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The 3-Year-Old Championship
From January to June, the marquee division in racing in this country is the 3-year-old male division. For better or worse, the run up to the Kentucky Derby, the Derby itself, and then the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, dwarf anything else that happens between the rails in this game during the first half of the year.
Even after the Triple Crown, the 3-year-old male division remains a primary discussion point. The Travers and the Haskell, the signature races at two of our biggest summer race meets, are for 3-year-olds. And beyond that, there is always talk on how the 3-year-olds will stack up against their elders in the Breeders' Cup Classic division.
This is why for fans of the sport (and I'm here to tell you that you can be both a racing fan, and a hardened horseplayer), the 3-year-old male championship is a pretty big deal. And as it has been for a good part of the season, this year's 3-year-old male championship is a pretty tough puzzle.
Well, maybe not so for a significant segment of the racing public, who seem to think that by virtue of his second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, beaten just a nose, Will Take Charge secured this divisional Eclipse Award. I can't argue strongly for or against Will Take Charge's merits in terms of a divisional championship. I think, given their respective records, it is impossible to be passionate about the title candidacies of any of the potential 3-year-old male Eclipse Award finalists. But I can say this: If Will Take Charge does win the vote for champion 3-year-old male of 2013, he might be the shakiest such champion not only in the history of the Eclipse Awards dating back to 1971, but ever.
If Will Take Charge gets the title, he will have done so with only one Grade 1 victory on the year, in the Travers (he also won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, the Grade 2 Rebel, and the listed Smarty Jones). He will have but one Grade 1 win despite the fact there are a plethora of Grade 1 opportunities for 3-year-olds both within the division, and against older horses. It really does seem that if Will Take Charge becomes divisional champion, it will be because of his near miss in the Grade 1 Classic (he was also second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy). And one thing I could argue strongly about is whether this or any other horse should get an Eclipse Award on the basis of a loss, no matter how good or close that loss was.
At this point, no one is talking about Preakness winner Oxbow and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in terms of being strong title contenders, and that is understandable. Oxbow never raced after a dismal fourth in the Haskell, and eventually was retired. And Palace Malice squandered his very live Eclipse Award hopes with two uninspiring performances to conclude his campaign.
However, it can be argued that Palace Malice, for one, has a resume that is at least comparable to Will Take Charge's. Palace Malice won the Grade 1 Belmont (say what you will about the Belmont, it is a Triple Crown race), and the Jim Dandy. I'm not going to get into the head-to-head records between these two (for the record, it was 3 to 2 in favor of Will Take Charge) because there were a few unrepresentative performances involved on each side. But it could be said that when Palace Malice's seconds in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 1 Blue Grass are taken together, they probably carry weight similar to Will Take Charge's second in the Classic.
Heck, it can be argued that Orb has not merely comparable, but stronger credentials than Will Take Charge for a divisional championship. It's immaterial whether Orb disappointed after his win in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby (although he did manage thirds in the Belmont and Travers), or whether his Derby was pace and wet track-aided. The fact is, Orb won the biggest race there is for this division, in addition to the Grade 1 Florida Derby (and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth), giving him twice as many Grade 1 wins as Will Take Charge, Palace Malice, and Oxbow. And Orb could have drawn a more distinct line of demarcation between him and Will Take Charge had he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 30, which he was pointing to. But Orb was just retired.
Goldencents, however, is coming for the Cigar Mile in an inspired attempt at the 3-year-old championship. And it just might work. Goldencents did win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (in addition to the Grade 3 Sham) early this year, and his victory (as bias-aided as it was) in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile gives him something none of the other divisional title contenders have, a Grade 1 victory over older horses. If Goldencents wins the Cigar Mile (and Ill tell you right now that he will be a popular bet against because his Breeders' Cup win was assisted by the speed bias), that would give him two Grade 1 wins over older horses, in addition to seconds in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, and the Grade 2 Pat OBrien, all also against older opponents.
In his current permutation as a sprinter/miler, Goldencents does not have a profile that one associates with the traditional 3-year-old champion. But in a year in which a colt with just one Grade 1 win seems first in line at the moment to receive this honor, these are clearly not traditional times.
i think this should be updated ;) now 3 year old champion is obvious, right?
First the Penn. Derby is not a G1 only in wishful thinking, someday it might be deemed worthy of that honor, till then it is what it is. Now with that being said 3yr.old of the year no question is ORB, he has accomplished more and won the most important race for 3yr olds (Kentucky Derby) sure a case can be made for Will Take Charge but the real thing about him is he was knocking alot but not getting in, he had alot of close finishes this year one G 1 win, Palace Malice only won the Belmont and has not run good since. ORB your hands down 3yr.old champ.
Anyone who doesn't think the Pennsylvania derby isn't a grade 1 race, is as foolish as the grading committee. In last years Penn derby, the two travers winners could only finish 3rd and 5th.
It would never happen but the reality is the best three year old to run in America this year was Magician. He just received the Cartier award as Champion European 3 year old. I doubt this country produced anything better this year.
WTC is clearly the best 3 year old...if he hadn't gotten stopped in the stretch he wins or places in the Ky Derby...one more inch in the BC Classic and he's the man...Orb disappeared after the Derby and Palice Malice is clearly 2nd best. Goldencents come in third...he cannot get the classic distance and cannot win outside of Cali...speaking of Cali, the BC has become a joke out there...a couple of year ago it was the polytrack (playdoh_bias....now, it's only for souped up speed...what are they doing out there and why not rotate the BC around?
Us regular fans/gamblers don't have a voice so HOO ever wins the 3yo championship is what it is...Can't wait to crank it back up in 2014 and hope like hell we get a stone cold freak in the 3yo division!!!...
Mike; I consider you an astute gambler/fan and thoroughbred writer. But I think as both an NTRA writer and gambler.. that you have to give serious consideration to WTC. If you are going to ignore his nose loss in the BC; then I guess your going to have to ignore the decline of ORB which most certainly has to be relevant as an indication of his stature as a three year old
I will never understand how a 3 year colt is named a champion since the year BARBARO didn't get the Eclipse Award for Champion 3 year old. He dominated everything under so many different circumstances during his run in the first half of the year. After his tragic demise, I still feel the horseracing world jumped on the bandwagon of that other horse to forget the sadness of that year's Preakness Stakes. I'll probably get a thousand DISLIKES for this comment, but I stand by what I say. BARBARO not officially being named a Champion is the one area of the sport that I firmly think is a mistake.
If Palace Malice deserves it, Orb deserves it more.
This whole discussion is a no brainier, Orb wins 3 year old champ title if there is any justice regardless of the politicking by the WTC camp. It is very simple other than the fact he won 2 grade ones, it goes like this The Ky. Derby trumps the Travers and for that matter The Fla. Derby trumps The Travers just compare the winners of the Travers & Fla. Derby over the 67 years, The Travers comes up very weak. So since The Fla. Derby trumps The Travers it most certainly trumps The PA. Derby. Move on to the Fountain of Youth which used to be a Grade 1 and compare the winners over the last 67 years to The Travers or something called the Rebel, again The Travers comes up weak, and the Rebel and PA. Derby have no weight. Orb also finished ahead of WTC 3 out of 4 meetings, the one time WTC beat him he was life & death to beat Moreno by a nose. Case closed Orb is the best beast.