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Breeders’ Cup Implications on the Eclipse Awards

The Breeders’ Cup went a long way toward deciding some year-end championships, while throwing other Eclipse Award races into complete disarray.  Some quick thoughts on each category:

2 Year Old Colt – I don’t sense any groundswell of support for Vale of York getting it off a victory at 30-1 and Lookin At Lucky lost little in defeat after just missing while breaking from Post 13.  With 4 wins and a second in 5 starts including wins in the Del Mar Futurity & Norfolk, Lookin At Lucky appears in the driver’s seat.

2 Year Old Filly – Hot Dixie Chick was clearly the standout in the division but she called it a season before they even moved back to Belmont and never even went a mile.  BC winner She Be Wild generates little excitement, but her BC win coupled with a runner-up finish in the G1 Alcibiades and a solid record overall should be enough to earn the crown in a year with no standouts in the route races.

3 Year Old Colt – Summer Bird.  Easy.

3 Year Old FillyRachel Alexandra.  Easiest vote ever.  If anyone else gets a first place vote, the voter should not only lose their right to vote in the future but also have their name, email address, and Facebook profile link revealed for public humiliation.

Older Horse – Pass please.   This is really a tough one.  At first glance Gio Ponti seems like the obvious answer by default, however I do have a bit of a problem giving an Older Horse Eclipse Award to a horse who never raced on dirt and was only 1-for-3 on fake-dirt (synthetics).  Gio Ponti’s success came primarily on turf…and that’s why they have a Grass championship category.   But if not him, who?  Einstein ran horribly in the BC and Macho Again didn’t even run at all (although I don’t think I could justify seeing him win an Eclipse under any circumstances).  If you have to give an award in this category to a grass horse, isn’t that reason enough for not distributing the award at all?  I guess they can’t collude and persuade every single voter to abstain so it has to be Gio Ponti truly by default.

Older Filly & MareZenyatta.  No witty comment here, sorry.  She’s clearly without equal.

Turf Male – I’m not sure that Gio Ponti would have beaten Conduit even though Conduit didn’t seem to run nearly as well this year compared to last year in winning the BC Turf – and clearly Gio Ponti running in the Classic was strictly a risk/reward proposition as I discussed previously – however his 4 Grade 1 wins on grass still entitle him to the award.  Nevertheless it definitely would have made things a little interesting if he had run in this race and lost – especially as a follow-up to getting beat by the great Interpretation in the Turf Classic at Belmont.   Too bad Precious Passion didn’t get good a little sooner as he’s a tough horse not to like.

Turf Female – No American standout so I think this is where Goldikova gets a lifetime achievement award for her back-to-back wins in the BC Turf Mile.  She’s a well-liked horse so I think she’ll win pretty easily in the absence of any other standouts. and a pretty disappointing year from defending champ Forever Together.

Sprinter – Ummm yeah.  I’m gonna need you to go ahead and not give out this award this year.  Thaaaaanks!  Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Dancing In Silks was 4-for-5 however he never even ran in a graded stakes race prior to the BC.  Not nearly enough.  Zensational will get some support with his 5-for-7 record including 3 Grade 1’s, but he beat really crappy competition in those wins, benefited from soft trips each time, and ran exclusively over synthetics.  I think he had something to prove in the Breeders’ Cup and I can’t see rewarding him for completely failing to meet that challenge.  That brings us to the dirt horses.  Fabulous Strike is a tough horse not to like and will get a little support but I think he lost a step this year.  2-for-5 with no Grade 1 wins ain’t going to get it done.   Finally, Kodiak Kowboy presently has a fairly unimpressive 3-for-7 record however he did win 2 major Grade 1’s (The Carter & The Vosburgh) while finishing a close 2nd in another (The Forego).  He also beat Fabulous Strike in both of those Grade 1 wins – which is a lot more than you can say about the competition that Zensational was facing.  Again, I’d be in favor of not giving out the award here but since they probably have to my vote would go to Kodiak Kowboy by virtue of having the most going for him on the positive side as a result of his performances in the Carter, Forego, & Vosburgh.

Female Sprinter – Obviously Informed Decision after going 6-for-7 this year including her win in the BC F&M Sprint.  Ventura was clearly best in that race as Informed Decision got the best of the pace scenario, but she’s the one with the win on her resume and an otherwise strong record so she gets the award.  Ever think you’d be hearing the words “Sprint Champion” and “Jonathan Sheppard” in the same sentence?  Me neither!

I’m less interested in the human awards so I’ll skip those for now (other than to say that John Shirreffs definitely deserves the trainer title for getting both Zenyatta & Life Is Sweet to step it up and turn in career best efforts on their biggest days)  and I couldn’t name a single steeplechase contender for a million dollars so no comment there.  As for Horse of the Year…well that will be my next post! 🙂  Hopefully Sunday if time and life permit.

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