12/28/2010 9:40PM

The Ballot, version 1.0


[Update 12/31: Click HERE for the final ballot. Thanks for all of your thoughtful and helpful comments. Cristblog will return Monday, January 10th.]


Below, as promised yesterday, is a first draft of my 2010 Eclipse Awards ballot for the 11 equine divisional championships that will be awarded Jan. 17 in Miami Beach. You've got until Friday at noon to influence my final selections.

I have deliberately omitted the five human categories -- maybe we'll take those up over the New Year's weekend -- and the Horse of the Year title, which you can debate many other places online including here. I want to focus in this space on the divisional championships and the second- and third-place votes required in each category. While only first-place votes count for selecting each champion, the additional choices will determine the other finalists in each division.

I've indicated my set-in-stone first-place votes in bold face. Feel free to disagree, but I can't imagine there's much serious argument about awarding divisional Eclipses to Uncle Mo, Awesome Feather, Lookin at Lucky, Blind Luck, Blame, Zenyatta and Dubai Majesty. I'm strongly in Majesticperfection's corner for the Male Sprint award, though I'm unclear whether he's going to beat Big Drama as clearly at the ballot box as he did in the Vanderbilt. I'll probably go for Gio Ponti and Goldikova for the two turf awards but have some reservations. I am completely at sea in the steeplechase division and would especially appreciate guidance there from jump aficionados (a word I have finally learned to spell correctly with the simple rule of No Double Letters.)

Notes on each division follow the ballot:



2-year-old male: Uncle Mo is easy; the rest isn't. I'm leaning ever so slightly to Boys At Toscanova, the Hopeful winner and BC Juvenile runner-up, as he likely would have won the Juvenile by daylight and thus the title had Uncle Mo not been in the race. One also must consider, at least for third, Comma to the Top for his sweep of the Generous, Real Quiet and Hollywood Futurity; To Honor and Serve, who will understandably begin 2011 as the second choice for the classics off his dominant Nashua and Remsen scores; and Kantharos, who was injured and retired in August but won his three starts including two graded stakes by a combined 28 1/2 lengths.

2-year-old filly: Awesome Feather may well be a filly handicappers will try to beat in the near future, but her 6-for-6 record including the BC Juvenile Fillies makes her an easy pick for juvenile-filly honors. R Heat Lightning, the Spinaway winner and BCJF runner-up, is the logical second choice, with 3-for-3 Starlet winner Turbulent Descent looking best of those who passed on the BC. My only hesitation with calling it a wrap is that I feel like Position Limit may have been the best 2-year-old filly I saw last year, but the Adirondack winner's 2-for-2 record is one race and one Grade 1 shy of Turbulent Descent's.

3-year-old male: Lookin at Lucky's campaign had some serious deficiencies -- he was unplaced in both his 10-furlong starts and was withheld from the Belmont, Travers and JC Gold Cup -- but his Preakness and Haskell victories make him an inevitable choice. Classic winners Super Saver and Drosselmeyer were one-race wonders (a combined 0-for-8 in their other stakes starts) so I'm looking elsewhere for second and third: Eskendereya, whom I still believe was the most talented 3-year-old we saw, by a wide margin, and Smiling Tiger, a sprinter but the only 3-year-old to win a Grade 1 race against older horses -- and he did it twice.

3-year-old filly: Blind Luck in a romp with her five G1/G2 victories including the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama. Devil May Care's Bonnie Miss, Mother Goose and CCA Oaks stamp her next best. I'm torn for third between Havre de Grace, who beat Blind Luck once and finished within a length of her three other times, and Switch, whose seconds to Zenyatta and Dubai Majesty, and La Brea romp last Sunday, deserve consideration.

Older male: Blame, obiously, for winning the Foster, Whitney and BC Classic, twice beating Donn, Met Mile and Woodward winner Quality Road. Third goes to either Richard's Kid, for his Pacific Classic and Goodwood victories, or Haynesfield for winning the Suburban and JCGC and at least contesting the BC Classic.

Older filly/mare: Zenyatta, obviously, for her five Grade 1's in filly races and her gallant second in the Classic. Life At Ten was the division's only other dual Grade 1 winner and beat BC Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle in two of three meetings. Rachel Alexandra was a great filly last year and is a better horse than either Life At Ten or Unrivaled Belle, but she contested (and lost) only one Grade 1 race in 2010 and beat dismal fields in her only two victories.

