Well, my Eclipse Awards ballot is in

The deadline for online voting was noon, PDT, Monday. Here is how I filled out my ballot in the key divisions, with a quick explanation why:

Top 2-Year-Old Male: Lookin At Lucky
This was one of the easier selections for me. The early Future Book favorite for the 2010 Kentucky Derby won three Grade 1’s and had a terrible trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile while losing by a head.

Top 2-Year-Old Filly: She Be Wild
She showed up on Breeders’ Cup weekend and beat the best juvenile fillies in the nation. Blind Luck, with two Grade 1 victories, was a strong second on my ballot.

Top 3-Year-Old Male: Summer Bird
Another easy choice. His victories in the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup make him a cinch in this category.

Top 3-Year-Old Filly: Rachel Alexandra
Is there really anyone who won’t vote for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro? Sadly, yes there is, but she should be a unanimous choice.

Top Older Male: Einstein
He was there from January through November, putting it all on the line in most of the country’s top races for older horses. He won two Grade 1’s and narrowly lost another when he was beaten a neck in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Top Older Female: Zenyatta
Just like in Rachel Alexandra’s case, there will be someone who will vote for another distaffer other than Zenyatta, and we’ll just shake our heads.

Top Sprinter: Dancing in Silks
Won the big one on Breeders’ Cup weekend and three other sprints before that one. I also gave Kodiak Kowboy much consideration. Zensational, who was never really tested during his victories, needed to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to win this award.

Top Female Sprinter: Informed Decision
She should win this category comfortably after winning three Grade 1 sprints in 2009, including the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Top Male Turf Horse: Gio Ponti
The Arlington Million winner, who won three other Grade 1 grass races this year and also ran second to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was as consistent as could be all year.

Top Female Turf Horse: Ventura
Goldikova may win this category, but I won’t vote for a horse who ran just once in the U.S. Ventura, in addition to being one of the top female sprinters in the country, also became the first female to win the Woodbine Mile on grass.

Top Jockey: Garrett Gomez
No one is better in the money races than this guy, who also competes in the toughest jockey colony around.

Top Trainer: John Shirreffs
No one in the nation did a better job handling a horse in 2009 than Shirreffs did with Zenyatta. His plan for the unbeaten mare worked to perfection, and his work with BC Ladies’ Classic champ Life Is Sweet wasn’t too shabby, either.

Top Apprentice Jockey: Christian Santiago Reyes
The leading money winner among the nation’s apprentice riders, this was an easy choice.

Horse of the Year: Zenyatta
I won’t argue one bit with anyone who voted for Rachel Alexandra, but I feel Zenyatta’s victory in the BC Classic trumped anything Rachel accomplished in 2009. It’s too bad they can’t share this award.

Any thoughts?

34 thoughts on “Well, my Eclipse Awards ballot is in

  1. isnt this the hardest decision for HOY ever?? i pretty much agree with your eclipse selections but i think i would have sected julien lepareuex as top jock based on his BC performance and the fact that gogo needed a little help to get over the top on the money title… i totally am on the fence for HOY…rachel is AWESOME but what zenyatta accomplished cannot be denied…great job overall

  2. Ed — no doubt this is the toughest HOY choice in many years. When was the last time we had two unbeaten horses that did so much for the sport both on and off the track? They both attracted so much attention to a struggling sport and were both perfect on the track. I think they should be co-HOY because this is a very special year. But rules do no allow splitting the vote, thus I went with Zenyatta for the reason stated. And you’re right, Julien had a great year. To me, the fact Gomez won the money title had no bearing on my vote.

  3. I personally feel that 2009 should not be even close.I disagree with you that Zenyattas BC classic win trumps anything Rachel did?You really cant be serious.Rachels Preakness win was the first for a filly in 85 years.She won it from the 13 post which has never been done before in 133 year history of the Preakness.And I think people are missing that Rachel is only 3 Zenyatta is 5.What Rachel has accomplished as a3 year old is astounding.And to me if the Breeders Cup is considered the World Championships why was SEA The Stars not there?Why was he elected horse of the year?Because he ran a campaign for the ages.And lets not not forget this is horse of the year for 2009 not 2008 and 2009 or horse for one race award.Zenyatta ran a carefully crafted and ultra soft 2009 campaign.There is an obvious west coast bias here.

