01/01/2015 2:15PM

Crist: Eclipse ballot has some tough choices


Eclipse Award ballots are due at 2 p.m. Sunday. Here’s how mine looks as of New Year’s Day in the 12 equine categories:

Steeplechaser: 1. Demonstrative; 2. Divine Fortune; 3. Makari. In a division with just six Grade 1 events, Demonstrative won three of them, and Divine Fortune won two. Demonstrative came out on top in three of their five head-to-head meetings. (Just imagine how much better the sport would be if the best of any of the flat-racing divisions squared off so often.)

Two-year-old male: 1. American Pharoah; 2. Texas Red; 3. Carpe Diem. Texas Red’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory was fast and dominant, but American Pharoah trounced him in the FrontRunner and missed the big dance with an injury. Off that race, American Pharoah, a dual Grade 1 winner, gets the nod.

Two-year-old filly: 1. Take Charge Brandi; 2. Condo Commando; 3. Lady Eli. After the Breeders’ Cup, it seemed likely that voters would find Lady Eli’s dazzler in the Juvenile Fillies Turf more Eclipse-worthy than Take Charge Brandi’s Juvenile Fillies. Then, in a commendable piece of post-Cup campaigning, Take Charge Brandi won the Delta Downs Princess and the Starlet, clearly earning the title. Condo Commando, the winner of the Spinaway by 13 lengths and the Demoiselle by 11, deserves to be a finalist.

Three-year-old male: 1. Bayern; 2. California Chrome; 3. Shared Belief. I went into the Breeders’ Cup Classic believing that whichever of this year’s four exceptional 3-year-old males won the Classic would deserve the divisional and Horse of the Year titles. We can (and probably will) debate for decades how the rocky start of the Classic may have affected the outcome, but Bayern held them all off for the length of the stretch. He was erratic but, to me, the most brilliant: The Woody Stephens, Pennsylvania Derby, and Haskell were all sparklers. It was such a strong year for 3-year-olds that Tonalist, the winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup – often enough to win the title – probably won’t even be one of the three finalists.

Three-year-old filly: 1. Untapable; 2. Stopchargingmaria; 3. Sweet Reason. The only question is whether Untapable will be a unanimous selection. She should be. The winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, Cotillion, and Breeders’ Cup Distaff dominated the division and was 6 for 6 against fillies. Stopchargingmaria and Sweet Reason both won two Grade 1s and were next best.

Older male: 1. Palace Malice; 2. Goldencents; 3. Private Zone. Where’s Main Sequence? Atop the male turf category, the division in which he belongs. This category should be for older dirt males, and Palace Malice was clearly the best of a weak group before being injured in the Whitney.

Older filly and mare: 1. Close Hatches; 2. Don’t Tell Sophia; 3. Belle Gallantey. Close Hatches ended her season with two bad losses but still towers over the division with her Grade 1 triple of the Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, and Personal Ensign.

Male sprinter: 1. Work All Week; 2. Private Zone; 3. Palace. This was the most difficult category on the ballot for me. The three top choices all were worthy, but Palace finished behind Private Zone in his last two starts of the season, and Private Zone won only one sprint race, so I landed on Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week. He beat them both in the Sprint, and while that was his lone Grade 1 appearance, he won stakes races at three other tracks and five of six starts overall.

Female sprinter: 1. Judy the Beauty; 2. Sweet Reason; 3. Artemis Agrotera. Judy the Beauty was the lone dual Grade 1 winner in this division in pure sprints and earned the title on Breeders’ Cup Day. Sweet Reason’s victories in the Test and Acorn stamp her next best.

Male turf: 1. Main Sequence; 2. Wise Dan; 3. Karakontie. Main Sequence’s four Grade 1 triumphs in four American starts trump Wise Dan’s three Grade 1s. Karakontie’s Breeders’ Cup Mile may have been the best turf performance of the year.

Female turf: 1. Dayatthespa; 2. Stephanie’s Kitten; 3. Coffee Clique. Whoever won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf was going to take the lead in this division, and after Dayatthespa did, there’s really nowhere else to go. Stephanie’s Kitten won the Flower Bowl and was a close second in three other Grade 1s but couldn’t catch Dayatthespa when she need to in the Cup.

Horse of the Year: 1. Bayern; 2. California Chrome; 3. Main Sequence. Although I prefer Bayern as discussed above, any of these three would be a perfectly acceptable and worthy choice for Horse of the Year. As an Eclipse Award handicapper, however, I fully expect the popular California Chrome to win the 3-year-old trophy and this one.

