01/22/2008 2:26AM

An Early Evening


BEVERLY HILLS -- There were two small surprises at tonight's Eclipse Awards dinner, neither involving the results of the 17 races for trophies, all of which went to the expected recipients.

The first was the announcement by Curlin's owners, as they accepted the Horse of the Year award, that last year's champion 3-year-old will race again this year at 4. Curlin's future had been in limbo due the complications surrounding his ownership, but co-owner Jess Jackson said from the podium that despite some internal disagreements about whether to "take the money" and retire the colt to stud, he would continue to race because it would be good for racing.

The other surprise was that the awards ceremony, often a seemingly endless affair featuring windy orations by overserved winners, actually ended 45 minutes ahead of schedule. The unexpected brevity of the event forced TVG to abandon its live coverage half an hour before schedule, filling the hole with a rerun of the 2000 Arc de Triomphe broadcast (Sinndar beat Egyptband by 1 1/2 lengths with Montjeu a disappointing fourth as the favorite.)

As it turned out, not a single category was close. The narrowest margin came in the older-horse division, where Lawyer Ron outpolled Invasor by a tally of 147 to 94. This was the category where I made my only bet on the results, wagering a colleague that Lawyer Ron would get two-thirds of the votes. He only got 55 percent, because in addition to the 94 voters who were willing to give Invasor a championship off a two-race campaign, there were 13 votes cast for Corinthian, 4 for Lava Man, 3 for English Channel, 2 for Student Council and 4 abstentions. I would love to hear the reasoning from the two people who thought Student Council was the champion older horse of 2007. Not to mention the thinking behind the single votes cast for Hard Spun as champion 3-year-old, Take d'Tour as champion older filly and Rutherienne as champion turf filly.

Here's the complete first-place voting. You may notice some differences between the order of finish and the official finalists, because only first-place votes are counted for winning each division, while second- and third-place votes are counted only for determining finalists. For example, Pyro received no first-place votes (not surprising since he lost to War Pass three times) but was the actual second-place finisher in the 2-year-old division voting.

The most dramatic example of this was in the male-sprinter division: Hard Spun received 18 first-place votes, the second most, but was not a finalist because the vast majority of voters did not take him seriously as a candidate for that title and did not list him second or third. Similarly, Invasor got the third-most Horse of the Year votes (with 2) behind Curlin and Rags to Riches, but Street Sense was the third finalist for the award on the basis of place and show votes.

Horse of the Year
Curlin 249
Rags to Riches 12
Invasor 2
Corinthian 1
English Channel 1
Street Sense 1
Abstentions 1

War Pass 262
Court Vision 1
Kodiak Kowboy 1
Nownownow 1
Abstentions 2.

Two-year-old filly
Indian Blessing 250
Country Star 11
Pure Clan 2
Cry and Catch Me 1
Mushka 1
Proud Spell 1
Abstentions 1.

Curlin 262
Street Sense 3
Hard Spun 1
Abstentions 1

Three-year-old filly
Rags to Riches 258
Octave 4
Panty Raid 2
Dream Rush 1
Lear’s Princess 1
Abstentions 1

Older male
Lawyer Ron 147
Invasor 94
Corinthian 13
Lava Man 4
English Channel 3
Student Council 2
Abstentions 4

Older female
Ginger Punch 247
Nashoba’s Key 18
Take D’ Tour 1
Abstentions 1

Male sprinter
Midnight Lute 229
Hard Spun 18
Fabulous Strike 9
Idiot Proof 3
Diabolical 2
Greg’s Gold 1
In Summation 1
Mach Ride 1
Smokey Stover 1
Abstentions 2.

Female sprinter
Maryfield 155
Dream Rush 61
River’s Prayer 32
Hystericalady 12
Abstentions 7

Turf male
English Channel 251
Kip Deville 6
After Market 5
Cloudy’s Knight 1
Daytona 1
Doctor Dino 1
Shakespeare 1
Abstentions 1

Turf female
Lahudood 188
Nashoba’s Key 43
Precious Kitten 16
Citronnade, 7
Bit of Whimsy 3
Panty Raid 3
Honey Ryder 2
Mrs. Lindsay 1
Rutherienne 1
Wait a While 1
Abstentions 2

Steeplechase horse
Good Night Shirt 222
McDynamo 13
Floodlights 1
Planets Aligned 1
Abstentions 30

Shadwell Stable 144
Stronach Stables 59
Maggi Moss 18
West Point 8
James Tafel 7
Zayat Stables 5
Curlin ownership group 4
James Scatuorchio 3
Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith 3
Jess Jackson 2
Fares Farm 1
Fox Hill Farms 1
Louis D. O’Brien 1
Melnyk Racing Stables 1
Abstentions 10

Adena Springs 203
Fares Farm 13
Martin and Pam Wygod 12
William S. Farish 11
James Tafel 8
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey 2
Skara Glen Stables 2
Farnsworth Farms 1
Juddmonte Farms 1
Eugene Melnyk 1
Abstentions 13.

