Updated on 01/06/2014 1:29AM

Steven Crist: Close call in many Eclipse categories

Tom Keyser
Beholder's victory in the Distaff gives her an edge in the Eclipse race for 3-year-old filly.

Much as I’d like to, I can’t put it off any longer. The Eclipse Awards ballots are due and here are my choices for the 11 equine flat-racing titles:

2-year-old male: Perhaps the toughest call on the ballot due to the increasing brevity of juvenile campaigns in general and the significant drawback of each leading contender this year: New Year’s Day won the BC Juvenile but that was his only stakes start and he never ran a fast race; Havana won the Champagne but tired to be second in the Juvenile; Honor Code lost his only Grade 1 start; and Shared Belief raced only on synthetic tracks.

Shared Belief, however, has two other things going for him: His races were consistently fast, and he did win both a Grade 1 and a Grade 2 stakes. I’ll take him over New Year’s Day and Havana in that order – though if you forced me to make a Derby Future bet today, I’d probably take Honor Code.

2-year-old filly: She’s a Tiger finished first in the BC Juvenile Fillies, but was placed second behind Ria Antonia for interference in deep stretch. Must we ratify the stewards’ decision? I can’t. The rest of Ria Antonia’s campaign was dismal, while She’s a Tiger was first or second in all four of her Grade 1 and Grade 2 starts. I’ll leave them in the order they crossed the wire at Santa Anita and give Streaming third by a nose over Sweet Reason.

3-year-old male: Will Take Charge in a romp. With five different 3-year-olds winning the Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers, Will Take Charge took command with his two big fall races in Grade 1 spots against his elders – second in the BC Classic and first in the Clark. I’ll put Orb second and Goldencents third.

3-year-old filly: This is a heartbreaker, the lone category where a worthy champion won’t officially be a champion and it’s a shame. Princess of Sylmar’s victories in the Kentucky Oaks, CCA Oaks, Alabama, and Beldame would cement a title nine years out of 10, but Beholder also won four Grade 1 races and won the Distaff on a day when the Princess fired her only blank of the year. You hate to punish her connections for their sportsmanship in running her once more, but they knew the risk they were taking and it backfired badly. Close Hatches gets the show spot.

Older male: I have always believed that this title is supposed to go to the best older dirt male, not to a grass specialist who happens to be older and male. Eclipse voters used to agree – they gave this title to Slew o’ Gold over John Henry in 1984 and to Bertrando over Kotashaan in 1994. It went to Wise Dan last year, but at least he also had strong dirt and synthetic efforts. This year, Wise Dan showed no such versatility, so I’m going with Game On Dude for his five graded wins including the California trifecta of the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic. I’ll put Mucho Macho Man second and Cross Traffic third.

Older female: This wasn’t Royal Delta’s finest season, with just three wins in seven starts, but there’s really nowhere else to go, and when she was right she was clearly best. Joyful Victory and Tiz Miz Sue complete a tepid trifecta.
Turf male: Wise Dan’s four Grade 1 victories lay over the field. Point of Entry, one of our best turf horses to retire without an Eclipse, came up one start short, and Big Blue Kitten gets my vote for third.

Turf female: Easy. Dank won the Beverly D. and the BC Filly and Mare Turf, turning in the two strongest performances of the year in the division’s two best races. Laughing was next best, and in the absence of a good idea for third, why not Mizdirection for a second straight victory over males in the BC Turf Sprint?

Male sprinter: Secret Circle’s BC Sprint victory was an impressive one, but Points Offthebench had the better campaign and an additional Grade 1 victory. I’ll put Sahara Sky second and Secret Circle third.

Female sprinter: Groupie Doll’s campaign was not as strong as her 2012 one, but she won the big dance. Dance to Bristol runs a close second in the category, with Cluster of Stars third.

Horse of the Year: Much as I am tempted to voice some dissatisfaction with the narrowness of Wise Dan’s specialty by voting for someone else as Horse of the Year, I just can’t in good conscience argue that there is a worthier choice.

