01/14/2012 12:14PM

Eclipse Awards: Havre de Grace Horse of the Year front-runner

Barbara D. Livingston
Havre de Grace is the favorite to win Horse of the Year on Monday and a shoo-in to be named top older female.

History is expected to be made on Monday night at the 41st annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., because if Havre de Grace, the perceived front-runner, does in fact make off with the coveted golden trophy for 2011 Horse of the Year, she will become the third consecutive female to win that honor, a feat never before accomplished in American racing.

[WATCH LIVE: 2011 Eclipse Awards - 8 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Jan. 16]


All signs point to Havre de Grace joining Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the two previous winners, as Horse of the Year following a season in which she won five times in seven starts, highlighted by a victory over males in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Havre de Grace – who is owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, and trained by Larry Jones – is the overwhelming favorite to be named champion older female, too. And with the popular Jeannine Edwards of ESPN signed on as the emcee of the Eclipse Awards, the black-tie dinner promises to be ladies’ night.

The ceremony will be shown live at drf.com and on HRTV, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.

With the exception of Horse of the Year, the three finalists in all other divisions, 11 equine and five human, were announced earlier this month. And while several of the categories have obvious winners, there are a number of awards with no clear-cut favorite, which should add some drama to the ceremony.

Perhaps the most notable surrounds champion apprentice jockey, which required a revote this past week when it was discovered that the packet of information available to voters – from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters – did not accurately portray the record of Rosario Montanez, who is based at Parx. The revote resulted in the same three finalists – Montanez, Ryan Curatolo, and Kyle Frey – but whether it resulted in the same order of finish makes for a compelling storyline.

Female sprinter is perceived as a toss-up between the three finalists – Hilda’s Passion, Musical Romance, and Sassy Image – each of whom has a legitimate claim to the title.

Other intriguing divisions include 3-year-old male, where Caleb’s Posse and Animal Kingdom are considered the leaders; older male, which matches Acclamation, Game On Dude, and Tizway; and champion trainer, where Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, and Todd Pletcher are the finalists. Mott has a certain champion in Royal Delta, the nation’s premier 3-year-old filly in 2011 as winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Also Monday night, Cot Campbell, the founder of Dogwood Stable, will be presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit, and win machine Rapid Redux will receive a Special Eclipse Award for his achievement of winning all 19 of his starts last year.