The triumvirate that ruled Grade I racing in this country in 2003 headed finalists announced yesterday for Eclipse Awards, horse racing's version of the Academy Awards. Winners will be announced Jan. 26 at a blacktie gala in Hollywood, Fla.
Bobby Frankel, the trainer who set a record with 25 Grade I stakes wins; Jerry Bailey, the jockey who rode Frankel's best horses; and Juddmonte Farms, the breeder and owner of numerous Frankel standouts, were named finalists in their respective categories. The only finalists with current Maryland ties are Michael Gill for outstanding owner and Frank Stronach for top breeder.
Stronach is head of Magna Entertainment Corp., majority owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park. Gill, who lives in New Hampshire, dominated the owners' leader board with 425 wins and $9,236,530 in earnings. Of the more than 300 horses he campaigns around the country, about a third are stabled at Laurel and the Bowie Training Center.
Ramon Dominguez, the Maryland-based rider who led the country with 453 wins, was not named a finalist as top jockey. Joining Bailey as finalists are Edgar Prado, the former Maryland star now based in New York, and Patrick Valenzuela, who swept the five major California meet titles. Bailey will likely win his seventh Eclipse after setting records for stakes wins, Grade I stakes wins and earnings.
Ryan Fogelsonger, who won an Eclipse last year as top apprentice jockey while based in Maryland, is a finalist again in that category based on statistics compiled early in the year before losing his "bug," or apprentice's designation. Fogelsonger is now based in California.
Three finalists in every category - except one - were announced based on voting by members of the National Turf Writers Association, Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association. In a change from recent years, in an attempt to add drama to the Eclipse banquet, no finalists for Horse of the Year were announced, although Mineshaft, winner of seven races, including the Pimlico Special, is the leading contender.
Funny Cide, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is a finalist along with Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted in what is perhaps the marquee division, 3-year-old male. Congare e , Medaglia d 'Oro and Mineshaft are finalists for outstanding older male, the category that most often produces Horse of the Year.
Frankel didn't train Mineshaft, but he trained five horses who are finalists for awards (Aldebaran, Empire Maker, Heat Haze, Medaglia d'Oro and Sightseek). The California- based trainer set a record for most Grade I wins and earnings. He could win his fifth Eclipse statuette, breaking a tie with Laz Barrera and D. Wayne Lukas, trainers who have also won four apiece.
2-year-old female: Ashado, Halfbridled, Victory U.S.A.
2-year-old male: Action This Day, Birdstone, Cuvee
3-year-old female: Bird Town, Elloluv, Six Perfections
3-year-old male: Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted
Older female: Adoration, Azeri, Sightseek
Older male: Congaree, Medaglia d'Oro, Mineshaft
Sprinter: Aldebaran, Cajun Beat, Congaree
Female turf horse: Heat Haze, Islington, Six Perfections
Male turf horse: High Chaparral, Johar, Storming Home
Steeplechaser: McDynamo, Pelagos, Praise the Prince
Apprentice jockey: Eddie Castro, Pablo Fragoso, Ryan Fogelsonger
Jockey: Jerry Bailey, Edgar Prado, Patrick Valenzuela
Trainer: Bobby Frankel, Richard Mandella, Todd Pletcher
Breeder: Adena SpringsFStronach, Flaxman Holdings and Niarchos Family, Juddmonte Farms
Owner: Edmund Gann, Juddmonte Farms, Michael Gill