The Eclipse ballot stipulates that voters make three choices in each category; failure to make three choices invalidates the vote for that category. These choices determine the top three finalists in each category; the champion in each category is determined solely by the highest number of first-place votes.
In most cases, I spent more time on the second and third choices than I did on the first one; the champion vote was often fairly clear-cut, and I couldn’t help feeling that the second and third choices were something of an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, I made three choices in all categories except apprentice jockey, from which I abstained.
I’m posting here my three picks for each category, with occasional explanations for egregious (used here in the “conspicuous” sense of the word, and not, I hope, in the “conspicuously bad” sense) choices.
2-year-old male: Uncle Mo, Boys of Toscanova, To Honor and Serve
2-year-old female: Awesome Feather, Wickedly Perfect, Turbulent Descent
3-year-old male: Lookin at Lucky, Paddy O’Prado, Smiling Tiger
3-year-old female: Blind Luck, Evening Jewel, Devil May Care
Turf male: Gio Ponti, Winchester, Paddy O’Prado
Turf female: Proviso, Goldikova, Tuscan Evening
Older male: Blame, Quality Road, Haynesfield
Older female: Zenyatta, Life At Ten, Unrivaled Belle
Female sprinter: Dubai Majesty, Champagne D’Oro, Switch
Male sprinter: Big Drama, Discreetly Mine, Majesticperfection
Apprentice jockey: Abstain
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez, Garrett Gomez, John Velazquez
Steeplechase: Slip Away, Sermon of Love, Arcadius
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer, Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito
Breeder: Claiborne, Brereton Jones, Edward Evans
Owner: Winstar, Juddmonte, Edward Evans
Horse of the Year: Zenyatta, Blame, Blind Luck
I think that Goldikova is a magnificent and historic racehorse, but I don’t think that the Eclipse should be awarded on the basis of one North American start. Percussionist was similarly campaigned mostly overseas (two starts here, one win) and that’s why I left him off.
I know that the sprint category came down for most people to Big Drama and Majesticperfection; I gave the nod to Big Drama because I think a full year campaign carries more weight than one shortened due to injury. Discreetly Mine had three wins and one second in graded stakes to Majesticperfection’s one graded stakes win.
I admired the way Hollendorfer campaigned Blind Luck this year; he was the fourth trainer by earnings for the year (Pletcher, Asmussen, and Baffert had the top three spots), third in wins, and fourth in graded stakes wins. This was a category where the intangibles influenced me more than the numbers. Pletcher won his first Derby, which is why I put him second; and while Zito didn’t crack the top 10 in any category, so many of his horses were so close so many times that I felt that he deserved recognition. Again, in this category, intangibles ruled the day for me.
I don’t think that I need to explain why I voted for Zenyatta over Blame. It was a tough call; I can’t disagree with anyone who voted for Blame, and I nearly did myself. But history weighed heavily here for me, and it simply felt like the right thing to do to vote for the horse who made history, and who fell, arguably, a few inches short of being legendary.