The 46th annual Eclipse Awards will be aired live tomorrow evening (January 21st) on TVG2 network at 7 PM CST. Below are my picks to win each award. I have purposely left out the Steeplechase Award because I am not fond of that form of horse racing and do not follow it. I have underlined the selections that I think are slam dunks.
With the other awards, strong arguments could be made for one of the other nominees. Especially the Male Turf award between Flintshire and Highland Reel. Highland Reel won the Breeders Cup Turf race, his only start on North American soil in 2016. Whereas, Flintshire was the top turf male in North America all year long until the Breeders Cup World Championships.
Horse of the Year – California Chrome Older male – California Chrome Older female – Beholder 3-year-old male – Arrogate 3-year-old female – Songbird 2-year-old male – Classic Empire 2-year-old female – Champagne Room Male sprinter – A.P. Indian Female sprinter – Finest City Male turf – Flintshire Female turf – Tepin Owner – Juddmonte Farms Trainer – Chad Brown Breeder – WinStar Farm Jockey – Mike Smith Apprentice Jockey – Lane Luzzi
My pick for 2016 Race of the Year?
There were many great races in 2016. It was another very exciting season for horse racing with California Chrome winning the Dubai World Cup, Frosted setting a Met Mile track record, Arrogate setting a track record and event record in the Travers Stakes, Creator beating Destin by a nose in the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Breeders Cup Classic races, the pack of four crossing the finish line in the Woodward Stakes with Shaman Ghost winning by a head, etc.
But for me, the Race of the Year was the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff which pitted the 3 year-old rising star filly Songbird vs the 6 year-old mare Beholder who was making the last start of her career. Beholder won by a nose. This race has to be one of the Top 10 Breeders’ Cup races in the history of the event.
I witnessed the dramatic ending along the rail just past the finish-line. Nobody knew who won at the time. And I am still not 100% sure it was that close. But I will say that I was happy for Beholder and Gary Stevens. I think Beholder will go down as one of the Top 100 North American thoroughbreds of all-time. It was a very fitting ending to a great career.
Below are some of the pictures and video I shot.
The Crowned Champion Beholder
On the docket…
My next couple of blogs will be on the Pegasus World Cup and updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.
America has a new International Star. Her name is Tepin. Just like she did in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last October, the 5 year-old mare beat the boys again. This time in the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot (shown below) with the 90 year-old Queen Elizabeth II in attendance.
The Mark Casse-trained mare overcame soft turf that she had little experience on, a straight mile, no turn configuration that she had never run before. But Tepin prevailed, holding off the live race favorite Belardo. She also ran without nasal strips and Lasix-two things banned from Ascot races.
Casse said “there were a lot of things stacked against today but in the end her greatness prevailed. A lot of people in the United States will be delighted with this result. I couldn’t even dream this – at the most remarkable place I’ve been to.”
This is the first time a US-based horse has won the Queen Anne and only the second time a US-based horse has won a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot.
The plan for Tepin is to return to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming November to defend her Breeders Cup Mile title (shown below). But she might be a entry in another prestigious race in the UK–the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 27th with a purse of 1 Million British Pounds (equivalent to $1.4 Million US dollars).
There is little doubt now that Tepin is the best turf miler in the world. Ranked by Longines as the 11th best racehorse in the world before her Queen Anne Stakes win, Tepin is a serious candidate for American Horse of the Year along with Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome.
Below are what I feel are 12 of the most exciting horse races in 2015. #4 and #5 on my list are two races that I feel slipped under the radar that would probably rank higher if it weren’t for the Horse of a Lifetime–American Pharoah–rewriting history books. I will add that there were many more great races that didn’t make this list but these were the most memorable due to the dramatics, history or prestige of the race at stake. Feel free to comment on any you feel that I have left off.
1) The Belmont Stakes that saw American Pharoah win the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Truly a magical moment.
2) Another magical moment in horse racing history–American Pharoah winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic to become the very first horse to win the Grand Slam of horse racing.
3) The 2015 Kentucky Derby was a great battle between American Pharoah and Firing Line.
4) Far From Over (horse #2) has a stumbling bad start but comes back from dead last to win the Withers Stakes.
5) The Illinois-bred “The Pizza Man” comes back for a dramatic win in the Arlington Million.
6) The 2015 San Antonio Stakes. This was billed as the “Clash of the Titans” that pitted Shared Belief vs the 2014 Horse of the Year in California Chrome at the beautiful Santa Anita Park venue in February.
7) The biggest upset of the year in horse racing–Keen Ice beats American Pharoah and stuns the Travers Stakes crowd.
8) Beholder becoming the first female to win the Pacific Classic and doing it in the most impressive fashion.
9) Dortmund vs. Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.
10) American Pharoah wins the sloppy Preakness Stakes.
11) Tepin–the Flying Filly–wins the Breeders Cup Mile against the boys.
12) Mongolian Saturday at 15-1 Odds holds on for the upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.