The Eclipse Awards will be announced on Jan. 26 in Hollywood. Not Hollywood as in La La Land. Hollywood as in Hollywood, Florida.
Finalists in all classifications save Horse of the Year were made known on Jan. 5 and the winners will be revealed at a swanky affair at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in less than two weeks.
Three voting bodies will decide the winners: racing secretaries at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase employees; National Turf Writers Association members; and employees of the Daily Racing Form.
Controversy, personalities and politics aside, at least two winners are a slam-dunk.
Following are categories and finalists in alphabetical order, with one man’s thoughts:
2-year-old male: Action This Day, Birdstone, Cuvee
Birdstone was a chicken no-show on Breeders’ Cup day. Cuvee finished 12th in the Juvenile behind victorious Action This Day. The time was slow, the field was soft, but Action This Day danced the dance and whupped ”˜em all. The winner: Action This Day.
2-year-old female: Ashado, Halfbridled, Victory U.S.A.
Halfbridled in a unanimous decision. Anyone who goes against her should lose his vote.
3-year-old male: Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted
Funny Cide won two legs of the Triple Crown, Empire Maker One, Ten Most Wanted none. Those who insist that Empire Maker is a better horse than Funny Cide, please note: a horse shouldn’t win an award on potential. The winner: Funny Cide.
3-year-old female: Bird Town, Elloluv, Six Perfections
Composure beat Elloluv twice but didn’t race after March. Bird Town could win, but I like Six Perfections.
Older male: Congaree, Medaglia d’Oro, Mineshaft
Mineshaft will win by default, but at least Congaree and Medaglia d’Oro showed for the Breeders’ Cup.
Older female: Adoration, Azeri, Sightseek
Adoration won the Distaff at 40-1; Sightseek flopped on Breeders’ Cup day. Azeri didn’t make it, but the defending Horse of the Year did enough to earn divisional honors.
Sprinter: Aldebaran, Cajun Beat, Congaree
Aldebaran was awesome but never won at six furlongs, lost to Cajun Beat in the Sprint. Congaree handled Aldabaran. Cajun Beat wins.
Male turf horse: High Chaparral, Johar, Storming Home
Storming Home might be best but stubbed his toe on Breeders’ Cup day, while High Chaparral and Johar produced the first dead-heat in Breeders’ Cup history when they tied for first in the Turf. Johar lost luster when he was up the track in the Japan Cup after the Turf, and that could cost him. I still like Storming Home but High Chaparral could win, even though he ran only once in the U.S.
Female turf horse: Heat Haze, Islington, Six Perfections
Six Perfections won her only U.S. start but beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. That should be enough.
Steeplechase: McDynamo, Pelagos, Praise the Prince
Most bettors these days wouldn’t know a hurdle from a girdle, but I’m told McDynamo is many jumps above the rest.
Owner: Edmund Gann, Juddmonte Farms, Michael Gill
Gann and Juddmonte are Bobby Frankel’s main clients; Gill wins tons of races but suffers from negative PR, which will cost him votes. Juddmonte wins.
Breeder: Adena Springs/Stronach Entities, Flaxman Holdings & Niarchos family, Juddmonte Farms.
In boxing terms, Adena and Flaxman would be known as "opponents." A daily double for Juddmonte.
Trainer: Bobby Frankel, Richard Mandella, Todd Pletcher
Pletcher had a helluva Saratoga, Mandella had a history-making Breeders’ Cup but Bobby was the man for all seasons and wins his fourth consecutive Eclipse and a record fifth overall. "I’d really like to win it this year," Frankel told me, "because nobody’s won five and who knows, this might be my last chance to win one. You don’t know what kind of year you’re going to have next year or the year after."
Jockey: Edgar Prado, Jerry Bailey, Pat Valenzuela
Prado won the George Woolf Award, Bailey is going for his seventh Eclipse, P.Val his first. Will sentiment or common sense prevail? If it’s sentiment and voters are bent on a fresh face, Valenzuela wins. If it’s common sense, Bailey. Here’s to common sense.
Apprentice jockey: Eddie Castro, Pablo Fragoso, Ryan Fogelsonger
Fogelsonger went west, young man, and proved he can ride with the best.
But what do I know? I don’t even have a vote.