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Jan 21, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The Eclipse Awards have come and gone and this has ended two years which saw much scrutiny over who would win Horse of the Year because the popular ZENYATTA was a finalist in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 she lost the award to RACHEL ALEXANDRA who clearly had the better year on the racetrack. In 2010, there were three finalists, GOLDIKOVA who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile for the third straight year in 2010 but was never a real threat as for the Horse of the Year. ZENYATTA and BLAME were the other two. There seemed to be a split down the middle from those who felt ZENYATTA was the winner and those who felt it should go to BLAME. My feeling was that BLAME should win horse of the year, he beat ZENYATTA on the racetrack in their only head to head meeting and only had one other loss for the year. However, the voting went to ZENYATTA who had 128 votes to BLAME’s 102; GOLDIKOVA somehow got 5 votes but either way it wouldn’t have affected the outcome anyway. ZENYATTA proved her greatness in her only loss to BLAME and now she has her Horse of the Year title, let’s hope this year’s Horse of the Year goes back to who was the best on the racetrack and not who was the most popular.

            In the outstanding jockey category the winner was Ramon Dominguez who more than doubled up runner-up Garret Gomez with a 124-60 vote while John Velazquez checked in third with 32 votes. Dominguez who has been a year around rider in New York now for a few years has proved that physically and mentally he is the best out there. He rides each race like it is the Kentucky Derby, always trying for a better spot even if his horse can’t win. He is very classy, last year taking off of two horses in the final Grade I of the year as to not upset either of the connections. Expect another big year for Dominguez as he is already leading the inner track jockeys by a large margin.

            In the older male category it was unanimous as BLAME took all 238 votes as he was clearly the top older male in the country and probably should have been Horse of the Year.

            In the older female category it was almost the same as ZENYATTA was clearly the top older female with 237 votes to 1 for GOLDIKOVA. The outstanding trainer award went to Todd Pletcher. Always at the top of the list when it comes to trainers, Pletcher finally got his Kentucky Derby in 2010 when SUPER SAVER scored under Calvin Borel. He also scored in three Breeders’ Cup races to cement his title. The voting went 168 for Pletcher, 28 John Shirreffs (the trainer of ZENYATTA) and 17 for Jerry Hollendorfer. Pletcher is poised to have another big year as he has the winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby in UNCLE MO.         

            Speaking of UNCLE MO he was a very easy winner garnering 236 votes with 1 vote going to BOYS AT TOSCONOVA and 1 also going to PLUCK, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. UNCLE MO is in Florida right now preparing for his first start of the year which is expected to come in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12th. He is training at Palm Meadows training facility in Florida.

            The top two year old filly went to AWESOME FEATHER in just as easy fashion taking down 235 votes to 2 for TURBULENT DESCENT and just 1 for MORE THAN REAL. On an unfortunate note she has a problem with a tendon that will keep her sidelined for the major early races of the season and possibly her career.

            The top three year old male went to LOOKIN AT LUCKY who was also a clear cut winner. An improving sort at the end of the season it is unfortunate that he was retired because of was in line for a very big year. He will enter stud in 2011 at Asford Stud, his fee will start at $35,000. Top three year old filly went to BLIND LUCK who scored 237 votes to 1 for NO SUCH WORD. She is training back for a return as a four year old and it should make for a very exciting year.

            As I sit here writing this we have another six inches of snow on the ground here in New York. Spring can’t come soon enough as we look forward to the Kentucky Derby Trail with the very exciting UNCLE MO leading the way. This should be a great year for racing and especially in New York with the VLT’s coming in. Looking forward to the next few months.

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