01/05/2012 1:45PM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Regally Ready

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Favorites didn’t exactly perform on cue during the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, winning just four of the 15 races. Only one of the nine favorites came through on Saturday of the two-day BC weekend at Churchill Downs, and that was a gelding named Regally Ready, whose convincing triumph in the $1 million BC Turf Sprint was enough to make him an Eclipse Award finalist in a division normally reserved for dirt runners.

Much like BC bettors, trainer Steve Asmussen and his staff, led by Scott Blasi, had long-held confidence in Regally Ready. When the gelding blew open a second-level allowance sprint on the Churchill turf in November 2010, it was Blasi who came away with eyes wide open. “This one’s the real deal,” he said. For the most part, the 2011 campaign proved Blasi right. With the exception of back-to-back summer defeats, including a hard-to-explain 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx Racing on Labor Day weekend, Regally Ready showed up every time during a sensational 4-year-old season, posting 6 wins and 2 close-up thirds from his 9 starts. He earned $1,072,996 on the year. “He’s just an incredible professional,” Asmussen said the day after Regally Ready capped his year with a 1 1/2-length victory as the 2-1 choice in the BC Turf Sprint.

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

Owned by the Vinery Stables of Dr. Tom Simon, Regally Ready is by the prolific turf sire More Than Ready, a dual-hemisphere sire owned by Simon, and was produced by Kivi, by King of Kings. He was bred in the name of Grapestock LLC, also owned by Simon, and his racing career has been managed by Tom Ludt, the BC chairman who heads North American operations for Vinery.

Regally Ready started his year with a third-place run in the Grade 3 Daytona on the Santa Anita turf before reeling off four straight victories. The first three of those came down the hill at Santa Anita, and the fourth came before the Kentucky Derby Day crowd at Churchill in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint.

After a brief freshening, Regally Ready ran third in the My Frenchman at Monmouth Park and 10th in the Turf Monster before Asmussen shipped him to Woodbine, where the gelding, overlooked at 9-1, turned back a terrific field in capturing the Grade 1 Nearctic in front-running fashion under Corey Nakatani, who was the gelding’s primary rider.

“The main thing with him is to get him relaxed,” said Nakatani. “He did what he was supposed to do.”

Then came the Breeders’ Cup, where Regally Ready got a perfect stalking trip under Nakatani in defeating 13 others in the five-furlong dash. “My job today was so easy it wasn’t even funny,” said Nakatani.

Regally Ready was shipped to Santa Anita after the Churchill fall meet and, as of Jan. 1, already had recorded five breezes in preparation for what his connections hope will be another productive campaign as a 5-year-old. The ultimate goal is a repeat in the BC Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in November.