01/15/2014 1:23PM

Dick Jerardi: Some Eclipse Award finalists hard to separate; others stand out

Barbara D. Livingston
Beholder's win in the Distaff was one of the top performances at the Breeders' Cup in November.

I decided to compare my Eclipse Awards ballot to the list of finalists in all the categories and was shocked to find out that King T. Leatherbury was not a finalist for trainer of the year. I voted for King, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Todd Pletcher in that order. The finalists were the usual suspects: Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Bill Mott.

And, no, I did not farm out my vote to Deadspin. I actually had no feel for the category and did not think I would cause much harm by casting a protest vote. If one of the three finalists loses by one vote, I apologize in advance.

My hope is that by letting everybody know that I voted for Leatherbury, he will get a bit more notice and finally get on the Hall of Fame ballot, where those voters can decide if he is worthy. If they consider him unworthy, that is their choice. But after his management of Ben’s Cat over the last several years and his 6,416 career wins, he definitely is worthy of consideration.

As far as the rest of the categories, I had Honor Code and not Havana on my 2-year-old male list. My top vote went to Shared Belief, who was as impressive as any 2-year-old in years. I had Stopchargingmaria instead of Chriselliam in my finalists in the 2-year-old filly category. I put She’s a Tiger first.

I had Goldencents instead of Palace Malice among my 3-year-old male finalists and had the same 3-year-old filly trifecta. I had Will Take Charge on top of the males and Beholder atop the fillies, even though I felt terrible not voting for Princess of Sylmar.

Each of the great fillies won four Grade 1 races. No doubt, Princess of Sylmar won more prestigious races in the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame, but I thought Beholder was the most impressive winner over the two days of the Breeders’ Cup. It was very hard not to support the home team, with Princess of Sylmar born in Philadelphia’s far western suburbs, but Beholder was so good in the Distaff that I simply could not ignore it.

I was with the voters on older male and older female, which suggests those categories were not all that competitive. I went for Wise Dan and Royal Delta. Not much controversy there.

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I had the same three male sprinters, with Points Offthebench first. The horse was a half-length from being unbeaten in five races, won two Grade 1 races, had a 110 Beyer Speed Figure, and the worst kind of ending after that training accident. The horse deserves an Eclipse.

I had Cluster of Stars instead of Mizdirection among the female sprinters and put Groupie Doll on top. I really look at these as dirt categories. Mizdirection has a category all her own – unbeatable champion of the Santa Anita downhill grass course.

I had Big Blue Kitten instead of Magician in the older male grass category. One race in America just is not enough for me. Wise Dan is going to win anyway. That first-place vote did not require any thought.

I had the same three finalists in the female turf category. Dank’s Beverly D. and BC Filly and Mare Turf wins were more than enough for me to put her first. When I realized Mizdirection had actually won a stakes at a mile, I had no problem voting her second.

I passed on the steeplechase category. I have great respect for everyone in that game, but I don’t follow it and am not qualified to vote.

I had Maggi Moss instead of Juddmonte Farms in the owner category and Brereton Jones instead of Morton Fink on my breeder list. I voted the Ramseys first in both categories. The only time I was surprised about them was when they did not win a big race that they entered.

My toughest vote was for jockey. I had the same three finalists. Javier Castellano broke the money record but did not win the biggest races. I voted him third. I went back and forth on Gary Stevens and Joel Rosario. Stevens was great with the Preakness, the BC Distaff and the BC Classic. And who doesn’t love a great comeback?

In the end, I thought Rosario rode better than anyone. Winning the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup certainly qualifies in the big-race category. And who knows what his numbers might have looked like if he had not gotten hurt in the summer?

I went for Trevor McCarthy instead of Manuel Franco in the apprentice jockey category. I voted Victor Carrasco first.

I went for Beholder instead of Mucho Macho Man on my Horse of the Year list. And, as I wrote two weeks ago, I voted for Wise Dan first. I don’t think there will be much controversy with that choice.