While the battle for Horse of the Year is expected to come down to a dramatic finish between Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame and champion mare Zenyatta, there were few surprises when divisional finalists were announced Thursday for the 2010 Eclipse Awards.
Record participation of 238 out of 251 voters (94.8 percent) representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters took part in this year's voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters' top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis.
Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first-place votes. The winners in all 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 40th annual ceremony on Jan. 17 in Miami.
As expected, Blame, Zenyatta, and three-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova were the three finalists for Horse of the Year honors.
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In addition to his victories in the Grade I Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicap, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred Blame handed Zenyatta her first loss in 20 career starts when he bested the daughter of Street Cry by a head in the $5 million Classic at Churchill Downs. The son of Arch is also a finalist for champion older male, where he is an overwhelming favorite.
Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider are also finalists in both the champion owner and champion breeder categories.
Before that loss, Zenyatta had won five Grade I races in 2010 to extend her streak to 19 straight victories. Regardless of whether she wins Horse of the Year, Zenyatta is almost certain to take home a third straight Eclipse Award for champion older female as she is a finalist in that category as well.
Zenyatta's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, are finalists for champion owner, while Zenyatta's trainer, John Shir-reffs, is a finalist for champion trainer along with Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert.
Pletcher, who led the nation in both earnings and graded stakes victories, is considered a strong pick to take home what would be his fifth Eclipse Award for leading trainer.
Goldikova captured her unprecedented third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile last fall in a season in which she won five Grade/Group I races — four of which were against males. Goldikova is also a finalist in the Female Turf category, which she won in 2009.
Other notable finalists included Preakness Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky for champion 3-year-old male. The son of Smart Strike is considered the favorite to become the first male horse since Spectacular Bid in 1978 and 1979 to be named both 2- and 3-year-old champion.
Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck leads the list of finalists for champion 3-year-old filly while Castleton Lyons' homebred Gio Ponti is a finalist for champion turf male, an honor he won in 2009 along with champion older male.
Some mild surprises were Devil May Care, who won two Grade I races and ran 10th in the Kentucky Derby, not being among the finalists for champion 3-year-old filly and Jerry Hollendorfer, who conditioned likely champion Blind Luck and was fourth in earnings for 2010, not making the ballot for leading trainer.
Sire Polish Navy dies at 27
Woodward Stakes winner and prominent sire Polish Navy has been euthanized in Georgetown following complications from hip surgery.
Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement facility president Michael Blowen said Thursday that the 27-year-old died after struggling to recover from hip surgery a few weeks ago.
Polish Navy was campaigned by the Phipps family and trained by Shug McGaughey, winning the Champagne and Cowdin Stakes as a 2-year-old in 1986, but a knee injury prevented him from running in the Triple Crown.
He still won the Woodward as a 3-year-old and placed in both the Travers Stakes and Marlboro Cup Invitational. He retired with seven wins in 12 starts and earned more than $1.1 million.
Polish Navy was the sire of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.