12/31/2010 2:40PM

Several no-brainer picks on this Eclipse ballot

Email

Here is one handicapper’s ballot for the 12 equine Eclipse Awards that will be announced and presented in Miami Beach on Jan. 17:

Two-year-old male

1. Uncle Mo, 2. Boys At Toscanova, 3. Comma to the Top.

The unbeaten Champagne and BC Juvenile winner was an easy choice, but things got very contentious among the other finalists. Kantharos and To Honor and Serve deserve at least honorable mention in this division.

Two-year-old filly

1. Awesome Feather, 2. R Heat Lightning, 3. Turbulent Descent

Awesome Feather’s 6-for-6 record, including a Breeders’ cup victory, will make her a nearly unanimous selection in another division in which there was a clear winner and a lot of possibilities underneath. Position Limit and Wickedly Perfect just missed the show spot on my ballot.

Three-year-old male

1. Lookin At Lucky, 2. Eskendereya, 3. Smiling Tiger

Lookin At Lucky lost or skipped a lot of big races, but his Preakness and Haskell victories make him the clear choice in a lukewarm division in which my next three choices were a colt retired in April, a sprinter, and a grass horse. I narrowly gave Smiling Tiger the nod for third over Paddy O’Prado on the basis of his two Grade 1 victories against older horses.

Three-year-old filly

1. Blind Luck, 2. Devil May Care, 3. Havre de Grace

Blind Luck had an admirably ambitious national campaign that included dramatic victories in the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama. Devil May Care won two Grade 1’s before being injured, and Havre de Grace was right there with Blind Luck in four meetings. Switch came close to cracking the top three and deserves to be a finalist in the filly-sprint division.

Older male

1. Blame, 2. Quality Road, 3. Richard’s Kid

Blame’s victories over Quality Road in the Whitney and Zenyatta in the Classic make him the obvious choice. Quality Road may have had the most raw talent of any of them, and his Donn, Metropolitan, and Woodward constitute a fine season. Richard’s Kid won the Pacific Classic and Goodwood before having his season prematurely shut down.

Older female

1. Zenyatta, 2. Life At Ten, 3. Unrivaled Belle

Zenyatta’s five Grade 1 victories in filly-mare races and a strong second in the Classic make her the obvious choice. Life at Ten beat Unrivaled Belle twice before her non-effort in the BC Distaff.

Turf male

1. Gio Ponti, 2. Winchester, 3. Paddy O’Prado

No one put together a championship season, leaving a choice between 2-for-7 Gio Ponti and 3-for-9 Winchester. While Winchester won the only head-to-head, Gio Ponti’s whole season – including seconds in the Arlington Million and BC Mile − is slightly more compelling. Honorable mention goes to Chamberlain Bridge, the nation’s top turf sprinter.

Turf female

1. Goldikova, 2. Proviso, 3. Tuscan Evening

From famine to feast: All three of the top grass fillies had better seasons than any of the grass males. Proviso deserves more than a runner-up finish for her four Grade 1’s but was eclipsed by Goldikova’s historic third straight Breeders’ Cup Mile, a race in which Proviso ran seventh. Tuscan Evening also was outstanding winning six graded stakes before her fatal heart attack Aug. 8.

Male sprinter

1. Majesticperfection, 2. Big Drama, 3. Smiling Tiger

I suspect Big Drama is going to win this award, but Majesticperfection beat him on the square in the Vanderbilt in their lone meeting and was more brilliant on his best days. On the other hand, Big Drama ran in four graded stakes to Majesticperfection’s one, including his victory in the BC Sprint after Majesticperfection had been retired with an injury. Honorable mention: Discreetly Mine, whose season also ended prematurely.

Female sprinter

1. Dubai Majesty, 2. Switch, 3. Champagne d’Oro

Dubai Majesty’s 4-for-10 record is uninspiring, but she won the BC Filly and Mare Sprint over Switch, and there’s no other deserving alternative. She also gets style points for winning stakes races on dirt, synthetic, and grass courses. Switch’s La Brea runaway last Saturday, following seconds to Zenyatta and Dubai Majesty, moved her into second place on my ballot past a small horse of contenders, including Champagne d’Oro, Franny Freud, Informed Decision, Mona de Momma, and Rightly So.

Steeplechaser

1. Slip Away, 2. Percussionist, 3. Sermon of Love

In a less than vintage year for jumpers, Slip Away was 2 for 7, but his season-ending runaway in the Colonial Cup earned him the nod.

Horse of the Year

1. Blame, 2. Zenyatta, 3. Blind Luck

Zenyatta is on a short list of the best fillies of the last 50 years, but that does not entitle her to the 2010 Horse of the Year award. Some have argued that she should be given the award solely for her popularity, but I don’t think box-office and television ratings should play any part in selecting the sport’s champions. Blame’s victories in the Foster, Whitney, and Classic outweigh Zenyatta’s five victories against fillies. She is a filly for the ages and the Horse of The Last Three Years Combined, but not of 2010.