12/23/2009 3:50PM

Champions of the 2000's


Want to help me out with my holiday-weekend homework assignment?

Tomsawyerfence Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to share your thoughts on which Eclipse Award winners of the soon-to-be-over 2000's were the very best of the decade, division by division. I'll make my final choices next week and the results are scheduled to be published in the DRF newspaper of January 2, 2010.

Listed below are the divisional champions of the 2000's, with each season's Horse of the Year in capital letters. I've omitted the category of champion filly sprinter -- Maryfield for 2007, Indian Blessing in 2008 and probably Informed Decision this year -- since that award was only instituted two years ago.

I've also "pencilled" in this year's likely winners in the categories where there doesn't seem to be much doubt about the outcome. I don't think any of the leading contenders for the categories in which I've left question marks would be anyone's realistic choice for Best of the Decade:

There are some useful links here at the DRF Eclipse Awards page, including past performances and stats for leading contenders. Look in the lower right-hand corner for links to previous years.

Now obviously, any ground rules for this exercise are going to be thorny, and much like the voting for actual Eclipse Awards, different analysts among you will use different measuring sticks. The usual dilemmas apply: Raw talent vs. achievement, narrow leaders of strong crops vs. runaway leaders of weak ones, stats vs. emotional impressions, head vs. heart.

Choosing the "best" championship seasons is straightforward when you're comparing something as proscribed as 2-year-old campaigns but more difficult when horses have multiple achivements over different years. For example, in the older-filly category, which strikes me as a match race between Azeri and Zenyatta, are we comparing only their best single campaigns or their body of work over the decade? Does Azeri get extra credit for being a three-time older-filly champion? I'm curious as to your thoughts on that as well as on the merits of individual horses.

And I suppose we have to come up with a Horse of the Decade. Good luck with that one, and thanks in advance for your help.