David More than 1 year ago
About ten years ago or so, the Daily Racing Form eliminated the break of the gate call for races of one mile or more from the past performances and replaced it with the two furlong call. The BC Classic confirms the need for the break of the gate call be put back into the form. Every day horses loss all chance of giving their best performance before the end of the run up that officially begins the race. The two furlong call and the 4 furlong call are almost always identical in the past performances of one mile or more. In the few cases it has been different, I have not found it to be anywhere near as important as the break of the gate call once was. alydarguido
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Good post, excellent points, agree 100%
Donna Hjort More than 1 year ago
Anthony Fontaine More than 1 year ago
I agree with Steve Davidowitz that none of the above is the best choice for HOYA but I love what Main Sequence was able to accomplish, all Grade 1 wins in an undefeated season. Turf racing does not hold the same weight here in the US as it does overseas
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
CALIFORNIA CHROME should be horse of the year and champion 3 yo...show me another horse with as many wins for the year while running in all the toughest races..if winning the Kentucky derby ,Preakness,Santa anita derby the American derby and running a close 3rd in the breeders cup.and winning other races is not enough accomplishment for one season then what is?..and he won on dirt, turf and polytrack.. so he was disappointing in the pen derby.BAYERN was disappointing in many races and should have been disqualified in his best race..MAIN SEQUENCE certainly had a very good year but his competition was weak .
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
a man of intelligence.
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
Sharp points cleanly drawn. Convincing,
mike More than 1 year ago
Totally agree,been saying for two months Chrome will prevail for HOTY.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
obviously--you Chrome fans are delusional. Bayern has a superior resume and head to head beats Chrome 2/1. Bayern and Shared Belief both have Grade 1 wins over older horses--and Chrome doesn't. Get over it. You are trying to make a hero out of a puzzlingly popular Cal bred who was way overhyped and over-rated. The 4th best 3yo should never be considered for HOY--yet the drunken with goo-gaa fan base still loves their fake hero.
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
No, the type of horse that "should never be considered for Horse Of The Year," as you put it, is the one with only 2 Grade One stakes to their credit. But, oh yes--head to head beats, 2/1. ...Are these reducible to a nutshell? Showing who's best? Some of thoroughbred racing's best known appear to agree with you, and seem to be deeply moved by this extra win Bayern enjoys over CALIFORNIA CHROME in head-to-head competition. Others scorn at least one of these races--while still others see two, or even all three races-as being unrepresentative. Toss-outs, for championship judging purposes. There was a dice bettor shot dead in the Acme Saloon, El Paso, Texas on August 19, 1895: When John Selman killed John Wesley Hardin did that mean that Selman had *inherited* Hardin's 27 notches (or 42--depending on sources)? John Selman had a 1/0 edge on John Wesley Hardin. Did that mean he was *best gunfighter* ...Or Just lucky? The fact is, Bayern is already enjoying a hidden benefit just to be categorically part of this head to head matchup. He is undeserving;y FLATTERED by this 2/1 wins edge. By the simple expedient his rival has achieved a class advantage in 2/1 "legs" won. ...in 2014 Triple Crown races. Memorable wins that CALIFORNIA CHROME amassed during a grueling season. What exactly should a "superior resume" look like? Of *Older Horses* that DID survive Bayern's scandalous start in his inconclusive BC Classic, did any of them finish among the top half of all starters? Then too, by the date of BAYERN's tainted BCC, were ANY of last year's top five Older Horses EVEN IN training? We're back where we started. Who can list for us the names of past Horse Of The Year champions who boasted a walloping TWO (--just LOOK at 'em all!--) Grade One stakes races?
Steven Davidowitz More than 1 year ago
I respect and agree with many of Steve's choices, but I personally do not believe there was a deserving Horse of the Year in 2014, not after the BC Classic fiasco. As I presently am not producing columns while I am writing a new book for DRF Press, "Cashing Big on Racing's Biggest Days," this seems a good place to offer my reasons why I abstained from choosing a Horse of the Year in 2014. Should anyone be interested in my other votes, I posted them on my Facebook page.. