The 2019 Eclipse Award finalists were revealed earlier this month. The winners in each category will be announced at Gulfstream Park on Thursday at the 49th annual Eclipse Awards dinner presented by The Stronach Group, Daily Racing Form and Breeders’ Cup.
The first year that I made Eclipse Award predictions in this column was for the racing that was conducted in 2011. Through the years, my Eclipse Award predictions have proven to be correct 92.6% of the time:
2011: 15 correct, 2 wrong
2012: 16 correct, 1 wrong
2013: 16 correct, 1 wrong
2014: 17 correct, 0 wrong
2015: 14 correct, 3 wrong
2016: 16 correct, 1 wrong
2017: 16 correct, 1 wrong
2018: 16 correct, 1 wrong
Total: 126 correct, 10 wrong
Remember, these are my predictions, not who I think should win or who I voted for.
And now here are my predictions for the 2019 Eclipse Awards:
Finalists (alphabetically): Maxfield, Storm the Court, Structor
Predicted Winner: Storm the Court
The undefeated Game Winner, winner of three Grade I races including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was a slam-dunk in this category in 2018. There is no such slam-dunk in this category this time, but I will be surprised if BC Juvenile winner Storm the Court does not get it.
There probably is going to be quite a number of votes for Structor, who was three for three and won the Grade I BC Juvenile Turf. But I think Storm the Court’s Breeders’ Cup victory on dirt will get him more Eclipse Award support than Structor’s Breeders’ Cup win on turf.
Finalists: Bast, British Idiom, Sharing
Predicted Winner: British Idiom
I think this category is a slam-dunk. British Idiom was undefeated in three starts, highlighted by her victory in the Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies.
Bast was a three-time Grade I winner in 2019, but I don’t see her getting the Eclipse Award because she finished third behind British Idiom in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Finalists: Code of Honor, Maximum Security, Omaha Beach
Predicted Winner: Maximum Security
This was a wide-open category for the whole year…that is until Maximum Security won the Grade I Cigar Mile vs. older foes in December. The Cigar Mile, I believe, put Maximum Security in the driver’s seat to get this Eclipse Award.
Finalists: Covfefe, Guarana, Serengeti Empress
Predicted Winner: Covfefe
There are those not crazy about a filly who never raced farther than seven furlongs getting the Eclipse Award in this category. But reading the tea leaves, I think her 2019 record of five wins from six starts capped by a victory in the Grade I BC Filly & Mare Sprint will sway enough voters for her to get this Eclipse Award.
OLDER DIRT MALE
Finalists: McKinzie, Mitole, Vino Rosso
Predicted Winner: Mitole
This one could be close between Grade I BC Sprint winner Mitole and Grade I BC Classic winner Vino Rosso.
It seems some opted for Vino Rosso with the thinking Mitole already is going to get an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter. Some also believe that inasmuch as the BC Classic is the richest U.S. race in this division, that carries enough weight for them to vote for Vino Rosso.
But others no doubt did not go for Vino Rosso because he lost three of his six starts in 2019, while Mitole lost just once in seven starts. If Mitole had not won the Grade I Met Mile, I doubt he would get this Eclipse Award. But I think he’s going to get it due largely to wins in both the Met Mile and BC Sprint. The fact that Mitole is one of the three finalists for Horse of the Year certainly is an indication that he might get Eclipse Awards as both champion older dirt male and male sprinter.
OLDER DIRT FEMALE
Finalists: Blue Prize, Elate, Midnight Bisou
Predicted Winner: Midnight Bisou
I think Midnight Bisou will get it, but I also believe that Blue Prize will get a fair amount of support.
Blue Prize lost her first three races in 2019, but then reeled off stakes wins in the Summer Colony at Saratoga, Grade I Spinster at Keeneland and Grade I BC Distaff in which Midnight Bisou finished second.
But the way I see it, Midnight Bisou’s body of work during the year that included three Grade I wins will carry the day with the voters. The BC Distaff was her lone defeat in eight 2019 starts.
