An Eclipse Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed on the human and equine athletes that make up the sport of Thoroughbred racing. On Thursday, the three finalists in each of the 13 championship categories were announced by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
There are several contentious categories this year, including champion 2-year-old male, champion 3-year-old male, and champion older male. The three major female categories figure to be a walkover-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner My Miss Aurelia as champion 2-year-old female; Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta as champion 3-year-old female; and Havre de Grace, who is also in the running for Horse of Year, as champion older female.
We’ll take a look at the three male categories and offer our opinion on who should take home the bronze statue of Eclipse.
In the 2-year-old male category, the three finalists are Hansen, Union Rags and Creative Cause. That trio filled the top three slots in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to cap off the season with Hansen just able to hold off a fast-charging Union Rags at the wire.
Winning a Breeders’ Cup race holds added weight among Eclipse Award voters and rightfully so.
However, with that said, this former Eclipse Award voter gives the nod to Union Rags. His win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes prior to the Breeders’ Cup was electrifying. Then in the Juvenile, he suffered a brutally wide trip that was probably the difference in his loss to Hansen. Hansen’s only other Stakes win came in the ungraded Kentucky Cup Juvenile over a synthetic track at Turfway Park, so all in all Union Rags’ body of work may be considered slightly better.
For champion 3-year-old male the three finalists are Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb’s Posse and Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. This is an extremely tough choice, but we’re giving the nod to Caleb’s Posse, who is also a finalist for champion sprinter, as he was the only one of the trio to win multiple Grade 1 races in 2011.
Champion male older horse is between two West Coast-based horses-Acclamation and Game on Dude, and East Coast representative Tizway.
Game on Dude won the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood Stakes, both Grade 1’s, prior to finishing a gallant second to long-shot winner Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Acclamation is the most accomplished of the trio as he won five straight Graded Stakes in 2011, including three Grade 1’s.
However, all of Acclamation’s wins came on either turf or synthetic surfaces and many Eclipse Awards voters will see it as a big negative that he never won on dirt.
Tizway won a pair of New York’s most prestigious Grade 1 races in 2011-the Whitney Handicap and Metropolitan Handicap. However, he only raced five times on the year and didn’t compete in the Breeders’ Cup Classic because of an injury.
We’re going with Game on Dude. He was one of the most consistent horses in the country, making all the big races and always running well. Wins in the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood Stakes appears enough to take this division in 2011.
Finalists for Horse of the Year will be announced the night of the awards presentation at the Beverly Hills Wilshire.
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