The 48th annual Eclipse Awards for excellence in horse racing will commence on Saturday night at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach Florida.
This ceremony always provides great fanfare and honors the best in horse racing from 2016. The most prestigious category is Horse of the Year, and what a list from which to choose. California Chrome, Arrogate and Songbird are all worthy candidates, and I have my picks for that list as well as the other equine and human categories so here we go.
The 2016 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
Horse of the Year: Arrogate, California Chrome, Songbird
The Pick: California Chrome
Look I get that Arrogate beat Chrome in the Breeders Cup Classic but this award by right should go to who accomplished the most over this past year. California Chrome did so much overall, especially considering he won the Dubai World Cup as well as knocking off Breeders Cup Distaff champ Beholder in the Pacific Classic. Arrogate won the Travers and Breeders Cup Classic but earlier this year he ran against optional claimers so that to me is a strike against him. Besides, if Victor Espinoza rides Chrome like he was supposed to do, I say he never loses the Classic. I would be surprised if Chrome does not win Horse of the Year.
Two-Year-Old Male: Classic Empire, Not This Time, Practical Joke
The Pick: Classic Empire
I hate that Not This Time has been retired due to injury as I think this guy had a huge chance to assert himself as a 3 year old. Normally whoever wins the Breeders Cup Juvenile wins this honor, and Classic Empire is a stout champion who should take this award. He is one to look out for as the 3 year olds get ready to prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Two-Year-Old Filly: Champagne Room, Lady Aurelia, New Money Honey
The Pick: Champagne Room
The upset winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies should take this award without much competition. Looking ahead, I don’t know how strong this year’s crop of 3 year old fillies really is but we will learn about this crop going forward.
Three-Year-Old Male: Arrogate, Exaggerator, Nyquist
The Pick: Arrogate
If this award was handed out after the Kentucky Derby Nyquist wins it hands down but considering the Travers-Breeders Cup Classic double that Arrogate pulled off that should be enough to see him take this award.
Three-Year-Old Filly: Cathryn Sophia, Queen’s Trust, Songbird
The Pick: Songbird
If any writer does not vote Songbird for this category, he/she should turn in their voter card. Songbird had no competition against this past year’s 3 year old filly crop, and it took Beholder the length of the stretch to nail Songbird at the wire in the Breeders Cup Distaff. I am glad we will see Songbird run this year as I think she can be better this year than she was in 2016.
Older Dirt Male: California Chrome, Frosted, Lord Nelson
The Pick: California Chrome
How do you go against him in this spot? Another category that should be an obvious choice.
Older Dirt Female: Beholder, Cavorting, Stellar Wind
The Pick: Beholder
I will miss watching this filly run and what a way for her to close a stellar career with a gutty win in the Breeders Cup Distaff over arguably a super strong field.
Male Sprinter: A.P. Indian, Drefong, Lord Nelson
The Pick: Lord Nelson
He was perfect in 2016 and was the morning line choice inthe Breeders Cup Sprint before a minor illness forced him to miss that race. Normally, Drefong who won the Sprint would be the pick but I am leaning with the horse who was held in higher regard coming into the biggest race.
Female Sprinter: Finest City, Haveyougoneaway, Paulassilverlining
The Pick: Finest City
The winner of the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint should take this award without much debate.
Male Turf Horse: Flintshire, Highland Reel, Tourist
The Pick: Tourist
The winner of the Breeders Cup Mile ran all six races against Grade 1 types with a pair of wins for his efforts. You can make the argument for Flintshre who had an excellent career but his 2016 campaign was not his best so I will lean to Tourist for this award.
Female Turf Horse: Lady Eli, Miss Temple City, Tepin
The Pick: Tepin
None of these three won on Breeders Cup weekend but Tepin won at Royal Ascot which is a very tough place to perform. She also beat some real monsters that day. Tepn had an unlucky trip in the Breeders Cup Mile but as far as campaigns go to me hers was the best of these nominees.
Steeplechase Horse: Rawnaq, Scorpiancer, Top Striker
The Pick: Top Striker
He won the biggest race of the year for this group in the Colonial Cup and that should mean this award is his to lose.
Owner: Juddmonte Farms, Inc., Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey, Spendthrift Farm LLC
The Pick: Juddmonte Farms
Arrogate and Flintshire helped this ownership group to the top spot in earnings amongst owners.
Breeder: Clearsky Farms, Darley, WinStar Farm, LLC
The Pick: Winstar Farms
The depth of this breeding operation was rewarded in 2016, when they were the only outfit to surpass $10 million in earnings.
Trainer: Bob Baffert, Chad Brown, Mark Casse
The Pick: Chad Brown
The year 2016 was an absolute breakthrough for this very talented trainer and in my opinion he SHOULD take this award.
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith
The Pick: Mike Smith
Smith had a monster 2016 and think that is enough but you have to give a shoutout to Jose Ortiz who dominated the New York circuit taking titles at Aqueduct Belmont and Saratoga in 2016.
Apprentice Jockey: Kevin Gomez, Lane Luzzi, Luis Ocasio
The Pick: Luis Ocasio
Ocasio led all apprentice riders in wins and earnings and I feel like that is enough to secure this award for him.
I gave you my opinions, and it should be a grand night as we honor the best of 2016. Enjoy the show!