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - First of all, I believe that Breeders' Cup Classic winner winner Bayern should have been disqualified for his early, severe interference that caused a chain reaction and negatively impacted the performances of more than one horse including the previously undefeated Shared Belief. Shared Belief, the principal victim of Bayern's sharp turn to the left in his first few strides, also was bothered several strides later by eventual second place finisher Toast of New York. Yet, I see no way to promote Shared Belief from his actual fourth place finish in the BC Classic to give him credit for the victory he would have needed to earn a valid vote for Horse of the Year. California Chrome came closest to being the horse of the entire year given his victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby & Preakness, plus his late season win in a weak turf stakes that actually might have pushed him over the top on many other ballots. But California Chrome had no excuse losing the Belmont Stakes and the PA Derby & he was not bothered in the slightest wshen he finished third in the BC Classic. So, beyond the three prominent 3 year olds mentioned above, there was one other horse that deserved Horse of the Year consideration --Main Sequence. A turf racing specialist, Main Sequence was four for four in Grade-1 turf stakes to complete an unblemished campaign. There was precedent to vote for Main Sequence. But when I voted for Wise Dan as Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013, he impressed me as one of the top five turf horses of my lifetime. Main Sequence was good but not in that class. Frankly, except for his excellent performance in the $3 million BC Turf, I thought Main Sequence faced relatively weak fields in races that were "over-rated" as G-1 stakes.. So, after much reflection - despite the likelihood that I will either be alone or among very few who believe there was no legitimate HORSE OF THE YEAR in 2014 - I cannot in good conscience support any single horse for the most prestigious award racing has to offer. Not this year. . .Steve Davidowitz
Cheryl Kleist More than 1 year ago
Very well reasoned response unlike Crist's
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Steven Crist is well thought out and an amazing writer. No one cares what you think Mr. Davidowitz. Seriously. Reading this long dribble from an individual who couldn't carry Mr. Crist's briefcase is literally worthless.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
That is a completely ignorant comment Frank. Why must you act so uncivil? Steve Davidowitz has been as influential on thoroughbred handicapping as any writer in the game.. His "Betting Throughbreds" is a handicapping classic in which he introduces such concepts as track bias, key races and trainer patterns. I've always known him to be a gentlemen and he was gracious enough to share his opinion with us here. Thank you, Steve.
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
- infinity
Hail No More than 1 year ago
That's an unwarranted reply, Frank. Crist is an OK writer, but he's more of a lottery type player when it come's to racing, As Bs and Cs... I don't always agree with the "Witz", but he is a pretty good capper, much more so than Mr. Crist. The one thing I don't agree with about Steve, is abstaining from a vote for HotY..
Elizabeth More than 1 year ago
I think Shared Belief is the best of the three-year-olds and should get the nod and Main Sequence should be Horse of the Year. But I realize both awards will go to California Chrome. Let's hope 2015 sorts them out without any controversially-run races. Bob Baffert has had a target on Shared Belief all autumn, trying to carry him wide in the Awesome Again and scrunching him in the Classic. Let's have a clean series of contests without personalities to sort out who is actually the best.
slewfan More than 1 year ago
HOTY is for the entire year. No other has as good a record, after a most grueling schedule, than Chrome. To top it off, FOUR Grade 1s. A no-brainer.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
Steve, your last sentence sums it up. Perhaps it involves emotion, but in many folks opinion, Cali Chrome gets the 3 yo and HOY titles. Bayern's Classic was surrounded by controversy and Chrome won more Grade 1's. Plus 2 of the 3 Classics. I could sympathize with a vote for Main Sequence as HOY as well.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Hopefully you're right and Bayern wins the 3yo division. Either Bayern or Main Sequence are deserving Horse of the Year receipients. If California Chrome wins either than the awards amount to nothing more than a popularity contest and the Breeder's Cup Classic, the year-end championship race, will have been severely marginalized.
TomPHickey More than 1 year ago
If BCC is the championship race, why bother with Eclipse awards and eliminate all the voting arguments? Create a point system aka th KD and be done with it.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
The start of this years Classic marginalized it this year.The mess Bayern caused should make the race a throw out as far as awards.Choose the honors off all the other relevant races.
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
Don't stop there. When in doubt, toss 'em out. Let's all draw lines through every stinking race, then sift the remains. Who's the last colt standing?
mike More than 1 year ago
You sound bitter.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
well said its a pom pom waving cheerleader that loves Chrome--and that's sad
Cheryl Kleist More than 1 year ago
Would have liked to see a consistent basis to first choices: Some competed and won their breeders cups while some didn't do either. Some competed in their breeders cup but didn't win them. Too many other spots to go than a horse with two G1 wins as HOY. What about Untapable? Only knock against her is that she competed against males and lost that race. It was a clean race, unlike the Breeders Cup Classic. Bayern had been leaving the gate OK for several races. I think his start with the left turn into Shared Belief was deliberate. Lucky that horses and riders weren't injured or worse. As Mike Smith said, he had a hard time staying on. While I am a Chromie. I think Shared Belief was undeniably the best in the Classic in finishing 4th after 2 interferences.