The Eclipse Awards and Baker’s Dozen
Posted by Brian Appleton on January 14, 2010
Monday night the most hotly contested Horse of the Year vote in racing history will finally be decided. One contestant will walk away with a trophy, the ultimate champion in title, but both will walk away champions where it counts; in the hearts of legions of adoring fans who, if their horse win or lose, will further strengthen their allegiance to these great athletes by sheer love of the horse. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have been plowing a tremendous furrow in the field of historical achievement since their 2009 racing campaigns have ended. Not only did they achieve incredible things on the track, they shattered equally marvelous boundaries in the hearts and minds of thousands of fans the world over. True, the Horse of the Year debate rages most strongly in America, but the extreme star power of these two giants in the sport has transcended national boundaries and carried across oceans to touch the lives of fans all over the world. I’m rooting for Rachel Alexandra to win for reasons already stated, but win or lose, I’ll cheer either way and gripe later.
I think Gio Ponti is poised to pull off a miraculous championship double if the
voters vote according to true championship form. Not only is he a cinch to win the Grass Male title, but he is also the frontrunner for Older Champion Male, an honor usually bestowed upon dirt or synthetic runners. Gio Ponti raced solely on grass last year with the exception of his 2nd place finish to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Summer Bird will run off with the Three Year Old Male award, or at least should. Becoming the first horse since the great Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup in the same season is no small feat. Mine that Bird will garner some votes here for his historic Derby victory, but the Derby winner always gets consideration no matter how bad a year he’s had.
Rachel Alexandra should rightfully steal every single vote in the Three Year Old Filly division as should Zenyatta in the Older Mare voting. If someone votes against them here in either category, then something is seriously wrong with that voter.
Informed Decision is the clear choice for Female Sprinter although Ventura will probably steal some votes for her consistent run of races, including her victory over males last year.
Kodiak Kowboy wins the Male Sprint award most likely, having beaten Fabulous Strike on two separate occasions. Zensational could take a good amount of the voting too, but his poor finish in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint will hurt his chances a great deal.
Now, on to my very first Derby dozen list which I have decided to call my Baker’s Dozen. Baker’s Dozen, the Webster’s definition is: A group of 13; from the former custom of bakers to add an extra roll as a safeguard against the possibility of 12 weighing light. So here it is, my first Bakers Dozen:
1. Lookin At Lucky-Lucky looks like the perfect racing machine, and if not for his courageous Breeders’ Cup defeat, he would sport a perfect record. Bob Baffert has decided to add blinkers to Lookin At Lucky for his next race and see how it goes. Jockey Garrett Gomez felt the colt ran stronger through the stretch of his last work (with the blinkers on) and kept the pressure on instead of idling when he hit the top of the stretch. The San Felipe Stakes (gr. 2) on March 13 is his next probable start.
2. Buddy’s Saint-This horse looks like the “real-deal”. He wins his races with
apparent ease each time out and is proven over a dirt track. He is headed for the Fountain Of Youth Stakes in February and a possible showdown with Todd Pletcher trainee Eskendereya. His Remsen victory was thrilling.
3. Jackson Bend-His sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes was impressive and showed good progression each time out. He overcame a troubled start to win the In Reality Division of the series. He is targeting the Holy Bull for his 3 year old debut on January 23. His latest breeze at the 5 furlongs distance went in 1:oo flat, the fastest time at the distance. Looks like he’s fit and ready.
4. American Lion-This Winstar colt looks the part of a true Derby candidate. His Hollywood Prevue victory proved he has enough talent to win, even if he doesn’t have as much experience as some other competitors.
5. Eightyfiveinafifty-Trainer Gary Contessa is coming out very strong in his support of this young and relatively unproven colt. His 17 ¼ length maiden
victory last out was one of the most spectacular ever witnessed and if he can strut the same “stuff” next out against higher class runners then he could be a real Derby threat. He earned a 105 Beyer speed figure for his freakish maiden victory.
6. Noble’s Promise-This poor guy has had a thing for finishing behind Lookin at Lucky lately, but not that far behind. In the CashCall Futurity (gr.1) last out, he finished less than a length behind a victorious Lookin at Lucky. The Bridesmaids eventually get their turn to shine, his may come sooner than we expect.
7. Dublin-Even though he got creamed in the Champagne Stakes (gr.1) by Homeboykris while finishing 5th, Dublin’s victory in the Hopeful (gr.1) over good horses like Backtalk, Aspire and Aikenite was impressive enough to convince me that this guy can run well again. Also, Lukas knows what he’s doing when it comes to young horses.
8. D’Funnybone-His 10 1/2 length Saratoga Special, and 4 ¾ length Futurity
(gr.1) victories were just too good to be flukes in my mind. He may have finished dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but I’m willing to chalk it up to the synthetics and give him another shot.
9. Super Saver-Another WinStar colt, Super Saver won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November at Churchill downs last year. Any experience over the Derby track is favorable, especially when it comes in the form of an easy 5 length victory. This one looks like he wants to run.
10. Eskendereya-I am partial to this colt, not only is he visually stunning, he runs great when shown the dirt and not he synthetics. His Pilgrim victory was a surprise to most but after his 9th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile many began to question whether or not he was for keeps. His recent victory at Gulfstream Park in front-running style proves he’s more than a “one time wonder”.
11. Rule-He has won 3 of his 5 races to date and has earned well over $500,000. He showed guts when winning the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in early December and should improve off this well deserved win.
12. Aikenite-This colt has proved to be pretty consistent on the dirt and against good competition too. He finished third to Dublin in the Hopeful (gr.1) in September, second to Noble’s Promise in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr.1) in October, then finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He may be a slow mover, but has the potential to move up the ranks if he gets a good win under his belt.
13. Backtalk-He seems to be almost forgotten at this point. Back in July he
was “the” horse after stringing his first three races together in victorious professionalism. He finished 4th to Dublin in the Hopeful, lacking his usual kick in the stretch but hopefully he can come back with some more gusto in his 3 year old debut. Any horse that goes undefeated in his first three races against classy competition deserves a second glance.
That’s it for my Baker’s Dozen, but as always when you’re making a list, there’s more you want to add. Interactif could easily vault himself into the Derby picture with a win on dirt or synthetics. His grass form is simply splendid, but trainer Todd Pletcher has dropped hints that he may want to try his star on a different surface in the near future. Spectacular Bid winner, A Little Warm, now has two very impressive wins to his record. One more will certainly earn him a slot on many a list. Others who have proven themselves capable are: Discreetly Mine, Champagne victor Homeboykris, regally bred Take Control, Bob Baffert trainee Tiz Chrome, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York and undefeated Connemara who puts his perfect record on the line this weekend in the California Derby.