Turf male: I hate to give Gio Ponti another Eclipse Award after a 2-for-7 season, but he was second in his four other grass starts and there's no shame in running second to Goldikova in the Mile. I know Winchester also won two Grade 1's and beat GP the only time they met but he was lucky the Manhattan turned out that way and won the Turf Classic in a bog. I don't know where else you can go: Dangerous Midge was a second-rater in Europe and won a mediocre-at-best BC Turf over Champ Pegasus, while Paddy O'Prado came up short in both his tries against older horses.

Turf female: I'm probably just stalling here by not committing to Goldikova, but it sticks in my craw that Proviso won four Grade 1's, including the Kilroe against males, and won't get rewarded. It was much easier to vote for Goldikoa last year off one U.S. start because there was no plausible alternative. In any case, the ill-fated Tuscan Evening, who topped the nation by winning six graded stakes in 2010 -- all by July 17 -- richly deserves to be the third finalist.

Male sprinter:  Majesticperfection won five in a row after losing his debut and his victories in the ungraded Iowa Sprint H. and the G1 Vanderbilt were probably the two best sprint performances of the year. He drilled subsequent BC Sprint winner Big Drama by 2 3/4 lengths in the Vanderbilt in their only meeting and would have been a heavy favorite in the Sprint. That was Big Drama's only G1 victory, and while it came in a BC race, there's no question in my mind that Majesticperfection was just better. Smiling Tiger's two G1's against elders lands him in third on my ballot over the talented Discreetly Mine, who never faced older horses.

Female sprinter: Dubai Majesty's 4-for-10 record in 2010 doesn't scream champion, but she beat Switch fair and square in the BC F&M Sprint and won stakes on dirt, grass and synth during the year. Switch's La Brea vaulted her into second in the division, and I can see going a whole bunch of different ways for a third choice: Champagne d'Oro for winning the G1 Acorn and G1 Test? Informed Decision, the defending champ who twice finished in front of Dubai Majesty? Rightly So for her dominant G1 Ballerina? Franny Freud, 4-for-5 with decisions over Switch and Champagne d'Oro?

Steeplechaser: Help! They all took turns beating one another, and the five nominees in the category all lost more than half their starts. Slip Away's Colonial Cup victory came by the widest margin, and he's the only one with two "graded" (by the NSHA) races, but he was 2 for 7 for the year and lost successive races to the three other top contenders.

Ladies and gentlemen, have at it.


