Perhaps no Eclipse Award category overflowed with more talent than among the 3-year-old fillies of 2013. As a group, they performed admirably against each other and then went out and defeated the best of their older counterparts.
All three finalists—Beholder, Close Hatches, and Princess of Sylmar—met each other on the racetrack twice, in the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar crossed paths one other time, in the April 6 Gazelle Stakes (gr. II).
Each result gave a reason to vote for any of them. If they had come along in different years, all three might have snagged an Eclipse in this division.
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.
B. Wayne Hughes' Beholder won the big, end-of-the-year dance, the Distaff. Trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, she not only waltzed off with a victory against Close Hatches (second) and Princess of Sylmar (sixth), she defeated the probable champion older female, Royal Delta (fourth).
Except for her first outing of the year, when the daughter of Henny Hughes was harboring a throat ulcer, Beholder owned California, with victories in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), Torrey Pines Stakes, and Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I).
Beholder lost the Kentucky Oaks to Princess of Sylmar. It was an eventful trip for the California filly who tossed jockey Garrett Gomez en route to the gate and then got bumped at the start.
The Oaks marked the emergence of Princess of Sylmar as a major player. After surprising the field at nearly 39-1, she added the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I), something no filly had ever accomplished and certainly championship-worthy. In the Beldame Invitational (gr. I), she tackled her elders and defeated Royal Delta.
Principal owner Ed Stanco and trainer Todd Pletcher could have wrapped up for the year. But as true sportsmen, they sent the Majestic Warrior filly to California for the Breeders' Cup, where she stumbled at the gate and didn't like the surface. Jockey Javier Castellano didn't push her when he realized she wasn't going to be close.
Juddmonte Farms' Close Hatches beat everybody but Beholder in the Distaff, and her record against Princess of Sylmar stood at 2-1, beginning with a victory over that filly in the Gazelle.
Bill Mott, another Hall of Fame trainer, also sent Close Hatches, a daughter of First Defence, out for emphatic wins in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) and Cotillion Stakes (gr. I).