01/07/2015 5:29PM

Hovdey: Still some suspense for Horse of the Year

Barbara D. Livingston
If Horse of the Year votes for the top two 3-year-olds get split, then Main Sequence could slip in the back door to get the big Eclipse prize.

Hats off to the 29 horses and 14 individuals who separated themselves from the crowd in 2014 and ended up Eclipse Award finalists, as announced far and wide Wednesday.

At this point, and for purposes of harmless publicity, they all shall be considered equal under the Eclipse Award banner, even though some are certainly more equal than others. If you don’t think so, check out the seating chart for the dinner at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 17.

There was a time (lord, don’t start a sentence like that) that the idea of an Eclipse Award “finalist” was foreign to the industry’s tongue. Once the votes were cast, you either won an Eclipse Award or you didn’t. If you did, you showed up at the dinner, a very glitzy affair, with John Forsythe, a man born in a tuxedo, up there on stage dishing out comfy one-liners and introductions. There were no surprises and no blood spilled, unless you count Bertha Wright’s entertaining tirade at the dinner honoring her 1990 Horse of the Year, Criminal Type.

By then, the Horse of the Year announcement was being kept a closely held secret until the envelope was unsealed at the end of the evening, while the other categories were already made known. This gave the dinner some buzz because for a run of several years, there were some contests perceived as up in the air, like John Henry v. Slew o’ Gold, Ferdinand v. Theatrical, and Alysheba v. Personal Ensign.

Most of the time, the conclusions were foregone. If you didn’t see Sunday Silence, A.P. Indy, Holy Bull, and Cigar coming as Horse of the Year, then I hope you enjoyed your coma. But there was always a chance of a close race, and if the envelope drama was good enough for Horse of the Year, it was good enough for champion female sprinter and steeplechase as well. Also, it would sell more dinner tickets.

This time around, there will be a teasing reveal earlier in the evening when the 3-year-old male champion is announced, be he California Chrome or Bayern. If Main Sequence doubles up with both the turf male trophy, for which he is a deserving lock, and older male award, for which he seems to be the fashionable choice, then the Horse of the Year announcement should have folks ditching their desserts to pay close heed.

The inkling here is that Bayern and California Chrome will gobble up the majority of the Horse of the Year votes, but the split between the two could give the Main Sequence lobby a squeaking chance to take the top prize. (The last time this happened was 1972, when Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and James Caan were all Oscar finalists as supporting actors but divided the “The Godfather” vote and lost the golden dingus to Joel Grey for “Cabaret.” It wasn’t personal, though. Just business.)

Before history washes over the rest of the fine performances from 2014, a word about those sadly overlooked by the finite Eclipse voting system. Among them:

◗ Sunset Glow, a stout second to the exciting Lady Eli in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, won the Sorrento and the Del Mar Debutante, and was second at Royal Ascot – England, that is – in the Albany Stakes. It was a deep division, embracing all manner of surfaces. Somebody had to be fourth-best.

◗ Iotapa, a daughter of Afleet Alex, paid the price for a California-centric season that included wins in the Vanity, the Santa Maria, and the Clement L. Hirsch. Her only poor race was in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, while she showed up big time at the Breeders’ Cup, losing second by a nose behind the victorious Untapable in the Distaff.

◗ Victor Espinoza would have been a worthy finalist among jockeys, and not just because of his association with California Chrome. By the end of the Eclipse evening, he might be able to say “that’s my horse” three times, given the chances of Take Charge Brandi and American Pharoah in the traditional 2-year-old divisions. Espinoza also won a stakes at Royal Ascot with 2-year-old male finalist Hootenanny, and hung out with the queen.

Blood + ink = writing Eclipses

A dime’s worth of research reveals that full brothers have never won Eclipse Awards. There have been full sisters (the turf champs Banks Hill and Intercontinental) and grandmother-granddaughters (Personal Ensign and Storm Flag Flying).

Then came the Clancy brothers, Joe and Sean, both by Joe Clancy Sr. out of Ruth Clancy and raised to know which end did what from the day they could stand and nurse.

Sean Clancy, a former professional steeplechase rider with limbs miraculously intact, won an Eclipse Award for his 2009 story about the legacy of Hall of Famer trainer Sidney Watters. Now Joe, the tall one, gets his own horse for the trophy case, having been honored for his 2014 story about the Preakness Stakes victory of California Chrome. If racing fans still read, it’s because people like the Clancy brothers continue to write. Nice going, Joe.

