Eclipse Award voters needed clarification

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 19th, 2015

The Eclipse Awards for champion Older Male and Older Female were reclassified on Thursday to Older Dirt Male and Older Dirt Female. Given the results of the past two years, I was glad to see the Eclipse Awards steering committee clarify the purpose of divisional awards for voters.

Horses that race exclusively on turf are competing in a single division. And outside of Horse of the Year, which is open to all divisions regardless of age and sex, there is a single Eclipse Award category for each gender in the turf division.

That premise used to be easy for Eclipse Award voters to understand – it was a given – but that is no longer the case.

For example, in 1993, Kotashaan raced exclusively on turf in nine North American starts, winning five Grade 1 races including the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The Breeders’ Cup Classic featured a massive upset by 133-1 French invader Arcangues and three different horses (Sea Hero, Prairie Bayou and Colonial Affair) captured the Triple Crown races.

Kotashaan was an easy Horse of the Year choice for Eclipse Award voters and also garnered champion Turf Male. But was he named champion Older Male? No, he didn’t race in that division.

Bertrando, who won two Grade 1 races from nine starts during the 1993 season, was named champion Older Male because Eclipse Award voters understood the meaning of divisional honors.

Twenty years later and the distinction became completely lost upon voters.

Wise Dan competed outside the turf division in 2012, winning the Ben Ali Stakes and finishing a troubled head second in the Stephen Foster H. on the main track, and proved to be a deserving champion Older Male (along with Horse of the Year and Turf Male) – he carried his outstanding form to multiple surfaces that year.

But Wise Dan won the same honors in 2013 despite racing exclusively on turf – he wound up being rewarded for a division that was avoided.

The same mess occurred last year with Main Sequence, who raced four times on turf. A majority of voters couldn’t understand the distinction and awarded him champion Older Male along with Turf Male.

Horses that compete in a single division are no longer eligible to win multiple divisional Eclipse Awards.