by Greg Melikov - 01/09/2006
The 2005 Eclipse Awards, which will be announced on Jan. 23 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif., are runaways in most categories.
Only the top turf male and the best 3-year-old filly, and maybe sprinting honors, appear to be a horse race.
Artie Schiller won the Breeders' Cup Mile, defeating Leroidesanimaux by three-quarters of a length for his third victory in six starts in their only meeting of 2005.
The runner-up did capture two other Grade 1 stakes against good competition while Artie Schiller banked $1.5 million, $300,000 more. Shirocco took the BC Turf, but it was his only victory in three starts during the year, including a third and fourth in France.
The winner: Artie Schiller by three-quarters of a length.
Probably the toughest call is 3-year-old filly champion. That's because nine different fillies won 10 of the division's Grade 1 stakes and none of the three finalists raced beyond July.
Smuggler captured the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont in July, defeating Summerly in both. Round Pond did whip Smuggler in the Acorn in June, but it was his only Grade 1 triumph. The winner: Smuggler by a nose.
Top sprinter of 2005 could be a photo finish for several reasons.
First, there were plenty of Lost in the Fog bashers before and after the unbeaten colt faded in the BC Sprint. The son of Lost Soldier was bounced around at the break, grabbed the lead while running the half-mile in 44 2/5 and weakened in the upper to end up seventh.
Secondly, critics said the 3-year-old never defeated top-class company going 8 for 8 at six and seven furlongs last year even though he posted triple-digit speed figures at seven different tracks from coast to coast.
BC Sprint winner Silver Train also won the Jerome at Belmont in the fall, but only finished first in allowance company out of five other races. The late Saratoga County won all three starts, but his last victory came in March.
Three speedsters in the past decade that didn't win the BC Sprint still took top honors:
In '03, Aldebaran was sixth to Cajun Beat, but won five times and earned $1.1 million. Lit de Justice finished third in '96, but captured eight of nine sprints and banked more than $844,000.
Smoke Glacken didn't even run in the '97 BC Sprint, but was unbeatable at six furlongs, capturing six of eight races and earning more than $475,000.
The winner: Lost in the Fog by a neck.
Other major champions that are no-brainers include:
Horse of the Year and older male: Saint Liam, BC Classic winner that finished first in four Grade 1 contests.
Three-year-old male: Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness despite nearly going down in the stretch after running third in the Kentucky Derby and destroyed the Belmont Stakes field by seven lengths.
Two-year-old male: Stevie Wonderboy, who convincingly captured the BC Juvenile.
Two-year-old female: Folklore, winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Older female: Ashado, BC Distaff champ who ran third after winning three other Grade 1 stakes.
Female Turf Horse: Intercontinental, BC Filly and Mare Turf winner that won four other graded stakes.
As for the human element, Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez undoubtedly was the top trainer/jockey combo in the county. Both won individual awards for 2004.
Pletcher is again the No. 1 trainer because his horses earned nearly $21 million, finished in the money 55 percent and won 25 percent. That's despite Steve Asmussen racing twice as many horses that earned about $7 million less.
Velazquez is again the No. 1 jockey because his purse earnings set a new record exceeding $24 million, $5.5 million more than Edgar Prado despite more than 300 fewer mounts.
Members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers Association and Daily Racing Form handle the Eclipse Awards that began 35 years ago.
The awards are named after Eclipse, the great 18th-Century thoroughbred and foundation sire that began racing at age 5, was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers, and sired 344 winners.