Eclipse Award Voters Don't Trust Stewards

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

January 7th, 2016

I’m a Chatterbox as a finalist for champion three-year-old filly over Curalina is a major shot at the Saratoga Race Course stewards who disqualified the former in favor of the latter in this year’s Coaching Club American Oaks.

Curalina was one of only two three-year-old fillies with multiple Grade 1 wins this year (Lovely Maria was the other—more on her below). Curalina won the Acorn Stakes in addition to her put-up in the CCA Oaks, but it is clear from the voting—with I’m a Chatterbox getting the nod—that voters saw that race more as a victory for her than the filly who actually got her picture taken.

It’s an even stronger statement than any made following the 2014 season when Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern was snubbed for any year-end awards despite beating eventual Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old male California Chrome head to head on two occasions including in American racing’s self-proclaimed “World Championships.”

That Classic was fraught with peril, however, and Bayern survived a lengthy inquiry following trouble at the start. Would a cleaner trip (both for him and Shared Belief in particular behind him) have earned Bayern more favor with voters? Probably.

If Curalina had won the CCA Oaks outright instead of by disqualification would she have been a finalist for champion three-year-old filly? Absolutely.

At least I’d have put her in my top three—maybe even in the top spot as the more consistent of the two-time Grade 1 winners (never worse than third, including a placing against older in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), but that CCA Oaks win didn’t feel “earned” at the time or now.

Another interesting tidbit regarding the three-year-old filly division is that this marks the first time since at least 1997 that neither the Kentucky Oaks winner nor the Alabama Stakes winner are a finalist in the category.

The other two-time Grade 1 winner in 2015 besides Curalina was Lovely Maria, who won both the Ashland and Kentucky Oaks in the spring but petered out in the fall. Still, for me, that double was good enough for a second-place vote behind Found, who beat older males (including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner and eventual champion turf male finalist Golden Horn) in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

In my Eclipse Award voting discussion, I mentioned the three-year-old filly and female sprinter categories as being the most difficult and leaned on the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to make my decision. That’s what landed Found in the top spot for three-year-old filly and why Lovely Maria—despite a tough fall—in the second spot. She did win the Kentucky Oaks, after all, and was the only filly to win multiple Grade 1 races without help from the stewards.