12/13/2006 1:00AM

Polls open in Eclipse voting


The fate of this year's Eclipse Awards are now in the hands of the 313 racing officials and media members who recently received ballots. There are 11 awards for horses, including Horse of the Year, and another five for humans, including jockey and trainer.

A total of 157 members of the National Turf Writers' Association, 79 employees of Daily Racing Form, and 77 representatives of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association - whose bloc includes racing secretaries and employees of Equibase - received ballots. All votes are due by Dec. 27. The top three finalists in each division - except for Horse of the Year - are scheduled to be announced on Jan. 3. The finalists for Horse of the Year are not announced because doing so might inadvertently reveal divisional winners.

All winners will be announced at the Eclipse Awards dinner on Jan. 22 at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Invasor, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, is considered the front-runner for Horse of the Year.

There are several categories that figure to be highly contentious, most notably male turf, where there was no standout. Aragorn, English Channel, Miesque's Approval, Showing Up, and The Tin Man are among the leading contenders.

John Velazquez was the champion jockey the previous two years, but an early season injury stopped his momentum. Garrett Gomez and Edgar Prado, neither of whom has won an Eclipse Award, are considered the top contenders. Russell Baze figures to garner votes after recently passing Laffit Pincay Jr. as the all-time leader in career victories.