11/14/2010 2:33PM

Divisional Champions, Obvious and Otherwise


Although there is plenty of important stakes racing left to be conducted this year, virtually none of it will have a bearing on this year's equine Eclipse Award divisional championships.

Blame and Zenyatta are mortal locks to be champion older male and female. The same is true of Uncle Mo and Awesome Feather in the 2-year-old divisons. Lookin At Lucky and Blind Luck are also slam dunks in the 3-year-old divisions. And while Proviso had a tremendous season winning four Grade 1 races, Goldikova will likely repeat as champion turf female, even if she again raced just once all year in this country, because of the way she walloped Proviso in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Nothing that happens in the upcoming big stakes at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and Hollywood Park will change this.

It's also tough envisioning anything happening on the track the rest of this year having any impact on the three remaining equine Eclipse Award divisions that are more wide open: male sprinter, female sprinter, and male turf horse.

Male sprinter comes down to Majesticperfection and Big Drama, with Smiling Tiger a lesser player. Majesticperfection drilled Big Drama in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga in August, but was injured soon after and was retired. Big Drama won the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Smiling Tiger did something that both Majesticperfection and Big Drama did not do, which is win two Grade 1's. But Smiling Tiger was also decisively beaten by Big Drama in the Breeders' Cup, so he's out.

Big Drama did win our biggest sprint race of the year,  but he could come back and win another big sprint event in 2010 if there was one for him and it really wouldn't improve his title candidacy one bit. The problem for Big Drama is he is chasing a memory. Majesticperfection was by far the most brilliant sprinter anyone saw this year. He was so much better in the Vanderbilt than Big Drama that it doesn't warrant discussion. Fortunately, Majesticperfection's Vanderbilt was a Grade 1 score, which amerliorates the fact that his campaign ended so early.

The female sprint title will probably go to Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Dubai Majesty. Yes, Dubai Majesty is an imperfect potential champion as the F&M Sprint was her only Grade 1 victory of the year. But at least Dubai Majesty was a clear-cut winner of her Breeders' Cup race, and she did come within a head of winning stakes in her last four starts of the year.

Moreover, Grade 1 Ballerina winner Rightly So pretty much conceded her claim to a title when she was scratched from the F&M Sprint, and Dubai Majesty left another divisional rival, two time 2010 Grade 1 winner Champagne d'Oro, nearly seven lengths behind her in the Breeders' Cup. The only potential cause for a change of thinking here would be if Champagne d'Oro came back before the end of the year and did something out of the box like beat males in the Grade 1 Malibu. That would give conscientious Eclipse Award voters something to think about. But even then, Champagne d'Oro's three Grade 1 wins under this scenario likely wouldn't be enough to overtake Dubai Majesty and her one Grade 1 win. That is because not only did Dubai Majesty beat Champagne d'Oro in the Breeders' Cup, she also beat her in last month's TCA Stakes at Keeneland.

Speaking of imperfect, we come to this year's male turf division. But we knew awarding an Eclipse Award in this division would be headache inducing because this group has been weak all year. With all major U. S. turf racing now completed for the year (the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby does remain, but that race is restricted to 3-year-olds) it would appear this title will come down to two Christophe Clement-trained horses - Gio Ponti and Winchester.

Yes, Dangerous Midge won the Breeders' Cup Turf, but his victory in that race and his previous form in England were not compelling enough to think he could be a one start Eclipse Award winner on the order of Goldikova. Like Gio Ponti and Winchester, Court Vision won two Grade 1 races on turf this year. But one of those wins came via disqualification, and he finished behind Gio Ponti and Winchester when he raced against them. And as for Paddy O'Prado, he won one Grade 1, and that was a race restricted to 3-year-olds.

So it does look like it comes down to Gio Ponti or Winchester, and excuse me for a second while I reach for the Pepto. Here's why: Winchester went only 3 for 8 this year, but two of those wins were in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Grade 1 Manhattan. Gio Ponti went only 2 for 7 this year, but he won the Grade 1 Man o' War and the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. And while Winchester edged Gio Ponti in the Manhattan, Gio Ponti is still the most palatable alternative. At least Gio Ponti finished second to the awesome Goldikova in the Mile. Winchester only managed a fourth in the Turf.

