Up the Backstretch: Major thoroughbred honors predictions

The Sports NetworkNovember 7, 2013 

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Digesting the results of last week's Breeders' Cup races as they pertain to Horse of the Year and other division championships are both easy and difficult at the same time.

The easy part is that last year's Horse of the Year Wise Dan won his second straight Mile and assured himself of repeating all three Eclipse Awards he garnered for 2012. The 6-year-old gelding's connections, owner Morton Fink and trainer Charles LoPresti, will again walk away from January's awards ceremony with Horse of the Year, Older Male and Male Turf honors.

The difficult part is knowing that a great thoroughbred as Game On Dude will again fail to receive any year-end honors and for some reason can't put it together on his home track in the Classic. The gelding was seventh as the 13-10 favorite last year, and Saturday night he went off as the 17-10 top pick only to fold down the stretch and finish ninth.

Classic winner Mucho Macho Man also will be denied an Eclipse Award as Wise Dan sweeps three categories.

The Classic also put the 3-year-old division in clearer terms ... or not. Finishing second by a nose in the 1 1/4-mile stakes was Will Take Charge.

"It broke my heart," Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "I just stood there and said, 'How could he get that close and not win it?'"

Will Take Charge was coming into the Breeders' Cup off consecutive wins in the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby. The only Triple Crown race winner to run in the Classic was Belmont Stakes champ Palace Malice, who finished sixth behind Mucho Macho Man. Both 3-year-olds went off at 8-1 in the 11-horse field.

"Palace Malice cost us the race. He bore us out real bad, bumped us and pushed us way out on the turn and we had to recover from that," Lukas noted.

His late season push may have put Will Take Charge in position to receive the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old champion.

"Most people I've talked to in the press think he's champion (3-year-old male). If he wins the Clark, it would probably put the icing on the cake," Lukas said in revealing his colt may run in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.

The Distaff should not have changed any thinking about Older Female champion. Royal Delta, winner of the race the previous two years, finished fourth on Friday behind 3-year-old Beholder, while leading 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar finished last in the six-horse field.

Royal Delta, 2012 champion 3-year-old filly, is entitled to win a second straight Eclipse Award as top Older Female. The question is, who wins the crown as champion 3-year-old filly?

Princess of Sylmar was the clear favorite for division honors coming into the Distaff as Beholder, last year's champion 2-year-old, was mostly racing in California. The two fillies met previously in the Kentucky Oaks where Princess of Sylmar defeated Beholder by a half-length.

Princess of Sylmar deserves the Eclipse Award based on her outstanding season, including defeating Royal Delta in the Beldame.

Repeating as champion Female Sprinter will be Groupie Doll, who won her second straight Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. That will again deny 5-year-old mare Mizdirection from receiving an Eclipse Award after winning her second consecutive Turf Sprint versus males.

"She was gorgeous," new owner Mandy Pope said about Groupie Doll. "Obviously, she won $2.4 million; she's a champion - maybe a champion two years in a row. She's elegant. She was calm and cool."

Can two starts in a calendar year qualify a horse for an Eclipse Award? That's the question surrounding Secret Circle, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint in only his second race of 2013.

Lack of starts also holds true for European horses who make one start in North America and win a Breeders' Cup race.

The Eclipse Awards for outstanding 2-year-olds traditionally go to the winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.

New Year's Day won the Juvenile at 10-1 over favored Havana. Ria Antonia, a 32-1 longshot, was declared the Juvenile Fillies winner over disqualified She's A Tiger.

End-of-year honors are so easy to determine, aren't they?

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