By Gene Kershner
The Eclipse Award finalists were announced on Wednesday morning and there were not a lot of surprises within the nominations for horse racing's year end laurels. The winners will be announced at the annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 18. A list of the three finalists in each division can be found here. The three finalists for Horse of the Year (HOY) are Wise Dan, Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge. I posted a look at my ballot last weekend on this blog.
Some thoughts as we start heading down the Derby trail….
- My ballot wasn't too far off of the announced finalists. The one category where my top horse wasn't even on the finalists list was in the Female Sprinter category where I went with the full body of work of Cluster of Stars. My other two selections Dance to Bristol and Groupie Doll both made the final cut.
- Lots of noise surrounding the Older Male category and the inclusion of Wise Dan, who ironically won last year's Eclipse in this category. Some of the voters that have been around for some time seem to think that this is a category strictly for dirt horses. Funny, I can't seem to find that anywhere, maybe someone can point me to where it says this category excludes turf horses?
- Interesting that Will Take Charge's late season heroics bumped him into the top three for HOY over Game on Dude, who had a solid season with his only clunker being the BC Classic.
- Glad to see my jockey selection Gary Stevens make the cut after the tremendous comeback year. He probably won't win it based on the pure numbers of Javier Castellano, but good to see him be recognized.
- Not sure why the industry announced the finalists on the same day as the Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. Why not pick a slow news day and avoid something that will dominate the sports headlines like something as controversial as the baseball hall?
- Sad that the Sham Stakes, a Derby points race at Santa Anita this Saturday, drew only four horses, three of which are trained by Eclipse finalist Bob Baffert.
- Speaking of the Run for the Roses, last month, Churchill Downs started the process of erecting a massive $12 million video board that will be 171 feet wide and sit 80 feet above the ground. It 90-foot board will utilize advanced ultra-high definition 4K technology and will be the largest outdoor screen in the world.
- Buffalo Raceway opens tomorrow night after canceling both Wednesday and tonight's races. First post is 6:40 p.m. and a new announcer, Michael Carter, will be calling the races from the Hamburg oval.