  4. Thanks for choosing the Horse of the Day over the Horse of the Year. You are voting based on one race!! It was a great race but her other four races were horses she consistently beat in SoCal.

  5. Ed,
    Thanks for recognizing GREATNESS with your vote for Zenyatta. It baffles me that there are still people out there that don’t understand that we may never see a horse like her again.And its too bad that we will remember RA as the horse that didn’t show up when it counted. She doesn’t deserve that either.

  6. Sorry morons, but Zenyatta and the company she beat were far superior to anything Rachel Alexandra beat, or has ever lost to.

  7. Mike — Rachel running most of the year against restricted company — i.e. other 3-year-olds — was an advantage. I happen to think both Zenyatta and Rachel are magnificient race horses who did perhaps much more for a struggling sport off the track than they did on it. West Coast bias? I have never, nor will I ever, vote for any horse based on where they ran their races. It’s many of the Zenyatta and Rachel fans who hold the biases, but I am a fan of both horses and I have made no bones about the fact it was a very difficult decision. To say, as you do, that it shouldn’t even be close, well, that shows me right there who holds a bias.

  8. Yeah Lebeau, she beat a bunch of turf horses and dirt runners who were spinning their wheels. Let me ask this…if Gio Ponti had won the Classic with his prior resume for the year…Million, Manhattan, Kilroe, Man O War, would you have voted for him as HOY?? Doubt it…

  9. Greg — on one post you admit Zenyatta’s BC Classic win was a great victory, then in another you degrade it by saying it came against “a bunch of turf horses and dirt runners who were spinning their wheels.” Which is it?

  10. Greg,
    With apologies to Lebeau, I’d like to answer your question. If Gio Ponti had won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and The Classic I think he would have been a derserving candidate, but because of the excitement that surrounded RA I would still have gone that way. However, as nice a year as GP had he’s not Zenyatta. Zenyatta is possibly….probably…the greatest American racemare of all-time.

  11. Kyle — Agree with your post. The thing is, racing fans were treated to two of the greatest distaffers of all time in the same year. Not likely to happen again in our lifetimes.

  12. Well, who knows? We’ve had Rags To Riches, Zarkava, and Goldikova all in the last couple of years as well. The latter I would have voted champion turf female for her back to back BC Mile victories. Did you feel the fact that she went back to back irrelevant?

  13. Art,I am in full agreement with your choice of HOTY.
    Zenyatta did it all. She showed up for every dance, she carried major weight 129 pounds…not sure any other horse carried that much here in the US this year spotting her counterparts up to 16 pounds.All you NEIGH(ha) sayers strap on some weights and run around the block with competition and see how you do). She has won the Classic no filly/mare has accomplished that, ran the last quarter in the fastest time on a surface that does NOT promote high speed figures in general,Plus she NEVER let the fans down. She showed up even when it looked like she had no shot of getting up to the wire at all… non the less FIRST.
    I saw them both race, but watching Zenyatta in person is a once in a lifetime accomplishment. We will NEVER see the likes of her again!

  14. Rags to Riches, Zarkava and Goldikova are all great fillies, but I don’t put any in Zenyatta’s class because she was unbeaten. Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 campaign was second to none, and she’ll also go down as one of the best ever. Regarding Goldikova, I won’t vote for horses who race in the U.S. only once, although I admit her winning back to back BC Miles was very impressive.

