01/05/2012 12:26PM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Dubawi Heights

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Benoit & Associates

Although she was Group 2-placed as a 2-year-old in her native England, Dubawi Heights did not make a smooth transition to racing in the United States as a 3-year-old in 2010, missing most of the season for one reason or another. But she made up for it in 2011 and ended the year as a finalist for an Eclipse Award for top female turf runner.

“She was a good filly in Europe, stakes placed as a 2-year-old, but had various injuries and setbacks which kept her off the track as a 3-year-old,” said Simon Callaghan, who trained the daughter of Dubawi for a partnership consisting of his father, Neville Callaghan, Clodagh McStay, M.V. Magnier, and Annabel Wyatt. “It’s been quite a long road with this filly. Since she came here, she had colic off the plane, she had a tibia injury, and she had to have knee surgery. This filly is unbelievably tough.”

[MORE: Complete list of 2011 Eclipse Awards finalists | Vote for Horse of the Year and win]

Neville Callaghan, a longtime trainer, picked out the bay filly, bred by Aston Mullins Stud, at the Tattersalls October yearling sale in 2008.

“I knew the family and I fancied Dubawi, who wasn’t fashionable at the time,” he recalled.

There was ample class on the dam’s side as well, as the Irish-bred mare Rosie’s Posy was sired by Suave Dancer, winner of the 1991 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Dubawi Heights was still a maiden after eight starts but turned a corner physically as 2010 came to a close and earned that elusive first win at Hollywood Park in her third and final start of the season.

Healthy at long last, she soared to new heights when she returned at Santa Anita for her first start at age 4, winning an entry-level allowance. Less than a month later, she was thrust back into graded stakes company by Callaghan and rewarded his confidence by winning the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap going away. A month after that, Dubawi Heights stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, fighting her way to a head victory under Joel Rosario, who won his fourth straight race with the filly.

“She gives you everything she has, and she tries very hard,” he said. After a dizzying climb up the ladder, Dubawi Heights was freshened for the all-important second half of the year. She returned at Arlington Park in the Beverly D. over a yielding turf course and ran the race of her life in defeat, setting the pace to the stretch and gamely saving second behind Stacelita. Dubawi Heights returned to Southern California for the Yellow Ribbon. She stalked the early pacesetter before taking command in the stretch, improving to 4 for 4 on firm turf for the year.

“There didn’t look to be too much speed in the race, and she’s the sort of filly that you can tactically put her anywhere,” said Simon Callaghan. “She can sit in the pace, or she can rate just in behind.”

Concluding her campaign on a rain-softened course in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Dubawi Heights set the pace to the stretch and held on bravely to be beaten just over two lengths.