Wise Dan Big Winner at Eclipse Awards

Michael Dempsey@turfnsportFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2014

Wise Dan Big Winner at Eclipse Awards

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    Wise Dan took home the hardware at the Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park again, becoming the first horse to win three honors two years in a row, winning for top turf male, top older male, and Horse of the Year.

    Trained by Charles LoPresti and owned by Morton Fink, Wise Dan won six of his seven starts in 2013, capped off by a repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). His lone loss was in the off the turf Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) where he checked in second.

    The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

    It was a landslide in the Horse of the Year voting, with Wise Dan picking up 208 votes. Next was Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man with 21 votes and 15 for Classic runner-up Will Take Charge.

    Let’s look at the rest of the 2013 champions of racing:


Female Sprinter: Groupie Doll

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    Groupie Doll repeated in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), which clinched her second consecutive Eclipse Award for top female sprinter. Trained by Buff Bradley, the mare won two of her five starts in 2013. Her other win was in the Presque Isle Masters (G2) in September. 

    She was purchased for $3.1 million out of the Keeneland November sale by Mandy Pope for breeding, but it was decided she would take on the boys again in the Cigar Mile (G1) in New York.

    The mare was beaten just a nose in the race last year, but she could only finish fourth this year in her final career start. She won 11 of her 22 career starts and earned $2,528,850.

Male Sprinter: Points Offthebench

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    Points Offthebench was heading to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) as the likely betting favorite when tragedy struck in the morning of Oct. 26. The colt suffered a fatal injury in a workout as he prepared for the Sprint. He fractured his right front fetlock and was euthanized. 

    The colt was relatively unknown early in the year but burst on to the scene with a victory in the Bing Crosby (G1) in his stakes debut at Del Mar in July. He showed that win was no fluke with a win in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) where he beat Goldencents by a half-length. Goldencents went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in his next outing.

    The colt was trained by Tim Yakteem, who told the Daily Racing Form, “It's still hard for me to express what I went through after what happened to him that morning at Santa Anita. Not a day goes by that I don't think about it. It will be with me my whole life."


Two-Year-Old Female: She’s a Tiger

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    It was a tough finish to the year, as She’s a Tiger became just the second horse in the history of the Breeders’ Cup to be disqualified from a victory. The colt caused interference in the stretch, drifting out and brushing with Ria Antonia, who finished second and was placed first via the disqualification. 

    That did not stop the voters from making her the overwhelming winner of the Eclipse Award with 212 votes. The runner-up Chriselliam garnered just 15 first place votes, with Ria Antonia third with 10 votes.

    She’s a Tiger won three of her six starts including victories in the Landaluce Stakes and the Del Mar Debutante (G1).  She is trained by Jeff Bonde, who has been giving a leg up to Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.

Two-Year-Old Male: Shared Belief

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    Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the talented colt was perfect in three starts in 2013. He broke his maiden in his debut on Oct. 19 in impressive fashion, skipped the Breeders’ Cup, and then won the Hollywood Preview Stakes (G1) and the CashCall Futurity (G1).

    Currently the colt is the 8-1 early betting favorite for the 2014 Kentucky Derby according to odds posted at Kentucky Derby Odds.  The horse is owned in part by radio and television sports host Jim Rome.

    The voting was close, with Shared Belief getting 113 first place votes while Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year’s Day was second with 99 votes.

Three-Year-Old Female: Beholder

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    It sure looked as if Princess of Sylmar has year-end honors locked up after winning four straight Grade 1 races: The Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club of America Oaks, Alabama and Beldame. 

    Meanwhile Beholder was putting together an outstanding year herself, winning four of her first six starts, including a trio of Grade 1 races: The Las Virgenes, Santa Anita Oaks, and Zenyatta.

    Princess of Sylmar got the best of Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks, but when they met again in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), it was no contest. Beholder won by 4 ¼ lengths while Princess of Sylmar faded to finish a well-beaten sixth.

    It was an even bigger mismatch in the Eclipse Award voting, with Beholder earning 207 first place votes to Beholder’s 42.


Three-Year-Old Male: Will Take Charge

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    He was beaten 12 ¼ lengths in the Run for the Roses. Then he was trounced by 16 lengths in the Preakness (G1) in a seventh place finish, and was tenth in the Belmont Stakes (G1), beaten 17 lengths. 

    It was tough to fathom back in June that Will Take Charge would win the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old, but Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas worked his magic.

    The colt bounced back with a good second in the Jim Dandy (G2), then won the Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2). He took on older next in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and was beaten just a nose by Mucho Macho Man. He wrapped up the Eclipse by winning the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs in his final start of 2013.

Older Female: Royal Delta

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    The Bill Mott trainee repeated as top older female in 2013 despite coming up short in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) where she finished fourth.

    She did win three times in 2013, taking down the Sabin Stakes (G3) and a pair of Grade 1 races- The Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign Handicap.

    In addition to winning the Eclipse last year, she won for top three-year-old in 2011. She has been retired having won a dozen races in her career with earnings of $4,811,126. She is heading to the breeding shed and has a date with the brilliant sire Frankel.

Female Turf: Dank

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    The European invader crossed the pond in August for the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington Park and she rolled to a 4 ¼-length victory. That win sent her to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) where she was sent off as the 3-2 betting favorite. 

    She did not disappoint, winning by a half-length over fellow European invader Romantica. She is trained by Sir Michael Stoute and was ridden brilliantly by Ryan Moore.

    She was an easy winner in the voting with 229, with Laughing and Mizdirection getting eight first place votes apiece.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

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    Todd Pletcher won his sixth Eclipse Award for top trainer, and had an outstanding year that saw him win 13 Grade 1 races and purse earnings of $25,248,816. That was nearly $10 million ahead of Bob Baffert, who was second in purse earnings for the year. 

    Pletcher has now earned $258 million in his career and needs just $8.6 million to become the all-time leading trainer in purse earnings, which is currently held by D. Wayne Lukas.

    The star of his stable was Princess of Sylmar, who won four Grade 1 races, but he had plenty of other top class horses including Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice, Haskell Invitational (G1) winner Verrazano and Cross Traffic, who won the Whitney (G1).

Jockey: Javier Castellano

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    While Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was getting most of the headlines after coming out of retirement and winning big races that included the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Classic, it was Javier Castellano that put up the really big numbers.

    Castellano set an all-time record for purse earnings by a jockey at $26,213,507 and led all jockeys in wins with 362.

    He rode Princess of Sylmar to three of her Grade 1 wins, and was the leading jockey at Saratoga. He won the spring and fall meets at Belmont Park and the winter meeting at Gulfstream Park.