01/06/2017 11:26AM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Champagne Room

Debbie Roma

Now that the dust has settled – and, after more than two months, the dust has indeed settled – it doesn’t really matter that Champagne Room was 33-1 when she won the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. The only thing that REALLY matters is, Champagne Room won the Juvenile Fillies. And with the Juvenile Fillies being the biggest, most important event in the 2-year-old filly division, Champagne Room’s victory makes her not only a thoroughly deserving divisional Eclipse Award finalist, but also squarely the one to beat for the 2-year-old filly championship.

In other words, Champagne Room is not a 33-1 shot anymore.

Although Champagne Room’s Breeders’ Cup score was a surprise, it was not a fluke; her Juvenile Fillies victory was not cheaply accomplished. For one, Champagne Room defeated five Grade 1 stakes winners on Breeders’ Cup Day – Union Strike, Noted and Quoted, Dancing Rags, Yellow Agate, and Sweet Loretta. Moreover, Champagne Room defeated those accomplished performers, plus six others, while being involved in the Juvenile Fillies from the start.

Champagne Room pressed the early pace set by Noted and Quoted, which is not an insignificant point. That is because the early pace of the Juvenile Fillies fell apart, with the solitary and quite notable exception of Champagne Room. Noted and Quoted faded to finish seventh, and the five fillies who were right behind Champagne Room in the early running wound up finishing eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th and last. Much to her credit, Champagne Room actually opened up a clear lead in midstretch, and, under jockey Mario Gutierrez, she determinedly held off a late run from Valadorna.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

The Juvenile Fillies was a major score for Champagne Room’s ownership group ostensibly headed by Joe Ciaglia, who has climbed the owner’s ladder from claimers and private purchases, and which also includes partners Exline-Border, Gulliver Racing, Sharon Alesia, R. Christensen, and D. Legan. It also was the first Breeders’ Cup victory for veteran Southern California trainer Peter Eurton.

“I feel very fortunate having a filly of that quality,” Eurton said after the Breeders’ Cup. “Thinking back five or six years ago, I didn’t have anything near these kind of horses that I’m privileged to get right now. And to see her every morning, there in the first stall on the left-hand side, it’s an awesome thing.”

Champagne Room might have surprised in the Juvenile Fillies, but the reality is she was well thought of before she even raced. The daughter of Broken Vow out of Lucky to Be Me, by Bernstein, was purchased by Ciaglia for a not-inexpensive $310,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. 2016 April sale of 2-year-olds in training. And when she made her debut at Del Mar in mid July, in which she rallied to finish a game second, she was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over nine opponents.

Despite being a maiden, Champagne Room made her second career start in Del Mar’s Sorrento Stakes, but she was only able to do so after being supplemented to that event at a cost of $2,000. Champagne Room rewarded that confidence with a decisive victory, again as the favorite.

Losses in the subsequent Del Mar Debutante and Chandelier Stakes no doubt contributed to Champagne Room’s big price in the Juvenile Fillies, but neither defeat was disastrous. Champagne Room finished third in the Del Mar Debutante, beaten only a little more than two lengths. She was fourth in the Chandelier in her prep for the Breeders’ Cup and her first start around two turns, but did seem a little uncomfortable being farther off the early pace than to what she had been accustomed. Champagne Room was more involved early in the Juvenile Fillies, a strategy that provided immediate dividends and might afford even greater benefits in the form of Eclipse Award hardware.