2015 Eclipse Awards Predictions
2015 Eclipse Awards Predictions: The Eclipse Awards are a special event every year in which horses from all genres of the track have a chance of being named a year-end champion based on their campaigns. This year, racing has seen a spectacular amount of feats accomplished. Some fates were decided early in the year, whereas others were sealed at the last moment. This year has been an extraordinary one for racing, bringing the life to it that it once felt. There are seventeen Eclipse Award categories and along with them multiple possibilities, but here is a breakdown of who seems to be most likely to be named division champions.
Horse of the Year: American Pharoah. Does this really need any explanation? American Pharoah delivered not only the first Triple Crown in 37 years but also won the very first, and only, Grand Slam. This consists of winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. American Pharoah will stand his first season at stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, KY, for a fee of $200,000.
2-Year-Old Male: Nyquist. Nyquist has been going strong since June, and since then, he has won three Grade I events in a row, one Grade II, and his maiden. His smallest winning margin was a head while his largest was 5¼ lengths. He has shown he is not a one-trick pony, either, after having to settle off the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
2-Year-Old Female: Songbird. In four starts, Songbird has never been beaten and proved to be a whole second faster than her male counterparts when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies by 5¾ lengths over the previously undefeated Rachel’s Valentina. Her largest winning margin came in her maiden, a widening 6½ lengths. She has won all four of her starts by a combined 22 lengths!
3-Year-Old Male: American Pharoah. Once again, American Pharoah is in a league that doesn’t exist for other three-year-olds in his crop. He is an amazing athlete, and despite a major upset in the Travers ironically coming at Saratoga, the “Graveyard of Favorites”, he has annihilated his competition in every start. His Travers loss was simply the result of a tired horse following a speed duel and shipping once again.
3-Year-Old Female: Stellar Wind. Out of six starts, this three-year-old daughter of Curlin has finished first four of those times. Her worst finish was a fourth in the Kentucky Oaks after a rough start and trip. She finished a hard-fought second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to Stopchargingmaria, a result which came under objection by her rider, Victor Espinoza, for a while following the finish. She has proven to be among the best of her female counterparts.
Older Male: Honor Code. The older male division was seriously depleted this year. Honor Code had a breakout performance in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap (The Met Mile) and followed that up with a close call in the Grade I Whitney, defeating Liam’s Map, another strong contender for this same category. Honor Code finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind American Pharoah.
Older Female: Beholder. Beholder was a strong competitor for the Breeders’ Cup Classic before she was scratched when blood was found in her lungs following a strong work over the track. All of her wins this year were stakes wins, three of which were Grade I, and one of those came over males in the Pacific Classic. Beholder is looking to come back in 2016 with an eye on the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
Male Sprinter: Runhappy. This horse has been caught in the middle of an epic battle between his owners and his former trainer, Maria Borell. Besides a ninth in the Grade III LeComte Stakes, Runhappy is undefeated this year. He won three graded stakes in a row, two of which were Grade I races. He won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in record time over top sprinter Private Zone, a top contender for this same category.
Female Sprinter: La Verdad. La Verdad was undefeated going into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, which she entered on only six days of rest after easily winning the listed Iroquois Stakes at Belmont Park. La Verdad looked like she had everything against her, including hardly any rest and likely not wanting the extended sprint distance of seven furlongs. However, she finished strong and got passed late in the Keeneland stretch, proving she is the top female sprinter this year.
Male Turf Horse: Big Blue Kitten. This was a tough one; there are a lot of top turf horses in the United States right now. The Pizza Man will likely be another strong contender for this award. Big Blue Kitten has not finished out of the money in any of his starts this year. He won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in record time over top horses Slumber, Twilight Eclipse, and Red Rifle. He was recently sold to Calumet according to Chad Brown when interviewed at Keeneland.
Female Turf Horse: Stephanie’s Kitten. While she had two off-the-board finishes this year, both in graded stakes events, she won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf over top Euro female Legatissomo (IRE). She also repeated in the Grade I Flower Bowl. Stephanie’s Kitten was retired following the Breeders’ Cup and offered at Keeneland during the November Breeding Stock Sale. After failing to meet her $3-million reserve, she was sold to Japan for breeding purposes.
Steeplechase Horse: Bob Le Beau (IRE). Bob Le Beau has won four of his five starts this year. The eight-year-old gelding is bred to be successful as he has a lot of stamina in his pedigree and is just now being able to show his skills.
Owners: Zayat Stables, LLC. Since 2004, The Ramseys have been a popular choice for this category, even scoring back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014. However, this year is no ordinary year. The Zayats are the owners of American Pharoah, the horse of a lifetime. There is no way they’ll lose this category. They are the leading money winners as owners as well.
Breeder: – Ken and Sarah Ramsey. As of November 18, 2015, the Ramseys have bred 1,517 starters. They have an amazing 12% win percentage and an even better 40% in-the-money percentage. Their current earnings as breeders have amassed to over $8.9 million. Ken and Sarah Ramsey also won this category last year.
Trainer: Bob Baffert. How could the newest Triple Crown-winning trainer not get this award? While Baffert is only third in the rankings, behind Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, there are reasons other than accrued purse money as to why Baffert will likely receive this award.
Jockey: Victor Espinoza. Victor finally got his Triple Crown in his third try. The jockey first had a chance with War Emblem in 2002 and then again in 2014 with California Chrome. However, both horses had their chances taken away at the start. War Emblem went to his knees, and California Chrome suffered a badly grabbed quarter. American Pharoah was the jockey’s saving grace.
Apprentice Jockey: – Eric Cancel. Starting out in Florida, Eric Cancel has been turning heads all over, especially in New York. According to his profile on Equibase, Cancel has 94 wins in 2015 from 826 mounts, an 11.3% winning percentage. Eric Cancel is currently riding at Aqueduct for trainers like Joe Sharp, Barclay Tagg, and Thomas Morley.
The Eclipse Awards of 2015 will be held this year at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. January 16, 2016, is the official date for the grand event. Tickets can be purchased at www.ntra.com and the cost is $400 per person.
Eclipse Awards Week: Where Will YOU Be?
Last Year’s Eclipse Winners:
Horse of the Year: California Chrome
2-Year-Old Male: American Pharoah
2-Year-Old Female: Take Charge Brandi
3-Year-Old Male: California Chrome
3-Year-Old Female: Untapable
Older Male: Main Sequence
Older Female: Close Hatches
Male Sprinter: Work All Week
Female Sprinter: Judy the Beauty
Male Turf Horse: Main Sequence
Female Turf Horse: Dayatthespa
Steeplechase Horse: Demonstrative
Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
Breeder: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Apprentice Jockey: Drayden van Dyke