If Gio Ponti wins this title, it will be his third Eclipse Award. He was also champion turf male last year as well as champion older male despite failing to win a race of any sort on the main track. Gio Ponti has banked more than $5 million in career earnings, so he can take it if I knock him, and he strikes me as one of the weakest multiple Eclipse Award winners since the Eclipse Awards came into being in 1971. I will let you judge for yourself. What follows is a list of horses who won multiple divisional Eclipse Awards. This list excludes the Horse of the Year title and steeplechase honors. Oh yeah, this list will grow by two if Goldikova and Lookin At Lucky repeat as Eclipse Award winners this year as expected. And it is in totally random order, so don't read anything into which horse is placed where:


Seattle Slew


Spectacular Bid

Riva Ridge


John Henry

Slew o' Gold



Skip Away


High Chaparral

Ack Ack



Open Mind

Go For Wand


Susan's Girl

Life's Magic



Ouija Board



Desert Vixen

Indian Blessing



Forgive me if I missed a multiple Eclipse Award winner (if I did, please let me know), but I had to do this by hand. It never ceases to amaze me that an industry so dependent on statistics (past performances, anyone?) is relatively soft on record keeping. Go ahead and Google "Horses who won multiple Eclipse Awards" and see what you come up with.

mark More than 1 year ago
hey blackseabass. we dont care where you live. the BC should be run on dirt. not plastic. thats why curlin (among other dirt horses) got beat. you keep betting you 5 and 6 horse fields out there. good luck.
mark More than 1 year ago
afleetalexforever gets it. he/she is absolutely right. good call
Mark More than 1 year ago
why do people still think Z should have gotten HOY in 09? she stayed in CA beating the same horses all year (except the classic where she beat dirt and turf horses). the BC should be run on dirt and turf. not plastic and turf. RA had by far the better campaign. people say she beat tired 3 yo's in the preakness. tired? it was may, not november. and overrated older males in the woodward? the older males were better last year than previous years. and why should she win it this year? people say she automatically should have won it last year cuz she won the classic. volponi won and he didnt get HOY. blame should and will get HOY. he beat her. she had a trouble trip? BS. horses who come from 15 out of it will have traffic trouble. (except when you run in 5 horse fields like Z did in CA). her connections cost her HOY last year by not traveling. sheriffs excuse for not shipping after the apple blossom was "i dont want to ship across the rockies." what a bunch of garbage. blame deserves HOY. no one else. not even goldikova, who i would vote ahead of Z.
John More than 1 year ago
Horse of the year 2010 my thoughts: Blame and Zenyatta have really had good years for both. Either one could be horse of the year. Let’s look at the races run for each Blame – 2010 He ran in 5 races, 4 wins, one second. G1 - 3 wins G1 – 1 second G3 – 1 win Zenyatta – 2010 She ran in 6 races with 5 wins and one second G1 – 5 wins G1 – 1 second I don’t think horse of the year should be determined strictly by a won loss record or by who beat whom. I think something has to be said about what type of a media attraction and drawing card a horse can develop and perpetuate in the sport of horse racing. Now, ask yourself which horse created the most excitement for horse racing in 2010? In 2009 it came down to 2 horses, Rachel Alexander and Zenyatta, both with impressive records but when you asked yourself which horse did more for racing in 2009, you had to give the nod to Rachel. In 2010 you have two very good horses again and if you follow the same logic, I think the nod has to go to Zenyatta. My vote, that doesn’t count, is for Zenyatta this year. A Fan, Pearland, TX.
Blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Gio Ponti is a damn good horse and is certainly better than winchester in overall quality IMO. Now on to some ridiculous statements made by some of the bloggers. AAF in particular. "Curlin traveled everywhere and won everything" . Really ? I didn't know Curlin was undefeated. I thought I saw him beaten many times and DRUBBED on several occasions including in the BC Classic where he ran the fastest 10f of his career and couldn't outfinish Tiago. LOL " Rachel Alexandra was horse racing throughout the entire year and her record setting performances is what helped her to achieve HOY " . I thought she was Auto racing, isn't she that hot brunette ? What records ? When