Finalists: Imperial Hint, Mitole, World of Trouble
Predicted Winner: Mitole
You can take it to the bank that Mitole is going to get this one.
Finalists: Belvoir Bay, Come Dancing, Covfefe
Predicted Winner: Covfefe
You also can take it to the bank that Covfefe is going to get this one.
Finalists: Bricks and Mortar, Mo Forza, World of Trouble
Predicted Winner: Bricks and Mortar
This, to me, is the one of the easiest of all categories to try and predict the winner. It’s going to be Bricks and Mortar, who in 2019 was a perfect six for six from Jan. 26 to Nov. 2 while racing at six different tracks, with five of his wins coming at the Grade I level.
Finalists: Got Stormy, Sistercharlie, Uni
Predicted Winner: Uni
Sistercharlie took this Eclipse Award in 2018. With three Grade I victories to her credit in 2019, I have to believe she probably will have many votes for the 2019 Eclipse Award in this category. Nevertheless, I think it’s going to come down to either Got Stormy or Uni.
Got Stormy and Uni met twice. When Got Stormy won the Grade I Fourstardave Handicap and broke Saratoga’s grass course record for one mile, Uni finished third. When Uni won the Grade I BC Mile, Got Stormy finished second.
After the Breeders’ Cup, Got Stormy added another Grade I victory to her resume by capturing Del Mar’s Matriarch Stakes.
This one figures to be pretty close between Got Stormy and Uni. Without total confidence, I am predicting Uni will get it largely because she won the BC Mile.
Finalists: Brain Power, Scorpiancer, Winston C
Predicted Winner: Winston C
Finalists: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox
Predicted Winner: Chad Brown
Finalists: Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz
Predicted Winner: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Finalists: Julio Correa, Angel Diaz, Kazushi Kimura
Predicted Winner: Julio Correa
Finalists: Gary Barber; Peter Brant; Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence
Predicted Winner: Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence
Finalists: Calumet Farm, Godolphin, George Strawbridge Jr.
Predicted Winner: George Strawbridge Jr.
HORSE OF THE YEAR
Finalists: Bricks and Mortar, Maximum Security, Mitole
Predicted Winner: Bricks and Mortar
It generally was agreed that there were three leading Horse of the Year candidates going into the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in early November. The three were Bricks and Mortar, Midnight Bisou and Sistercharlie. Going into the Breeders’ Cup, all three were undefeated in 2019.
Midnight Bisou and Sistercharlie were unable to win their Breeders’ Cup races. Midnight Bisou ran second in the Distaff. Sistercharlie finished third in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Bricks and Mortar? He not only won his Breeders’ Cup race, the Turf, he did so when asked to go farther than he had ever raced before, 1 1/2 miles. Not only that, Bricks and Mortar got the job done despite not having the best of trips. He was bottled up for most of the race.
It’s been said that Bricks and Mortar benefited by the 2019 male turf division in the U.S. not being strong. I think that’s a fair statement. On the other hand, Bricks and Mortar won all of his starts during a 2019 campaign that was long (it began on Jan. 26 and continued to Nov. 2.) and entailed much shipping (he raced in six different states).
Mitole’s older dirt male division admittedly was probably stronger than Bricks and Mortar’s male turf division. And similar to Bricks and Morter stretching out to 1 1/2 miles in the BC Turf, Mitole deserves praise for winning the Met Mile when asked to race farther than seven furlongs for the first time.
But while Bricks and Mortar put together a perfect 2019 record of six wins from six starts, Mitole did lose once. Mitole finished third behind Imperial Hint and Diamond Opps in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga in late July. That one loss on Mitole’s resume did not help his case to be Horse of the Year.
Andrew Beyer on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program At the Races said that in his view, Maximum Security should be the Horse of the Year. In Beyer’s view, Maximum Security’s record on dirt, punctuated by his sparkling victory against older rivals in the Grade I Cigar Mile, warrants recognition of being voted Horse of the Year.
But my prediction is the majority of Eclipse Award voters will be impressed by what Bricks and Mortar accomplished to such an extent that he will be elected 2019 Horse of the Year.