  15. Art,
    So which is it horse of the year or horse of one race?Did RA race a restricted race in the Woodward?I cant believe you think that race does not trump the BC Classic?Its Zenyatta if any horse raced aqainst the same horses all year long with the exception of the BC classic.I am very surprised a professional writer as yourself cannot see the major campaign RA raced all year nearly breaking Secretariats track record at Belmont.Breaking Ruffians Mother Goose Time and margin of victory.Were not talking about claiming horses here.If you believe RA ran in restricted Company tell me were and what races she should have raced in throughout the year?And answer this if the BC is the world championships of horse racing why was SEA ThE Stars not their?Answer he ran a tough grueling campaign and had nothing more to prove.Just like RA.But Im curious for your expert opinion!!

  16. Mike, if you truly believe the Woodward was a tougher race to win than the BC Classic, it’s obvious you have a major bias toward Rachel. I have given Rachel nothing but kudos all year long. If you take the time to read, you’ll note I believe both distaffers are two of the greatest of all time. They both enjoyed tremendous campaigns, and one factor you’re forgetting is that Zenyatta had to overcome slow paces to win most of her races this year. As a racing fan, I’m sure you realize the difficulty a come-from-behinder such as Zenyatta faces when the horses on the front end are running 48 and change much of the time. She beat arguably the toughest lineup of horses in 2009 in the Classic and did it convincingly, charging past Gio Ponti, who will win an Eclipse as top older male turf horse, as if he were standing still.

  17. Art,
    Do you really believe Zenyatta ran a tougher campaign than RA?Im mean come on.I would never diss any horse.I think Zenyatta is great. I love her personality and she is probably one of the best horses to run ever.I do not have a bias opinion toward RA.I just fell up until the BC RA was hands down way ahead of any horse for horse of the year voting.If that is the case then RA should run a few easy races maybe 3 or 4 aqainst females and then run at Churchill in the BC classic.To me the eclipse awards are a sham if Zenyatta wins.Why should RA run in 8 races, break track records run in slop and destroy male horses and then Zenyatta wins the BC classic and she wins HOY?Doesnt make sense to me.To me how can you not objectivly look at a horse that is running at different tracks and winning at every track and every obstacle that was thrown her way.Do you not think Zenyatta had a huge advantage at her home track, lightly raced ,getting a few pounds.And do you not think when 43 horses that specialty is dirt go to the BReeders and not one of those horses wins do you think there is a little something wrong with that?Did all those horses decide to not run that day?And again I would like you to answer my question about SeA The Stars.He is one of the greats of all time.He did not show up at the Breeders. I dont see anyone on his case about not showing up !!!

  18. Bottom line, the Eclipse Awards are not a sham no matter who wins Horse of the Year. As I’ve written in the past, I find no fault with voting for either of those two great distaffers. In my opinion, they should share the award because both did so much for the sport both on and off the track. I would have split my vote if possible, but rules won’t allow it so I went with Zenyatta because she showed up on World Championship Weekend and beat the best assembled field in North America during 2009. Also, she WAS the Breeders’ Cup this year. If there had been no Zenyatta, as trainer Bob Baffert so aptly put it, it would have been a pretty ordinary two days. Sea The Stars’ connections said, for the record, that he did not come to the Breeders’ Cup because he’d had a hard campaign. That had no bearing on my decision because I would never vote for a horse as American HOY who’d raced just once in the States. I respect your opinion, but it’s different than mine.

  19. Art- Actually it is both. Winning the Breeders Cup Classic is a tremendous accomplishment for any horse especially a Mare. But when someone calls it a great field I have to disagree. The best Euro was less than 100 percent, the dirt horses didnt run there races and while Gio Ponti is a nice turf horse, I dont think Conduit would have been shaking in his boots…as for Rachel and the Woodward, I agree that was no stellar field. It was the way she won that should be remembered, an opening quarter under 23 seconds, pressured all the way, multiple horses making runs, yet she holds them all off including a multiple grade 1 winner, all as a 3-yr old filly. Beyond that 8 races, 7 different tracks, mud or fast, unlike Zenyatta who scratched in Kentucky when the track came up sloppy. To me this is 2 great horses but the overall accomplishments of Rachel stand above winning the Breeders Cup Classic (with a perfect inside trip, if I might add).

