Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Eclipse Awards That Don't Actually Exist

By Mary Cage and Grace Clark

The Eclipse Awards are this Saturday and by the end of the night, the champion Thoroughbreds of 2015 will be crowned. We all know how the Eclipse Award categories are divided; the most prestigious award is Horse of the Year, and the others honor the best horses in their respective divisions and genders. But most of those are predictable – and frankly – the same old, same old. So we decided to come up with a few categories of our own.
Greatest Racehorse to Ever Have a Misspelled Name: American Pharoah
Let’s face it, we racing fans now think that the technically correct spelling “pharaoh” is wrong. It just doesn’t look right now.

American Pharoah training at Churchill Downs
Photo by Mary Cage
Best Racehorse Who Only Trained All Year and Never Raced: Wise Dan
We followed the two-time Horse of the Year all year as he gradually returned to training, anticipating his return in the Woodbine Mile, only for him to have to be retired.

Wise Dan during his first gallop of 2015
Photo by Mary Cage
Three-Year-Old Filly Who Would Have Dominated without Illness: Lady Eli
Looking at the crop of fillies in 2015, one of the obvious standouts was Lady Eli. In all three of her starts this year, including a grade three and grade one, she went undefeated. After stepping on a nail and developing laminitis, she was knocked out of contention for the rest of the year. The good news is, she seems to have recovered well and is back in training.
Champion Turf Female Who Didn't Beat the Boys at the Breeders’ Cup: Stephanie's Kitten
After a dominant year racing in five graded stakes races, and winning two of them, Stephanie’s Kitten capped off her six year old campaign, and career, in the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Though an impressive victress, the performance of fellow turf star Tepin will likely prevent her from receiving an Eclipse Award as Champion Turf Female.

Stephanie's Kitten
Photo by Grace Clark
Best European Who Lost at the Breeders' Cup (and only ever to fillies): Golden Horn
An Arc de Triomph winner, let alone one that has won all but two career races – all of them stakes – is rare to come by. But one who has only ever been beaten by fillies? Well, our boy Golden Horn takes that rare title. His impressive run in the Breeder’s Cup Turf was easily one of the best of the European invaders, and on top of that –  his loss being to yet another dominant European, and a filly at that – earns him this award.

Golden Horn
Photo by Grace Clark
Horse Whose Name Must Always Be in All Caps: TEPIN

TEPIN dominated the turf mile ranks this year, showcasing her brilliance against her own gender before taking down the boys in the Breeders' Cup Mile. She will likely take home the Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Female, but we felt it necessary to give her this award. She is such a fun and exciting horse that her name just does not look right if it isn't capitalized.

Photo by Mary Cage
Best Racehorse with the Shortest Name: Om
He was the winner of American Pharoah’s two-year-old debut in 2014, and went on to win three graded stakes races in 2015. But maybe his greatest achievement is having a two-letter name.
Best Horses Named for Italian Cuisine: The Pizza Man and Pepper Roani
Does this really need an explanation? The number of puns surrounding the races of The Pizza Man were innumerable, and the adorable Pepper Roani has gathered quite a fan group already.

The Pizza Man
Photo by Grace Clark
Pepper Roani
Photo by Grace Clark
Most Popular Pony: Smokey
There are many popular ponies in horse racing, but none gained as much national attention as American Pharoah’s buckskin sidekick. And he was certainly the most photographed pony. Okay, so maybe most photos of him were actually intended to be photos of American Pharoah, but don’t tell Smokey that.

Smokey and American Pharoah
Photo by Mary Cage
Horse Most Adored for Bloodlines: Rachel's Valentina
Both of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra’s only two offspring – Jess’s Dream and Rachel’s Valentina – broke their maiden at Saratoga in August. However, Jess’s Dream was sidelined with an injury, leaving the spotlight on Rachel’s Valentina. The filly did not disappoint, winning the grade one Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Rachel's Valentina
Photo by Mary Cage
Most Visited Retired Racehorse: Silver Charm
Thanks to the dedication of the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association, the Lewis family, and of course Michael Blowen and all of Old Friends, Silver Charm is back home in Kentucky, and now greets the tens of thousands of fans who visit the farm each year.

Silver Charm at Old Friends
Photo by Grace Clark
Breakout Sire: Curlin
No sire was going to out-do Tapit this year, but Curlin – a two-time Horse of the Year and 2014’s Leading Third-Crop Sire – certainly made a name for himself. His son, Keen Ice, was the only horse to defeat American Pharoah in 2015 and two of his fillies, Stellar Wind and Curalina, were among the best in the three-year-old filly division.
Best Two-Year-Old Colt Who Won't Win a Real Eclipse: Airoforce
Maybe we’re a little biased, but the handsome grey son of Colonel John broke his maiden in beautiful form at Kentucky Downs, and then captured the grade three Dixiana Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in an even more stellar performance. After losing the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf by a head, he debuted on the dirt (well, slop) of Churchill Downs, winning the Kentucky Jockey Club. Though he will not receive the Eclipse Award for Two-Year-Old Male, he’ll always be the winner in our hearts.
Airoforce breaking his maiden
Photo by Grace Clark
Most Stunning Freshman Sire: Will Take Charge
Chrome. Chestnut. 17.2 hands. We’re both suckers for chestnuts with chrome, and Will Take Charge is a perfect example of that as he takes the cake as the most handsome freshman sire on the market.

Will Take Charge
Photo by Grace Clark

1 comment:

  1. I was so excited about Dan's next race and then, poof - gone, on the shelf forever!
    Yay to Rachel's Valentina, love the talent in that girl. Hoping to see big things from her this yr. And hoping her brother can get off the shelf soon.
    I love reading it when people do the "awards that never were" type thing. Thanx Mary! :)