The post Breeders' Cup championship picture
The Breeders' Cup World Championships appears to live up to its name this year, as I expect XX winners to receive an Eclipse Award early next year.
Horse of the Year & champion turf male: I denied Wise Dan these votes last year in favor of Little Mike, but there's no denying Wise Dan this year, who won four Grade 1 races all at different tracks, including a second consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile. The only hole in his resume is the off-the-turf Shadwell Turf Mile (which became 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack), but it's not like any other horse in this discussion is undefeated either. Some will point to Wise Dan's Grade 2 races as evidence that he ducked top-level competition, but again, the other horses in this discussion have fewer Grade 1s than Wise Dan.
Champion older male: I went into the Breeders' Cup thinking Game On Dude had clinched this with three Grade 1 wins at three different tracks on three different surfaces, but Mucho Macho Man won me over with his exciting Breeders' Cup win. Yeah, Game On Dude has a 3-2 Grade 1 edge, but Mucho Macho Man won THE BIG ONE over the Travers winner and a European Group 1 winner, and Mucho Macho Man didn't duck his final prep. I wouldn't quibble with those who vote for Game On Dude, but just as I voted for Fort Larned last year after his Classic win, I'm going with Mucho Macho Man here as well.
Champion older female: It wasn't the prettiest season by an older female, but Royal Delta gets the nod here with two Grade 1 wins, including wins over good ones in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign.
Champion three-year-old male: Any of Palace Malice, Verrazano, or Will Take Charge could have claimed this with a Breeders' Cup win, but they lost, so I'm going with Orb, whose two Grade 1 wins along with placings in both the Belmont and Travers surpass the accomplishments of the others--even Will Take Charge's one Grade 1 win and Classic runner-up finish. That's for now, though. This isn't over yet, as it wouldn't shock me to hear D. Wayne point for the Clark Handicap, and Orb is running in the Cigar Mile. Stay tuned on this one.
Champion three-year-old filly: I'm leaning toward Beholder right now, but Todd Pletcher made a good point when he said that he wouldn't trade Princess of Sylmar's season for anyone's. If you ranked the eight Grade 1 wins in order of prestige, Beholder's Breeders' Cup Distaff win would probably be on top, but then Princess of Sylmar would be in three of the next four spots easy with the Oaks-Alabama-Beldame. The other wrinkle is that I hate the feeling of punishing Princess of Sylmar for coming to Breeders' Cup because she'd have been champion if she had stayed home, but these races are so special because they actually mean something, and one of those somethings at this level is an Eclipse Award.
Champion sprinter: Secret Circle gets the nod here off just one Grade 1 win, but in a division that beat itself up all year and had no dominant force, I'll go with the horse who won the championship race. If the Dirt Mile had been a one-turn affair I could maybe make a case for Goldencents, but it's not so I won't.
Champion female sprinter: Groupie Doll proved me wrong with a professional win in the Breeders' Cup and is a deserving two-time winner of both that race and this award. Mizdirection is an interesting alternative if you don't think Groupie Doll did enough, but I'll lean to the main track in most cases. Both are for sale Monday at Fasig-Tipton.
Champion two-year-old male: No one has two Grade 1 wins, so for now it's New Year's Day, but if a Grade 1 winner adds another graded stakes in the mean time (e.g. Strong Mandate wins the KY Jockey Club) then maybe he could get the nod, but for now it's New Year's Day with an Action This Day-type resume.
Champion two-year-old female: With the DQ, I could see races like the Golden Rod, Starlet, or Demoiselle meaning something if a Grade 1 winner were to win any of those, but for now it's Ria Antonia by default. My Conquestadory in the Golden Rod or She's a Tiger in the Starlet would probably swing my vote, though.
Champion female turf: It's a slam Dank!
The three-year-old male and two juvenile divisions (male and filly) are the only ones I see as up for grabs. Kudos to Breeders' Cup for truly championships racing (even if not on a world level in all cases).