01/03/2007 1:00AM

Invasor tops list of Eclipse finalists

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Invasor

Invasor, Bernardini, Barbaro, and Lava Man - four of the marquee names from last year - were among 28 horses and 13 people announced Wednesday as finalists for 2006 Eclipse Awards by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Invasor, who completed his year with a victory over Bernardini and Lava Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is considered the front-runner for both Horse of the Year and champion older male. Invasor also won the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, and Whitney Handicap. The other finalists for champion older male are Lava Man, who had a brilliant season in California, where he won four Grade 1 races, and Premium Tap, who won the Woodward and Clark Handicap.

There were three finalists announced in 15 divisions, 10 for horses and five for people. The only category in which finalists were not announced was Horse of the Year, a policy instituted several years ago so as not to inadvertently reveal divisional winners.

All winners, including Horse of the Year, will be announced at the 36th annual Eclipse Awards dinner Jan. 22 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The finalists and winners are determined by votes of representatives of Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers Association, and the NTRA, which includes members of Equibase. Voting closed Dec. 27. Of the 315 eligible voters, 271 returned ballots, according to Jim Gluckson, a spokesman for the NTRA. All votes are pooled; bloc voting was eliminated several years ago. Although voters must pick their top three in each division, the winners are determined solely by first-place votes.

Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Bernardini, who won the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, are joined by Cigar Mile winner Discreet Cat as finalists for champion 3-year-old male. Bernardini is considered a slight favorite over Barbaro in that division.

Discreet Cat had the rare honor of being named a finalist in two divisions. He is also up for champion sprinter against Henny Hughes, the winner of the KingOs Bishop and Vosburgh, and Thor's Echo, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic and De Francis Dash. Thor's Echo is considered the favorite in that division. Bordonaro, the Ancient Title winner, did not make the top three, nor did five-time stakes winner Siren Lure.

Wait a While, who won the American Oaks and Yellow Ribbon on turf, also was named a finalist in two divisions. She is up for champion female turf horse against Ouija Board, the winner of the BreedersO Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Gorella, the winner of the Beverly D. Ouija Board is considered the favorite.

Wait a While is also a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly, against three-time Grade 1 winner Bushfire, and Pine Island, who won the Alabama and Gazelle before suffering fatal injuries in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Pine Island is considered the favorite.

Breeders' Cup winners Street Sense and Dreaming of Anna are favored to win the two titles for 2-year-olds. Street Sense, who won the Juvenile, is a finalist for champion 2-year-old male along with Circular Quay, the Hopeful Stakes winner, and Nobiz Like Shobiz, who won the Remsen. Tiz Wonderful, the unbeaten winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club, was a notable omission among the finalists, as were Scat Daddy and Stormello.

Dreaming of Anna, who completed an unbeaten year with her victory in the Juvenile Fillies, is joined by Octave, the Juvenile Fillies runner-up, and Del Mar Debutante winner Point Ashley as finalists for champion 2-year-old filly.

One of the most difficult divisions facing voters was champion male turf horse, where there were several worthy candidates. The finalists are English Channel, who won three Grade 1 races; Miesque's Approval, the Breeders' Cup Mile winner; and The Tin Man, the Arlington Million winner. A horse missing here is Mile runner-up Aragorn, who won four stakes, including a pair of Grade 1 races, and was ranked as the nationOs top miler for most of the year. Also overlooked were Cacique, Lava Man, Red Rocks, and Showing Up.

Round Pond, the BreedersO Cup Distaff winner, is a finalist for champion older female along with Asi Siempre, the winner of the Spinster Stakes, and Fleet Indian, whose two Grade 1 wins and 6-for-7 record make her the favorite in this division. Among the notables not making the cut were Happy Ticket, Healthy Addiction, and Spun Sugar.

McDynamo, who won the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase and Colonial Cup, is considered the overwhelming favorite to be named champion steeplechase horse over fellow finalists Mixed Up and Sur La Tete.

Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who bred and own Barbaro, and Sheikh MohammedOs Darley Stable, which bred and owns Bernardini, are both finalists for champion breeder as well as champion owner. The other finalist for champion breeder is Frank StronachOs Adena Springs. The Jacksons, who race as Lael Stables, are considered the favorites for champion owner against Darley and Sheikh HamdanOs Shadwell Stable, which raced Invasor as well as Belmont Stakes winner Jazil.

Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Invasor and Jazil, is a finalist for champion trainer along with Doug O'Neill -- the trainer of Lava Man and Thor's Echo -- and Todd Pletcher, who set a single-season record for purse earnings and is considered the favorite to capture his third straight Eclipse Award. Among PletcherOs many runners, Fleet Indian is considered the one with the best chance to get an Eclipse Award.

Champion jockey is viewed as a toss-up between Garrett Gomez, who led the nation in purse earnings and Grade 1 wins, and Edgar Prado, who was second to Gomez in both those categories and won the Derby with Barbaro. The other finalist is Russell Baze, who late last year passed Laffit Pincay Jr. as racing's winningest rider.

Julien Leparoux, who led the nationOs apprentice riders in both victories and earnings, is considered the strong favorite to be named champion apprentice jockey over fellow finalists Martin Garcia and Rosie Napravnik.