12/31/2015 12:44PM

Crist: Clear choices and tough calls for Eclipse Awards

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Eclipse Award ballots are due Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern, which gives you less than 48 hours to tell me why the following 1-2-3 selections do not meet with your approval:

Two-year-old male: 1-Nyquist, 2-Mohaymen, 3-Airoforce

The undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner with three Grade 1 victories should be a unanimous selection.

Two-year-old filly: 1-Songbird, 2-Rachel’s Valentina, 3-Carina Mia

Not to repeat myself, but this undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner with three Grade 1 victories should be a unanimous selection.

Three-year-old male: 1-American Pharoah, 2-Runhappy, 3-Keen Ice

The only suspense here is who the other two finalists will be from the trio of Dortmund, Keen Ice, and Runhappy. Keen Ice was the only horse to beat American Pharoah, Dortmund may have had a better overall year, and you sure can’t leave out Runhappy.

Three-year-old filly: 1-I’m a Chatterbox, 2-Stellar Wind, 3-Curalina

A very difficult call in a year without a clear standout. Cases are being made for the grass fillies Found and Lady Eli on the basis of lone Grade 1 turf victories, but this award is meant to go to a dirt runner who does the best in the division’s most important races, and that’s I’m a Chatterbox.

Older dirt male: 1-Honor Code, 2-Liam’s Map, 3-Tonalist

Each of them won two important Grade 1 races – the Met Mile and Whitney for Honor Code, the Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for Liam’s Map, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Cigar Mile for Tonalist – but Honor Code won all the head-to-heads. He beat Liam’s Map in the Whitney and finished in front of Tonalist by daylight all three times they met. It’s that simple.

Older female (dirt): 1-Beholder, 2-Sheer Drama, 3-Wedding Toast

Beholder, unbeaten in five starts, including a drubbing of males in the Pacific Classic, is a cinch to become the first mare since Cicada 50 years ago to be a champion 2-year-old, 3-year-old, and older filly. She’s returning at 6 to try to make yet more history on her way to the Hall of Fame.

Male grass horse: 1-Big Blue Kitten, 2-Flintshire, 3-The Pizza Man

If you think about this one long enough, your head will explode. Golden Horn and Flintshire obviously were the world’s best grass horses, but Golden Horn lost his only U.S. start. Flintshire’s Sword Dancer romp was the best single performance on American turf, but it was his only victory in seven starts. That leaves a choice between Big Blue Kitten and The Pizza Man as the top stateside performers, and Big Blue Kitten’s 2-1 edge in Grade 1 races gives him the nod.

Female grass horse: 1-Tepin, 2-Stephanie’s Kitten, 3-Found

It’s a very tough choice between the winners of the Breeders’ Cup Mile and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but since Tepin’s victory came against males, she gets the edge. Found won the Breeders’ Cup Turf but was 0 for 6 in her other Grade 1 appearances.

Male sprinter: 1-Runhappy, 2-Rock Fall, 3-Private Zone

Another selection that should be unanimous, Runhappy is a brilliant sprinter with Grade 1 victories in the King’s Bishop, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Malibu. Rock Fall will be forgotten by too many voters, but he was the real deal before his fatal injury in October.

Female sprinter: 1-Lady Shipman, 2-Wavell Avenue, 3-La Verdad

The toughest category on the ballot, with no entirely satisfactory choices. Wavell Avenue is almost sure to win off her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint victory, but that was her only stakes victory of the year. I prefer Lady Shipman, who raced in a division (female turf sprinters) with virtually no graded stakes, won six stakes races, and missed by just a neck against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Steeplechaser: 1-Dawalan, 2-Bob Le Beau, 3-Demonstrative

I still think this award should be selected by a committee of steeplechase experts, and not just because it would make this year’s choice between Bob Le Beau and Dawalan someone else’s headache. Each won two steeplechase Grade 1s, and they swapped decisions in their only two meetings, but Dawalan gets the bob for finishing the season with back-to-back Grand National and Colonial Cup scores. I think.

Horse of the Year: 1-American Pharoah, 2-Runhappy, 3-Honor Code

Spoiler alert: American Pharoah is going to win, probably and deservedly by a unanimous vote. It will be interesting to see who the two other finalists are, based on second- and third-place votes, with Beholder, Honor Code, Nyquist, Runhappy, and Songbird all deserving of consideration in what was a very strong year of racing.

Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Steve, Why am I no longer able to get a 'workout search' to appear?
Ross More than 1 year ago
Completely agree with all, even Big Blue! Some will say TPM beat him at Arlington Million, but BBK setting a new record at Belmont is pretty huge!
john g More than 1 year ago
It's a very difficult decision. I may have to ponder it for quite some time. I'll rack my brain until my head hurts. My eyes will start watering up from all the research. And, finally after much debate, I'll come to the decision, albeit a very close one, that the same horse will win Horse of the Year award, and the 3 year old Champion. I'll give you 3 guesses and the first two don't count. This fine outstanding colt deserves every ounce of praise laid on him. Thank you American Pharoah ! And, also, let's not forget the fabulous training job done by Bob Baffert. Who had the insight to run this colt in a graded stakes race after he lost his first race, and neither never looked back. After missing so much critical racing time, and even more so, training time, early in his racing carrer. But Baffert has him ready despite all of this, and Pharoah delivers by winning the triple crown. What a horse! What a training job!
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Ernest More than 1 year ago
Bryan, what is your problem?
Jordan Sigmon More than 1 year ago
I think Swipe will get a nomination for Juvdnile Male.
Gary Smith More than 1 year ago
No horse in training would have beat Beholder the day she won the Pacific Classic. If she stays healthy Beholder will be horse of the year in 2016.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
So much ink is spent on who the horse of the year is going to be and who the other divisional champions are going to be. For me all that is barely interesting untill the real issues of integrity and medication is resolved. Until we can be sure that testing works and racing is clean the results are tainted and come with an asterisk just like the Sammy Sosa Mcguirre home run records in baseball. Personally I would prefer to see drf promote a award for a trainer who has been in the game for many years and has never had a positive test. But of course that won't happen and the recipient of this years award for trainer of the year will again be somebody with multiple infractions on his resume. Fact is right now racing is a sham and the results off a lot of races don't reflect the true value of the participants so how do you determine a worthy champion?.
Jay More than 1 year ago
Drug testing now, especially after January 2009, is a lot better than what it was in the 1960s and 1970s when the East German female athletes looked like the Hulk.
JasmineTedesco More than 1 year ago
"Fact is right now racing is a sham." That's "fact", Jack? The Puritanical anti-drug crowd is perfectly fine with all kinds of modern artificialities, including artificial surfaces, artificial training of horses to run in circles in ways they never do in the wild, and artificial diet regimens. Thoroughbreds are even conceived artificially. How we make them, what we train them to do, what we train them on, and what we put into them, it's all artificial. But a drug to ease pain or stop bleeding is BAD and that makes racing a "sham".
Jeff More than 1 year ago
I'm okay with the rules, and have no problem with NSAIDS or bleeder medication. However, so many trainer's get bad tests only to be fined, which makes drug cheating no more than a cost of doing business. Then when they are finally suspended, the foal papers just go into the assistant's or wife's name, and it is business as usual. Why is it jockeys can easily get a 5-year to life banning for riding with buzzers or race fixing, but trainers get no more than a slap on the wrist for something that is just as prevalent in determining the outcome of a race??
William Perrett More than 1 year ago
you are judging golden horn on his us form and flintshire on his word form both horses beat the best us horses when they met without las
JasmineTedesco More than 1 year ago
"you are judging golden horn on his us form". You realize these are U.S. awards, right?