipse Award winners had been the favorite in at least one of their wins. This could be “another” win for I’ll Have Another. Except this time as the favorite. Simply incredible.
WINNER: I’ll Have Another
THREE YEAR OLD FEMALE
This Award seems to be the toughest and hardest to predict.
My Miss Aurelia missed nine months after winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies last November. She returned August 8 to win the Mandys Gold Stakes at Saratoga. The Smart Strike filly followed it up with her 3rd Grade 1 in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing on September 22. Her first career loss came in a game effort in a 2nd place finish to champion Royal Delta and other top fillies and mares in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Her final race of the year came in a 3rd place finish in the La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. She lost by two necks. The race was seven furlongs and that’s not her best distance.
Believe You Can won three of five races in 2012 including the including the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4. She won the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at Fair Grounds just prior to that on March 31. She has not raced since finishing 3rd in the Mother Goose Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 23. She will get serious credit for the Oaks win, but not racing in the final six months of the year might keep her from winning this award.
Questing (GB) in the first half of the year couldn’t win Allowance races let alone a graded stakes race. That all changed started with her 4 1/4 lengths win in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. She proved it wasn’t a fluke by winning the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga by a commanding nine lengths! She lost to My Miss Aurelia by a head in the four horse field Cotillion Stakes. Her last race can be thrown out as she was pulled up and vanned off in the BC Ladies Classic.
All three will get their share of votes, but in the end I believe the two Grade 1 wins and in convincing fashion should give Questing (GB) the slight nod.
WINNER: Questing (GB)
Wise Dan will get serious consideration for this award, but since he will most likely receive Horse of the Year honors, we believe he will not win this award.
Little Mike won three prestigious turf races including the Breeders Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. The five year old son of Spanish Steps also won the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes earlier in the year at Gulfstream. He was tested in races anywhere from one mile to 1 1/2 miles and was successful at three different distances. He won the Arlington Million (G1) at Arlington Park going 1 1/4 miles, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs going 1 1/8 miles and the BC Turf going 1 1/2 miles. Despite winning the three big ones as we mentioned, I believe the award will go to Fort Larned as Little Mike will win the Older Turf.
Fort Larned as mentioned above won the BC Classic and that will receive alot of merit for this award. He won four graded stakes races including two Grade 1 and the Classic win will be the deciding factor. He will win this award.
WINNER: Wise Dan
Include Me Out had a fantastic season by all accounts in winning four graded stakes in the Southern California area. She won the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (G1) at Del Mar, Marjorie L. Everett Handicap (G2) at BetFair Hollywood Park, La Canada Stakes (G2) and Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. It is impressive, but when facing tougher National competition, she could not duplicate her local performances.
Groupie Doll will be a strong contender to win this award. This filly did everything asked of her and then some. At the beginning of the year, she lost only a neck to Royal Delta going 1 1/16 miles in the Sabin Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Once rainer William Bradley had her racing in sprints, she was nearly unbeatable. She finished 3rd in her first seven furlongs start in the Inside Information Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream. After that, she became the top female sprinter in the country by annihilating her competition, breaking track records and losing a mere nose to the boys. She won the Vinery Madison Stakes (G1) at Keeneland by three lengths, the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, won the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs by 7 1/4 lengths in a record time of1:20.44 for seven furlongs, won the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) at Presque Isle Downs by 3 3/4 lengths, won the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) at Keeneland by 6 1/2 lengths and won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by 4 1/2 lengths. Her last race was a nose loss to Stay Thirsty in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. A mile might be a little too long for her, but she still showed her class and talent with her effort. We believe she will get alot of attention in the voting, but will finish 2nd behind Royal Delta as she will win the Top Female Sprinter.
Royal Delta is the reigning three year old female champion and she will take home the older female award this time around too. The four year old daughter of Empire Maker won four graded stakes this year, with all of them coming after her disappointing trip to Dubai for the World Cup. She won the Fleur De Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs and Delaware Handicap (G2) at Delaware Park before finishing 2nd in the Personal Ensign Handicap (G1) at Saratoga. She took her frustration out on the competition in the Beldame Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park as she won by a whopping 9 1/2 lengths. She capped off her sensational season with a solid win in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. She won the event for the second year in a row.
WINNER: Royal Delta
This will be a tough one as well, since Shackleford is such a fan favorite among horse racing fans, but in the end, we believe he will be edged out by one of the three year olds.
The Lumber Guy is a three year old who won the Vosburgh Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park and Jerome Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. Great wins, but it’s not enough to tackle the other two.
Shackleford won the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park, Clark Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. However, his inconsistency throughout the year and disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile will hurt his chances. The two Grade 1 wins will get him some votes though.
Trinniberg won the Xpressbet Breeders Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita against older males and that will be the deciding factor for this award. He also won the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, Swale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream and Bay Shore Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. Aside from his fiasco in the Kentucky Derby, he had a tremendous three year old campaign. Winner.
Contested won the TVG Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and the Eight Belles Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. An impressive year, but missing the last five months of the year will hurt her chances.
Mizdirection won five stakes races including the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita against the boys and the Monrovia Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita earlier in the year. If she hadn’t missed a few months and won at least another great Grade 1 or 2 race, she might give Groupie Doll a run for her money. An impressive filly who will only get better in 2013.
Groupie Doll will win this award hands downs. The Bowman’s Band filly won multiple graded stakes victories, each in commanding fashion, with one in record time. Enough said.
