Updated on 01/12/2011 11:42AM

Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta named finalists for Horse of the Year

Tom Keyser
Zenyatta was named a finalist for Horse of the Year along with Blame and Goldikova.

The three brightest lights in racing in North America in 2010 -- Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta -- on Thursday were announced as finalists for  2010 Horse of the Year by the three sponsoring organizations of the awards, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta also are finalists, and heavy favorites, in their respective divisions. For Horse of the Year, though, the battle is likely to come down to Blame vs. Zenyatta.

Blame, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, won four times in five starts in 2010. His other Grade 1 victories were the Whitney and Stephen Foster. He is also an overwhelming favorite to be named champion older male. The other two finalists in that category are Quality Road, whose biggest win last year came in the Metropolitan Mile, and Richard’s Kid, the winner of the Pacific Classic.

ECLIPSE FINALISTS: Profiles with pedigree, PPs, and key replays

Zenyatta won 19 straight races in her stellar career before she finished second to Blame in the BC Classic. In 2010, she won five Grade 1 races at four different tracks. She is heavily favored to win her third straight Eclipse Award as champion older female. Her nominal rivals in that category are Life At Ten, who won the Beldame Stakes before an inglorious flop in the BC Ladies’ Classic, and Unrivaled Belle, who captured the Ladies’ Classic.

The French sensation Goldikova, in her annual one-stop shopping trip to the United States, won an unprecedented third straight BC Mile against males. She already has won the Cartier Racing Award as European Horse of the Year. Goldikova is favored to be named champion female turf horse against Proviso, who won four Grade 1 races during the year, and the late Tuscan Evening.

The tentacles of Blame and Zenyatta reached other categories. The Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, the owners of Blame, and Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, are two of the three finalists for champion owner. The other finalist for that award is WinStar Farm, formerly owned in partnership by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt, which won two of the three Triple Crown races in 2010.

Claiborne and Dilschneider also bred Blame, and his success catapulted them into finalists as champion breeder, too. The other finalists in that category are the operations that finished one-two in earnings by their runners in 2010 -- Adena Springs, the breeding operation of Frank Stronach, and Brereton Jones, owner of Airdrie Stud.

John Shirreffs, the trainer of Zenyatta, is a finalist for champion trainer, along with Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher. Garrett Gomez, the regular rider for Blame, is a finalist for champion jockey, his rivals being Ramon Dominguez and John Velazquez.

HOY DEBATE: Join the discussion and vote on Facebook for a chance to win free PPs for a year

Three finalists were announced in all equine and human divisions on Thursday. The winners will be revealed the night of Jan. 17, when the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner, a black-tie affair, is held at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in Florida.

Of the 251 eligible voters, a total of 238 individuals voted -- 124 from the turf writers and broadcasters, 61 from Daily Racing Form, and 53 from the NTRA, whose group includes racing secretaries and members of Equibase. All votes are pooled. Voters are asked to denote the first three choices in each category to generate three finalists, but only first-place votes are used to determine the winners.

Many of the categories seem clear-cut in terms of a favorite, though in a few cases there were intriguing omissions in terms of the finalists.

The Triple Crown hardly had an impact, being just 33 percent effective. Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky is favored to be the champion male 3-year-old, but the other two Triple Crown winners -- Derby winner Super Saver and Belmont winner Drosselmeyer -- failed to make the cut. The other two finalists in this division are Eskendereya, the Wood Memorial winner who was the Derby favorite before being injured and retired earlier this year, and turf specialist Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby.

Not making the finalists among older male horse was Haynesfield, the only horse to beat Blame in 2010. Steve Asmussen is not a finalist for trainer, despite winning more races than anyone else and finishing second to Pletcher in purse earnings. Al Stall Jr., the trainer of Blame, and Mike Smith, Zenyatta’s jockey, also failed to make the final cut. Juddmonte Farms is not a finalist among owners, even though Juddmonte tied with the Mosses for most Grade 1 wins in 2010 with 5. And none of the top three breeders in terms of Grade 1 stakes wins -- Juddmonte, Maverick Productions, Ltd. (the breeder of Zenyatta), nor the late Edward P. Evans -- made the final cut in that category.

Most everything else went true to form, with Breeders’ Cup race winners looming as strong favorites.

Uncle Mo, the unbeaten winner of the BC Juvenile, will be heavily favored to be named champion 2-year-old male against finalists Boys at Tosconova and To Honor and Serve. Not making the cut was Comma to the Top, the CashCall Futurity winner.

Awesome Feather, who wrapped up an unbeaten year in the BC Juvenile Fillies, is favored to capture champion 2-year-old filly over R Heat Lightning and the unbeaten Turbulent Descent.

Dubai Majesty likely wrapped up an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter with her win in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. Her rivals are Champagne d’Oro and Rightly So.

Other likely favorites include Blind Luck, the Kentucky Oaks winner, who is expected to beat out fellow finalists Evening Jewel and Havre de Grace for champion 3-year-old filly, and Gio Ponti, who will be going for his second straight title as champion male turf horse, this time against Dangerous Midge and Winchester. Paddy O’Prado, curiously, did not finish in the top three for male turf horse.

But even though some categories seem foregone conclusions, there will be plenty of drama when the winners are announced, and not just for Horse of the Year.

Champion sprinter seems to be a battle between Big Drama, the BC Sprint winner, and Majesticperfection, who beat Big Drama in their lone meeting but was injured and retired before the Breeders’ Cup rolled around. The other finalist in that division is Smiling Tiger.

The finalists for champion steeplechase horse are Arcadius, Percussionist, and Slip Away, and the finalists for champion apprentice jockey are Forest Boyce, Omar Moreno, and Angel Serpa.

Click here to access profiles with pedigree, replays, and PPs

Horse of the Year

2-year-old male
Boys at Tosconova
To Honor and Serve
Uncle Mo

2-year-old female
Awesome Feather
R Heat Lightning
Turbulent Descent

3-year-old male
Lookin at Lucky
Paddy O’Prado

3-year-old female
Blind Luck
Evening Jewel
Havre de Grace

Older male
Quality Road
Richard’s Kid

Older female
Life At Ten
Unrivaled Belle

Male sprinter
Big Drama
Smiling Tiger

Female sprinter
Champagne d’Oro
Dubai Majesty
Rightly So

Male turf
Dangerous Midge
Gio Ponti

Female turf
Tuscan Evening

Steepelchase horse
Slip Away

Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider
Mr. and Mrs. Jerome S. Moss
WinStar Farm

Adena Springs
Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider
Brereton C. Jones

Bob Baffert
Todd Pletcher
John Shirreffs

Ramon Dominguez
Garrett Gomez
John Velazquez

Forest Boyce
Omar Moreno
Angel Serpa