The Eclipse Awards had Jeannine Edwards hosting it, but making the all-too-often-used diatribe about her electric eyes and punchy delivery seems so, live-bloggish. That was so one paragraph ago.
The Eclipse Awards feel more stuffed than a turkey, but its purpose must be to celebrate the year that was this way we can take a sledge hammer to the walls, tear down the framework, dig up the foundation, laugh about that time you saw your friend count his gambling winnings (1 minute in), laugh at your other friend who still can’t get over losing a 2008 Pick 4 when Intangaroo nosed Hystericalady; then pour a new foundation, erect another framework, drill up some drywall because you remember that one time you worked with drywall, and do some other things. Put your feet up. You can’t rise up until you’ve hit rock bottom. So to the bottom we must flee, but in recalling 2011, you realize you’re already there. How was it that Animal Kingdom still had a shot at Champion Three-Year-Old male? And then won it. Heck, I think I’d have voted for him too. Ten furlongs never go out of style.
You start to recall the names of horses from earlier in the year: Mucho Macho Man. Twinspired. Brilliant Speed. Toby’s Corner. Sway Away. Comma to the Top. Archarcharch. Twice the Appeal. Soldat.
You remember Havre de Grace battling—but eventually losing to—Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap and you nearly let loose your bladder, down the leg, soaking your highwaters; you get the brilliant idea to write a book about her called, “Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Four-Year-Old Filly Havre de Grace Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year,” there’s still time, so you need to pull for this because three females winning Horse of the Year in a row isn’t the kind of threesome you dreamed about but it will do. In fact, they make you think of the great Triangle offense where you’d put Zenyatta in the post, Havre de Grace at forward, and Rachel Alexandra the guard in the corner. Let Chuck Klosterman tell you about it.
But Havre de Grace snatched 166 votes and there wasn’t much suspense abound (Acclamation finished second with 26 votes). Let’s take a look at her curriculum vitae for 2011:
5 for 7
Grade 3 Azeri
Grade 1 Apple Blossom
Grade 3 Obeah Stakes
Grade 1 Woodward Stakes
Grade 1 Beldame Invitational
Her two losses came in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap to Blind Luck and a game-loss in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Not to mention that she redeemed trainer Larry Jones and finally let this man put to bed the ghost of Eight Belles. A big, heavy ghost.
Havre de Grace had the best year, start to finish, and that’s what an award as lofty as Horse of the Year represents. Many of the other awards default to a winner of a certain race (Hansen) or, strangely, in the case of this year’s three year olds (Animal Kingdom). Her season ends with a period, not an exclamation point (perhaps a question mark?), and maybe that's why it's been so hard to pick the ultimate winner.
Looking at the winners of Eclipse Awards we know that Hansen, My Miss Aurelia, Havre de Grace, Animal Kingdom, and Royal Delta will all be back, among others. So 2012 is looking up already.
Brendan O'Meara is the author of Six Weeks in Saratoga.