Updated on 01/07/2013 12:40PM

Eclipse Awards: Fort Larned, I'll Have Another, Wise Dan Horse of the Year finalists

Tom Keyser
Wise Dan is an Eclipse finalist in three categories: Turf Male, Older Male, and Horse of the Year.

Wise Dan, who completed his 2012 campaign with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, emerged as the favorite to be named Horse of the Year when finalists for all 17 Eclipse Award divisions were announced on Saturday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which co-sponsors the awards along with Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.

Wise Dan is one of three finalists for Horse of the Year, along with Fort Larned, the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and the 3-year-old I’ll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The glaring omission from that list is Little Mike, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, who is a rival with Wise Dan for two divisional awards – older male and male turf – but failed to earn enough first-place votes to be a finalist for Horse of the Year.

Fort Larned, Little Mike, and Wise Dan are the three finalists for older male. The surprise is that Little Mike, who won all of his races on turf, made that list, knocking out Game On Dude, who was considered the divisional leader prior to his poor performance as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The male turf category, in which Little Mike and Wise Dan also are finalists, has Point of Entry as its third finalist, the expected outcome in what was considered one of the strongest divisions in 2012.

If Wise Dan were to capture Horse of the Year, and divisional titles for male turf and older male, he would be the first horse to win those three Eclipse Awards in the same year since John Henry in 1981. Forego was Horse of the Year, champion sprinter, and champion older horse in 1974. Secretariat was Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old, and champion turf horse in 1973.

I’ll Have Another, the other finalist for Horse of the Year, is the overwhelming favorite to be named champion 3-year-old male, a category whose finalists also include Bodemeister, the runner-up to I’ll Have Another in both the Derby and Preakness, and Union Rags, the Belmont Stakes winner. None of the three ran after the Triple Crown and all are retired.

Voters from the three organizations were required to turn in their ballots by Thursday. On Saturday, the three horses or individuals who received the most first-place votes in their respective divisions were announced as the finalists. The winners will be announced at the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards dinner on Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park.

There were 272 eligible voters, of whom 254 submitted ballots.

The voters had a few surprises, most notably not ranking Little Mike among the top three for Horse of the Year. Also, Morton Fink, the owner and breeder of Wise Dan, and Charlie Lopresti, who trains Wise Dan, failed to be named finalists in their divisions, as voters largely adhered to the year-end earnings lists to glean finalists in those categories.

The three finalists for owner are Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, which led the earnings list with the Dubai World Cup card included; Midwest Thoroughbreds, which led in North American purse earnings; and Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing, which owned I’ll Have Another.

The finalists for breeder are Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley, and Brereton C. Jones, who were the top three in that category in purse earnings nationally in 2012.

Trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, both of whom have won Eclipse Awards in the past, are finalists again this year along with Dale Romans, who had the best year of his career and is considered a slight favorite. Pletcher and Baffert were one-two nationally in earnings, with Romans fourth, behind Steve Asmussen.

Wise Dan’s jockey, John Velazquez, avoided a complete shutout for humans connected to the horse. He is a finalist for champion jockey along with fellow Eastern riders Javier Castellano and Ramon Dominguez. Those riders were the top three nationally in purse earnings.

Voters also put great weight behind the Breeders’ Cup. Of the 10 divisions for horses on the flat, eight include at least one Breeders’ Cup winner among their finalists, with older male being made up entirely of Breeders’ Cup winners, and male turf including two Breeders’ Cup winners.

There also are two Breeders’ Cup winners as finalists for both older female and female sprinter, with Groupie Doll, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, a finalist in both divisions.

Groupie Doll is a heavy favorite in the female sprint category, where her rivals are the 3-year-old Contested and Mizdirection, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Royal Delta, who successfully defended her title in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, is favored over Groupie Doll in the older female category, whose other finalist is Include Me Out.

The unbeaten Shanghai Bobby, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is an overwhelming favorite to be named champion 2-year-old male over Uncaptured and Violence. Both Shanghai Bobby and Violence are trained by Pletcher.

Beholder is favored in the 2-year-old filly category against Dreaming of Julia and Executiveprivilege, both of whom Beholder defeated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Zagora emerged as the favorite to be named champion female turf horse when she won that group’s Breeders’ Cup race, the Filly and Mare Turf. The other finalists in that division are Marketing Mix and Tapitsfly.

Trinniberg is favored to parlay a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint into the male sprint title, where his fellow finalists are Shackleford and The Lumber Guy.

One of the closest calls could be for champion 3-year-old filly, in which My Miss Aurelia and Questing are perceived as the two leading contenders, yet the third finalist is the Kentucky Oaks winner, Believe You Can. Contested failed to make the top three.

Steeplechase is also seen as toss-up, between Demonstrative and Pierrot Lunaire. Divine Fortune is the third finalist.

Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr. – the rider of Questing – and Angel Suarez are the finalists for champion apprentice jockey, a category that the three voting blocs have debated dropping in recent years. Ortiz was an apprentice for all of one month in 2012.

2012 Eclipse Awards finalists
Horse of the Year
Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another, Wise Dan

2-Year-Old Male
Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence

2-Year-Old Female
Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege

3-Year-Old Male
Bodemeister, I’ll Have Another, Union Rags

3-Year-Old Female
Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing

Older Male
Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan

Older Female
Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta

Male Sprinter
The Lumber Guy, Shackleford, Trinniberg

Female Sprinter
Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection

Turf Male
Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan

Turf Female
Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora,

Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire

Godolphin Racing, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Reddam Racing

Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones

Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans

Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez

Apprentice Jockey
Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Angel Suarez