Game On Dude became only the second horse in history to sweep California's three grade I handicaps.

Game On Dude became only the second horse in history to sweep California's three grade I handicaps.

Benoit Photo

Uncertainty in Older Male Eclipse Category

Finalists are defending champ Wise Dan, Mucho Macho Man, and Game On Dude.

After sweeping an Eclipse Award Triple Crown last year, Wise Dan once again is looking to take home the awards for Horse of the Year, Grass Male, and Older Male.

Last Year, the son of Wiseman's Ferry defeated Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned  for the Older Male award, which traditionally is given to a dirt horse. This year he again attempts to knock off the Classic winner in Mucho Macho Man , as well as the persistent Game On Dude, who for the second straight year severely compromised his chances by failing dismally in the Classic.

Winners in the 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The ceremony will air live on HRTV.

No one really has a clue how the voting will go this year as Wise Dan, off his impressive string of victories at a mile on turf on top of his brilliant campaign last year, has developed quite a fan following. That has resulted in him being showered with Eclipse Awards.

However, because many expected a more ambitious campaign for a defending Horse of the Year, a horse like Mucho Macho Man, who has already won the Vox Populi Award for his popularity with the public, could very well take the award away from Wise Dan off his victories in the BC Classic and grade I Awesome Again Stakes, and a solid third in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I).

Although Mucho Macho Man won the biggest race in America, his campaign, which was cut short in the middle of the year by injury, could not rival on paper the year turned in by Game On Dude, who became only the second horse in history to sweep California's three grade I handicapsthe Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classicas well as winning two grade II stakes and just getting nipped by Will Take Charge  in the grade I Clark Handicap.

But Game On Dude, as he did last year, ran an inexplicably poor race in the BC Classic, and many feel he was beating up on inferior horses in California all year.

So, will it be Wise Dan, winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) as well as five other graded stakes, seeking his sixth Eclipse Award in two years; the popular Mucho Macho Man, who defeated the best dirt horses in America, as well as a top-class colt from Europe, in an epic Breeders' Cup Classic; or Game On Dude for his accomplishments throughout the year and his historical sweep, in which he captured the Big Cap and Pacific Classic in record romps?