Will Take Charge’s campaign ended strongly, and it’s appealing to reward him for his perseverance and for running in so many of the sport’s big races, but he didn’t get good until July and it’s tough to promote his 5-for-11 campaign over Wise Dan’s 6-for-7 season.

Therefore: 1. Wise Dan; 2. Will Take Charge; 3. Game On Dude.

Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
13days till MUCHO MACHO MAN wins Older Male Horse of the year!
Ian Phillips More than 1 year ago
its a shame about point of entry best grass horse since manila. had he not been injured he would have been undefeated this year.
Ian Phillips More than 1 year ago
agree with steve except princess of sylmar and havana. sylmar and beholder beat each other and when sylmar was right beholder would have been second. havana would had won the breeders cup race with jock j velasquez a jock who would have been familiar with him. gary rode him well but its was his first ride on him.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
My argument for POS being 3 year old champ is this. She won the Oaks, she won the CCA, she won the Alabama, and she won the Beldame. All those races she won were 9 furlongs and 10 furlongs. Beholder won ONE race longer the 8.5f and that was the distaff on her home track. running these short middle distance races allows her to use her speed upfront and dictate the pace, OR run down cheap speed that competes at these distances in California. Give me Churchill, or Oaklawn at 10f and let enter the same field from the distaff and POS will win going away.
ad More than 1 year ago
crist has deleted 2 of my negative posts about his drf website, with the pop ups and pop downs.......he IS the self proclaimed KNOWITALL when it comes to horse racing or marketing.....this post too, will be deleted.....your a class act crist.......you ocassionally give it out, but you obviously can't take it..
nick More than 1 year ago
Gee, Mr. Crist, now we can't even read about race results? Way to go. This is definitely a way to insure you get new blood in this industry, by making information about the sport so readily available.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Sat night and every article on home page is DRF+ only. What a joke. Look at your "most popular" stories... none are DRF+, nor will there ever be. DRF+ = a failure.
B More than 1 year ago
I could understand them charging if they were the only game in town, but before looking at the DRF site, I had read nearly all of what they have written on the Blood-Horse & Handicapper's Edge sites which surely are becoming more and more popular due to this questionable decision. If I haven't had the chance to see a race in person or on the TV, I always check the Blood-Horse site first as they show the races without giving away the winners first.
B More than 1 year ago
Not that it means anything, but I can't believe I agree with every choice made here except I would not vote for HOY as none were truly worthy. I guess if a gun was pointed at my head, I'd pick Game On Dude as he had an excellent year winning some classic races and I believe with the three highest speed ratings and only ran one poor race all year, though unfortunately, the most important one. Cannot overlook WTC's awful first half of the year and I understand why Wise Dan will probably win again, but I couldn't vote again for a grass miler who was so cautiously placed in weak races with one exception. But again, I don't think any of them really deserve it. Also feel bad about POS even though I am far from a Pletcher fan and I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if Groupie Doll lost to either the second or third choices listed here. I think the thing I feel strongest about is that Wise Dan does not win older male.
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
Again Wise Dan beds the Prom Queen without attending the dance. What a joke!
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
You must have missed his Woodbine mile.....in hand course record. If asked World record would be his.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Santa Anita had 31 starters among the Pick Five races on Friday's card, including one race with THREE starters! The P5 payout was less than $150....now THAT is worthy of Keister Award and we are only 3 days into the new year!
Vinod Jhangimal More than 1 year ago
To all those who think WTC should win HOY over WD because of the races they ran in: Imagine these two duking it out in the following scenarios: 1. Mile race on grass 2. 10F on dirt If any of you can fathom WTC winning with a larger margin the second race (if at all), compared to Wise Dan's winning margin in the first race then you must be living in Colorado and are smoking, legally, some of the "good ole (new)stuff" or in Kentucky high on some backwoods moonshine. No one says WTC should race a mile on grass because we all BELIEVE he is incapable of doing it; yet everyone wants WD to race 10f on dirt because we want him to SHOW he will tank. Wise Dan is a beast who is amongst the top 5 horses IN THE WORLD of THE LAST FIVE YEARS (Black Caviar Frankel, Orfevre, Treve and Wise Dan in no particular order other than alphabetical)