01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Executiveprivilege

photo by: Shigeki Kikkawa

There were seven Grade 1 events on the main track in 2012 for 2-year-old fillies. Only one filly was able to win more than one of them. Executiveprivilege is the filly, and on that account alone, she is a most worthy finalist for her divisional Eclipse Award.

That Executiveprivilege is in such a position is really little surprise to folks who pay attention. And that is because she has been held in high regard from very early on by very successful people whose opinions matter.

Executiveprivilege, a daughter of First Samurai and the Unaccounted For mare Refugee, was bred in Kentucky by Bill Betz and partners. She was purchased by agent Hubert Guy for $23,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. But only seven months later she was the sales topper at the Ocala Breeders sale of 2-year-olds in training at $650,000.

What gave that price tag legitimacy was the people on the purchasing end of it. Executiveprivilege was bought by the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. Pegram, of course, raced such standouts as Silverbulletday, Real Quiet, Captain Steve, and Thirty Slews. And the Pegram, Watson, and Weitman partnership has raced, among others, Lookin At Lucky, Midnight Lute, Coil, Drill, and Secret Circle.

All of those successful performers were trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has trained 11 Eclipse Award winners to 14 championships and is a three-time Eclipse Award winner himself.
Clearly, when power people like this fall for a young horse, it is noteworthy, and this team knew what they had before Executiveprivilege even raced. It is rare when you see a trainer state for the record that he thinks a juvenile filly about to make her racing debut “is pretty special.” Yet, that is precisely what Baffert did prior to Executiveprivilege beginning her career.

Later in the summer, Baffert revealed a bit more of his feelings about Executiveprivilege, saying in regard to her $650,000 tag, “She wasn’t a secret at that price. I wanted her so badly. We thought she’d bring $300,000 to $400,000. For the really good ones, you have to step up.”

The refreshing thing here is that for a really good one, Executiveprivilege’s 2012 campaign was somewhat old school. She made two more starts than Beholder and three more starts than Dreaming of Julia, the two other Eclipse Award finalists in her division. And after winning her debut in late June in a runaway from off the pace, Executiveprivilege started in every meaningful 2-year-old filly stakes race available in Southern California.

After her maiden win, Executiveprivilege ran away with the Landaluce on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park. She followed with a decisive score in the Sorrento and a thrilling nose decision over Beholder in the Del Mar Debutante on the Polytrack at Del Mar. She then ran off with the Chandelier on dirt at Santa Anita.

Executiveprivilege would have been an overwhelming winner of her divisional championship with a victory in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. But even though she fell a length shy of Beholder, Executiveprivilege’s title hopes were still alive since these two had now split their Grade 1 decisions.

To the credit of her and her connections, Executiveprivilege went for it all by extending an already demanding season and going for a third Grade 1 score in the Hollywood Starlet. Whether it was the effects of her busy dance card or a failed experiment with blinkers on, Executiveprivilege finished a disappointing fourth in the Starlet. That might have diminished her title hopes, but nothing should tarnish her stellar reputation.