WINNER: Groupie Doll
Point of Entry was 1/2 length away from not only being the Tup Male Turf winner, but quite possibly the Horse of the Year. The four year old son of Dynaformer lost his forst race in Allowance Optional Claimer, then came back to win an Allowance. After that, he was nearly unbeatable and put together an impressive streak of Graded wins. He won the Elkhorn Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in April, Man o’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park. If he could have pulled off the win in the BC Turf, he easily wins this award. However, since he lost to Little Mike, he will not.
Wise Dan will be Horse of the Year, but we believe they will give this award to someone else as he ran on all three surfaces in 2012.
Little Mike won three impressive races in 2012. It’s quite an accomplishment to win the Breeders Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, Arlington Million (G1) at Arlington Park and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs all in the same season. He will win this award.
WINNER: Wise Dan
Tapitsfly had a good year winning the Just a Game Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, First Lady Stakes (G1) at Keeneland and the Honey Fox Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. She won’t win the award despite the three graded scores.
Marketing Mix also had a solid year North and South of the border. She won the Dance Smartly Stakes (G2) and Nassau Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, then the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. She was defeated 1/2 length by Zagora (FR) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Zagora (FR) was the not the favorite to win the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, but she won. She will be the favorite to win this award though. The five year old Green Tune mare also racked up victories in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, Gallorette Handicap (G3) at Pimlico, Hillsborough Stakes (G3) and Endeavour Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. The Pick.
WINNER: Zagora (FR)
Godolphin Racing only had 48 starts in 2012, but they won 15 times and their horses finished in the top three 65% of the time. They accumulated $3,749,075 in purse earnings. The three year old colt Alpha was one of their success stories with wins in the Travers Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, as well as, the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.
Reddam Racing LLC had 136 starts in 2012 and also won 15 times. Their horses were in the top three 34% of time and earned $4,710,382 in purse money. Most notable was I’ll Have Another and his wins in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Santa Anita Derby.
Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc. is one of the largest stables in the country. Their horses are spread out across the country. They had 1,857 starts, won a record 542 and their horses finished in the top three 62% of the time. They accumulated $10,150,498 in purse earnings. They might not have the prestigious graded stakes wins like GoDolphin and Reddam, but to have 62% of 1,857 starters in the money is quite impressive. We believe the award should go to this outfit.
WINNER: Godolphin Racing
Dale Romans is the underdog in this category with 124 wins and over $11,800,000 in earnings. His 21 graded wins (nine Grade 1) is distant to Baffert and Pletcher, but he won prestigious races such as the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf with Little Mike, Blue Grass Stakes and TVG Pacific Classic with Dullahan against older horses, Met Mile and Clark Handicap with Shackleford and more. Don’t believe he will win this award, but if he does, it shouldn’t be a complete shock to people. He had a tremendous year.
Bob Baffert had 153 wins, over $14,900,000 in earnings and 35 graded wins with fourteen in the Grade 1 level. His 29% win percentage and 62% in the money is better than everyone in the top tier of trainers. 28% of his graded stake victories came in Southern California. His shining moments in 2012 were with Bodemeister when he destroyed the field in the Arkansas Derby and ran a gutsy runner-up in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He did not win a race at the Breeders’ Cup Championship even though the event took place on one of his home tracks, Santa Anita. It will be very close in the end, but believe he will lose by a slim margin.
Todd Pletcher had 229 wins, over $20,800,000 in earnings and 46 graded wins with eleven Grade 1. The earnings and graded wins were easily the best in the country. 58% of his graded wins were away from his local tracks in New York. He had wins in Florida, Kentucky, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and even West Virginia. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Shanghai Bobby who will win for top two year old male. He should be your winner.
WINNER: Dale Romans
All three jockeys were had a solid year. This award could go to any one of these three great riders.
Javier Castellano had 324 wins, over $22,400,000 in earnings and 31 graded stakes wins with eight Grade 1. His win total of 321 and win percentage of 22% are not as good as Dominguez, but more than Velasquez. He has more overall graded wins than Dominguez, but less Grade 1 than both. He had a great year, but won’t win.
John Velasquez had 188 wins, over $19,800,000 in purse earnings and 34 graded stakes wins with fourteen Grade 1. Easily the best percentage considering he had 400 and 800 less mounts respectively. His win and top three percentage is not as good as the other two, but he deserves serious merit for the graded wins.
Ramon Dominguez had 341 wins, over $25,500,000 in earnings and 25 graded stakes wins with ten Grade 1. He was best for total wins, purse earnings, win percentage of 24% and top three of 56%. He had less graded wins including Grade 1 compared to Velasquez. I’m sure Dominguez will win yet again due to sheer overall numbers, but we believe Velasquez should win considering his dominance in the higher level races and lower percentage of overall mounts.
WINNER: Ramon Dominguez
Angel Suarez rides at Parx Racing and won 87 times, had over $2,400,000 in earnings with a 40% top three performance. He finished 7th in the Parx jockey standings. A good year for the youngster, but not good enough to win the award.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. had 145 wins, over $9,100,000 in purse earnings, four graded stakes wins (three Grade 1) and 37% in the top three. He is more well-known than the other two as he rides on the New York circuit and won four overall graded races with three at the Grade 1 level. Quite the accomplishment for a rookie. However, he shouldn’t win the award because he rides at the bigger circuit.
Jose Montano races on the West Virginia circuit at Charles Town and had 225 wins, over $3,600,000 in earnings and finished in the the top three 56% of the time. In the various 2012 meets, he finished 2nd in the standings from January to March. He won the title with 76 wins from April to June, with 60 wins from July to September, as well as, 48 wins from October to December. He should win this award for consistency and his three titles. The overall numbers are in his favor aside from the graded wins and he should win this award.
WINNER: Jose Montano
WINNER: Jose Montano
WINNER: Darley Stables
AWARD OF MERIT
WINNER: Nick Nicholson