Powell: My 2017 Eclipse Award ballot
by DICK POWELL
2017 is in the book and here is my Eclipse Award ballot:
Horse of the Year: GUN RUNNER
No real competition as he bounced back from his defeat in the Dubai World Cup (G1) and was unbeatable the rest of the year. Showing that he was not just a nine-furlong horse, he gunned to the front in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and ran the field off their feet. ARROGATE went bad for whatever reason and his wins in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Dubai World Cup were legendary, but he finished up the year with three straight losses. WORLD APPROVAL was great on the turf and beat a strong international field in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).
Two-Year-Old Male: BOLT D'ORO
Did enough before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) to clinch and ran good enough that day from post 11. GOOD MAGIC won the Juvenile as a maiden and had he not lost the Champagne (G1), he would be my pick. SOLOMINI ran great in three straight Grade 1 races to finish the year.
Two-Year-Old Filly: CALEDONIA ROAD
Was second in the Frizette (G1) and romped in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) from post 12. RUSHING FALL only ran on the turf but was three-for-three. DREAM TREE got really good at the end of the year.
Three-Year-Old Male: ALWAYS DREAMING
His wins in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) were just enough to get over the wire. He was clearly the champ of the first half of the season, but this division is heavily tilted to be at your best for the first Saturday in May and he was. WEST COAST was the champ of the second half but I think his two Grade 1 wins were against weakened company in the war of attrition. MASTERY only had one start this year but it was a romp in a Grade 2 stakes and who knows how good he was?
Three-Year-Old Filly: ABEL TASMAN
Might have gotten lucky in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) as the beneficiary of a suicidal speed duel on a very sloppy track, but then she won two more Grade 1 stakes. Long-striding filly almost won the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) with a sudden surge. ELATE improved as the year went on and if not for a masterful ride from Mike Smith aboard Abel Tasman in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), she would have won three straight Grade 1 stakes. Squandered her chance in the Distaff with an even effort. PARADISE WOODS looked fantastic with a romp over Abel Tasman in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and returned in the Fall with another Grade 1 win.
Older Dirt Male: GUN RUNNER
For all the reasons stated above for Horse of the Year. COLLECTED won his first four starts this year including the Pacific Classic (G1) over Arrogate, but could not get by Gun Runner in the Classic.
Older Dirt Female: FOREVER UNBRIDLED
Perfectly managed by Dallas Stewart, she ran down SONGBIRD in the Personal Ensign (G1) and then came back to win the Distaff with a perfectly-timed ride from Johnny Velazquez. SONGBIRD was not the same filly that she was last year but began the season with two Grade 1 wins before being hurt and retired. STELLAR WIND won three straight Grade 1 stakes but then came apart in the Distaff.
Male Sprinter: ROY H
Easy choice after his Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) win and he took his game on the road with a sharp score in the True North (G2) at Belmont Park. IMPERIAL HINT won his first four starts this year and was a good second in the Sprint when he contested the pace from post 11. WHITMORE won his first four starts this year with huge rallies then won a Grade 2 at Keeneland in October.
FEMALE SPRINTER: UNIQUE BELLA
Won both of her sprint starts earlier in the year before tiring in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). Her win in the La Brea (G1) at Santa Anita was awesome and clinched it for me. AMI'S MESA won a Grade 3 on the Tapeta at Woodbine then the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2). She made her dirt debut in the Filly & Mare Sprint and had it won until being run down by a 66-1 shot. PAULASILVERLINING won her first three starts this year including two Grade 1 stakes.
Male Turf Horse: WORLD APPROVAL
Only loss was in the 10-furlong Manhattan (G1) and finished the year with three straight Grade 1 wins. His win in the Mile was over a strong field of international runners and he became a push button horse as the year went on. BEACH PATROL won two Grade 1 stakes and almost won the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). TALISMANIC was a terrific winner of the Turf over Beach Patrol and last year's winner HIGHLAND REEL.
Female Turf Horse: LADY ELI
I thought she might be finished when beaten in her first start of the year, but she came back with three straight wins. Was wiped out at the start of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). DICKINSON beat Lady Eli early in the season but could not do it again. DACITA won the Beverly D. (G1) and just missed in the Flower Bowl (G1).
Steeplechase Horse: SCORPIANCER
Won a Grade 2 stakes to begin his season then romped by 16 lengths in a Grade 1. MODEM was second in all four American starts. MR. HOT STUFF won a Grade 1 last out by a nose.
Owner: JUDDMONTE FARMS
Had another strong season and is now as big a threat on dirt as they always were on turf. GODOLPHIN had a great Breeders' Cup with wins in the Turf and Filly & Mare Turf. LIVE OAK PLANTATION had another stellar year.
Breeder: CLEARSKY FARMS
Arrogate, DREFONG and ABEL TASMAN were all bred by them. WINSTAR FARMS bred more graded stakes winners than anyone else. BESILU STABLES showing results from their expanding broodmare band.
Jockey: JOSE ORTIZ
Had his first classic success with Belmont S. (G1) winner TAPWRIT and led the country in earnings. Has no weakness and only getting better. MIKE SMITH can still get it done with the big money on the line. IRAD ORTIZ JR. led the country with 317 wins.
Apprentice Jockey: EVIN ROMAN
The easiest of winners, he could be the next big thing in California. HECTOR DIAZ performed well in New York. KATIE CLAWSON was second in wins for apprentice riders but less money.
Trainer: CHAD BROWN
With a win in the Preakness (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, no dirt race is safe from Team Chad as he continues to expand his horizons. STEVE ASMUSSEN did his usual masterful job with Gun Runner. BOB BAFFERT lost his best three-year-old early in the season but still won 14 Grade 1 stakes.
(Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography photo)