01/05/2012 1:31PM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Grace Hall


Michael Amoruso

It pays Grace Hall a high compliment that she is an Eclipse Award finalist in the 2-year-old filly division considering that her connections simply wanted to lay the foundation for her to fulfill her considerable potential at 3.

"What is going to help this filly become as great a 3-year-old as she can possibly be?" trainer Tony Dutrow said only halfway though her four race juvenile campaign. "That's what's most important to me – is her having a great 3-year-old year."

Dutrow trains Grace Hall for owners Michael Dubb, Michael Caruso's Bethlehem Stables, and Stuart Grant's The Elkstone Group. She is named for the famous wrestling facility at Lehigh University, where Caruso was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion.

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

Truth be told, it was probably easy for Dutrow to look ahead at the time he made his statement because Grace Hall already had a victory in the Spinaway Stakes in the bank.

Grace Hall is a daughter of Empire Maker-Season's Greetings, by Ezzoud, and was bred by Darley and purchased at auction as a yearling for $95,000. Her pedigree suggests that she would be a late-season 2-year-old, if much of a 2-year-old at all. But Grace Hall won her debut at Delaware Park in late July going six furlongs, exactly half the distance at which her sire won the Belmont Stakes. She followed with her overwhelming victory in the Spinaway, achieved by a widening 1 3/4 lengths, with the third finisher another nine lengths farther back.

It was at this point that Grace Hall became an intriguing contender for a divisional title. If she was this successful at distances she shouldn't even be getting warmed up at, what could she accomplish when she finally had an opportunity to go two turns?

We received a partial answer when Grace Hall won the Blue Hen Stakes in her third start. The Blue Hen is not a race often found on the résumés of champion 2-year-old fillies, but it was a two-turn race on dirt in her own backyard at Delaware, making it an ideal tune-up for the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The Blue Hen wasn't a strong race, and Grace Hall did not run fast winning it. But it was one of those races that had to be seen to be fully appreciated, mainly because of the exceptional turn of foot Grace Hall used to blow her opponents off the track late while barely being asked to run.

This set up the battle of the three 3-for-3 Grade 1 winners in the Juvenile Fillies comprising My Miss Aurelia, Grace Hall, and Weemissfrankie, and that is just the way they finished. For a moment late on the far turn, Grace Hall looked like she might seriously threaten My Miss Aurelia, but she had to settle for a game second, clearly best of the rest.

"Right now I'm very happy," Dutrow said right after the Juvenile Fillies. "That is an extremely good filly that beat us, but we beat the rest of them. She's the best 2-year-old filly right now, but maybe we'll be the best 3-year-old filly next year."

Date Track Race Finish Chart Distance Time Beyers Video
11/4/11 CD BC Juvenile Fillies 2nd 1 1/16 mile 1:46.00 81 Video
9/04/11 SAR Spinaway 1st 7 furlongs 1:23:60 85 Video

Grace Hall


Breeder: Darley
Trainer: Anthony W. Dutrow
Owner: Dubb, Michael, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group
Record: 3-3-0-0
Best Beyer: 85