Todd Pletcher 139
Steve Asmussen 65
Kiaran McLaughlin 39
Carl Nafzger 9
Bill Mott 5
Scott Lake 3
Dale Baird 1
Larry Jones 1
Graham Motion 1
Abstentions 4

Garrett Gomez 248
Robby Albarado 11
Russell Baze 2
Calvin Borel 1
Ramon Dominguez 1
Abstentions 4

Apprentice jockey
Joe Talamo 254
Carol Cedeno 2
Arnaldo Bocachica 1
Abstentions 10

--The award-winner who's odds-on to have the shortest reign is Stanley Bavlish, who was honored as the Handicapper of the Year for his victory 359 days ago in the National Handicapping Championship. Bavlish will have to beat 277 new challengers this Friday and Saturday in the 2008 NHC at the Red Rock in Las Vegas to hold on to his title for another year.

It seems kind of silly for me to go all the way back to New York just to come back to Vegas two days later, so I suppose I'll have to play some cards or something for a couple of days to pass the time.

SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Floppydog ...Sorry, no dog racing in Vegas If you want to see the Greyhounds run you have to visit one of the dog parks in the area. They are quite a sight! SR Vegas
partisan More than 1 year ago
Steve - perhaps the two votes for Student Council were from whomever knocked his odds down from 32-1 to 22-1 on the last flash before the Pacific Classic!
arazi More than 1 year ago
There had been hardly any surprises over the years when it comes to deciding divisional championships. The voting in most divisions has been generally overwhelming in favor of the winners. Even before the ceremony everybody knows the possible winners so where is the excitment of all this? If other professional leagues could let the fans decide the All-Star players, what prevents horse racing industry to allow fans to have their say in the balloting - atleast in some divisions? It will make it not only more interesting but will also give the fans a sense of participation. Why restrict the balloting to the selected few? Most of the horse racing fans have sufficient intelligence to figure out the best in the business anyways. Time for a change?
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Arazi said, Time for a change? No. The fans aren't in tune with all the divisions enough to vote on who should be champion—an honor that carries a lot of weight when determining a horse's value. Horses of the Year in recent memory would have gone to Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, and Barbaro—good horses all, but not the best in those years (and in Barbaro's case, not even the best of his generation).
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
No dog racing in Vegas?
Landen More than 1 year ago
Mr. Crist, I consider myself a decent handicapper who keeps his ears and eyes open to the goings on at the tracks. But after reviewing the Eclipse voting list you provided, who is this 'abstentions' horse? If he/she/it got votes in every category how could I have missed such a gold mine? I could have made a mint betting he/she/it every race it appears! Where can I find pp's on 'abstentions?' I would really like to see those prices!!
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Steve, Did I read correctly that only 89% of the Eclipse ballots were returned? Why not toss the non voters off of next years list and let people that are responsible and love the industry have a vote in their place? Good luck at the tables.
Flip Dawson More than 1 year ago
One could not be blamed for returning to New York, instead of taking in the races on the west coast. The superfecta payoffs are away too low, and there must be a reason, other than money bet into the pool. Consider this--the odds in one of the races at SA on Monday were: 23-1, 5-1, 2-1, 10-1. The super came back at $2567.80. I study the super payouts, and other tracks pay more. It seems to make no difference if a horse prevails at long odds to win. I have seen none of the supers paying over 10 grand, yet this is the norm at other tracks, especially Woodbine in Toronto. Something to think about. Perhaps, in the future, one might take a giant fishing rod, as it seems Santa Anita is very good region in which to find "whales."
Flip Dawson More than 1 year ago
Just a question for Steve C. As a Publisher /VIP at DRF, are you not able to play in the Handicapping Tournament? Just thought you should be in there to funnel out whatever you could find. What I would really like to see is a handful of top players backed in entries by anyone reading these blogs. For instance, 9 bloggers could back a player in any number of contests. If a backed player won, each backer would get 10% of the top prize.The winning player would get 10%, but due to the backers,said player could play in numerous tournaments. Canada should have some of these contests. No tax up here on any winnings re lotteries, nags, bingo, casino winnings, etc.Any money won sticks to our fingers.Smudges fingerprints as well, so I am told.
margi More than 1 year ago
Steve, I have a question regarding the sales price published in the Form on entries that have gone through an auction ring. Specifically, the 6th at SA yesterday (1/21), Lucky Mama is a filly bred and owned by Mike Pegram, yet she shows as having gone through KeeSep06 for $60K. I've seen this before, and I think it's probably safe to assume that the horse was a buy-back. I had the chance to confirm that, because Mike was there at SA yesterday, so I asked him. My question is, is it really accurate to list a horse as selling for X dollars when it was really an RNA? The situation with Lucky Mama is kind of an obvious one, but the picture gets more clouded when, hypothetically, he buys the filly back, then sells her privately a year later, and she's now running in someone else's colors. In that scenario, she looks like she was sold to the current owner for $60K when in fact she was not. Likely, we would see a "previously trained by" line in that case, but not if the horse had never started. All I'm asking is, wouldn't it be more accurate to include an RNA notation to the hammer price if that is indeed the case. This becomes more and more meaningless the more times the horse runs, but many people look at sale price when evaluating a field of young horses with only 1 or 2 starts.....or maybe none. A little nit-picky maybe, but I'm interested to know what you think. Thanks for your time, and all you do. Margi