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ECLIPSE FINALISTS WHO PROVED BEST OF THE BEST IN THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED 2023 SEASON

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.

Locked

TWO YEAR OLD FILLY:

Candied

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.

THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE:

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.

Mage

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.

Randomized

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..

Elite Power

White Abarrio

OLDER DIRT FEMALE:  

Clairiere

Goodnight Olive

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.

MALE SPRINTER:

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.

Elite Power

Gunite

FEMALE SPRINTER:

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.

Goodnight Olive

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.

STEEPLECHASE HORSE:

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)

Snap Decision

OWNER:

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.

Juddmonte

Klaravich Stables, Inc

BREEDER:

Calumet Farm

Godolphin: 13 Grade 1 titles, runnerup Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings had 5.

Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, LLC

TRAINER:

Chad Brown

Brad Cox

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.

JOCKEY:

Tyler Gaffalione

Irad Ortiz, Jr.: The Godolphin LLC of the jock’s room!

Flavien Prat

APPRENTICE JOCKEY:

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

Sofia Vives

***

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.

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5 Responses

  1. I gave female turf a lot of thought and am heartened to see we both somehow landed on Inspiral. It makes me more confident that I landed on the right lady here.

    I went Echo Zulu in the female sprint category; I have my reasoning but I grant that it might be unconventional; I asked myself ‘how many of these races she won from the 22 BC to the 23 BC does she win if Irad Ortiz is on someone else in those races?’ In my opinion she drops a couple of those wins with the #15 jockey in the game vs the #1. Echo Zulu’s brilliance was all her. Again this might be a bit of an outside the box rationale that I concede might not sit well with other voters.

    1. As we’ve explained often, there are no hard fast rules guard-railing voters; anything goes providing the reason is sound and the choice qualifies under the rules.

      Doc, if you asked me who is the better sprinter, I would have to take Echo Zulu and her otherworldly speed. But as stated, I stayed loyal to the champion who came back and defended her title–these are the kind of controversies that are good for the game …

  2. John – Word is that Kendrick is being replaced on Integration. I can’t imagine that was Shug’s call, unless Kendrick flat out disobeyed instructions (extremely unlikely he did).

    Not sure if they are claiming that since Integration is in Florida now, they wanted a GP jockey, or if it is another reason, but I can’t imagine – considering the level of this mount – that Kendrick would have any problem with shuttling down to FLA anytime Integration needed to be worked or on-track schooled, so that excuse doesn’t really fly with me.

    Are there a couple of jockeys who might give Integration a slightly miniscule better chance in a given spot? i don’t know — Perhaps?? But to me, this is one where you don’t discard a high quality universally respected jockey who did nothing wrong, just because you might be able to get an Irad Ortiz type. Some things are bigger than squeezing every possible fraction of an edge out of a situation; as a man, i think you owe it to Kendrick in this spot to let him actually lose the mount on performance solely. If I was the owner of that horse, I can confidently say I never make this move in this spot – I need to look myself in the mirror in order to sleep at night.

  3. I’ll snoop around Doc but doubtful I’ll find anything. Will ask Shug when first I see him.
    There are a lot of reasons for jockey changes but never underestimate greed in this game. How many times do we see a barn change for a horse going well because an owner thinks a change is automatic next level.
    If it was the owner who made the change, I can’t have too much respect for his handicapping prowess.
    Everyone knows about Kendrick’s finesse with speed horses but he is excellent on turf as well. He understands the value of saving ground and making well-timed moves on that surface.

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