12/31/2015 11:44AM

Crist: Clear choices and tough calls for Eclipse Awards


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.