01/17/2011 5:11PM

Eclipse Awards Marathon Ahead


MIAMI BEACH -- Two hours before showtime for the Eclipse Awards XL, it's gray and raining here in Miami Beach. You can't walk through the cavernous lobby of the Fontainebleu Hotel without tripping over the connections of a finalist, perhaps not surprising since there are 51 such finalists for tonight's awards, and that's not even counting the entourages of the 14 Breeders' Cup breeders, seven media-award winners, and other honorees getting special awards. Best bet of the night? Take the over, not the under, on the scheduled three-hour running time. [Update: Ooops. They brought it in at a surprisingly snappy 2:46.]

It's going to be a long evening by the time we get to Blame or Zenyatta, one of whose camps will be making at least their third trip to the podium. Each will be honored with a divisional championship, and then their connections will also each be getting a Special Eclipse, one for Claiborne Farm and one for Team Zenyatta. There could be additional podium runs for one or both in the owner, breeder and trainer divisions. For everyone's sake, I hope both camps are seated very close to the stage.

I handicap the Horse of the Year as pick 'em. I thought last year's Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta dustup was a tougher choice and would be a closer call than the 130-99 tally in Rachel's favor. This year, I've heard people who went for Zenyatta a year ago say they think she didn't have as good a year in 2010, and I've heard Rachel supporters from 2009 say that they're going for Zenyatta this time. 

Even the zealots on both sides seem to be losing steam as the announcement approaches. It feels like the same argument's been going on for a full year since last January's announcement, and I suspect I'm not alone in hoping that the 2011 racing season produces, if nothing else, a more clear-cut Horse of the Year instead of months of bickering and accusations that one side, or the other, or the awards themselves, are ruining the game.

In any case, I'll be back here much later tonight with an analysis of the voting. 


---I went straight from the Ft. Lauderdale Airport to Gulfstream yesterday for my first visit in two years, and was pleasantly surprised. It's still not going to please people who grew up on the place as a conventional 20th Century racetrack with a sweeping grandstand and a big backyard. For a 21st Century mixed-use (racetrack/slots/retail) facility, though, it looks good and seems to be working.

The "Village" of Gulfstream, dozens of stores, bars and restaurants directly surrounding the paddock and track, is finally finished after years of construction and renovation. With its open-air, city-grid layout, it feels less like a shopping mall than a shopping district -- picture Rodeo Drive snug up againt a racetrack, if Rodeo Drive had Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn instead of Armani and Bulgari.

Five different outdoor cafes were packed, and none of the brunchers looked or acted like they were there to nail the trifecta in the 4th, but they could hear and sometimess see racing going on nearby. It's not going to drive handle in a meaningful way or placate regulars who want their old Gulfstream back, but at least it presents the game in an attractive way to tourists and newcomers.


