A common lament of Thoroughbred racing is that, too often, its equine stars are whisked away from the racetrack too soon. When the honorees for the 43rd Eclipse Awards are announced at Gulfstream Park on Saturday night, several connections can expect to be rewarded again for keeping their established runners in peak condition for another season.
As many as four finalists are slated to repeat as Eclipse Award champions with reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan at the head of the exclusive list.
Wise Dan, who was named champion turf male and champion older male last season en route to claiming Horse of the Year honors, is considered the overwhelming choice to take the top honor again after a season that saw him win six of seven starts including four Grade I races. Though Morton Fink's 7-year-old gelding could face some major competition for older male from fellow finalist Mucho Macho Man, it would be no shock if he is a unanimous pick to defend his turf male crown.
Despite losing four of seven starts in 2013, Royal Delta is considered an odds-on pick to be named champion older female for a second straight year, earning what would be her third consecutive Eclipse. The now-retired daughter of Empire Maker was also champion 3-year-old filly of 2011.
The 3-year-old filly division was pound-for-pound the toughest last season with Breeders' Cup Distaff heroine Beholder likely to upend four-time Grade I winner Princess of Sylmar in the divisional balloting. Beholder is seeking to become the first distaffer since Silverbulletday in 1998-99 to be named champion 3-year-old filly after winning juvenile honors the year before.
Frankfort-based trainer Buff Bradley thought he and his father, Fred, had the ultimate fairy tale last year when their homebred Groupie Doll took champion sprint female honors. Groupie Doll proved her storybook run had more to it as she defended her victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last November and is expected to win Eclipse Award No. 2 Saturday night.