The highest honor to win in horse racing is an Eclipse Award. The industry has been giving out these equine statuettes since 1971.
I’ve had the privilege of being an Eclipse voter for 15 years and do not take it lightly. I thought this season had more contention than any year I can recall.
Eclipse finalists in 17 categories will be released Wednesday, followed by the naming of the winners at a televised awards dinner Jan. 18 from Gulfstream Park.
Here is my Eclipse ballot, with a few capsule comments.
I made Wise Dan my Horse of the Year. He had won this honor the year before, so his owner, Morton Fink, and trainer, Charlie Lopresti, decided to repeat his 2012 schedule. The 6-year-old gelding won four Grade 1 and two Grade 2 stakes among seven starts.
Some media members were critical of that campaign strategy, saying he should have tried new challenges. All I know is Wise Dan’s schedule was crystal clear, and heaven help those who did show up.
The long-term benefit for us is Wise Dan is a gelding. So unless doctors can reverse the surgery, he won’t be going to stud any time soon.
That leads to my trainer vote for Lopresti. There are a lot of trainers with more wins than his 26 this year. His barn’s $3.9 million in purse earnings ranked him 32nd in the nation.
But not all can train a horse to win back-to-back Horse of the Year titles, which I think will happen. I want to recognize Lopresti for being a consummate horseman.
I went against the grain in voting for Joel Rosario as leading jockey. Javier Castellano has the most wins and money earned, so he is the heavy favorite. Gary Stevens’ comeback will be popular, too.
But my eyes told me Rosario was the best rider in the nation last year despite missing two months because of a broken foot. His early wins in the Dubai World Cup (Animal Kingdom) and Kentucky Derby (Orb) already have defined his career.
My vote for 2-year-old male goes to Shared Belief, who easily won his three starts, including the Hollywood Futurity. While he got no Kentucky Derby points for winning the Futurity, I doubt if part owner Jim Rome of Jungle Racing would trade his gelding for Cleburne or We Miss Artie, who each have 10 points.
My top 3-year-old is Will Take Charge. He showed that despite an awful Triple Crown run, a championship season is measured over 12 months. His nose loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Mucho Macho Man is the definition of a moral victory.
The rest of my ballot looks like this: 2-year-old Filly, She’s a Tiger; 3-year-old Filly, Beholder; Older male, Mucho Macho Man; Older Female, Royal Delta; Male Sprinter, Secret Circle; Female Sprinter, Groupie Doll; Male Turf Horse, Wise Dan; Female Turf Horse, Dank; Owner, Ken and Sarah Ramsay; Breeder, Ken and Sarah Ramsay; Apprentice Jockey, Victor Carrasco.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.