With the 2 year olds, it's tough to not vote for the Breeders Cup winner unless it's a bomb, a la Vale of York last year. Awesome Feather was undefeated and beat all the opposition of note in the Breeders Cup, so she wins here easily over R Heat Lightning, who ran second in the JF Fillies. We'll give the third slot to More Than Real, who won the JF Turf.
1. Awesome Feather 2. R Heat Lightning 3. More Than Real
If Uncle Mo doesn't win this unanimously, the defecting voters should be publicly humiliated. Boys at Toscanova won the Hopeful and ran second in the Juvenile and is an easy silver medalist. For third place, we'll go with To Honor and Serve, who's the second choice in Derby future books now off his wins in the Nashua and Remsen.
1. Uncle Mo 2. Boys at Toscanova 3. To Honor and Serve
Lookin at Lucky won the Preakness, Haskell, Rebel and Indiana Derby, and really only ran one bad race all year (the Kentucky Derby, over a sloppy mess). While we think Eskendereya was the most talented horse, LAL was the most accomplished and takes this easily.
Who else finishes out the ballot? We can't really go with Eskendereya who didn't race after Easter. Super Saver and Drosselmeyer look like 1-race flukes and are out. So let's go a little out of the box. Paddy O'Prado ran a bang-up 3rd in the Derby and won the Secretariat and was probably the best turfer of this class. For the 3rd slot, we'll go with Sidney's Candy, who quietly won five graded stakes this year but flopped against top class in the BC Mile and Derby.
1. Lookin at Lucky 2. Paddy O'Prado 3. Sidney's Candy
This was neck and neck between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck all year but Blind Luck's place finish in the Distaff clinched her the title over a pretty good foe. We'll give the third slot to Switch, who came close to Zenyatta, was an excellent 2nd in the Filly Sprint and just won impressively in the La Brea last Sunday.
1. Blind Luck 2. Havre de Grace 3. Switch
Blame won the Classic and wins this easily. Quality Road won the Donn, Met Mile and Woodward and was the best horse in the country through Memorial Day, so he gets second place. There are zero interesting options for third place, as Richard's Kid's two Grade 1 wins in California bore us to tears, Battle Plan retired too early, Haynesfield and Dakota Phone each won exactly one race of consequence and Gio Ponti was 2-for-7 this year. I guess Richard's Kid? Sure.
1. Blame 2. Quality Road 3. Richard's Kid
What's amazing is that Rachel Alexandra isn't even one of the 5 horses we'd consider for a slot here. The top slot is easy and Unrivaled Belle tops Life at Ten in the balloting for winning the biggest race of the year. But we want to include on our ballot the horse with the second most G1 wins in America this year: Proviso. We'll talk more about her in a few minutes.
1. Zenyatta 2. Proviso 3. Unrivaled Belle
Blech. Gio Ponti was 2-for-7 this year with his best race probably being his 2nd place finish in the Mile. Winchester won 2 Grade 1's this year but both were at Belmont over middling competition. Dangerous Midge did win the Turf, but that's all he won this year. Paddy O'Prado would have been interesting had he even beaten older horses, but he never did. We were tempting to register a protest vote for Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge, and then remembered he wasn't very good.
When in doubt, take the Breeders Cup winner. That's what we're going with.
1. Dangerous Midge 2. Gio Ponti 3. Winchester
Shared Account gets the third slot here based off her win in the F&M Turf. The debate for the top spot is between Proviso's body of work--4 Grade 1 wins, including one over Shared Account--versus Goldikova's lone G1 win in the Mile. We're not taking into account her prior accomplishments because Eclipse Awards are only based off what a horse did this year. But still, Goldikova won four Grade 1's across the globe this year, won the Mile handily, and beat Proviso in the process. In fact, it wasn't close. Good enough.
1. Goldikova 2. Proviso 3. Shared Account
Dubai Majesty's win in the Filly Sprint gives her this easily. We can't find much better than the aforementioned Switch or 3yo filly Champagne d'Oro, who won the Acorn and Test, so we'll put them in the other slots.
1. Dubai Majesty 2. Switch 3. Champagne d'Oro
The question is Majesticperfection versus Big Drama. The former beat Big Drama in the Vanderbilt before retiring with an injury. Since then, Big Drama ran a bang-up second in the Forego--at 7 furlongs, not 6--and won the BC Sprint easily. On the rest of the year, he won the Smile Sprint and an ungraded race, whereas Majesticperfection won...well, a race in Iowa, a maiden race, and two allowance races. In other words, not much.
Can you justify taking Big Drama when he lost their only heads up battle? If the campaigns and accomplishments are roughly equivalent, absolutely not. But we don't think they are and think that the balance of Big Drama's year offsets the loss in the Vanderbilt. And we'll give him the vote. For 3rd, Discreetly Mine was the best 3yo sprinter this year by a lot.
1. Big Drama 2. Majesticperfection 3. Discreetly Mine
Is there any way Todd Pletcher loses this after winning the Derby, 2 Breeders Cup races and a total of 14 Grade 1's? Didn't think so. For the place slot, many would go with John Shirreffs for his work on Zenyatta and Harmonious, but John Sadler won seven Grade 1's with different horses. That's pretty damn good.
1. Todd Pletcher 2. John Sadler 3. John Shirreffs
The rider with the most G1's is Mike Smith (12), but he got 75% of them on Proviso and Zenyatta. Not interested. By contrast, John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez rode a bunch of different horses to G1 victories and were the best big-money riders in the nation. We also like Joel Rosario winning 10 Grade 1's on 10 different horses--very impressive.
1. Garrett Gomez 2. John Velazquez 3. Joel Rosario
The Mosses will win this in a romp for keeping Zenyatta in training this year. The owner that probably had the best year was WinStar, which won the Derby and Belmont, but we're fine with honoring the owners that gave racing the best press. For the third slot...sheesh, I dunno, how about Mike Pegram?
1. Jerry & Ann Moss 2. WinStar Farms 3. Mike Pegram
Horse of the Year
The great debate: Zenyatta versus Blame. Okay, last year's was a better debate between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta because the two never faced. We think this year's debate is really easy: how can you not vote for Blame when he beat Zenyatta in their head-to-head matchup? Here are the arguments for Zenyatta, none of which hold water:
- Her career accomplishments. Completely irrelevant. It's Horse of the Year, not Horse of the Career.
- Her publicity to racing. So? It's a question of who accomplished more this year, not who had racing in the press more. If fame and publicity were a factor, Barbaro would have won in 2006 by a mile. He wasn't even close.
- She came close in the Classic. Indeed, I think many of us appreciated Zenyatta more after the Classic even though she lost. But she still lost to Blame. If she had lost to Etched, this would be a different story on a couple of levels.
- She had a better year. Essentially, this is the Big Drama/Majesticperfection argument all over again. The argument is that Zenyatta had a better year because she won 5 Grade 1's to Blame's 3, and won at 4 racetracks to his 3. (This completely ignores the fact that 3 of her races were in Southern California...but whatever.) But let's break this down a little, because this is really the question. Zenyatta won 5 races against fillies and mares only. Blame won 4 races and 3 Grade 1's in open company. He beat top caliber horses, such as Quality Road, Battle Plan, Fly Down, Lookin at Lucky and Haynesfield. The best horse that Zenyatta beat in her non-Classic races was either Switch or St. Trinians, either of which would have been 50-1 in the Classic and a non-factor.
1. Blame 2. Zenyatta 3. Quality Road