In the older female Eclipse Award category, two-time champion Royal Delta is the standout finalist, while other impressive mares Joyful Victory and Tiz Miz Sue attempt to make their cases with grade I accomplishments in 2013.
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.
Royal Delta, who was voted Eclipse Awards as outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2011 and the 2012 older female, looks likely to notch her third straight title by virtue of her three graded stakes victories last year, two of which were grade I.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott in 2013 for Besilu Stables, Royal Delta launched her campaign with a five-length score in the Sabin Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park and then finished second in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs following a freshening after a troubled trip to Dubai.
Aiming for a third Breeders' Cup—she won the Ladies' Classic (gr. I) in 2011 and 2012—the Empire Maker mare began her quest with back-to-back victories in the Delaware Handicap, which had been upgraded to grade I status, and the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I).
Royal Delta's attempt at a second straight Beldame Invitational Stakes (gr. I) at 1-5 odds was foiled by Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Princess of Sylmar, who prevailed by two lengths over her at the wire.
Sent to post as the 7-5 favorite in the six-horse BC Distaff field, Royal Delta and jockey Mike Smith stalked the early pace of Authenticity and appeared poised for a big run with five-eighths of a mile remaining before eventually finishing fourth in the race won by 3-year-old filly Beholder.
Royal Delta, who was retired from racing following the Distaff, is scheduled to be bred to top European sire Galileo for 2014. Bred by Palides Investments out of the graded stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, she compiled a career record of 12-5-1 from 22 starts and earnings of $4,811,126.
Other finalists Joyful Victory and Tiz Miz Sue are also career earners of more than $1 million.
Trained by Larry Jones for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, Joyful Victory prevailed in three of her five starts last year, all of which were at different tracks. She started the season with a score in the Houston Ladies' Stakes at Sam Houston Park, followed by decisive wins in the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park and Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. II) at Monmouth Park.
The daughter of Tapit out of Wild Lucy Black, by Wild Again closed her 2013 campaign with a third-place effort behind Beholder in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
CresRan's homebred Tiz Miz Sue won or placed in her four 2013 starts, all of which were stakes. Starting the season with a third-place effort in the listed Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the Steve Hobby-trained mare then won the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) and was second by a half-length in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), all at Oaklawn.
The performance that propelled the daughter of Tiznow out of Sue's Good News, by Woodman, into Eclipse consideration came in her final start of the season, the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), which she won impressively by a half-length over Authenticity.