Envelope Please: Eclipse Awards to be Announced Tonight

The Eclipse Awards, honoring achievement in American racing in 2006, will be announced later today when the annual dinner is held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

TVG will provide live coverage beginning at 10 p.m. (ET) and the winners in each category will be announced at bloodhorse.com immediately after each award is presented.

The finalists in the respective categories are:

As usual, the finalists were dominated by winners of Breeders’ Cup World Championships races.

The Breeders’ Cup has always played a significant role in deciding championships, and this year should be no different. It is possible that six of the nine equine (flat) champions will have earned their titles by winning on Breeders’ Cup day –- Street Sense (2-Year-Old Colt or Gelding), Dreaming of Anna (2-Year-Old Filly), Invasor (Older Male), Thor’s Echo (Sprinter), Miesque’s Approval (Male Turf), and Ouija Board (Female Turf).

Breeders’ Cup starters Bernardini, Fleet Indian, and the ill-fated Pine Island also are leading Eclipse contenders in the 3-Year-Old Male, Older Female, 3-Year-Old Female categories, respectively. The last two were injured in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), with Pine Island suffering a fatal injury. But the earlier accomplishments of the two fillies were enough to make them leading contenders in their respective divisions.

The 3-Year-Old Colt category has three strong finalists in Bernardini, winner of the grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup, Preakness, and Travers; Barbaro, winner of the grade I Kentucky Derby – Presented by Yum! Brands, and Florida Derby; and Discreet Cat, winner of the grade I Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile and grade II UAE Derby in Dubai, in which he trounced the older Invasor, a leading contender for Horse of the Year honors.

Discreet Cat also is a finalist in the Sprinter category, along with TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Thor’s Echo and Vosburgh (gr. I) winner Henny Hughes. The former enhanced his chances considerably by winning the grade I DeFrancis Memorial Handicap at Laurel following his Breeders’ Cup victory at Churchill Downs.

Also named as a finalist in two categories is Wait a While, whose brilliant victories on the grass in California and New York enabled her to make the top three in the 3-Year-old Filly and Female Turf categories.

Invasor’s victory over Bernardini in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I) makes him the favorite in the Older Male division, as well as Horse of Year. His victory in the Classic capped a four-race winning streak in which the Argentine-bred also captured the grade I Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, and Whitney Handicap.

The Male Turf division could go right down to the wire, with Miesque’s Approval, winner of the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), The Tin Man, winner of the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Clement Hirsch (gr. I), and English Channel, winner of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, United Nations Handicap, and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (all grade I), having a legitimate shot at the title.

The categories for leading owner and breeder, as well as jockey, could be close, with Darley Stable and Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stable both having unforgettable years. The Jacksons owned Barbaro and Showing Up, and also bred Barbaro and Europe’s leading miler, George Washington, who was owned by Coolmore. Other finalists are Adena Springs in the leading breeder category, and Shadwell Stable, owner of Invasor and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil, in the leading owner category.

Edgar Prado and Garrett Gomez waged a stiff battle all year for leading jockey honors, with Gomez winning the title with a strong December at Hollywood Park. And, of course, there is Russell Baze, who passed Laffit Pincay Jr. as the leading jockey of all time in number of wins.

The trainer category is strong with Todd Pletcher (who set an all-time single-season earnings record), Doug O’Neill, and Kiaran McLaughlin all having memorable years, with McLaughlin becoming only the second trainer ever (along with D. Wayne Lukas) to win a classic (Belmont Stakes) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year with two different horses.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a stronger apprentice jockey colony, with the amazing Julien Leparoux heading the finalists, along with Martin Garcia and Rosie Napravnik.

And finally, there is the indefatigable steeplechaser McDynamo, who is heavily favored to win his third Eclipse Award in the last four years. Mixed Up and Sur La Tete are the other finalists in the Steeplechasing category.