Powell's 2016 Eclipse Awards Ballot
by Dick Powell
With a full day to spare, I submitted my 2016 Eclipse Awards ballot. I look at accomplishments and now how I would bet the major contenders if they showed up in the same race.
Two-Year-Old Male – CLASSIC EMPIRE (Pioneerof the Nile) was an easy choice with a win in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland then a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Two-Year-Old Filly – CHAMPAGNE ROOM (Broken Vow) not only won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) but also the Sorrento Stakes (G2). That put her over the top.
Three-Year-Old Male – ARROGATE (Unbridled’s Song) won five straight races including a record-breaking Travers Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). He was so dominant he made us forget about the 3YOs that ran in the first half of the year.
Three-Year-Old Filly – SONGBIRD (Medaglia d’Oro) would have been in the Horse of the Year conversation if she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) but lost by an agonizing nose for her first career loss. Sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Older Dirt Male – CALIFORNIA CHROME (Lucky Pulpit) won the Dubai World Cup (G1) and the Pacific Classic (G1) as easy as can be but came up short to 3YO Arrogate in the Classic. Huge year after last season’s debacle.
Older Dirt Female – BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes) might have stayed in California all year but she did take on males in the Pacific Classic and won the Distaff to end her career on a high note, beating Songbird and STELLAR WIND (Curlin).
Male Sprinter – DREFONG (Gio Ponti) won the King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) going seven furlongs in fast time and then came back to do it again in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Third-place finisher that day came back to win the Malibu Stakes (G1).
Female Sprinter – HAVEYOUGONEAWAY (Congrats) in a very close contest, I gave her the nod for winning a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 before being beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The ones ahead of her didn’t do enough elsewhere so she gets the trophy.
Male Turf Horse – HIGHLAND REEL (Galileo), the rules say you have to have one start in the United States and Canada and he got his when he ran away and hid from his rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). FLINTSHIRE (Dansili) was hurt by his loss in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and then could not reel in Highland Reel in the Turf.
Female Turf Horse – TEPIN (Bernstein) won a Grade 1 at Keeneland in April, a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs in May and a Group 1 at Royal Ascot in June. She came back to beat males in a Grade 1 at Woodbine, then just missed against them last out in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Just too many accomplishments to give it to anyone else.
Steeplechase Horse – RAWNAQ (Azamour) won two Grade 1 steeplechase stakes races at the age of nine. That’s enough for me.
Owner – JUDDMONTE FARMS INC. – had a sensational year with Arrogate and Flintshire winning Grade 1 races on the same day at Saratoga. They give their trainers all the time they need as Arrogate was patiently handled and reaped the rewards in the second half of the season.
Breeder – CLEARSKY FARMS – breeder of Arrogate and LORD NELSON (Pulpit) had a great year with two Grade 1 wins each. Plus, they bred MOHAYMEN (Tapit), who won two Grade 2 races earlier in the year.
Jockey – JAVIER CASTELLANO – watching races day in and day out, he still delivers flawless rides on any surface and distance. If you hadn’t read that he changed agents after the Saratoga meet, you would never know it as he kept piling on wins.
Apprentice Jockey – LUIS OCASIO gets a slight nod over Lane Luzzi with a few more wins and earnings.
Trainer – BOB BAFFERT had a masterful year and showed what he can do with a great horse when allowed to do what he wants. He was given time to develop Arrogate and when he unleashed him on Grade 1 stakes company, the results were devastating. Lord Nelson had a big season sprinting as did Drefong with five Grade 1 wins between them.
Horse of the Year – CALIFORNIA CHROME gets the slight nod over Arrogate based on a terrific 2016 from start to finish. He was great in the Pacific Classic, toying with Beholder, and then being run down by a red-hot 3YO in the shadow of the wire in the Classic is not enough to diminish his campaign.