Updated on 09/17/2011 9:41AM

Azeri vs. 3 males

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Azeri was the unanimous choice in the Older Filly or Mare category and is also a finalist for Horse of the Year.

Azeri finally has to compete against males.

Last year's standout older female on Friday was announced as a finalist for the 2002 Horse of the Year, along with the males Left Bank, Rock of Gibraltar, and War Emblem.

The finalists for championships in all 11 equine and five human divisions were announced by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which is one of three voting blocs, along with Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association. There were 228 voters this year - 53 for the NTRA, which includes Equibase personnel; 46 for DRF, and 129 for the NTWA - according to Peg Hendershot of the NTRA.

As is recent custom, three finalists are announced in each division, unless there are extenuating circumstances. The presence of four finalists for Horse of the Year indicates there is a tie for third place. The winners of all 16 categories will not be revealed until the night of Jan. 27, at the 32nd Eclipse Awards dinner, a black-tie affair to be held this year at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Other Eclipse Award winners - such as those for the media, and merit - are announced weeks before the dinner. On Friday, the Eclipse Award of Merit winners were announced - Howard Battle, the long-time Keeneland racing official, and Ogden Phipps, patriarch of a racing dynasty, both of whom died last year. The Eclipse Award for national television was awarded to NBC Sports for its telecast of the Preakness Stakes.

Azeri is the favorite to be named the first female Horse of the Year since Lady's Secret in 1986. Azeri last year won eight times in nine starts, including an overpowering victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She will win the Eclipse Award as champion older filly or mare. There are no other finalists. Azeri was a unanimous selection among all 227 who voted in this category; there was one abstention.

Left Bank, who died this fall from complications from colic, is a finalist for both champion older male, and champion sprinter. Left Bank's biggest victories came in the seven-furlong Tom Fool Handicap, and the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Handicap.

The other finalists for champion older male are Street Cry, who was second in the Whitney but won the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap, and Volponi, the upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Left Bank's rivals for the sprint championship are Orientate, the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner and favorite to win this category, and Xtra Heat, the plucky filly who won seven times in 11 starts last year and is 24 for 33 lifetime. Xtra Heat was the champion 3-year-old filly of 2001. Snow Ridge, this division's leader the first half of the year before suffering a career-ending injury, did not crack the top three.

Rock of Gibraltar, who ran once in this country - in the Breeders' Cup Mile - and did not even win, is a finalist for champion male turf horse. A horse without a win in this country has never before won an Eclipse Award. The other finalists for champion male turf horse are Rock of Gibraltar's Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate High Chaparral, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf in his lone start in this country, and With Anticipation, a United States-based runner who won three Grade 1 races last year. Domedriver, who actually won the Mile, is not a finalist. Neither is Beat Hollow, who also won three Grade 1 races.

War Emblem figures to be the most prominent challenger to Azeri for Horse of the Year. War Emblem's biggest victories were in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He is a finalist for champion 3-year-old colt, along with Came Home, who won the Santa Anita Derby and beat older runners in the Pacific Classic, and Medaglia d'Oro, winner of the Travers Stakes.

The other categories in which four finalists were announced - indicating a tie for third place - are jockey and breeder.

Jerry Bailey, who set a single-season record for purse earnings and won 13 Grade 1 stakes, is favored to win his sixth Eclipse Award. The other jockey finalists are Edgar Prado, Mike Smith, and John Velazquez.

The finalists for champion breeder are Edward Evans, whose homebred stakes winners included Gygistar and Summer Colony; Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, whose homebreds included Beat Hollow and Mizzen Mast; Harry T. Mangurian, whose runners topped the nation in both purse earnings and victories; and the late Allen Paulson, whose homebreds included Azeri and Astra.

Champion 2-year-old filly has just two finalists, meaning only two fillies received first-place votes. Storm Flag Flying, the unbeaten winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is an overwhelming favorite to receive the Eclipse Award over the other finalist, Awesome Humor, who also was 4 for 4.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Vindication, who also had a perfect season, is the favorite to win the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male. The other finalists are Sky Mesa, who won the Hopeful Stakes and Lane's End Breeders' Futurity; and Toccet, who won the Champagne Stakes and Hollywood Futurity.

Farda Amiga, who won the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes, is the favorite to be named champion 3-year-old filly. The other finalists are Imperial Gesture, who won the Gazelle and Beldame, and Take Charge Lady, who won the Spinster and Ashland stakes. Notably absent from the top three is You, a four-time Grade 1 winner last year.

Astra, Golden Apples, and Starine are the finalists for champion female turf horse. Astra beat Golden Apples in the Santa Barbara Handicap, and Starine in the Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap. Golden Apples beat Astra in the Santa Ana Handicap and Beverly D. Handicap, and Starine in the Santa Ana. Starine beat Golden Apples when scoring her lone victory of the year in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Flat Top, who won the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, and It's a Giggle, who won the Royal Chase, are the two top finalists for champion steeplechase runner. The third finalist is Mcdynamo, who ran in restricted races most of the year.

Bobby Frankel, who won 14 Grade 1 races and nearly set a single-season record for purse earnings, is favored to win his fourth Eclipse Award as champion trainer. The other finalists are Steve Asmussen, who led the nation with 407 winners, and Laura de Seroux, the trainer of Azeri and Astra. Absent from the finalists is Bob Baffert, who trained two likely champions, Vindication and War Emblem.

Richard Englander, last year's champion owner, is one of three finalists this year. His rivals include The Thoroughbred Corporation of the late Prince Ahmed Salman, who raced War Emblem, and Juddmonte Farms, which does not have one runner among the equine finalists.

Francisco Duran, Ryan Fogelsonger, and John McKee are the finalists for champion apprentice jockey.

Following is a list of the finalists in all divisions, both human and equine:

Horse of the Year: Azeri, Left Bank, Rock of Gibraltar (IRE), War Emblem

Two-Year-Old Colt or Gelding: Sky Mesa, Toccet, Vindication

Two-Year-Old Filly: Awesome Humor, Storm Flag Flying

Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding: Came Home, Medaglia diOro, War Emblem

Three-Year-Old Filly: Farda Amiga, Imperial Gesture, Take Charge Lady

Older Colt, Horse or Gelding: Left Bank, Street Cry (IRE), Volponi

Older Filly or Mare: Azeri (unanimous)

Sprinter: Left Bank, Orientate, Xtra Heat

Male Turf Horse: High Chaparral (IRE), Rock of Gibraltar (IRE), With Anticipation

Female Turf Horse: Astra, Golden Apples (IRE), Starine (FR)

Steeplechase: Flat Top, Itis a Giggle, McDynamo

Owner: Richard Englander, Juddmonte Farms, The Thoroughbred Corp.

Breeder: Edward Evans, Juddmonte Farms, Harry T. Mangurian, Allen E. Paulson

Jockey: Jerry Bailey, Edgar Prado, Mike Smith, John R. Velazquez

Apprentice Jockey: Francisco Duran, Ryan Fogelsonger, John McKee

Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Laura De Seroux, Robert Frankel

Who should be Horse of the Year?