December 15, 2018

Final thoughts on the 2017 Eclipse Award races

Good Magic wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar under Jose Ortiz on Saturday, November 4, 2017 (c) Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Eclipse Award voting on the 2017 racing season commences soon, and is generally the case most of the equine divisions are pretty straight forward. I first addressed the topic the evening of Breeders’ Cup Saturday, with additional views several days later on the contentious juvenile divisions.

With more than a month’s reflection, it’s time to tidy things up and complete the selection process on several races.

Two-Year-Old Male

Bolt d’Oro vs. Good Magic is one of those rare ballot match-ups that, if the broader electorate and I don’t see eye to eye, I’m not going to get too hung up on the final result. That said, this is a sport built on the need and desire of one’s opinions being vindicated, no less in an Eclipse Award race than the third at Aqueduct on a Wednesday that I’ve wagered on.

Over the many years I’ve had the privilege of voting, one criteria I’ve often valued more than most is the result of head-to-head meetings. I’ve surely deviated once in awhile from that based on the circumstances of the horses in question, but in an otherwise evenly matched contest like this it should arguably be the deciding factor.

GOOD MAGIC beat Bolt d’Oro on the square in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The latter had the better record going in and didn’t get to show his very best for several reasons, but I’m not in the mood to punish Good Magic for taking advantage and authoritatively winning over both Bolt d’Oro and runner-up Solomini, who flattered the form when arguably best in last weekend’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).

Scorpiancer won the Iroquois (G1) by 16 lengths in May (Harry Furlong photo)

Steeplechaser

A category where abstentions skew higher due to disinterest and other unfathomable reasons, I find this choice pretty clear cut despite the fact all five Grade 1 races (the Colonial Cup was canceled this year) were won by different horses.

SCORPIANCER saw his season come to a premature end after two wins in as many starts, and no other hurdler came close to displaying the same kind of talent. Not only did he win the three-mile Iroquois (G1) by 16 lengths, he was flattered by the subsequent Grade 1 victories by Mr. Hot Stuff and Swansea Mile, whom he had beaten in the Temple Gwathmey (G3).

Lonesome Glory once won an Eclipse title despite not having raced beyond the month of April. Despite bowing out after May 13, Scorpiancer is easily the most deserving of this title against a field whose individual records are filled with many more holes. Two rivals had higher earnings during the year, but hopefully a majority of voters will not lazily use that short-cut criteria.

Bar of Gold and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. run down Ami’s Mesa under Luis Contreras to upset the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4, 2017 (c) Lauren J. Pomeroy/Horsephotos.com

Female Sprinter

When the signature race of the division is dominated by horses sent off at odds of 66-1, 18-1, and 20-1, while simultaneously more legitimate title aspirants run 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th, there’s not much left to do but throw up one’s hands.

I could tediously bloviate the pros and cons of about seven different horses here, but the end result, much like the division’s 2017 narrative, would be an unsatisfactory and enigmatic conclusion.

The only time I’ve ever abstained from an equine Eclipse Award category was for this division’s inaugural award in 2007. It was my one-off way of protesting its creation, a decision that — given the success and near-success of females in the inclusive champion sprinter category from 1971-2006 — seems no more necessary now than a decade ago.

Although I’ve played along since 2009, there’s simply no finding a diamond in a rough like this. If the question is who I think might win rather than should win, than my hunch is AMI’S MESA will get the benefit of the doubt for losing the Filly & Mare Sprint by a nose to Bar of Gold, who she had previously beaten in the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2). Throw in her Woodbine form, and she was admirably consistent from start to finish.

However, with all of her success this season having occurred on synthetic surfaces, I’ll leave it to others to judge her and others’ worthiness for the honor.

2 Comments on Final thoughts on the 2017 Eclipse Award races

  1. FOR THE RECORD: Good Magic winning the champion two year old male was a travesty- ONE WIN- nothing else- sans two defeats. Bolt d’Oro won two Grade 1 races easily against solid fields- that after a brilliant debut – received a horrible trip in the BCJ and still got plenty of praise at the amazing effort he displayed with all the obstacles- you actually voted for a horse that won……..ONE RACE? ABSURD! It isn’t about ‘punishing’- your horse LOST TWICE and only won a single race- and that is enough? No wonder the voting always seems absurd.

    • I’ve only noticed this comment five months later. Some thoughts:

      1. I don’t consider records in overnight events (e.g. maidens, allowances) when determining who to vote for in Eclipse Award races. Only stakes. Good Magic won once in two stakes appearances, Bolt d’Oro won twice in three. Those are the relevant records.
      2. Do you know what other juvenile champions had “ONE” stakes win? Seattle Slew, Beholder, Street Sense, Go for Wand, and Hoist the Flag to name a few. Were those travesties too?
      3. Head-to-head records generally mean something to me. Yes, Bolt d’Oro had an awful trip. Good Magic still won on the square and on Bolt d’Oro’s home turf.
      4. In light of their respective records at age three, I sleep well knowing I supported Good Magic over Bolt d’Oro. I have virtually no regrets with any horse I’ve ever supported in any category in the 18 years I’ve had the ballot.

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