The Eclipse Awards will be announced next week. The ceremony will be hosted by They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, which automatically makes it Must See TV. I, of course, do not have a vote for any of the Eclipse Awards that will be handed out, but I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on a few of the categories and who my choice to win would be.
2-Year-Old Male- My pick here would be Hansen of the three finalists for one simple reason. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and defeated the other two to do it. Union Rags had every chance in the world to pass him in the stretch and could not do it and Creative Cause just was not as good as the other two that day. Do I think Hansen is going to go on and win the Kentucky Derby? Uhh...no! But that is not the question at hand, the question is who is the best two-year-old male and my pick is Hansen.
3-Year-Old Male- I find this to be quite an interesting category with Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, Preakness winner Shackleford, and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse on the list. Honestly, my choice is Shackleford. He ran a fantastic Derby, setting the pace and gutting out a fourth-place finish when he should have been nowhere at the end. He came back two weeks later and gutted out a win in Baltimore, and while he didn't win the rest of the year, he ran credible seconds in the Grade 1 Haskell, Grade 2 Indiana Derby, and Grade 1 Dirt Mile.
Older Male- Acclamation got on a roll starting in May and didn't stop until injury put him on the sidelines. He won two Grade 2s and three Grade 1s on the turf and polytrack in Southern California. The polytrack race was the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar and it provided the shortest margin of victory in the streak, a win by a head. The other two finalists, Game On Dude and Tizway, were both excellent in 2011, Acclamation was simply that much better.
Male Turf Horse- All that being said on the side of Acclamation, I think Cape Blanco deserves to win this award with his three Grade 1 wins in 2011. He won the Man O'War at Belmont over Gio Ponti, defeated Gio Ponti again in the Arlington Million, and then came back to Belmont in October and won the Turf Classic Invitational. I really couldn't argue if any of the three finalists won this award (you already have my case for Acclamation and I collected a hefty return on St. Nicholas Abbey, who I thought was the only horse in the BC Turf), I believe Cape Blanco is the worthiest winner.
Horse Of The Year- The last couple of years this is the award that has produced the most consternation with the racing media and public. Two years ago, it was Rachel Alexandra who won. Last year, Zenyatta finally got her just due. This year, I think you have to go with the ladies again, because I think the Horse Of The Year for 2011 is Havre De Grace. She went to the post seven times in 2011, winning five times. One of those losses was in the race that most observers seem to consider the Race Of The Year, the Delaware Handicap, where she lost to rival Blind Luck by a nose. Otherwise, she was perfect until she got to the Breeders' Cup Classic. She beat the boys during the summer at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward and then followed that up with her most dominating win of the year in the Beldame at Belmont over a muddy track. Her race in the Classic was nothing to shame her, she finished fourth in what amounted to a blanket finish, running behind the winners of the last two Belmont Stakes and the gritty Game On Dude, who might have been the choice for this award had Drosselmeyer not come from nowhere to win that night. Havre De Grace was the best horse from the start of 2011, when she was at Oaklawn, to the finish, when she was just as gallant in defeat as she could be.
Of course, there are more awards to be handed out next week, but some of them are obvious, like My Miss Aurelia winning 2-Year-Old Female and Stacelita winning Female Turf. I am sure that some will agree with my choice for the categories I used and some will disagree. You know what, GREAT!, that's the way it's supposed to be. Those friendly arguments are the reason this is so much fun in the first place.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!