While Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) candidates American Pharoah and Beholder long ago clinched their respective Eclipse Award division titles, most of the others remain up for grabs heading into next week’s two-day Breeders’ Cup meet at Keeneland.
Barring obscene longshots winning either the Juvenile (G1) and/or Juvenile Fillies (G1), two-year-old titles will likely be clinched by its winners, and there are a number of legitimate claimants in both at this writing.
The number of true championship contenders are fewer in other divisions. Here is a rundown of horses racing for more than just purse money next week.
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY: I’m a Chatterbox, Curalina, and Stellar Wind all have the potential to lock up this title with a win in the Distaff, although a solid second to an older rival by either I’m a Chatterbox or Curalina may suffice in their individual cases. All three would likely need to bomb in order for the sidelined turf specialist Lady Eli to become the first winner of this title to have been campaigned exclusively on the grass.
OLDER DIRT MALE: With Liam’s Map forfeiting a chance to win this award outright by contesting the Dirt Mile (G1) rather than the Classic, this is basically Honor Code’s to lose. Tonalist would have to win the Classic, and win big, in order for voters to overlook the fact Honor Code possesses a 2-0 head-to-head advantage over him going into the race.
TURF MALE and TURF FEMALE: The outcome of these races are, of course, dependent on how the Europeans do next Saturday. A winning foreign invader is likely to find his or her name among the finalists and would likely receive a lot of support.
Among the domestic turf males, Big Blue Kitten (Turf [G1]) and The Pizza Man (Turf) appear the most qualified to snare a championship, with The Pizza Man holding a head-to-head advantage over Big Blue Kitten based on his victory in the Arlington Million (G1).
The decision by the connections of Tepin to pursue the Mile rather than the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) was savvy. Her record in graded stakes against her own sex this year was close to flawless, and she has little to lose taking on males in the Mile. She remains the favorite to win turf female honors regardless of how she fares or what the outcome of the Filly & Mare Turf is. If she happens to win the Mile, it’s all hers.
Stephanie’s Kitten, Dacita, and to a lesser extent Watsdachances and Hard Not to Like, could theoretically garner significant support with a Filly & Mare Turf win, as could a number of classy European fillies. This part of the Eclipse Award discussion will be much easier to analyze once all the results are in.
MALE SPRINTER: Private Zone and Runhappy win this award with a victory in the TwinSpires.com Sprint (G1), but if neither wins look for an outpouring of support for the late Rock Fall, who tragically broke down earlier this month while preparing for the Sprint.
FEMALE SPRINTER: La Verdad and the three-year-old Cavorting would be no-brainers if either happens to win the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). Merry Meadow and Dame Dorothy would also have strong enough resumes to clinch should they upset, but the waters get murkier if most anyone else prevails as it would be their only significant stakes win of the year.
HORSE OF THE YEAR: A huge majority of fans and the Eclipse Award electorate believes this award was in the bag for American Pharoah once he crossed the finish line in the Belmont (G1). It likely still is, but that begs the question why there should be such anticipation for this impending showdown between American Pharoah, Beholder, and Honor Code if the only thing the latter two are truly running for are, as I wrote earlier this year, bragging rights with no bite.
I can only speak for myself, but Beholder and Honor Code should be running for a lot more than just bragging rights with no bite, a fat paycheck, and increased residual value. This race should decide Horse of the Year, and whomever among those three wins will get my vote.