did we go to an 8 month calender ? Did I miss something. "but then we get to Zenyatta virtually unknown outside of California..." LOL. Does Whatsherface have songs written about her ? Do you have a Whatshername bobblehead ? Do you have an unbelievable Whatchamacallit hat ? How about any Icantrememberthatfillysname, mugs ? Steins ? "... location ,location , location, only an idiot would put a world championship in Cali ..." Really ? Now kentucky is a favored vacation destination over the Golden State. LOL There must be a lot of idiots because my TOWN has more people in it than the entire state of Kentucky. Did you wear your parka and muckalucks to the BC ? I was in shorts and a T-shirt the last two BC's. On Friday night I ate fresh scallops and lobster in Malibu watching the sunset over Santa Monica Bay. Did you have Crawdaddy soup,Prairie Dog stew and Possum pie at world famous Uncledaddycousin Granny's eatery emporium? " Rachel went out and EARNED HOY..." Really ? How did she earn it, by not showing up to take her DRUBBING ala Curlin ? " ... bested the records of Ruffian... " What records ? Ruffian owns no records. " Zenyatta didn't attempt to step up in class but once in her career..." They don't have a class above GR. I. Yet. Maybe GR. Z is on the horizon. LOL. How many GR.III and Overnighters did whatshername get beat in ? "... find the word objective in the dictionary..." Aye, what you said AAF. I'm pretty sure Blame is a better horse than Zardana, Songtress ,Sara Louise or Persistently . LOL. I know, I know ,Sara Louise is a sprinter. Well she was up the track in two F&M BC sprints. LOL " ... ESPN..." I was watching College Gameday on ESPN Saturday and paraphrasing, they said, people are enamored with high speed and acceleration ,from a cheetah to ZENYATTA. Yep . Zenyatta was shown blowing past horses on a College football show. That is a first in my memory. Was Whosits ever on Gameday ? I don't think so. I'm not a ratings watcher but I'm pretty sure more people watch Gameday than any racing program. Cheers BSB
Joyce O'Sullivan More than 1 year ago
I have to wonder why Zen's 09 BCC win was not good enough for HOY yet this year's classic automatically determins the winner. I listened to this handicapper expound on Blame's terrific season last Friday and couldn't believe what I was hearing. Blames terrific season? Really? Really? He was badly beaten by a sprinter-beat a glorified sprinter in Quality Road and beat a crippled Battle Plan. And where did Quality Road and Haynesfield finish in the Classic? As far back as they possibly could. No other horse in that race could have made that unbelievable stretch run after Quality Road thru in the towel in front of her which is what cost her the race. Blame side-stepped the best 3 years olds this year and couldn't even make 1 triple crown race last year. I believe Switch, Rinterval and St. Trinians all ran more gamely against Zen than most of the classic entries ran that day. While I greatly admire Goldikova there is a reason she was not in the classic, she can't get the distance and she can't run on dirt and the dirt thing seemed to matter for Zen so why not Goldikova? I also admire Seth Hancock's stance on drugs and the "old fashioned" way he runs Claiborne I believe Blame's retirement was well thought out in that if he stayed in training he would likely lose more races than he would win so quit when you've had the luck to beat the best who got a lousy trip. Blame does not deserve HOY when the best horse he ever met never got the chance to run her race. If the voters can not see their way to make Zen HOY then I suggest Looking at Lucky who was mugged in several races and still found a way to win and when he lost it was usually by post position draw. He won a triple crown race was a consistently good horse at 2 and 3 and gave a good account of himself in the classic against older horses. Lucky had a better, tougher campaign than Blame and for some reason frequent flier miles seem to count and he had more of them too.
Ford More than 1 year ago
If I read the criteria correctly, TIZNOW definitely qualifies.
Eric Rickard More than 1 year ago
Yes let us not forget Tuscanny Evening. Before her heart attack she was unbelievable.
Craig More than 1 year ago
It would be a shame for them to retire Zenyatta after a loss...The owner should run her atleast one more time and i'm thinking at Hollywood in say the Native Diver would be the perfect spot and then just maybe try her in the Dubai World Cup for a grand finale!
Cincy Steve More than 1 year ago
HOY = BLAME, he won the big one - simple as that.