Eclipse Awards: Breeders’ Cup Upsets Leave Several Questions Unanswered

Gun Runner’s emphatic Breeders’ Cup Classic victory leaves little doubt about the 2017 Horse of the Year title. Arrogate put together an impressive string of victories this season with the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups, but his failure to return to form at Del Mar likely gives Gun Runner the upper hand with the majority of Eclipse Award voters. Gun Runner will also likely be voted the Older Dirt Male of the year.

Another two months of racing remain before finalists for the leading trainer and leading rider can be officially determined, though Chad Brown is currently leading Todd Pletcher in both earnings and number of graded stakes victories. Steve Asmussen’s masterful job with Gun Runner could earn him a glance as well, and the year is far from over.

Jose Ortiz leads his brother Irad in earnings, but the elder Irad has won more races this season. Both brothers had wins at the Breeders’ Cup as well. Javier Castellano is not too far behind the New York-based brothers and could be in the mix with a strong end to the year.

The significant number of longshot winners last weekend left several Eclipse Award categories up in the air, but the following awards have been more or less decided:

  • Older Dirt Female: Forever Unbridled is unbeaten in three starts this year and won when it mattered most, in the Distaff
  • 3-Year-Old Male: Both West Coast and Always Dreaming won a pair of Grade 1 races in 2017, but West Coast’s third-place finish in the Classic will likely net him the title
  • 3-Year-Old Filly: Abel Tasman’s wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and CCA Oaks, as well as a strong runner-up performance in the Distaff, should have her on top of this division
  • Male Sprinter: Roy H won on the biggest stage and ran consistently well all season to be the most likely candidate for this award

These Eclipse Award categories are not nearly as obvious to decide:

  • Turf Female: Lady Eli is the sentimental choice with wins in the G1 Gamely, G1 Diana and G2 Ballston Spa, but her 7th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf could open this division to Wuheida, who won on Saturday.
  • Turf Male: World Approval has a strong candidacy for this award after wins in the Fourstardave, Woodbine Mile and BC Mile, but Beach Patrol (Arlington Million, Joe Hirsch, and close second in BC Turf to Euro Talismanic) bested World Approval when the two ran against one another in the Manhattan. Most likely World Approval will earn the award, but Beach Patrol shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Female Sprinter: A 66-1 longshot finished on top in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint; the since-retired Bar of Gold only had one other win on the season, which came in a route race over the turf. Paulassilverlining ran poorly in her last two starts of 2017, but earlier in the year won three in a row in the G1 Madison, G1 Humana Distaff and G2 Honorable Miss. Other possible contenders could be Skye Diamonds, who won a pair of graded stakes and was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, or Ami’s Mesa, a close second in the Breeders’ Cup with wins in all four of her other 2017 starts. Neither Skye Diamonds nor Ami’s Mesa boast a Grade 1 win this season, however, which will likely hurt their chances.
  • 2-Year-Old Male: Had Bolt d’Oro won the Juvenile he would have been the obvious choice for this award, and his candidacy will likely still be very strong for a number of voters after a horrible trip on Saturday appeared to cost him the race. Good Magic, the Juvenile winner, owns no other 2017 wins which could sway voters toward the colt with a stronger overall resume; Bolt d’Oro won both the G1 Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner.
  • 2-Year-Old Female: Caledonia Road walked away with the garland on Saturday, but it is her only Grade 1 victory. Moonshine Memories, a dismal seventh on the Juvenile Fillies, has two Grade 1 wins to her credit and could still hold sway with some voters. Turf filly Rushing Fall, meanwhile, could draw some votes off her undefeated season with wins in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Jessamine Stakes.

The Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker gives his analysis of the Eclipse Award candidates here, and DRF‘s Jay Privman does the same here.

The post Eclipse Awards: Breeders’ Cup Upsets Leave Several Questions Unanswered appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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