A year after sweeping two divisional honors en route to Horse of the Year accolades, champion Wise Dan is in position for a historic repeat. It was revealed Wednesday he will again contend in all three categories when finalists for the 2013 Eclipse Awards were announced.
Morton Fink's homebred gelding joined rare company last season when he was named champion older male, champion turf male and Horse of the Year, becoming the first horse since John Henry in 1981 to win three Eclipse Awards in the same year.
Along with being a finalist in those divisions again, the 7-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding is the favorite to defend his Horse of the Year crown over fellow finalists Mucho Macho Man, winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic, and multiple Grade I winner Will Take Charge.
Of the 272 eligible voters representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters and Daily Racing Form, 249 (91.5 percent) 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.
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Winners in all 17 categories will be announced Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Charlie LoPresti, Wise Dan won six of seven starts in 2013 including Grade I triumphs in the Maker's 46 Mile, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Woodbine Mile and a repeat win in the Breeders' Cup Mile. His lone loss came when the chestnut gelding ran second to Silver Max in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October when the race was taken off the turf course because of rain.
Mucho Macho Man, who edged Will Take Charge by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Classic, was also named a finalist in the older male category along with multiple Grade I winner Game On Dude. Thanks in part to his victory over Game On Dude in the Grade I Clark Handicap in November, Will Take Charge is viewed as a slam-dunk choice over fellow finalists Orb and Palace Malice in the 3-year-old male category.
Will Take Charge would become the first Eclipse Award winner for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas since Folklore took champion 2-year-old filly honors in 2005 and his 25th overall.
Though Mucho Macho Man could pull the upset in the older male ranks, Wise Dan is considered a lock to take home champion turf male again where his competition is multiple Grade I winner Point of Entry and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Magician.
Nicholasville-based Ken and Sarah Ramsey are expected to have their record-setting year cemented with a pair of Eclipse Award honors. The Ramseys are finalists for both owner and breeder categories, leading the nation statistically in both.
Powered by homebred offspring from their stallion Kitten's Joy — who led the general sire list for 2013 — the Ramseys led all owners in earnings, stakes wins and graded stakes victories last season.
"It's the year of the Kitten," Ken Ramsey told HRTV after the finalists were announced. "There are a lot of moving parts to the operation but (Kitten's Joy) is the centerpiece that made it all possible."
Groupie Doll, the reigning champion female sprinter for her trainer/co-breeder Buff Bradley, is a favorite for that honor again having won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint for a second consecutive year in November.
In what was widely considered one of the best divisions all year, Breeders' Cup Distaff heroine Beholder stands as the likely choice to be named champion 3-year-old filly over four-time Grade I winner Princess of Sylmar and multiple Grade I winner Close Hatches. Beholder was also named champion 2-year-old filly for 2012.
While most finalists were expected, there were some notable omissions. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who was second in the nation with 28 graded stakes wins in 2013, was not a finalist in an extremely deep race for top jockey, losing out to Gary Stevens, Joel Rosario and Javier Castellano.
Dank, winner of the Grade I Beverly D. and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, is the favorite to be named champion turf female but is not among the finalists for champion older female. Those finalists are defending divisional champion Royal Delta, Tiz Miz Sue and Joyful Victory.
Missing from the 3-year-old male finalists was multiple Grade I winner Goldencents, who defeated older horses when he captured the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in November.
The complete 2013 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
Horse of the Year: Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, Wise Dan
Two-Year-Old Male: Havana, New Year's Day, Shared Belief
Two-Year-Old Filly: Chriselliam, Ria Antonia, She's a Tiger
Three-Year-Old Male: Orb, Palace Malice, Will Take Charge
Three-Year-Old Filly: Beholder, Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar
Older Male: Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man, Wise Dan
Older Female: Joyful Victory, Royal Delta, Tiz Miz Sue
Male Sprinter: Points Offthebench, Sahara Sky, Secret Circle
Female Sprinter: Dance to Bristol, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection
Male Turf Horse: Magician, Point of Entry, Wise Dan
Female Turf Horse: Dank, Laughing, Mizdirection
Steeplechase Horse: Divine Fortune, Gustavian, Italian Wedding
Owner: Juddmonte Farms, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Breeder: Adena Springs, Morton Fink, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey
Trainer: Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, Gary Stevens
Apprentice Jockey: Victor Carrasco, Manuel Franco, Edgard Zayas