HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 9, 2024 — The notice regarding the three 2023 Eclipse Awards Finalists in each category arrived and the voting on balance ran true to form. Here’s a look at the results in each section, with the exception of Horse of the Year. Finalists are listed in alphabetical order:
TWO YEAR OLD MALE:
Fierceness: The clear favorite based on his overwhelming Breeders’ Cup Juvenile run. He could run in Gulfstream’s Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth, both contested at 1-1/16 miles and are first finish-line races.
TWO YEAR OLD FILLY:
Hard to Justify
Just FYI: An undefeated winner of two Grade 1s including the BC Juvenile Fillies. Hard to Justify makes it interesting a s she also is undefeated, all races coming on the grass. Dirt is America’s game, but turf racing, because of its ability to attract full fields, is encroaching. That said, FYI, the connections of the former should not lose any sleep.
Arcangelo: Very much the likely winner, but if perchance Auguste Rodin, the only major horse in the world outside of Japan to win four Grade/Group 1s, twice defeating elders, he would be extremely worthy. But the winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers looms large this side of the Atlantic.
Auguste Rodin (IRE) … Full disclosure: I was thisclose to voting for the European.
THREE YEAR-OLD FILLY:
Mawj (IRE) … Full disclosure: Another Irish-bred who made me think hard before casting my ballot. Nose defeat to older male Master of the Seas in the BC Mile only blemish on a five-starts 2023, a head-bob away from a three-Grade/Group 1 win slate, matching Pretty Mischievous’ championship slate that included a fortuitous, albeit tragedy-aided, G1 Test victory.
Pretty Mischievous: Yet another likely to be voted best in show, and we’re excited to see her match up with Randomized later this year.
OLDER DIRT MALE:
Cody’s Wish: Highly likely to win this in a photo over well-supported and deserving White Abarrio, who won this country’s two most prestigious events for older males, the Whitney and BC Classic. This could almost be a three-horse photo, adding stablemate Elite Power..
OLDER DIRT FEMALE:
Idiomatic: Should be a unanimous choice given Clairiere’s mid/late-season flameout and Goodnight Olive’s sprint resume, the likely divisional champion thanks to a career-ending injury that in all probability derailed Echo Zulu’s championship campaign. The sprint category could be very close indeed, but Idiomatic’s 8-for-9 year that included a table-sweeping late-season Grade 1 run, attracted deserving Horse of the Year support.
Cody’s Wish: To paraphrase Michael Corleone, “it’s between the barn brothers.” Sentiment probably will reign even if Elite Power had more of a traditional sprint campaign. But ‘Cody’ took the G1 Churchill Downs Sprint and the storied one-turn Met Mile, defeating late-season developer Zandon and White Abarrio.
Echo Zulu: Seriously considered her 3-for-3 season including a dominating G1 Ballerina win over the defending sprint champion but could not reconcile voting against Goodnight Olive after her repeat BC Filly & Mare Sprint victory.
Maple Leaf Mel: Oh, for what might have been …
MALE TURF HORSE:
Auguste Rodin (IRE)
Master of the Seas (IRE)
Up to the Mark: The most probable champion whose name was whispered about when the subject of Horse of the Year was broached. Opted for the three Grade 1 body of work in North America–even if he were defeated by Auguste Rodin who, as stated, won four Grade/Group 1 titles in 2023.
FEMALE TURF HORSE:
In Italian (GB): There’s going to be a lot of support for the home team who started fast with back-to-back Grade 1s but couldn’t seal the deal, winding up with more defeats than victories on the year.
Inspiral (GB): Three straight Grade/Group 1s to end the campaign, including the prestigious Jacques Le Marois over males. Leaning this way for title, but lacking in confidence.
Mawj (IRE): Would have been difficult to deny had she won the nose-bob over Master of the Seas in the BC Mile.
Awakened: I clearly have no idea who the champion should be as I voted for the impressive winner of the G1 A P Smithwick, Belfast Banter.
Merry Maker (IRE)
Godolphin, LLC: Compiled an across-the-board slate of (425) 86-85-61 with earnings of $17.1 million; runnerup Klaravich posted a (330) 85-54-47 final total with $9.3 million.
Klaravich Stables, Inc
Godolphin: 13 Grade 1 titles, runnerup Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings had 5.
Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, LLC
William I. Mott: HIs year-long management of Cody’s Wish and Elite Power would have been enough, but then to fashion an undefeated season with certain-to-be juvenile filly champion Just FYI was the icing on this confection.
Irad Ortiz, Jr.: The Godolphin LLC of the jock’s room!
Axel Concepcion: Earnings leader compiled a stellar (927) 185-147-147 slate, winning at a .199 rate is a gaudy record at any level.
Jaime A. Torres
The names of the top three Horse of the Year finalists were not released. One could wager that whoever that horse may be, he or she will generate much discussion in the days to follow.