By Richard Rosenblatt
The votes for Eclipse Awards have been cast, the three finalists announced in each of 17 equine and human categories, and Horse of the Year contenders could not be more diverse, with a dash of controversy added, too.
Turf star Bricks and Mortar, a perfect 6-for-6 topped off with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G2) on Nov. 3, would seem to have a lock on Horse of the Year honors when the winners are announced on Jan. 23. The other finalists are sprint sensation Mitole (6-for-7 including the Met Mile and BC Sprint, both G1’s) and Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby (G1) but was DQ’d to 17th for interference before closing out 2019 with wins in the Haskell (G1), Bold Ruler (G3) and Cigar Mile (G1).
Not among the Horse of the Year finalists is the mare Midnight Bisou, who outdueled every rival in seven races in 2019 (particularly highly-regarded Elate several times) before finishing second to Blue Prize in the BC Distaff (G1).
Maximum Security, also a finalist for 3-Year-Old Male, officially won six of his eight starts in 2019, but for one reason or another (fitness, colic) did not run in a slew of top 3-year-old races including the Preakness (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers (G1) or in the Breeders’ Cup.
Of the 254 eligible voters representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and the Daily Racing Form, 241 cast ballots (94.88 percent). Finalists were determined using a 10-5-1- point system for voters’ top 3 selections. The winners are determined by first-place votes only.
Here’s the rundown of finalists in each category, announced on Saturday:
Horse of the Year: Bricks and Mortar, Maximum Security, Mitole
2-Year-Old Male: Maxfield, Storm the Court, Structor
2-Year-Old Filly: Bast, British Idiom, Sharing
3-Year-Old Male: Code of Honor, Maximum Security, Omaha Beach
3-Year-Old Filly: Covfefe, Guarana, Serengeti Empress
Older Dirt Male: McKinzie, Mitole, Vino Rosso
Older Dirt Female: Blue Prize, Elate, Midnight Bisou
Male Sprinter: Imperial Hint, Mitole, Wrld of Trouble
Female Sprinter: Belvoir Bay, Come Dancing, Covfefe
Male Turf Horse: Bricks and Mortar, Mo Forza, World of Trouble
Female Turf Horse: Got Stormy, Sistercharlie, Uni
Steeplechase Horse: Brain Power, Scorpiancer, Winston C
Owner: Gary Barber, Peter Brant, Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William H. Lawrence
Breeder: Calumet Farm, Godolphin, George Strawbridge Jr.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz
Apprentice Jockey: Julio Correa, Angel Diaz, Kazushi Kimura