By Gene Kershner
The 2011 thoroughbred racing season is now officially in the books with the conclusion of the annual Eclipse Awards, held Monday night in Beverly Hills. For the third consecutive year a female race horse took home Horse of the Year honors as Havre de Grace was awarded the biggest piece of hardware Monday night.
Some random thoughts on the evening’s telecast, representing horse racing’s Oscars….
* ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards was terrific as host, although I could do without her opening “Tebowing” act. She aptly called thoroughbred racing the “Sport of Queens” based on the recent successes of Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and foreshadowing the Havre de Grace victory in this year’s top category.
* The event was televised on HRTV or via live stream at DRF.com, which is where I watched the telecast. After an audio glitch in the first five minutes of the live stream, the broadcast came off without a hitch, other than an occasional buffering issue for a second or two. It was the first Eclipse ceremony in recent memory not broadcast on TVG.
* Caleb’s Posse lost the 3-year old colt Eclipse to Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the closest vote of the evening. Three votes separated the two, and in my humble opinion, I think the Posse got hosed. A finalist in two categories, male sprinter and 3-year old, he came up short in both. Animal Kingdom might have won the most important race of the year, but only could add a Grade 3 victory in the Vinery Spiral Stakes.
* I totally underestimated the voters affection for Acclamation in the older male horse category, where he defeated my choice, Game On Dude (by 25 first place votes), without traveling outside of California. While this wasn’t a surprise to many, it caught me off guard on Monday.
* It seems the voters put a lot of credence into the Breeders’ Cup races as horses such as Amazombie (male sprinter) and Musical Romance (female sprinter) won their respective categories coming off BC wins. Musical Romance won a key race at nearby Presque Isle Downs this summer during their biggest weekend.
* It was the fourth straight year that the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner did not take home Horse of the Year. Not since Curlin’s 2007 victory in the slop at Monmouth Park did the top award go to the Classic winner.
Notes from the press box
* Churchill Downs released its Kentucky Derby Futures wagering schedule on Wednesday. The three pools will be held during the weekends for Feb. 10-12, March 2-4, and March 30-April 1.
* I Want Revenge, the scratched morning line favorite on the morning of Kentucky Derby 135, returns to the scene of where his last win took place, Aqueduct Race Track. Winner of both the Gotham and Wood Memorial in 2009 at Aqueduct, he attempts a comeback in the $75K Evening Attire Stakes on Saturday.
* The Louisiana route to the Kentucky Derby commences on Saturday with the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. Great move by Fair Grounds management to move the Louisiana Derby from its usual Saturday slot to Sunday this year so it fits in between the NCAA Basketball Final Four Saturday and Championship Monday at the Super Dome.
Good luck this weekend and let’s go cash some tickets!