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.