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Eclipse Awards Recap

Last night's Eclipse Awards in Beverly Hills proved to be a fairly predictable event in terms of the divisional winners.  The voting breakdown, however, was a far more interesting story.

Let's first take a look at the winners in each division along with their share of the vote, which I've summarized in the table below the jump.  You can find the raw vote totals for every horse at ESPN.com (2009 Eclipse Awards Voting)

 

Division

Winner

Percent

2-year-old

Lookin at Lucky

90.09%

2-year-old filly

She Be Wild

73.71%

3-year-old

Summer Bird

97.40%

3-year-old filly

Rachel Alexandra

100.00%

Apprentice

C Santiago Reyes

44.29%

Breeder

Juddmonte Farms

69.47%

Female Sprinter

Informed Decision

95.69%

Jockey

Julien Leparoux

52.59%

Male Sprinter

Kodiak Kowboy

51.08%

Older filly

Zenyatta

99.57%

Older Male

Gio Ponti

80.70%

Owner

Godolphin Racing

26.52%

Steeplechaser

Mixed Up

98.58%

Trainer

Steve Asmussen

56.28%

Turf Female

Goldikova

74.46%

Turf Male

Gio Ponti

88.79%

Horse of the Year

Rachel Alexandra

56.77%



 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on the winners and the voting percentages:

  • There was a lot of debate prior to the Eclipse Awards about whether Gio Ponti should win Older Male of the Year considering he made all of his start on turf and synthetic surfaces.  But since the award is named  "Older Male" and not "Older Dirt Male", I think the voters got it right; Gio Ponti was clearly the best older male horse during 2009.  But I was surprised that he garnered 80% of the vote.
  • Rachel Alexandra was the unanimous choice for Champion Three Year Old Filly, that was expected.  What wasn't expected is that she would be the only unanimous winner on the night.  In a move that reminds me of the few writers that failed to vote for Rickey Henderson for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there was one Eclipse Award voter that didn't select Zenyatta as Champion Older Female.  Instead this individual voted for Icon Project, a filly that sported a 6-3-1-1 record in 2009 and was retired due to injury following her victory in the G1-Personal Ensign Stakes.  Unbelievable.

    UPDATED: According to Jay Hovdey, the one vote cast of Icon Project was cast in error - the voter intended to vote for Zenyatta.  That makes a little more sense.
  • Goldikova only made one start in North America in 2009, but it was clearly enough to win her the title of Champion Turf Female.  Like the Gio Ponti debate, there were commentators that felt a horse that only races once on this continent shouldn't win an Eclipse Award.  I would generally agree with that notion except when we are presented with an extraordinary horse.  Goldikova, like Ouija Board before her, was simply the best female horse to run on grass in North America this year, even if she only raced one time.  
  • The best part of the entire Eclipse Awards broadcast on TVG last night was the presentation of the award for Handicapper of the Year to John Conte of Oceanside, New York.  Conte, who won the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Contest in Las Vegas last January, was hilarious during his acceptance speech and brought some much needed levity to the somewhat stuffy proceedings.
  • My favorite winner of the night? Julien Leparoux for Jockey of the Year.  Leparoux, or "Frenchy" as my handicapping buddies and I like to call him, has been one of my favorite jocks since he was a bug boy at Turfway Park.  If there is a big race on the grass or a synthetic surface, and Leparoux is in the irons, I'm always willing to throw a few bucks in his direction.
  • The only disappointment that I had was that there wasn't an award to give to the phenomenal mare, Ventura.  She lost out to Informed Decision in the Female Sprint category, which I agreed with given her loss to that filly at the Breeders' Cup.  And she lost out on Female Turf Champion to Goldikova, which also seemed like the right call.  Ventura won three Grade 1 races this year, but two were at a mile on the turf while the third was a seven furlong sprint on the Santa Anita synthetic track.  In the end I think she became somewhat of a "tweener" in the minds of the voters.
  • If I had to take a guess, I believe that the ultimate factor that separated Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta was not the debate of dirt vs. synthetic but the difference in the entire body of work for each horse.  Zenyatta's win in the Breeders' Cup Classic was probably the moment of the year in racing, but Rachel Alexandra's entire campaign was likely more impressive to the voters.  The good news is that if all goes well we will get to see this debate settled exactly where it should be: on the track.