george quinn More than 1 year ago
35 bucks for a trackside seat this coming Sunday to the Holy Bull. And I am buying! Those seats outside that are so good for race viewing come with a tag. Welcome to the new Gulfstream. But with only about 800 of them available. Market Price? George in Tampa
Del Mar Steve More than 1 year ago
Finally, someone in the racing world says something nice about the new Gulfstream! I had visited for the Breeders Cup some years ago and several times before, but made my first visit to the renovated facility last April. After all I had read and heard about the place I was expecting the very worst, especially as I was hosting newcomers and relatives for the day. Well, I was extremely impressed with the whole experience: ease of access, free parking & admission, great food in the Ten Palms restaurant, including terrific service by ALL personnel in the place. The racing was also very good and the tellers patiently assisted my inexperienced guests with their wagers. We all agreed it was a very fun day and I would definately recommend it...even to all my fellow "racing cynics". Thanks for your positive comments.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Forgot in my last post: Did you by any chance get to see Fort Hughes' race on Monday in the Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct? He went three-quarters in 1:08.33, which with the exception of Calibrachoa’s 1:08.85 in last month’s Gravesend is the only sub-1:09 six furlong race of the entire inner track season. For that matter, there have been very few sub-1:11 six furlong races this meet over the inner, let alone sub-1:10 or sub-1:09, and that suggests Fort Hughes is one we could be hearing a lot from later this year.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Nice to see the right result happen, as while Blame deserved a separate award as the best horse of 2010, Zenyatta clearly deserved Horse of the Year: 2010 was a year where the best horse was NOT the one who deserved Horse of the Year. As critical as myself and many others were for the way Zenyatta was handled (as said many times, I would have had Zenyatta on a mainly east coast campaign in 2010 that would included starts in both the Whitney and Woodward at Saratoga and Jockey Club Gold Cup or Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont), in the end, the fact was, Zenyatta did more for the sport as a whole than Blame ever will, and that's why Zenyatta overcame her connections' handling of her to become Horse of the Year.
Buffalo Joe More than 1 year ago
Ralph, I think you meant Holy Bull not Cigar as Mike Smith other Eclipse Award winning mount, I believe it was Jerry Bailey in the irons for Cigar. Count me as one who is not at all happy with the changes at Gulfstream, when me and my pals want to take in an afternoon of racing its across town to Calder for simulcasting, or even maybe up the 95, to the dog tarck a West Plam. I know Stronach won another eclipse as leading breeder, but he is the poster boy for on "how not to run a racetrack" how many has he lost outrihgt or driven into banruptcy. Hialeah, I can remember like it was yesterday, Late Jan or early Feb 1965 walking thur the turnstiles and moving toward the huge paddock for the first time, in my mind I thought I had died and went to heaven. But I couldn't dwell on it, I had the Daily Double to handicap, in those days you got only one shot a day at it.
fastjoey More than 1 year ago
Condolences from PETHP [People for the Ethical Treatment of Horseplayers] to you for your loss of your pooch. Do you realize that Catskill OTB continues the race to the bottom - a few years back, they eliminated the simple task of posting results on the board. Now, they don't even post the scratches! You have to stand in line, and ask a teller for a scratch ticket. Can you believe this! Back in the day, they would post, following each race, a complete RESULTS TICKET on the boards. That way, people in transit, doing what they have to do, could go in and get results quickly. NOW, who wants to even bother. It's unbelieveable to me that Catskill OTB allows this because - and this is no lie - you go in there much of the time, and the sound isn't even on! The ladies always tell you "it's the signal. There is nothing we can do." Well, lately, it's not been a problem. But I have been in there for several KENTUCKY DERBY DAYS, and these women will look you straight in the eye and tell you, "Sorry, it's the signal!" Yet, you go in late @ night, and the sound works fine. The place is only filled with hacking, spewing, coughing, spittle-sucking, miserable old men. The worst parlor of all is BREWSTER in that old "barn" reconverted into a parlor. They pump in "fresh air" through the obviously mold-ridden attic, and the place just reeks of mold and mildew. The air in the smoking room is cleaner. CATSKILL OTB sucks, and bring on the NYRA parlors. Gulfstream looks nice, and who the hell cares about 'yesteryear'. That being said, it would be nice if NYRA would listen to this horseplayer, and as it rebuilds the "Big A" go back to the old paddock - where a horseplayer could get right on top of the saddling action. Ask Dave Litfin and Angel Cordero who placed a few bets in his day what they think. Rebuild the old paddock - the indoor one is too distant.
mickykuzel More than 1 year ago
Steve, I realize there is no upside to you trashing GP anymore...after all, it isn't going away. But if you have time to check out Hialeah this weekend you will not regret it. It is as beautiful as ever, and is the only place in South Florida now where you can enjoy the races outside. The quarter horses are not so bad, at least you can see them getting saddled and warming up, the way a horseplayer wants to. And there is not one obstructed view of the racetrack in the place. I believe if they get simulcasting or (be still my heart!) live thoroughbred racing back, many fans will be like "kelso 13" and prefer to drive down there for an afternoon in the sun. Isn't that why people vacation in Florida in February? To be outside?
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Sympathy vote! How can HOY be given to Zenyatta, when she and Blame ran head to head(Which Zenyatta and RA NEVER did), and he beat her on the square! Didn't The Eclipse Awards hierarchy already concoct a "Special Achievement" award to be presented to Zenyatta and her connections for her outstanding career? To give HOY to Zenyatta is a disgrace. Her body of work this year paled in comparison to Blame's, and I'm guessing most who voted for her realized this fact, however, knowing that this was her last chance for the HOY award, voted for her with their hearts, not their heads. Don't get me wrong, Zenyatta ranks right up there with the greatest fillies/mares I have ever seen (with Ruffian, Personal Ensign, and Goldikova), however, in 2010, she clearly was NOT the Horse Of the Year(In my opinion, takes a backseat to Goldikova as the Champion older mare in 2010). Just my humble opinion.
Erv J Pofelski More than 1 year ago
Watched it on TVG Kenny Rice was an embaressment to TVG and the racing industry with his crude and rude jokes.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, I hope everyone enjoyed themselves at the Fontainebleu tonight - long may she run. And having just gotten the news on HOY, I am pleasantly surprised. My one thought is that Secretariat - maybe the greatest ever - lost his race before the Derby and then lost twice more after his historic Belmont. Nobody ever seemed to hold that against him. I think they got the vote right.