11/14/2010 1:33PM

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.