01/06/2010 3:00PM

2009 Eclipse Finalists

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There were no real surprises among the 50 finalists announced today for 17 Eclipse Awards that will be presented January 18 in Beverly Hills. Here they are, alphabetically by division:

The most prolific Grade 1 winners who didn't make the cut as finalists were three-time G1 winner Magical Fantasy among the turf females and two-time G1 winners Diamondrella, Seventh Street, Stardom Bound and Take the Points. The 15 other horses who won two or more G1 races in the United Staes last year all are all Eclipse finalists.

The closest without a cigar among the humans include trained Saeed bin Suroor and Jonathan Sheppard and owner-breeder Augustin Stable.

Winners and finalists are determined in slightly different ways -- winners by first-place votes, finalists on a point system based on each voter's 1-2-3 selections. This sounds confusing, but is actually the fairest way to do it.

If you used only first-place votes to determine finalists, you would have odd groups of finalists in categories with overwhelming winners. Let's say Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta got 248 of 250 votes in their divisions, with one nutjob vote each for two goofy selections who were not even in the division's top 10. Those two crackpot votes would make two unworthy horses finalists.

If you used 2nd and 3rd choices to pick a winner, mischievous voters would be tempted to leave out the chief rival to their choice to decrease the point count even though that rival clearly was among the top three in the division. So 2nd and 3rd choices only count toward determing finalists, removing any incentive to make tactical rather than honest selections.

At least there were no nutjob picks for Horse of the Year: According to Eclipse officials, Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta received every vote, though there were some abstentions on the 232 ballots submitted. Voters are not asked to make second and third choices for HOTY, which is why there are only two finalists in that division.