Glad we waited to cast our ballot until after the Grade 1 season official closed on Saturday, December 29.

For us it made the difference in several classes, most notably the Eclipse Champion Trainer category and for some second and third place rankings.

But before we consider what the coming year will bring for the industry and its supporters, a final piece of 2018 house cleaning. This is what one man’s Eclipse ballot looked like:



STEEPLECHASE

1-ZANJABEELl: Richard Hendricks figured it out for 2018, win half your four starts [it is a short season!] make two of them G1, including your main rival.
2. Optimus Prime
3. Jury Duty

2-YEAR-OLD MALE


1-GAME WINNER: Perfect season at 4-for-4, three Grade 1s including the Juvenile. And we like him because he appears a bit ‘old school’ to me.
2-Improbable
3-Instagram

2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE

1-JAYWALK:
Amazing that if she hadn’t won the Juvenile Fillies in a romp, she might have had no chance to win this category—that’s how dominating Newspaperofrecord was. And, sorry, one can shorten the Eclipse Awards program, but time has come to recognize Juvenile Male and Female Turf champions.
2-Newspaperofrecord
3-Restless Rider

3-YEAR-OLD MALE


1-JUSTIFY: Undefeated, untied, and un-scored upon modern-precedent-setting 13th winner of the American Triple Crown. We hardly got to know you.
2-Catholic Boy
3-McKinzie

3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE


1-MONOMOY GIRL: A complete champion, doing it the old school way, from February to November, including a defining moment, a victory over older mares in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
2-Midnight Bisou
3-Shamrock Rose

OLDER DIRT MALE


1-ACCELERATE: In any other year that didn’t boast a Triple Crown winner, waged a Horse of the Year campaign by virtue of six victories and a placing in seven starts, including four consecutive Grade 1s culminating with the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
2-City of Light
3-Bee Jersey

OLDER DIRT FEMALE


1-BLUE PRIZE: By Default. We believe that no filly distinguished herself without qualification as to merit Eclipse recognition in a more traditional sense. This vote is in lieu of an abstention, the only other option open to me in good conscience.
2-Unique Bella
3-Abel Tasman

OLDER MALE SPRINTER

1-ROY H: Early on, didn’t think I was looking at the same Sprint Champion from last year. Wrong, Peter Miller played him like a Stradivarius. The bad news as more of the short, measured campaigns of America’s best horses.
2-Imperial Hint
3-Promises Fulfilled

OLDER FEMALE SPRINTER


1-SHAMROCK ROSE: Doesn’t make one’s heart go pitter-pat but, frankly, there’s was a lot of that going around in 2018. Filly & Mare Sprint was the clincher in an spectacularly unspectacular division.
2-Marley’s Freedom
3-Unique Bella (think Forego)

MALE TURF

1-CATHOLIC BOY: Classy 3-year-old Travers winner won both of his turf starts, including G1 Belmont Derby at a mile and a quarter. Another undistinguished division and another almost-abstention. Champions should be dominant, not just Grade 1 aggregators.
2-Glorious Empire
3-Expert Eye

FEMALE TURF

1-ENABLE: Expect to get flack for this for two reasons: Many voters believe one race in this country should not qualify foreigners for a North American Eclipse. But Enable’s Breeders’ Cup was Apollo-jinx-like; first Arc winner to win The Turf (after winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe off one soft prep). Plus taking one Grade 1 win vs. males over four divisional G1s for Sistercharlie, who we believe the most likely to be elected.
2-Sistercharlie
3-A Raving Beauty

OUTSTANDING TRAINER

CHAD BROWN in a squeaker over Bob Baffert. The former, while turf and older-horse centric, has expanded his horizons to younger horses in recent years with some success. Baffert, two- and three-year-old centric, really has no turf game. Look, a very tough category demanded some eclectic choices.

OUTSTANDING JOCKEY

Michael Corleone had the answer: “It was between the brothers.” Taking the more adaptable and aggressive JOSE ORTIZ over his strong-finish brother Irad Jr., race-riding Joel Rosario and Money Mike Smith. I wouldn’t be upset if any of them picked up the hardware; Eclipse-worthy year had by all.

OUTSTANDING APPRENTICE


In a very close call, EDGAR MORALES over Weston Hamilton and Assael Espinoza.

OUTSTANDING OWNER


HRONIS RACING in a three-way photo with Peter Brant and WinStar Farm

OUTSTANDING BREEDER

WINSTAR FARM over John Gunther and Mike Abraham

HORSE OF THE YEAR: JUSTIFY

His trainer summed it up best. “Now they say it doesn't look that tough, but they're all tough. Justify simply ran those horses into the ground when they were chasing him. That's what happened. A lot of horses get ground up in those classics.

“We're all here for those races. We want to win the Derby, we want to win the Triple Crown. It's all about the classics and they're hard on the horses. Unfortunately, we couldn't run Justify after the Belmont.”

Unfortunate, indeed, for the colt’s fans, for Jeopardy players and for loyal fans of the sport.

For those who are interested, the three finalists in each category will be announced Saturday, JAN 5 at 11:05 a.m. ET from Gulfstream Park. It will be available at http://gulfstreampark.com, the Gulfstream Park simucast feed, and at XBTV.com.