Kentucky racing in spotlight at Eclipse Awards

Wise Dan, owned by Morton Fink and trained by Charlie Lopresti, is a Horse of the Year favorite.
Wise Dan, owned by Morton Fink and trained by Charlie Lopresti, is a Horse of the Year favorite. Keeneland Photo

The Kentucky Thoroughbred racing circuit absorbed its share of blows in 2012, as race days were cut and stakes programs were hacked, leaving many to wonder about the future of the sport.

For all the ills that have plagued the state's signature industry, Saturday's Eclipse Awards ceremony figures to serve as a de facto tribute to the quality of horses it still produces and the aptitude of the horsemen who guide them.

When the winners in 17 horse and human categories are announced at the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park, Kentucky-based connections could be making several trips to the podium as they represent some of the heaviest favorites to claim horse racing's year-end honors.

The fact Kentucky-breds represent 23 of the 30 equine finalists isn't much of a shock given the longstanding strength of the Bluegrass breeding industry. That so many potential champions blossomed from those rooted primarily in the state, however, is the real rallying cry given the level of competition from other jurisdictions.

Morton Fink's homebred gelding Wise Dan, who is conditioned by Keeneland-based trainer Charlie Lopresti, is favored to sweep honors for champion turf male, champion older male and Horse of the Year — though he will have to fight off the Ian Wilkes-trained Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned in each of the latter two categories.

The Frankfort-based father-son duo of Fred and Buff Bradley have made their livelihoods off Kentucky racing and stand to be honored with their first champion as their homebred filly Groupie Doll could be a unanimous pick for champion female sprinter.

Few embody the local racing circuit like Louisville native Dale Romans, who has a strong chance to land his first Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer after a year that saw him condition Eclipse Award finalists Little Mike (champion turf male, champion older male), Shackleford (champion male sprinter), and Tapitsfly (champion turf female) among others.

"It does show that Kentucky still is very much a leader of great Thoroughbreds," said Buff Bradley, who trains Groupie Doll as well as being her co-owner and co-breeder. "I think it's great that everyone who did well in the Breeders' Cup had some connections to Kentucky. We represented well this year."

Eclipse Award finalists

Two-Year-Old Male: Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence

Two-Year-Old Filly: Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege

Three-Year-Old Male: Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Union Rags

Three-Year-Old Filly: Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing

Older Male: Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan

Older Female: Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta

Male Sprinter: The Lumber Guy, Shackleford, Trinniberg

Female Sprinter: Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection

Male Turf Horse: Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan

Female Turf Horse: Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora

Steeplechase Horse: Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire

Horse of the Year: Fort Larned, I'll Have Another, Wise Dan

Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., Reddam Racing LLC

Breeder: Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones

Trainer: Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans

Jockey: Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez

Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Angel Suarez


Eclipse Awards Ceremony

When: 8-10:30 p.m.

Where: Gulfstream Park

TV: HRTV, Racetrack Television Network,

Twitter: Follow along as Alicia Wincze Hughes tweets the winners live @horseracinghl during Saturday's broadcast