12/23/2003 12:00AM

One slot deserves to be left blank


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The way I see it, if you have to muddle through yet another turf writer's Eclipse Award rundown, at least I can spice things up a bit by being as politically incorrect as possible. Here is a category-by category recap of my 2003 ballot.


Win: At least they were nice enough to ease everyone into the process with a no-brainer. Three races by McDynamo in 2003 resulted in three wins by more than 26 lengths, all in Grade 1 races.

Place: Praise the Prince. Any 8-year-old who can win the Turf Writers Cup under 150 pounds, giving two pounds to a 6-year-old runnerup and eight pounds to the third-place finisher, deserves honorable mention.

Show: Trebizond. He lost his last four races by a country mile, but hey, so did the rest of the nominees.

Two-year-old colt or gelding

Win: Action This Day. Yes, I know the pace backed up into his face, and the Beyer for his Juvenile win was a measly 92.

Most likely, Action This Day wasn't the "best" 2-year-old. But here's a memo to the connections of everyone else campaigning for the award: If you want some shiny hardware, consider showing up on championship day.

Place: Chapel Royal. Thanks for showing up. And running your heart out, by the way.

Show: Read the Footnotes. If they ran the Juvenile this Saturday, he wins it.

Two-year-old filly

Win: Halfbridled. I still can't believe she paid $4.80 to place in the Juvenile Fillies.

Place: Ashado. Graded stakes wins at six, seven, and nine furlongs. Outgamed Victory U. S. A. for second in the Juvenile Fillies.

Show: Victory U. S. A. She was once 3-5 against Halfbridled.

Three-year-old colt or gelding

Win: Empire Maker.

Place: Funny Cide.

Show: Ten Most Wanted.

Frankly, it's a shame we have to vote for either Funny Cide or Empire Maker.

Funny Cide got good for a few weeks and became the Everyman Dream, and just as quickly disintegrated into an unwatchable, mismanaged soap opera.

Empire Maker is the spoiled little rich kid who was given every advantage and every chance to be great. After hanging like a cheap suit in Louisville, he made it to the races exactly twice. He goofed off and loafed through the stretch every chance he got.

After my second double-spiked egg nog, I was tempted to write in Easy Goer, who as a 3-year-old won the Swale, Gotham (in 1:32 and change), Wood Memorial, Belmont, Whitney Handicap, Travers, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and went home empty-handed. Easy Goer wouldn't have broken a sweat against either of them.

Three-year-old filly

No vote.

Under "Attention Voters" on the ballot, it says you may elect not to vote in a particular category.

Someone will wind up with the most votes, but in all good conscience what kind of a case can be made for anyone? I have the feeling Composure was best of this bunch, but you can't vote for a filly who raced once in February and once in March.

Colt, horse, or gelding 4 and up

Win: Mineshaft. He was very good and very consistent, but don't dare say the word "great."

Place: Medaglia d'Oro. His runner-up effort in the Classic was tremendous.

Show: Congaree. The best horse to run at Aqueduct since, well, Easy Goer.

Filly or mare, 4 and up

Win: Sightseek. Could have made this a slam-dunk, but pulled a Riboletta in the Distaff.

Place: Azeri. Would have been great to see her run in New York at her best.

Show: Wild Spirit. Should have been supplemented to the Distaff, and might have won it laughing.


Win: Cajun Beat. He pulverized them in the Sprint. The Beyer was 120, and sheet players will appreciate that he was four wide on the turn.

Place: Aldebaran. A Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile would, most years, be the most exciting race on the card.

Show: Congaree. See Aldebaran.

Male turf horse 3 and up

Win: High Chaparral. Dead game in the Turf, just 20 days after running over a bog at Longchamps.

Place: Storming Home. Could have wrapped this up with an in-the-money finish in the Turf, but he was a total no-show.

Show: Falbrav. How was the world's most accomplished grass horse left off the ballot?

Female turf horse 3 and up

Win: Islington. Her U.S. rivals aren't in the same league.

Place: Six Perfections. From post 12 in 99-degree heat? So much for the "Europeans can't handle tight turns and hot weather" theory.

Show: Heat Haze. Four graded stakes wins from early April to late November is old-school stuff.

Horse of the Year

Win: Mineshaft. Things broke the right way for him on Breeders' Cup Day.

Place: Medaglia d'Oro. A little faster than Mineshaft, but not as tractable.

Show: Congaree. I just love watching him tear up The Big A.


Win: Bobby Frankel. Even though horseplayers are still wondering what happened to his horses on Travers Day and Breeders' Cup Day.

Place: Richard Mandella. A Cup Day for the ages.

Show: Todd Pletcher. Record-setting meets at Belmont and Saratoga. Just a matter of time.


Win: Jerry Bailey. He's taking all the fun out of this.

Place: John Velazquez. The heir apparent.

Show: Patrick Valenzuela. Don't get to see nearly enough of him here in the East.


Win: Eddie Castro. He was on the cover of DRF Simulcast Weekly, you know.

Place: Pablo Fragoso. An apprentice who can ride the turf!

Show: Ryan Fogelsonger. What a neat-o name.