The ballot box for Eclipse Awards ballots closed Jan. 2.
Staff members of the Daily Racing Form, members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association voted for the horses and humans who will be honored at the Eclipse Awards Dinner on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park for excellence on the race track during 2017.
Each voter is charged with selecting the top three horses or humans in each category. After the ballots are tallied, the top three finalists will be announced.
The winners will be those horses or people who received the most first place votes in each category.
My membership in the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association grants me the privilege of voting for the Eclipse Awards. Here, with a comment on each, are my top three selections for each award.
Horse of the Year: 1st - Gun Runner, 2nd - World Approval, 3rd - Unique Bella. Gun Runner's wins in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic, Woodward, Whitney and Steven Foster make him a walkover for racing's top honor in 2017.
Two-Year-Old Male: 1st - Bolt d'Oro, 2nd - Good Magic, 3rd - Mendelssohn. Bolt d'Oro gets the top call on the strength of Grade 1 wins in Santa Anita's Front Runner and Del Mar's Futurity.
Two-Year-Old Filly: 1st - Moonshine Memories, 2nd - Rushing Fall, 3rd - Caledonia Road Moonshine Memories captured Santa Anita's Grade 1 Chandelier and Del Mar's Debutante.
Three-Year-Old Male: 1st Always Dreaming, 2nd - West Coast, 3rd - Oscar Performance. Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winner tops a division that lacks a clear-cut leader. West Coast may follow stablemate Arrogate, the 2016 3-year-old champ, in receiving the bronze statuette.
Three-Year-Old Filly: 1st - Abel Tasman, 2nd - Elate, 3rd - Paradise Woods. Abel Tasman's wins in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, Acorn and Kentucky Oaks make her the locgical choice.
Older Dirt Male: 1st - Gun Runner, 2nd - Arrogate, 3rd – Collected. Horse of the Year wins his division.
Older Dirt Female: 1st - Forever Unbridled, 2nd - Stellar Wind, 3rd – Songbird. If Forever Unbridled was a football team, she would be undefeated, untied and unscored upon at Del Mar, Saratoga and Churchill.
Male Sprinter: 1st - Roy H, 2nd - Practical Joke, 3rd - Ransom the Moon. Roy H is the top choice on the strength of his wins in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Female Sprinter: 1st - Paulassilverlining, 2nd - Unique Bella, 3rd - Bar of Gold. Paulassilverlining opoened the season with Grade 1 wins in Keeneland's Madison and Churchill's Humana Disaff.
Male Turf Horse: 1st - World Approval, 2nd - Beach Patrol, 3rd - Oscar Performance. World Approval's Grade 1 wins were in Saratoga's Fourstardave, Woodbine's Mile and the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile.
Female Turf Horse: 1st - Lady Eli, 2nd - La Coronel, 3rd - Off Limits. Lady Eli gets the nod on the strength of Grade 1 wins in Saratoga's Diana and Santa Anita's Gamely.
Steeplechase Horse: 1st - Scorpiancer, 2nd - Mr. Hot Stuff, 3r d – Modem. Scorpiancer is the only horse to race over the jumps who won both a Grade 1 (Iroquois) and another graded stake (Middlebgurg's Temple Gwathmey.) All the other Grade 1 winners failed to win a graded race.
Owner: 1st - Juddmonte Farms, 2nd - Godolphin Racing, 3rd - Live Oak Plantation. Juddmonte wins the nine graded stake tie with four Grade 1 wins and $9.7 million in purses earnings.
Breeder: 1st - WinStar, 2nd - Live Oak Stud, 3rd – Darley. WinStar's nine graded stake wins tops the list.
Jockey: 1st - Mike Smith, 2nd - Jose Ortiz, 3rd - JJ Castellano. Mike Smith and Jose Ortiz each rode 13 Grade 1 winners. Hall of Famer Smith's mounts earned $14.5 million in Grade 1 races and $18 million in all graded races. Ortiz' horses earned $9.6 million and $13.9 million respectively.
Apprentice Jockey: 1st - Ervin Roman, 2nd - Katie Clawson, 3rd - Hector Diaz. Through early December, Roman had ridden 150 winners and his mounts took home $4.7 million in purses.
Trainer: 1st - Chad Brown, 2nd - Bob Baffert, 3rd - Steve Asmussen. Brown gets the mod with 16 Grade 1 wins, 11 Grade 2's and 19 Grade 3's.
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