Tis the season...

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

December 22nd, 2018

With the Christmas Day and New Year's Day holidays rapidly approaching, voting members of the National Turf Writers Association and United States Harness Writers Association have been busy filling out their respective ballots for divisional champions and horse of the year.

With a trio of Grade I events at Santa Anita Park still on the schedule immediately after Christmas, members of the National Turf Writers Association have been asked to withhold making their final choices in the Eclipse Award voting until after those races. In actuality, neither the Malibu Stakes, La Brea Stakes or American Oaks should have any impact on divisional honors or horse of the year.

Members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association not only completed their ballots weeks ago, the results of champion pacers and trotters have already been released. There were few surprises along the way among the 12 division winners announced so far and only trotter of the year, pacer of the year and horse of the year have yet to be unveiled.

Judging by the results of the voting among the 130 ballots cast, anywhere from 25-30 people likely selected all six trotting champions and anywhere from 50-55 people correctly picked all of the pacing winners. Among the grand tally, my guess is anywhere from 10-14 people still have perfect ballots heading into the unveiling of champion trotter, champion pacer and horse of the year.

A number of trotters and pacers won their division titles by landslides, with three trotters receiving at least 90 percent of the votes in their category and four pacers getting at least 90 percent with Shartin N receiving all but one vote for champion pacing mare. Six Pack won champion trotter with 54.6 percent of the votes, while Ariana G took home champion trotting mare with 63.8 percent of the tally and Homicide Hunter got roughly three-fourths of the votes for champion older trotter.

Among the pacers, Dorsoduro Hanover (50 percent) was the lowest vote taker en route to being named champion three-year-old pacing colt or gelding and was perhaps the lone misfire by the group. Maryland-bred Courtly Choice won both the Grade I, $700,000 Meadowlands Pace and the Grade I, $500,000 Little Brown Jug - the most coveted prize in the sport - and was still snubbed for divisional honors.

On the thoroughbred ballot, several horses appear to be genuine slam dunks regardless of the three remaining Grade I races. Justify will obviously be champion three-year-old colt and horse of the year, while Monomoy Girl, despite being victimized by the worst disqualification anywhere on the planet this year when she was placed second in the Grade I Cotillion at Parx, will be champion three-year-old filly. Breeders Cup Classic hero Accelerate will be champion older dirt male and two-time Arc winner Enable will be champion grass mare.

Chad Brown appears headed for another Eclipse ward as champion trainer following 19 Grade I wins, while Irad Ortiz, Jr. or Mike Smith, should be champion jockey. Apprentice riders get little fanfare anymore, but Maryland-based Weston Hamilton, who loses his bug boy status tomorrow, should get the Eclipse after booting home 116 winners with earnings of roughly $3.5 million.