01/17/2012 2:24AM

The Eclipse Voting

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[Note: Cristblog is on hiatus until February 18th.]

BEVERLY HILLS -- A squeaker for 3-year-old, a mild upset for older male and the lack of a single unanimous selection were the talk of the 41st annual Eclipse Awards tonight at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

You can find the complete voting totals at the bottom of this post.

Horse of the Year was a foregone conclusion and the balloting was even more lopsided than many expected. Havre de Grace got 166 of the 244 votes cast (there were four abstentions) and outpolled her nearest rival by better than 6-1. It was a long way back to Acclamation in second place with 26 votes, followed by Game On Dude with 10, Cape Blanco with 9 and Drosselmeyer, Royal Delta and Tizway with 6 apiece. Rapid Redux, honored for his 19-for-19 season with a special Eclipse, received 4 HOTY votes.

As in all divisions, the three announced finalists were determined by their overall score from 1st, 2nd and 3rd place votes using a 10-5-1 point system, thus Cape Blanco rather than Game On Dude was the third HOTY finalist along with Havre de Grace and Acclamation even though he received one fewer first-place vote than Game On Dude,

Three divisions had appeared in doubt when the evening began, but only one of them nearly ended in a dead-heat. In one of the closest divisional-title margins ever, Animal Kingdom nosed out Caleb's Posse by a vote of 114-111. Neither was an entirely satisfactory choice -- Animal Kingdom did not win a race after the Derby and Caleb's Posse did not run in the classics and did his best work in 7f and 8f races. Opinion was obviously closely divided, and the outcome was also determined by the surprising 22 voters who chose to go in an entirely different direction -- 12 voted for Shackleford, 5 for Ruler on Ice, 4 for Stay Thirsty and 1 for Uncle Mo.

A close three-way race was expected for Champion Older Male but Acclamation scored a handier victory than most predicted, getting 95 votes to 70 for Game On Dude and 52 for Tizway. Drosselmeyer was next with 21.

The Female Sprinter award seemed in doubt but turned out to be a blowout: BC F&M Sprint winner Musical Romance got 135 votes to 53 for Hilda's Passion and 46 for Sassy Image.

There were no unanimous selections. My Miss Aurelia came closest, getting 247 of 248 votes for champion 2-year-old filly, with one going to Stephanie's Kitten. Havre de Grace got 245 of 248 for Older Filly and Royal Delta got 243 of 248 for 3-year-old filly. There was the usual handful of inexplicable votes in almost every division -- I particularly liked the lone votes for Court Vision as Horse of the Year and Drosselmeyer as Turf Male -- but such are the pitfalls of democracy.

About the food: There was a cocktail hour starting at 4 p.m. Pacific time, and as the 400+ guests sat down at tables of 10 for the awards ceremony an hour later, there was a plate with four canapes in front of each place setting. There was as much wine as you could drink for the next three hours but those four lonely hors d'ouevres turned out to be all the food until a buffet opened at 8 p.m. when the ceremonies ended. This would have been plenty of reason for repeated displays of public intoxication by award recipients, but no one appeared to be badly overserved.

Your correspondent skipped the buffet and rushed back to his room to compose this entry, ordering a cup of chicken soup, a club sandwich and a diet 7-Up from room service. The tab: $63.00 without gratuity. Welcome to Beverly Hills.

The complete results for the equine awards follows: