FINALISTS for America’s Eclipse Awards were announced last week and though European runners had much success across the ocean, none are likely to pick up any awards.
The lists announced are the top three who received votes in each division. The winners will be announced at a dinner on February 10th at Santa Anita.
Godolphin is a finalist for both champion owner and breeder. In addition to Essential Quality, Godolphin has two finalists for champion turf male in the Breeders’ Cup winners (Space Blues and Yibir), and two for champion dirt male.
The 2021 winning trainer Brad Cox, is a finalist in that category again. He trains Knicks Go, the overwhelming favourite to be named both Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male, as well as Essential Quality, the Godolphin homebred who is favoured for the three-year-old male title.
Charlie Appleby, who won eight Grade 1 races – including three Breeders’ Cup races – from limited North American starters, but did not make the top three. Steve Asmussen and Chad Brown, are the other finalists. They each won 10 Grade 1 races last year and Asmussen became the winningmost trainer.
Space Blues, the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, and Yibir, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, give Appleby two of the finalists for male turf, along with North American-based Domestic Spending.
Over 200 representatives from Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association cast votes.
Aidan O’Brien’s ill-fated three-year-old filly Santa Barbara picked up two Grade 1s in the US and has made the top three in two divisions – three-year-old filly and female turf performer.
Essential Quality will be looking to follow up his title as champion two-year-old male of 2020 with the three-year-old male title. His fellow finalists are Medina Spirit, the controversial Kentucky Derby winner who obviously gandered plenty of votes as he did finish ahead of Essential Quality on the two occasions they met.
Life Is Good, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner was late in getting going, absent from March to August with the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile his only Grade 1 but was considered by many as top notch on that evidence.
Godolphin led the earnings tables for both owners and breeders. Juddmonte and Klaravich Stables, the next two on the earnings list, are the other finalists for champion owner.
Jockey Joel Rosario is almost certain to finally win his first Eclipse Award ahead of defending champ Irad Ortiz Jr. and Flavien Prat.
In 2021, he led all riders in earnings and won Breeders’ Cup races on Knicks Go and Echo Zulu.
The Breeders’ Cup again proved pivotal in determining finalists. The Baffert-trained Corniche, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, and Charlie Appleby’s Modern Games, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner, are finalists for champion two-year-old male along with Jack Christopher.
Echo Zulu, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, is favoured in the two-year-old filly division.
Ce Ce, who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint goes against the defending champion Gamine and Bella Sofia for champion female sprinter against.
Japan’s Loves Only You who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, is a finalist for female turf along with Santa Barbara and War Like Goddess.
Marche Lorraine, the Japanese mare who pulled off a major upset in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, is a finalist for older dirt female against Shedaresthedevil and the likely winner, Letruska, who flopped in the Distaff but had a stellar overall record in 2021, with four Grade 1 wins.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West is a finalist for champion male sprinter along with Jackie’s Warrior and the brilliant, lightly raced Flightline.
Malathaat, the Kentucky Oaks winner, should take the three-year-old filly title over Clairiere and Santa Barbara.
The Irish-bred mare The Mean Queen, a three-time Grade 1 winner for Keri Brion, is the likely winner in the jumping category against Baltimore Bucko and Snap Decision, whom The Mean Queen defeated in all their head-to-head meetings.
The apprentice jockey finalists are John Hiraldo, Charlie Marquez, and Jessica Pyfer, who, if she wins, would be the third female rider, joining Emma-Jayne Wilson (2005) and Rosemary Homeister Jr. (1992).