by LAURA PUGH

With the only guideline for Eclipse Award eligibility being that a horse made one North American start, a lot of discretion is left to each individual voter, which leads to dissention as well.

Before discussing the snubs, it’s important to understand the difference between how winners and finalists are determined. Finalists are based on a point system for first-, second-, and third-place votes while winners are based on number of first-place votes only.

The three-year-old filly and female sprint divisions feature errors of omission while the turf male division has an error of inclusion.

The most notable head scratcher of all is Curalina not being a finalist for champion three-year-old filly after winning the Acorn outright and the Coaching Club American Oaks via disqualification. Those wins made her one of only two three-year-old fillies with multiple Grade 1 wins this year. The other, Kentucky Oaks and Ashland Stakes winner Lovely Maria, was not a finalist either.

Unlike Lovely Maria, however, Curalina never finished worse than third and had a decent outing against older females, finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The runner-up in that race, Stellar Wind, was a three-year-old filly finalist along with I’m a Chatterbox and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Found. I’m a Chatterbox was the horse disqualified from the Coaching Club American Oaks.

A consistent season like Curalina’s, sprinkled with two key wins, normally would make the decision to nominate her a no brainer. She would have been a better choice than the Europe-based Found, who only had a Group 3 win to her credit before her lone start in the U.S. Yes, that one start was impressive, but there is no way one win should get the nomination over an entire season.

The next serious faux pas was the nomination of Lady Shipman in place of Cavorting as champion female sprinter.

Lady Shipman had a consistent year but failed to win a graded stakes, which should be a prerequisite for an Eclipse Award, don’t you think? Cavorting won the Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Prioress Stakes while Lady Shipman had multiple listed stakes wins, but failed to win her single attempt at a graded stakes when second to Mongolian Saturday in the TwinSpires.com Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

The final blunder is Golden Horn as a finalist for Champion Turf Male. Like Found, Golden Horn had only one U.S. start, finishing second to that filly in the Turf.

I would love to know how one losing effort garners enough support for a finalist nod. An “A” for effort, possibly? If voters wanted to support a brilliant performance by a European horse then why not choose Sword Dancer winner Flintshire? He nearly set a track record when winning that race, but apparently that has been completely forgotten.

These omissions show why it’s time for the Eclipse Awards to implement clearer guidelines for voters.