Richard More than 1 year ago
Paula Higgins More than 1 year ago
This was a classic Mr. Hoveday. Very, very funny. Loved it. My vote goes to California Chrome for HOTY . Yes, this is going to be a nail biter. I still think Art Sherman should have been nominated. No problem with Bob and Chad, but Todd has won enough and this was not his best year.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
another delusional Chrome fan--its sad to think there are enough of you out there that may win him the award--therefore destroying all credibility of the award. A joke this horse is-not winning on dirt past May--completely absurd California pom pom wavers are nauseating--and yes, that means you , too Zenyatta fans
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
It's so suspenseful that I'm sitting on the edge of my seat. The mere mention of the HOY category has me salivating. I'm so excited that I can hardly wait until the announcement is over. Now, let's get on to something else.
homers More than 1 year ago
By the end of the year, the best horse in training was Bayern. Anybody who disagrees are bitter Shared Belief fans, California Chrome lovers or Baffert haters. Otherwise, Bayern was clearly the best at year's end.
Mary Reynolds More than 1 year ago
Excellent article! My vote for HOY? CHROME!
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
you are a dope
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Wynn Las Vegas is already posting 2015 Breeders Cup Classic odds.Shared Belief is listed as the 5/1 favorite followed by Palice Malice6/1,California Chrome8/1,Bayern10/1,Tonalist12/1,Wise Dan20/1,Dortmund22/1 is the shortest price 3 year old.The filly Untappable 35/1.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I can get better odds from the local bookie at the local bar. Wholey cow, those odds are way, way low.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Why would you want to reward victor ? He drifted shared belief out on both turns so bafferts other horse could win a cheap grade 1. Bafferts horse also took out shared belief in the classic. Why would anyone want to reward these connections for bad intent ? Two california dirt horses went over to japan and finished 15th and 16th in 16 horse fields. Wow these dirt have an awful lot of trouble with foreign horses. Chrome and bayern sure had a hard time with toast of new york, who never ran on dirt before. Why do they need blinkers ? Do good poker players need masks to hide behind ?
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
sorry-Bayern won the race Get over it
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
It only took bayern 10 races to win two grade 2 races. Main sequence has 4 grade 1 races in only four races. Go back and learn some elementary school math.
homers More than 1 year ago
Get over your hatred of Baffert. Bayern was the best horse last year.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Another one who uses fingers and toes to count
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I'm still in awe of his Travers race.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
The saratoga track super doesnt do favors for bob like oaklawn supers do.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I'd like to play a HOY Super high five. California Chrome/Shared Belief,Main Sequence/Shared Belief, Main Sequence/Tonalist,Wise Dan,Bayern,Tapiture/All Gr.1 winners.
Don Crook More than 1 year ago
CC is 3 yo of the yr. I don't see how, but maybe it will happen, that another 3 yo can beat him for HOY. Bayern's biggest claim to the award would be the Classic. That win is hugely tainted.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
oh yea, I guess the 7 figure Pennsylvania and the 7 figure Haskell, and the 7F race on Belmont day--those don't count. Just because Bayern wired everyone's hero--all they can do is taint his BC victory and forget about the Parx race-- forget the Monmouth race--classic California delusionary mind culture
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Anyone that follows horse racing knows that Bayern needs to be lone front-runner in any of his few wins. And the tracks they sent him to run on were speed-favoring, especially Monmouth, and Parx. He was able to run like a front-runner in the B.C. Classic in part due to the crafty ride by Garcia, where he basically knocked out his main front-running competitors, including Moreno. Everyone knows this yet for some reason only the Stewards at Santa Anita would not take down Bayern. That is why Bayern will and should not win HOY.
homers More than 1 year ago
Belmont Park on Belmont Day? Was that speed favoring as well? What about California Chrome getting the perfect trip in the Classic and not being able to pass Bayern?
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
it was be nauseating for Chrome to win the award--his early season wins are dwarfed by his late season losses. He never won a dirt race past the month of May. He never won against elders. All of you pom pom waving cheerleaders are delusional about your precious Chrome--he was the 4th best 3yo--so how could he possibly be HOY? Get over it
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Name these great older horses Bayern beat.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
never said they were great--all I said was the truth--and Bayern won and CC lost. The turf win by Chrome is meaningless--yet you delusional types call it a huge Grade 1 win that should send him over the top. Chrome beat nobody in the Derby and Preakness--when every other 3yo was injured or not ready. You are all drunken with Chrome fever and you should wipe the Chrome juice off your chins.
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
Lol,lol,lol, Not because your right. You must have lost money on the derby.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I actually believe Shared Belief was the best in 2014 and would have proved it if Bayern&Garcia didn't botch the start of the Classic and the race.I personally think the race was and should be an inconclusive throw out as far as awards are concerned.Whats left is California Chrome,Main Sequence,and possibly Shared Belief .Bayern probably should rate behind Wise Dan and Tonalist.
homers More than 1 year ago
Can I name a few 3yo's that he beat hin his last 2 races? Untapable and California Chrome. Shared Belief and California Chrome. Bayern was the best horse by the end of the year.
wayne haehner More than 1 year ago
of course he was--and Shared Belief was the 2nd best--and Tonalist/Wicked Strong were as good as Chrome--yet the love affair will always continue. YOu would think CC was out of Zenyatta. Total irrational exuberance--unjustified HOY is politics and popularity--then Chrome would unaminous he will probably get it due to the need for a hero
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
The only way California Chrome does not win HOY is East Coast Bias. If that once again happens, they might as well rename the Eclipse Awards to the East Coast Regional Awards.