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Jan 08, 2015

Up the Backstretch: The easy and hard of the Eclipse finalists

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - The finalists have been announced for the 2014 Eclipse Awards. Of the 10 major thoroughbred categories, excluding steeplechase, there are some that are slam dunks and others that are toss ups.

The easiest winner will be Untapable as champion 3-year-old filly of 2014. The filly was unbeatable versus other fillies and solidified her position with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff versus older females.

Take Charge Brandi was a longshot coming into the Breeders' Cup but used her win in the Juvenile Fillies race to propel her to two more wins before the year closed. She comes into 2015 as the leading 3-year-old filly with an Eclipse Award too.

Dayatthespa won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and thus got herself an Eclipse Award as champion Female Turf Horse. Her male counterpart will be fellow Breeders' Cup winner Main Sequence who was undefeated in four starts, including the Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

Had the Eclipse Award voting taken place before Labor Day, Close Hatches would have been a runaway winner. She failed to win her last two starts, including the Distaff, but neither of the other two finalists, Dayatthespa and Don't Tell Sophia, mounted a strong enough second half to wrest away the honor.

Goldencents isn't a true sprinter. He wins at a mile, having won the last two Breeders' Cup Miles, and was never worse than second in five starts in 2014. He gets the nod for the Eclipse Award as champion Male Sprinter.

Breeders' Cup winner Judy the Beauty had four wins from five starts at four different tracks. Artemis Agrotera had three wins sandwiched between two losses, including a seventh in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Sweet Reason also failed in the Breeders' Cup allowing Judy the Beauty to capture the Eclipse Award as champion Female Sprinter.

Main Sequence is a finalist in three categories: Male Turf, Older Male and Horse of the Year. He gets the Male Turf nod based mainly on his Breeders' Cup Turf victory and four Grade I victories. However, I'm not going with him as Older Male champion. That honor should go to Palace Malice who won his first four starts of 2014 against the best handicap runners available. Wise Dan gets shutout from the Eclipse Awards after two straight years of three honors each.

Freshmen thoroughbreds of championship caliber rarely race very often. American Pharoah had three starts, Hootenanny and Texas Red each had five starts. I like horses that race more than not. Hootenanny won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf after two starts in Europe where he won and finished second. Texas Red took the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at 13-1 after finishing third to American Pharoah in a stakes. American Pharoah was injured and unable to go in the Juvenile but he gets the edge for the Eclipse Award.

That leaves Horse of the Year and 3-year-old champion.

Bayern and California Chrome are joined as Horse of the Year finalists by Main Sequence with Shared Belief rounding out the 3-year-old category.

Horse of the Year will go to a 3-year-old, the same 3-year-old will, of course, garner the Eclipse Award for that division's title.

California Chrome won his first five starts of 2014, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, followed by a fourth in the Belmont Stakes. He failed versus Bayern in the Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic but came back with a nice victory on the Turf in Del Mar's Hollywood Derby.

Shared Belief suffered just one defeat in 2014, finishing fourth in the Classic to Bayern. Please, no debates about the start of the race.

Bayern posted wins in impressive fashion in the Haskell, Woody Stephens and the two previously mentioned stakes. For those accomplishments Bayern is 2014 Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old.

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