Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 Eclipse Award Choices

“He represents continuous hard labor, year in, year out, and small gains.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Farming.  This does not only represent the modest farmer, who Emerson wrote of, but also could easily be said of the many of those who work hard day in and day out with hopes of success.  Very few of racing’s patrons climb to the pinnacle of the sport, which has a meager 20% chance of victory.  At the Eclipse Awards, we honor both equines and people who have ascended to the zenith of racing.

HORSE OF THE YEAR:  CAPE BLANCO

This son of Galileo finished fourth only one length behind the winner, Victoire Pisa, in the Dubai World Cup first time out in 2011, and followed up with a fourth in the Group I Prix Ganay – Air Mauritius just 2 ½ lengths off the winning horse.  In his third start of the year, he did not enjoy the one mile distance, and finished a distant sixth behind Canford Cliffs and Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes.  The Aidan O’Brien trainee then shipped to New York for the Man O’ War Stakes, and denied Gio Ponti the victory by 2 ¼ lengths.  Cape Blanco got his second win of the year in the Arlington Million, defeating nine others including Gio Ponti by 2 ½ lengths.  Despite his career-ending injury, he showed the toughness and bravery that only the greats exhibit by winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational over a appallingly slow Belmont Park track.  He is the only horse in history to make three separate flights to America to win three Grade I events in one year alone, and has traveled about 25,000 miles from my calculations.  For more detailed insight regarding why I selected him as my Horse of the Year pick over the more popular Havre de Grace and Game on Dude, please refer to my article Horse of the Year 2011:  Cape Blanco



CHAMPION TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT:  UNION RAGS

CHAMPION TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY:  MY MISS AURELIA

CHAMPION THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE HORSE:  CALEB’S POSSE

By Posse, Caleb’s Posse had an aggressive three-year-old campaign that consisted of ten starts, and five wins – four of which were Graded Stakes events.  This dual GI winner began his year with a 2 ¾ length victory in the ungraded Smarty Jones Stakes over Oaklawn Park’s main track.  Later in the year, he won Saratoga’s Amsterdam Stakes, then defeated 2010’s champion juvenile, Uncle Mo, in his comeback race, the GI King’s Bishop.  After a distant third behind Wilburn in the Indiana Derby, Caleb’s Posse rebounded with an astounding victory in the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. 



CHAMPION THREE-YEAR-OLD FEMALE HORSE:  ROYAL DELTA

CHAMPION OLDER MALE HORSE:  CAPE BLANCO

CHAMPION OLDER FEMALE HORSE:  HAVRE DE GRACE

CHAMPION SPRINT HORSE:  AMAZOMBIE

CHAMPION FEMALE SPRINT HORSE:  TURBULENT DESCENT

First time out in 2011, Turbulent Descent finished second in Santa Anita’s Las Virgenes Stakes, 1 ¼ lengths behind the promising three-year-old filly, Zazu.  She carried five more pounds than the winner, and it was her first career loss out of four starts.  Turbulent Descent turned the tables on Zazu in her next race by defeating her by a neck in the Santa Anita Oaks at equal weights.  In her next start, Keeneland’s Beaumont Stakes, she romped home five lengths clear of her opposition despite carrying six pounds more than the second, third, and fourth place finishers.  After a distant second to It’s Tricky in the Acorn Stakes, she defeated a high-quality field in Saratoga’s Test Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths.  She went on to finish an unfortunate fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.



CHAMPION MALE TURF HORSE:  CAPE BLANCO

CHAMPION FEMALE TURF HORSE:  GOLDIKOVA

OWNER:  COOLMORE STUD AND MIKE REPOLE

This division was a three-way photo finish between Coolmore, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and Mike Repole.  The Ramsey’s dominated the American turf with their sons and daughters of Kitten’s Joy, headed by Dean’s Kitten, and Stephanie’s Kitten, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.  However, the award for outstanding owner is a dead heat for the win with Coolmore Stud, and Mike Repole of Repole Stable. 

Mike Repole deserves the hardware for outstanding owner because of the combination of his success, and impact on the sport.  In the blue and orange colors of his Repole Stable, he campaigned four length Sanford Stakes winner, Overdriven, Jim Dandy and Travers winner, Stay Thirsty, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf second placer, Stopshoppingmaria, and the popular three length Kelso Handicap winner, Uncle Mo. 

Coolmore Stud supported North American racing in 2011 by shipping their top horses to run in this country.  Coolmore finished fifth with Master of Hounds in the Kentucky Derby, and won twice on Arlington Million day with Treasure Beach in the Secretariat, and Cape Blanco in the feature race.  In 2011, Cape Blanco, a son of Coolmore’s Galileo, won in North America on two other occasions.  Treasure Beach would later finish third in the Canadian International.  Finale had three consecutive wins, one of which was the GIII Summer Stakes.  Together was second to Never Retreat in Keeneland’s First Lady Stakes on opening weekend of the track’s fall meet, and came back to take the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup the following weekend.  At the Breeders’ Cup, Coolmore’s horses Wrote and St. Nicholas Abbey took the Juvenile Turf and Turf respectively, while Misty for Me was a close third across the wire in the Filly & Mare Turf, Up was fourth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and So You Think was sixth beaten only 3 ¼ lengths in the Classic.

TRAINER: AIDAN O’BRIEN

BREEDER:  KENNETH AND SARAH RAMSEY

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