Leo More than 1 year ago
Does the names GeorgeTanaguchi, GordonGlisson, Ralph Neeves, Mario Valenzuela..,MiquelYanez ...ring a bell? Thats how long I have been around, As for this years.. Horse of the Year, It's all Zenyatta, You know the ride killed her or she wins, And in 50 plus years me and you have been to the races..... how many horses have we "ever" seen that has had her Amazing running style.......I only remember (Silky) but he was not top class.. Take care friend....Happy New Year... (Stranglehold, Coffee House,Cover Up, Gun Box. Silver Spoon, Bug Brush,Mafosta,Rattle De Bang, Iho, Burnt Dream,Wheatfield,War Tryst,Coaltown,.Stymie, Miche (The Grey Ghost)..Two Lea..Please Me,Hillsdale,Crazy Kid,........................................
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Steve, I hope its not too late to contribute to your latest blog, but I am pulling my hair out at the regular mentions over-praising fillies and mares for beating "males". I know you are an expert in racing across the world and you know full well that such victories are a regular occurrence. Racehorses are racehorses, especially if you give the fillies/mares a small weight advantage. A belated Happy New Year to you and your readers.
TurfRuler More than 1 year ago
How long, how long are you going to be gone, there are important picks 4's we need help with on that favorate fieid at Aqueduct.
Dan Baedeker More than 1 year ago
Steve - Probably too late to kvetch, but... The Horses Of The Year Awards, like the Academy Awards, are meant to showcase and publicize(to a hopefully-expanding audience) the best products an industry is capable of producing and marketing. They are all about stimulating interest - and selling tickets. The Eastern analytical purists may give us Blame by a whisker - which will generate headlines only in the Daily Racing Form and The Blood Horse. Elsewhere, a giant ho-hum "who he"? Having lived around the racetrack too many years, I don't think Zenyatta is a superhorse. But she is a superstar. And how often do we get a Seabiscuit to raise the spirits of an industry - and a country? And speaking of stimulating interest, thanks for all your excellent efforts in this regard.
gordon p More than 1 year ago
It is with great sadness that today, after 45 great years of enjoying handicapping I QUIT. It has become quite a bore chasing $30 trifectas and $10 exatas with a limited bankroll. I have been a loyal new york racing fan, but enough is enough. When a last out finger lakes conditioned $4000 claiming winner wins at at an NYRA track by 10 lengths at odds on Its time to go to the casinos I can waste my money there just as easily!!
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
You mentioned in your article on the Eclipse Awards that December races do count. As noted previously I do agree, however, only up to those stakes run before Christmas. That to me is the cutoff because although Santa Anita does have two Grade 1s for three year old sprinters (Malibu and LaBrea), those and other stakes run during the final week of the Santa Anita season are considered runnings of those races for the following year and to me should be treated as such if they do (and if you go back in Santa Anita's history, those races used to be run in January for the same foal crop as four year olds). If you want to change the Malibu and LaBrea to straight three year old races as you suggest, that would need to be phased in, with those races run twice during perhaps the 2012 season: Once for the 2011 crop of three year olds as they have been run in late December and again in April (near the end of the season) for the 2012 crop of three year olds, then permanently moving those races to April the following year. That said, the Hollywood Futurity, run on the last weekend of the fall meet at Hollywood Park (and if it's run on the same weekend, it's filly counterpart the Hollywood Starlet) as far as I'm concerned is the cutoff point for the year, same with the Hollywood Turf Cup when that race was run in late December (as late as Christmas Eve in fact in past years). Races run after Christmas to me are the first stakes of the following year, especially if Santa Anita treats their stakes in the last week of the calendar year as such.
Art More than 1 year ago
Steve, Changing the subject from Eclipse Awards, as a P6 player, what is your opinion on the GS .10 P6? It looks like a sucker bet for the small bettors and then a blood bath for the big bettors if the pool gets big. Thanks, Art [Considering how anemic the regular pick-6 pools have been at GP in years past, I applaud them for trying something different. There's little appeal until there's a significant carryover, but it might get interesting once that happens and someone with $100 to invest can buy 1,000 instead of 50 combinations. -SC]
G Sweetwater More than 1 year ago
I believe the brouhaha for HOTY is about fairness. The west coast, and synthetic tracks are brushed aside. Curlin gets HOTY despite finishng 4th in the Breeders Cup. Because it was on the west coast? However, had the race been 1 1/8, he wins and in possibly record time. He would be glorified. But at 1 1/4, he comes up short and it's not the horse or the training, it's the track. Rachel skips the Classic and it is justified because of the track. Now suddenly, the Classic is THE race and because Blame wins it, it becomes the defining test. And you wonder why we get upset out here. Nobody takes away a football championship because it's played in a dome on synthetic surfaces. You play, or race where the powers deem it to be. Had Z won last year, you would not have this happening this year. You also may be underestimating the fillies and mares. Were there more crossovers, I think you'd see more filly & mare victories than you think.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Steve: While I understand where you're coming from on Blame, he should get a separate award for the best horse of 2010. Sometimes, Horse of the Year should not go to the best horse, it should go to the horse who did the most for the sport as a whole, which is something Zenyatta clearly did. Sure, she should have come to New York and faced Blame there (as I would have done multiple times in the Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup and also had her face Quality Road in the Woodward as part of an east-coast-heavy schedule that also would have had her in the Delaware Handicap), but the fact is, at the end of the day, she did much more for the sport than Blame did, and that to me is the difference.
Curt V. More than 1 year ago
Steve, I know this is late coming. I certainly can't knock any of your selections. But, do we really have to pick Lucky ? He seems to have had big expectations off his 2 yr. old season. He certainly is a default selection. I'm goona have to use Eskendereya. He smashed his opponents w/authority. His Beyers were way, way better. His acceleration down the lane was second to none w/this crop of underachievers. I truly believe we missed on a Triple Crown possibility. Being his Dam Grandaddy was the greatest of all-time, Seattle Slew, Eskendereya would have put Lucky into earlier retirement than he {Lucky} already did. Greatness breeds greatness. I certainly witnessed the similarity between Esky & the Slewster..........That 3 race run Esky had, gave me goosebumps, not since 1977............