Eclipse Award selections from Dick Powell
BY DICK POWELL
I am now a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters which means I get to vote on the Eclipse Awards. It’s easy to sit back and criticize the results but when you actually have to do it, there are some tough calls to make. It reminds of the line, “Everyone wants to umpire third base but nobody wants to call balls and strikes.” Here goes:
2YO Male – No contest here, NYQUIST (Uncle Mo) had a brilliant year and should romp.
2YO Female – No contest again, SONGBIRD (Medaglia d’Oro) was incredible and flawless.
3YO Male – AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile) had a sophomore season for the ages. His only loss this year was a misguided trip to Saratoga but he bounced back with a Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) romp against older rivals.
3YO Female – I’M A CHATTERBOX (Munnings) did just enough to edge out LADY ELI (Divine Park). The vote brings the issue of dirt form versus turf form. For years, I don’t think Lady Eli would have a chance with only turf races on her resume but with a record number of turf races being run in America, the gap has narrowed. What I liked about I’m a Chatterbox is she had a lengthy season and her losses all had legitimate excuses. Lady Eli was great but her season was just too short.
Older Dirt Male – HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy) won the Met Mile (G1) and Whitney Stakes (G1) against stellar fields. Yes, his one-dimensional running style cost him a few times when speed was king but when the big money and prestige was on the line, he got up in time. Running down LIAM’S MAP (Unbridled’s Song) in the Whitney was nearly impossible and his form was franked when that rival came back to romp in the Woodward Stakes (G1).
Older Dirt Female – BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes) could not have been more impressive against males in the Pacific Classic (G1) with a breathtaking run going into the far turn. The late scratch before the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) enabled us to avoid the possible conundrum of selecting between her and American Pharoah.
Male Sprinter – No brainer, despite the human drama surrounding him, as RUNHAPPY (Super Saver) won three major Grade 1 sprints.
Female Sprinter – LA VERDAD (Yes It’s True) since her record going short was unsurpassed. She was run down by WAVELL AVENUE (Harlington) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) but that was at seven furlongs. At six furlongs, La Verdad was sensational and beat Wavell Avenue going 6 ½ furlongs in the Gallant Bloom (G2) and her second in the Filly and Mare Sprint puts her over the top.
Male Turf Horse – I don’t make the rules so if FLINTSHIRE (Dansili) is eligible, he gets my vote. His win in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga was unbelievable and with no domestic turf male having a huge year, he gets my vote.
Female Turf Horse – Same as the male turf horses, if International horses are eligible off one start, then I have to vote for FOUND (Galileo). Her win over GOLDEN HORN (Cape Cross) in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) was awesome and dwarfs any accomplishment from her divisional rivals.
Steeplechase Horse – DAWALAN (Azamour) won two Grade 1s and the comment line on his win in the Colonial Cup (G1) sums it up best, “Much the Best.”
Owner – Ken and Sarah Ramsey had another sensational year and gets the nod over the Zayats.
Breeder – Ken and Sarah Ramsey, with mostly homebred horses by their homebred stallion KITTEN’S JOY (El Prado). When you consider how well Ramsey-bred horses do and factor in their modest value, compared to others, they get my vote.
Jockey – Javier Castellano had an incredible year and it was enough to overcome Victor Espinoza. Every time you looked up, there was Castellano winning another Grade 1 stakes race and his numbers were staggering.
Apprentice Jockey – I gave to edge to Eric Cancel as he competed on a tougher circuit than the competition. There were days at Saratoga where it looked like he was the only rider that understood speed performed well on the turf.
Trainer – Bob Baffert did an incredible job managing American Pharoah, who had physical issues that had to be carefully managed. Baffert had him just fit enough to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) so that he was still improving by the time he got to the Belmont Stakes. Baffert made it look easy but it was not. To have him fit and ready for the Breeders’ Cup Classic after a Triple Crown campaign was a testament to the stellar work ethic from him and his staff.
Horse of the Year – AMERICAN PHAROAH should get a percentage similar to Ken Griffey Jr.’s 99.32 (Hall of Fame inductee). Anything less will be a disgrace.