The Juddmonte Farms juggernaut of owner/breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah and prominently represented by trainer Bobby Frankel and jockey Jerry Bailey is in position to add to its large collection of Eclipse Awards when the annual black-tie dinner is held Jan. 26 at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla.
Juddmonte, voted breeder of the year in 1995, 2001, and 2002, is a finalist again in that category as well as for outstanding owner, which it won in 1992. Frankel, bidding for an unprecedented fifth Eclipse Award and his fourth in a row as outstanding trainer, is a finalist in that category again, and Bailey figures to be a shoe-in to win his seventh Eclipse statuette, more than any other jockey in the 33-year history of the awards.
Three horses bred and owned by Juddmonte are finalists in the equine categories: Empire Maker among 3-year-old males; Sightseek in the older female category; and Heat Haze among female turf runners. All three are trained by Frankel, who conditioned two other Eclipse finalists: older male Medaglia d'Oro and sprinter Aldebaran. One of Frankel's other major clients, Edmund Gann, is a finalist for outstanding owner.
Finalists were announced Jan. 5 in all categories except Horse of the Year, which will be kept under wraps until the awards ceremony. That is a departure from previous years, as is the voting process, which for the first time will be a popular vote among the three voting organizations: racing secretaries at National Thoroughbred Racing Association racetracks and employees of Equibase, the industry-owned data company that charts all North American races; members of the National Turf Writers Association; and employees of Daily Racing Form
Previously, each entity represented a bloc vote, which at times has led to controversial decisions when the person or horse with the most first-place votes did not win. In another change this year, voters were required to list in order their top three candidates in each category, instead of just one.
The change to a popular vote puts the balance of power in favor of the NTWA, which was represented by 128 votes. Daily Racing Form
cast 55 ballots, and the NTRA and Equibase combined for 51, 24 of which were employees of Equibase.
The Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
2-Year-Old Male: Action This Day, Birdstone, Cuvee
2-Year-Old Female: Ashado, Halfbridled, Victory U.S.A.
3-Year-Old Male: Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted
3-Year-Old Female: Bird Town, Elloluv, Six Perfections
Older Male: Congaree, Medaglia d'Oro, Mineshaft
Older Female: Adoration, Azeri, Sightseek
Sprinter: Aldebaran, Cajun Beat, Congaree
Male Turf Horse: High Chaparral, Johar, Storming Home
Female Turf Horse: Heat Haze, Islington , Six Perfections
Steeplechase: McDynamo, Pelagos , Praise the Prince
Owner: Edmund Gann, Juddmonte Farms, Michael Gill
Breeder: Adena Springs/Stronach Entities, Flaxman Holdings & Niarchos Family, Juddmonte Farms
Trainer: Robert Frankel, Richard Mandella, Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Edgar Prado, Jerry Bailey, Patrick Valenzuela
Apprentice Jockey: Eddie Castro, Pablo Fragoso, Ryan Fogelsonger
The Eclipse Awards are named after the18th-century racehorse and sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbys.