by Brian Nadeau
December 21, 2017
If we’re down in sunny South Florida at Gulfstream Park and the calendar is about to change, that also means the Eclipse Awards are right around the corner. And while there are some slam dunks like Gun Runner for Horse of the Year, Abel Tasman for 3-year-old filly and West Coast for 3-year-old male, there are also a lot of tough decisions looming for voters. So, in an effort to get a head start on the process, this voter is going to go over two of the trickier divisions with the hopes of getting a better understanding on where the chips may fall.
This is obviously the toughest one, as Good Magic won the only race that mattered, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he did it with aplomb, while blitzing his chief rival Bolt d’Oro by 5 ¼ lengths in the process. The issue is that he entered as a maiden and the Juvenile was his only win of the year, though he was a good 2nd in the GI Champagne prior to the Juvenile. Bolt d’Oro, on the other hand, won both the GI Del Mar Futurity and GI FrontRunner and had a brutal trip in the Juvenile, yet, to his credit, he fought hard and got what he could to be 3rd.
The overriding notion is that when you win THE race, and bury THE horse in the process, you should be champion. And Good Magic has a heck of a case. But I’m still torn, as those two GI wins by Bolt d’Oro hold a lot of weight, and he was severely compromised in the Juvenile, yet still refused to throw in the towel and put forth a very good effort. This one figures to go down to the wire, but I’ll likely side with Good Magic’s big win over Bolt d’Oro’s better body of work.
If Lady Eli couldn’t win this award as an undefeated 2-year-old filly in 2014, it may be a bit presumptuous to think Rushing Fall will do it this year. But there’s a few reasons to think there will be a breakthrough that will allow a turf horse to win an award that has always gone to a dirt horse. First off, Rushing Fall was awesome in all three wins in her freshman season, never met defeat and, in addition to her win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she also won the GIII Jessamine at Keeneland. Second, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Caledonia Road only had a maiden win to her credit to go with her upset at Santa Anita. Yes, she was 2nd in the GI Frizette, but I’m likely to break the mold a bit and vote for Rushing Fall. The Juvenile Fillies Turf attracted some solid Euros and Rushing Fall wasn’t even favored, so it’s not like she beat up on a sad sack of horses, which I’m apt to think Caledonia Road did in the Juvenile Fillies, especially after heavy favorite Moonshine Memories didn’t run an inch.
*** As an aside, and I realize I may be in the minority on this, I would love to see the powers that be institute a rule that no foreign horse who runs only one time in North America can be eligible to win an Eclipse Award. That’s the reason I have never voted for a European Breeders’ Cup winner, as I just don’t think one race is enough of a body of work to win OUR championship. Sure, I know Highland Reel last year probably could have won a lot of our GI turf races running backwards, but the reality is that he ran once in America, and that doesn’t warrant a championship from my viewpoint. And yes, I know he was awesome wiring the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but one race does not a champion make. It’s the same reason I won’t be voting for Talismanic this year. I also think that just maybe, if the two-races in North America rule was instituted, there’s a slight possibility that we get a few more Euros coming over for the big turf races in the fall, or even the Arlington Million. Most Euros who are Breeders’ Cup-bound have been pointed to their respective race for much of the year, or it has always been front and center on the radar, so who knows, maybe they pop up a month or two in advance in search of said championship?