  20. “Zenyatta’s victory in the BC Classic trumped anything Rachel accomplished in 2009″

    Does that make Concern HOTY over Holy Bull or Pleasantly Perfect over Mineshaft?

    It’s Horse of the YEAR.

  21. To Greg,
    I think you need to watch a replay of the Classic. Maybe you need to watch it more than once. Zenyatta got off to a very POOR START. And when Zenyatta got in gear, Mike went in between horses, something she had only done maybe once , and then got SHUT OFF and had to SWING WIDE and come AROUND all those Grade 1 winners she was blowing by….not a perfect inside trip by any means… as for the scratch in Kentucky, that was her first race of the year, I’m sure her people didn’t want to RISK anything happening to her, running her on a bad track, OFF A LAYOFF. Maybe if she had had a race under her belt, that might have been different. How often do west coast horses ever even TRAIN on an off track? Not often. I commend the owners and trainer for being conservative in the best interest of the horse.That being said, I commend Rachel for doing everything asked of her, however, it was risky and borderline reckless. Yes, all the public loved it I guess, but as a horseowner, I was holding my breathe. Tough for a filly to run against colts, tough to do it successfully and to come back the following year as the same horse. I hope Rachel is none the worse for wear.
    Both horses have had a spectacular year, but if you’ve been in this game long enough, you know the difference. Zenyatta will always be the mare that stepped up, showed up and won the country’s biggest race against THE BEST the WORLD had to offer and accomplished this with an unblemished, undefeated record.
    She is PERFECT, and you can’t criticize PERFECTION.

  22. Poor start?? Zenyatta drops back to last every race and it was a mile and a quarter, I dont think that had any bearing on the race. As for her trip she saved a ton of ground around the turn. Mike Smith did a great job of avoiding trouble and getting her clear where she then put in a very impressive run. Lets not make it more than it was, I would have been more impressed if she had won going wide in a 12 horse field. Nonetheless I personally feel that the trip Rachel endured in the Woodward was more impressive. Horses do not win, let alone hit the board when they are targeted like that. Beyond the Rachel/Zenyatta discussion, I feel as though a vote for Zenyatta will only encourage owners to run less and save for the Breeders Cup. Its a yearly award not a day!!

  23. Zenyatta does it EVERY race … not just the BC Classic. She’s come from last or next to last in all her victories. Go and watch a replay of her victory in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in August when she had to overcome terribly slow fractions and a ride that even Mike Smith admits was bad that day. Yes, she won five graded races this year, not only one. Not many in the industry share your opinion that Rachel’s victory in the Woodward was as impressive as Zenyatta’s in the Classic. The quality of the fields is not even close. But we’re arguing apples and oranges here. There is no wrong vote for HOY unless someone votes for some horse other than Zenyatta or Rachel.

  24. Greg,
    Rachel was gutsy in the Woodward but plenty of horses win with trip, especially at Saratoga. I’ll direct you to two from last season – Future Prospect in the Funny Cide and Fiddler’s Afleet in the Albany. As for Zenyatta’s trip, I suspect all you see when you watch that and her other races is the synthetic. Synthetic, dirt, or grass horses do not laugh at pace the way Zenyatta does. And I have not seen another horse since Sunday Silence run the turn like her.

  25. Greg, in the Breeders Cup Classic, Zenyatta spotted the field…got off slow and off stride, then shaking her head fell back farther… finally she pulled herself together and some how came from the mountains of Washington State weaving in and out to win. As anyone in the business knows…coming from last to first is very difficult because your chances of getting into trouble are greater. Ask Mine that Bird in the Preakness. That was how he lost that race. Another jump and he was there!
    Zenyatta carried weight… 129 pounds…no matter who you run against it adds up, She could only run in one race against Rachel this year that was open to older mares against 3 year olds. She had just run… so could not run against RA.
    You made the comment about owners only running to run in the BC…well Jess Jackson didn’t run in the BC due to the track… does that mean all trainers should bulk the BC because of surfaces… maybe California horses should stay home next year… and any others that run in the east on synthetics, plus the Europeans staying home… You are definitely reaching in the double standard category.

