Unveiling the Highly Anticipated Eclipse Award Finalists: A Predictable Outcome?

2021 Eclipse Awards Finalists – Celebrating Equine Excellence

The Prestigious Eclipse Awards

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB), and the Daily Racing Form have recently announced the finalists for the highly anticipated 2021 Eclipse Awards. These prestigious awards, named after the legendary 18th-century racehorse Eclipse, celebrate outstanding achievements in the world of horse racing. Known for retiring unbeaten in 18 starts and siring 344 winners, Eclipse’s legacy continues to inspire excellence in both equine and human participants in the sport.

Exciting Categories and Finalists

The 51st edition of the Eclipse Awards will feature 17 categories, recognizing exceptional performances by both horses and individuals. During the recent announcement, the finalists for 16 categories were revealed, excluding the highly anticipated Horse of the Year candidates. Notably, Knicks Go is widely expected to claim the Horse of the Year title, leaving little doubt among industry experts.

Horse Racing’s Finest

Knicks Go, an exceptional racehorse, is the frontrunner in both the Horse of the Year and Older Dirt Male categories. However, it is worth mentioning that the Eclipse Awards are not solely focused on the Horse of the Year title. They also acknowledge excellence in various other categories such as 2-Year-Old Male, 3-Year-Old Male, 2-Year-Old Filly, 3-Year-Old Filly, Older Dirt Female, Male Sprinter, Female Sprinter, Male Turf Horse, Female Turf Horse, Steeplechase Horse, Owner of the Year, Breeder of the Year, Trainer of the Year, Jockey of the Year, and Apprentice Jockey of the Year.

Controversies and Influential Factors

While Knicks Go’s victory seems almost certain, other categories have become subject to intense scrutiny and voter controversy. Notably, the 2-Year-Old Male and 3-Year-Old Male categories have become a battleground for debate surrounding the controversial trainer Bob Baffert. Some voters, mainly from Eastern outlets, have openly declared their refusal to vote for any horse associated with Baffert due to recent doping scandals.

A Rocky Road for Baffert

Bob Baffert’s 3-year-old horse, Medina Spirit, tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone after winning the prestigious Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, Medina Spirit tragically passed away after a workout session in early December. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Medina Spirit has been named as one of the finalists for the 3-Year-Old Male category. Essential Quality and former Baffert-trained horse Life Is Good complete the trio of finalists in this highly contested category.

Baffert’s Impact on the Awards

Bob Baffert’s influence extends beyond the 3-Year-Old Male category. Other noteworthy contenders with Baffert connections include Corniche in the 2-Year-Old Male category and Gamine in the Female Sprinter category. Corniche, winner of two Grade 1 races in 2021, including the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, may face stiff competition from Jack Christopher. The latter won the Grade 1 Champagne before a temporary hiatus due to an injury. Another formidable contender is Modern Games, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner.

A Battle Among the Sprinters

The Best Male Sprinter category promises an exciting showdown between Flightline and Jackie’s Warrior. Flightline’s explosive three-race record, including winning by a combined 37 ½ lengths, contrasts with Jackie’s Warrior’s consistent performance in seven graded stakes races, with four victories and notable placements. Aloha West, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, completes the trio of finalists in this fiercely competitive category.

Challenges for Gamine

Gamine, the reigning champion for Best Female Sprinter, faces challenges in defending her title after a lackluster performance in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, where she finished third. Additionally, the Baffert factor may influence the voters’ decision in this category. Ce Ce, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint champion, and Bella Sofia complete the finalists in a category that promises excitement and unpredictability.

Awarding Excellence in Various Disciplines

The Eclipse Awards not only honor exceptional runners on the dirt but also recognize outstanding performances in turf races and steeplechase events. Categories such as Male and Female Turf Horse and Steeplechase Horse provide a platform to celebrate versatility and excellence across different disciplines within the sport.

Prestigious Titles Beyond Horses

In addition to the equine categories, the Eclipse Awards also acknowledge the achievements of prominent figures behind the scenes. Categories such as Owner of the Year, Breeder of the Year, Trainer of the Year, Jockey of the Year, and Apprentice Jockey of the Year recognize the contributions of individuals who play key roles in the success of racehorses.

The Selection Process and Voting

The voting process for the Eclipse Awards involves eligible voters from various racing entities, including the NTRA, NTWAB, member racetrack officials, and Equibase representatives. Out of the 245 eligible voters, an impressive 95.9% participated in the voting process, demonstrating the industry’s engagement and commitment. Each voter follows a points-based system, allocating 10 points for their top choice, five points for the second, and one point for the third. The winners of the Eclipse Awards are determined solely by the first-place votes received.

Crowning the Champions

The highly anticipated 2021 Eclipse Award winners will be unveiled during a live broadcast on Thursday, February 10th at 5 pm PT. Racing enthusiasts and industry professionals alike eagerly await the announcement of the Horse of the Year and other prestigious titles. The revealing of the winners will undoubtedly spark debates and discussions among fans, experts, and industry insiders alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the Eclipse Awards?

The Eclipse Awards are annual accolades that recognize outstanding achievements in horse racing across various categories, celebrating the best horses, trainers, jockeys, owners, and breeders in the industry.

Q: Who determines the winners of the Eclipse Awards?

The winners of the Eclipse Awards are determined by a voting process involving eligible individuals from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, member racetrack officials, and Equibase representatives. The awards are based solely on the first-place votes received.

Q: Who is expected to win Horse of the Year?

Knicks Go is widely expected to clinch the prestigious Horse of the Year title. The remarkable racehorse has had a stellar performance, making him the favorite for this esteemed honor.

Q: Is the voting process transparent?

Yes, the voting process for the Eclipse Awards is transparent and involves eligible voters who follow a points-based system to determine the finalists and winners. The votes are cast by industry professionals representing various racing organizations.

Q: Are there any controversies surrounding the Eclipse Awards?

Yes, the Eclipse Awards have faced controversies, particularly in categories involving horses trained by Bob Baffert. Recent doping scandals associated with Baffert-trained horses have led some voters to express their unwillingness to vote for any horse connected to the trainer.

Q: When and where will the winners be announced?

The winners of the 2021 Eclipse Awards will be announced during a live broadcast on Thursday, February 10th at 5 pm PT. The awards ceremony will take place on TVG and other platforms, marking a significant moment in the horse racing industry.

In Conclusion

The 2021 Eclipse Awards promise excitement, celebrations, and a well-deserved recognition of equine excellence. With the announcements of the finalists stirring up debates and controversies, the anticipation for the Horse of the Year and other prestigious titles continues to build. The winners of the Eclipse Awards will undoubtedly go down in horse racing history, joining the ranks of legendary champions who have made an indelible mark on the sport.

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Doug I. Jones

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