SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 27, 2012—As is the HRI custom, we go public with our Eclipse Award choices in all categories, allowing the chips to fall. An aside: I don’t really understand the policy of not allowing vote splitting.

Unlike splitting the atom, this would not have an effect on the world at large, and would more accurately reflect voter’s opinions. Vote splitting certainly would have been appropriate when looking back on 2012:

As usual, we view the voting process as strictly business; not personal:

The Steeplechase category one’s very much like the turf category this year. In compiling our choices, we start by counting Grade 1s before getting into subjective analysis. So riddle me this:

Which is the more compelling resume, Demonstrative winning the G1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap and Colonial Cup, or Pierre Lunaire taking the Lonesome Glory and Grand National? We’re not sure either.

The tie breaker for us, then was the overall record which had the former going 3-for-6 on the year, including Saratoga’s restricted Jonathan Kiser and with higher earnings, as opposed to ‘Pierre’s’ 2012 slate of 2-for-5.

4-Year-Old & Up Steeplechase

1. Demonstrative
2. Pierre Lunaire
3. Spy in the Sky

While the overall crop appears a little disappointing on its face with respect to depth at this juncture, the Juvenile category boasts and definitive, worthy champion.

How can anyone argue with an undefeated, deep slate of five victories at four different venues including two Grade 1s and a Grade 2?

The runnerup in this division hails from the same barn, is also undefeated at 3-for-3 and owns two graded wins, a G1 and a G2. The second runnerup was nearly unbeaten at 6-for-7. Among the wins were three Canadian stakes—one listed, two restricted—and Kentucky’s G3 Iroquois and G2 Jockey Club Stakes.

Two-Year-Old Juvenile Colts

1. Shanghai Bobby
2. Violence
3. Uncaptured

The female category was a whole lot closer and I applaud the Executiveprivilege connections for rolling the dice and trying to nail down the championship on the racetrack rather than leaving it up to the voters.

No slight to Beholder’s connections, which ultimately won the title on the racetrack ad whose filly only lost to the likely champion by a nose in Del Mar’s G1 Debutante. And, lest anyone forget, the rubber match went formfully and Lasix-free.

Now So Many Ways, an undefeated 3-for-3 that includes the G2 Schuylerville and G1 Spinaway, and which could ultimately prove the better three-year-old.

I would not have casted a ballot for her because, no matter what the connections said, her non-participation in the Juvenile Fillies was about Lasix withdrawal going a distance of ground, even though the filly broke her maiden by 8 lengths in a Lasix-free debut.

Two-Year-Old Filly

1. Beholder
2. Executiveprivilege
3. So Many Ways

The only drama in the Three-Year-Old Colt division is whether it’s clear leader and very good race horse, I’ll Have Another, will be the Horse of the Year 2012. Indeed, there are two chances of that happening, and Slim is on holiday.

The runnerup spot gave me pause and even though Bodemeister wound up with twice as many seconds as firsts, one of his two wins was a 9-1/2 length Arkansas Derby romp and two winning efforts in the Triple Crown’s first two legs which, of course, he lost to the certain champion-to-be.

Second runnerup was a lot more difficult for me but I had to opt for a classics winner which went 2-for-4 including the G2 Fountain of Youth over the winner with a more compelling 4-for-8 slate that included the G3 Withers, G2 Jim Dandy and one-half of the G1 Travers.

Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding

1. I’ll Have Another
2. Bodemeister
3. Union Rags

Actually, it is unlikely that even if My Miss Aurelia had won the G1 La Brea on Santa Anita’s opening day program, I would have voted her best in show. But I hadn’t thought about this situation that seriously and now there is no need.

The winner of the G1 Coaching Club Oaks and Alabama pulls far more weight than a head defeat in the G1 Cotillion while spotting her winning rivals seven pounds would have disqualified her from the top spot.

The candidacy of our third choice is, in our view, almost as legitimate as the two acknowledged frontrunners even without a two-turn victory of any kind. But two G1 victories in the prestigious Test and Acorn Stakes, plus a G3 score, is an impressive score card.

Perhaps the connections might have considered avoiding Groupie Doll and take on males in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. That certainly would have eliminated a blowout in the filly category and would have provided food for thought in the sprint division.

Three-Year-Old Filly

1. Questing
2. My Miss Aurelia
3. Contested

The first truly vexing category is that of older male: The more accomplished Fort Larned, given victories in the G1 Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Classic, or Wise Dan, with a voluminous 5-for-6 slate, all graded stakes, three of them G1, none of which were on dirt.

Tevye the Dairyman would be proud: Tradition broke the tie. The battle for second runnerup was just as perplexing, but two G1s vs. no G1s won the day, losing it for Mucho Macho Man.

Four-Year-Old & Up Males

1. Fort Larned
2. Wise Dan
3. Shackleford

Coming Saturday: Final Choices for Horse and Trainer of the Year plus all remaining categories