  26. No doubt Rachel had a great year but Macho Again and Bullsbay didn’t do her any favors by their performance on the GR 2 Clark. Rachel looked very impressive in that race but the truth is she was life and death holding off two marginal GR 2 horses while getting 8 pounds. Mythical race or not, Rachel would have never beating Zenyatta past 9 furlongs.

    What multiple GR 1 winner in the 2009 Woodward did Rachel beat? There were NO multiple GR 1 winner in that race. Those older horses were the sorriest bunch of handicap horses ever assembled for the Woodward. That was a marginal GR 1 race. It was more like a GR 2 race at best.

  28. I agree with everything that Greg has said. He is the only one speaking the plain and simple truth. Zenyatta has had a gread career so far but her 2009 campaign cannot touch Rachel’s. All of the Zenyatta fans & supporters are choosing her based on 1 race only. I have yet to hear anyone mention any of her other races at all. Only the breeder’s cup.

    Basically that tells me that if you have a careful schedule all year, stay at home and just win the breeder’s cup you can get horse of the year. Do you people understand that Rachel was 3 and Zenyatta was 5. When will another 3 year old filly come along like Rachel again? How many older female mares can win 4 regular races and then the breeders cup? I can tell you that the 2nd one is more likely to happen again sooner than later but the 1st one who knows if that will ever happen again. Not to mention all of the records that Rachel broke. Zenyatta did not do any of that. She only made history in the Breeders cup. Rachel made history all year long. Zenyatta reached her 14th victory but only won 5 in 2009. Rachel Alexandra rewrote history but yet people can even be convinced that they can find the words to say that Zenyatta really deserves it over her for 1 race.

    I am a new fan to horse racing introduced by Rachel Alexandra in 2009 & I find it very hard to believe that any sport could overlook history being made in almost every single race only to give it to the horse that stayed at home and won the breeder’s cup classic on her favorite track. In a world with rose colored glasses Zenyatta deserves to win. But in a world of reality and facts Rachel Alexandra will be horse of the year. If she is not it is a travesty.

  29. We’ll know in a few hours, but what a ride so far!


    I was at the rail when Rachel Alexandra fought off the older males at Saratoga. She showed a true champion’s heart when dug in, and dug in some more to hold onto her win. Never saw a sporting event that exhilirating. Most of us are still hoarse from cheering. They sent out a rabbit from the start to wear her down. She simply would not give up.

    I was not at Santa Anita, but the elation of the crowd there compared to Saratoga – you can’t rank something like that.

    The Santa Anita surface got a reputation for breakdowns in training. I don’t fault an owner for not sending a horse there.

    If Rachel loses because the turf writers based their vote mainly on one race on her home turf in sunny California, and the voters neglected to show up at the Spa to witness Rachel’s astonishing work, so be it.

    But for those of us who can read the PPs, and who witnessed the depth of Rachel’s courage as she campaigned on multiple surfaces and multiple tracks, Rachel earned Horse of the Year. By a nose, or a head bob, but she absolutely crossed the 2009 line first.

    One of the glaring signals in this piece is calling the Santa Anita two day event the world championships. In the rush to declare a nouveau race (one that segregated fillies and mares on a work day called – groan – Ladies Day, like the dollar off day at the local car wash) the world championships, and make it the single determining factor in HOY, we turn our backs on a hundred years of racing history, the Triple Crown – which was skipped for 3 years by Zenyatta – and that little shindig in Dubai in March with the really big purses.

    Zenyatta is a class act, and her come from behind at the BC gave the world chills. But if this vote is about giving extra points to a closer, where’s Mine That Bird in the discussion?

  30. Sasha … it’s too bad you didn’t have a vote. You could have shown up at the Eclipse ceremony with your Rachel banners. You can’t vote with your heart. You are obviously a big fan of Rachel’s, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it also eliminates you as an objective observer.

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