Eclipse Awards: I’ll Have Another, Fort Larned, Wise Dan Finalists for Horse of Year

The finalists for the 2012 Eclipse Awards were announced on Saturday, and the winners will be revealed at the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards, presented by Daily Racing Form, The Stronach Group and the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday, January 19 at Gulfstream Park.

The festivities will be televised live on HRTV, and will be hosted for the second year by Jeannine Edwards of ESPN.

Of the 272 eligible voters representing the NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and the NTWAB, 254 voters took part in this year. Finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point system. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first place votes.

The Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year was up for grabs going into the Breeders’ Cup, and voters landed on Fort Larned, Wise Dan and I’ll Have Another as finalists.

It looks like Wise Dan is the leader in the clubhouse, and for a handful of other top runners, it is a case of “What if?”

I’ll Have Another won three Grade 1 races this year including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and could have locked up Horse of the Year honors except for a case of tendonitis, which knocked him out of the Belmont Stakes on the eve of the race.

I’ll Have Another Wins Kentucky Derby

The Doug O’Neill trainee was retired, and without a race since May 19, it is going to be tough to win top honors, but the colt should win top Three-Year-Old Male honors over Bodemeister and Union Rags.

Little Mike did not make it as a finalist for Horse of the Year despite winning three Grade 1 races: the Arlington Million, Turf Classic Invitational, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He won his races at “classic” distances of 1 ¼ to 1 ½ miles, but voters were more impressed with Wise Dan’s body of work.

Little Mike Wins Breeders’ Cup Turf

Point of Entry won three Grade 1 races on turf: the Man O’ War, Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and was only beaten a half-length as the beaten favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.  Had he run down Little Mike in the stretch at Santa Anita, this guy likely would have taken down the hardware for Male Turf Horse and been a serious contender for Horse of the Year honors.

Fort Larned is a finalist and is a two time Grade 1 winner this year, taking the Whitney Handicap and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. While the Classic is considered the most important race for older males, the colt is likely going to be the fifth Classic winner in a row that does not win Horse of the Year. Curlin was the last to accomplish the feat in 2007.

Fort Larned Wins Breeders’ Cup Classic

Game On Dude went into the Classic as the betting favorite and leader of the division, and a victory would have been his third Grade 1 of the year, and he likely would have been Horse of the Year. He failed to fire, checking in seventh and beaten 15 lengths.

Royal Delta defended her title in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, which was her second Grade 1 win of the year. She won the Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park in her previous start by 9 ½ lengths. She won a couple of Grade 2 races, and if she had beaten Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign (she was second, beaten a half-length), she may have garnered a few Horse of the Year votes.

Groupie Doll had one of the most impressive campaigns of the year, but as a sprinter, many voters will overlook her accomplishments when it comes to Horse of the Year.

Groupie Doll Wins Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

She won three Grade 1 races: the Madison, Humana Distaff, and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She missed picking up her fourth Grade 1 in her last start when she took on the boys in the Cigar Mile where she was beaten a tough nose by Stay Thirsty. Had she won that race it would have been six graded stakes in a row, four Grade 1’s including one against the boys.

My nod has to go to Wise Dan, who wrapped up his year with three straight Grade 1 races at a mile on turf: the Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile. He also won the Grade 2 Fourstardave, earned his best speed figure winning the Grade 3 Ben Ali on polytrack, and missed winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on dirt by a head to Ron the Greek.

Wise Dan Wins Breeders’ Cup Mile

I think voters will land on Wise Dan, but it would have been much tougher choice if Groupie Doll had her nose in front in the Cigar Mile, Game On Dude had not tossed in such a clunker in the Classic, Fort Larned would have won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Little Mike had not tossed in a sub-par effort in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, or Point of Entry would have run down Little Mike in the Turf.

 

The 2012 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Two-Year-Old Male: Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence

Two-Year-Old Filly: Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege

Three-Year-Old Male: Bodemeister, I’ll Have Another, Union Rags

Three-Year-Old Filly: Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing (GB)

 

Older Male: Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan

Older Female: Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta

Male Sprinter: The Lumber Guy, Shackleford, Trinniberg

Female Sprinter: Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection

Male Turf Horse: Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan

Female Turf Horse: Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora (FR)

Steeplechase Horse: Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire

Horse of the Year: Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another, Wise Dan

 

Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., Reddam Racing LLC

Breeder: Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones

Trainer: Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans

Jockey: Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez

Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Angel Suarez

 

Michael Dempsey provides his full card handicapping report each racing day from New York. His Aqueduct Report is available every day Wednesday through Sunday. Michael has covered the New York circuit daily for more than two decades.

 

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