01/01/2010 3:57PM

Grade 1's of 2009


2009onecent Last weekend's Malibu and La Brea were the last of 2009's 113 Grade 1 races in the United States, and the top of the year's leaderboard bears an uncanny resemblance to the list of likely Eclipse Award winners that will be announced later this month.

Only three horses won more than three Grade 1's in 2009: Rachel Alexandra (5), Gio Ponti (4) and Zenyatta (4). The three of them are without question the leading contenders for Horse of the Year and are likely to walk away with a combined five Eclipse Awards (HOTY, 3-year-old filly, older male, grass male, older female) on Jan. 18.

Only six other horses won as many as three Grade 1 races -- Informed Decision, Kodiak Kowboy, Lookin at Lucky, Magical Fantasy, Summer Bird and Zensational -- and at least five of those six are prime contenders for other divisional championships: Lookin at Lucky (champion 2-year-old), Summer Bird (champion 3-year-old), Informed Decision (female sprinter), and either Kodiak Kowboy or Zensational as champion male sprinter.

Those nine winners of at least three Grade 1's combined to win 31 of the year's 113 such races. Another 11 runners each won two Grade 1's: Blind Luck, Diamondrella, Einstein, Flashing, Life is Sweet, Music Note, Presious Passion, Seventh Street, Stardom Bound, Take the Points and Ventura. That makes a total of 20 horses who won two or more Grade 1 races last year, and another 60 who won one apiece.

Among handlers and passengers, Bob Baffert topped all trainers with 10 Grade 1's, one more than Saeed Bin Suroor and three more than Steve Asmussen. Christophe Clement and John Shireffs were next with 6 apiece. Todd Pletcher's runners cashed the most checks, with just 4 wins but 9 seconds and 10 thirds.

Garrett Gomez led all jockeys with 11 Grade 1's, followed by Julien Leparoux and Mike Smith with 9 each, Kent Desormeaux with 8 and Ray Maragh with 7.

The complete roster appears below. Click HERE for a link to a downloadable spreadsheet, and there's also a handy searchable graded-stakes database I find useful at www.thoroughbredreport.com.