Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Woodbine Winners: A Review of Eclipse Award Notables from the 2009 Woodbine Meet

The 2009 Eclipse Award winners were announced Monday night in a gala ceremony at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire in Beverley Hills, California. In an announcement that shocked and pleasantly surprised this writer, Rachel Alexandra was named Horse of the Year by a count of 130-99 over the magnificent mare Zenyatta.

Details of owner Jess Jackson's speech were posted on Bloodhorse.com.

“This contest was so close and I don’t know the count, but I know that either horse deserved this award,” Jackson said. “It’s hard for me to accept it without sharing it with all the people that made this possible including (jockey) Calvin Borel.”

“Together Rachel and Zenyatta won nine grade I races; together they conquered four of the best groups of males who were running last year,” he continued. “If you think about their achievements, individually or collectively, there has never been a year like this one for fillies."

Well said Mr. Jackson. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta stole the headlines all year long and it bodes well for racing that both will return to race in 2010.

A crowd of admirers congregate around Rachel Alexandra at Saratoga

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Saratoga when Rachel Alexandra captured the Woodward Stakes. I took a slew of photos and you can read the recap in my report titled Photo Essay: Rachel Alexandra Romps At Saratoga.

Rachel Alexandra's conditioner Steve Asmussen won the Eclipse for Champion Trainer. Asmussen notched 650 wins from 2,944 starts to top the North American trainer standings for the third consecutive year. The Texan captured 52 of those wins at Woodbine including his 5000th career victory.

Asmussen’s runners earned $21,876,405 in North American earnings in 2009 which also was good enough for first place in the standings. Asmussen's charges earned $1,951,996 at Woodbine.

Trainer Steve Asmussen under the lights at Woodbine

I had a chance to speak with Asmussen at Woodbine this past September as the trainer reflected on Rachel Alexandra's success in a post titled Interview: A Chance Encounter With Steve Asmussen.

Julien Leparoux won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in a landslide over Garrett Gomez. Leparoux won 247 races from 1,286 starters with earnings of $18,560,565. The Frenchman captured eight Grade One races including a dramatic win by DQ in the Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine.

Julien Leparoux and Just As Well on their way to the gate at Woodbine

A recap and video of the Norther Dancer Stakes can be found in this post entitled Photo Essay: Ventura Victorious in the Woodbine Mile.

If that seems an odd post title for a report on Just as Well, it's because the Northern Dancer was the under card of the Woodbine Mile won by Juddmonte Farms fab filly Ventura.

Juddmonte Farms took the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder and together with trainer Bobby Frankel had a memorable 2009 campaign at Woodbine. As noted above, Ventura dominated the boys in the Woodbine Mile and in the marquee day of the Woodbine meet Champs Elysees went out a winner as champion of the Canadian International.

The Champ stares down the camera after a brilliant Grade 1 victory to end his career

A full report on the International win can be read in this post entitled Photo Essay: International Day at Woodbine As Champs Elysees Goes Out On Top .

Woodbine tradition holds that the silks belonging to the owners of the Queen's Plate, Woodbine Mile and Canadian International will be flown in the winners circle. When Bobby Frankel passed away, I wrote a post regarding this timely tribute entitled Two Flags For Frankel.

Two Flags Fly High for Frankel

Honourable mentions on the night include the Reade Baker trained Biofuel who received one vote for Champion Two-Year-Old Filly which was won by She Be Wild.

The imposing Biofuel takes aim at the camera

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who broke his maiden at Woodbine and brought much notoriety to local trainer/owner David Cotey captured four votes for Champion Three-Year-Old Male won by Belmont winner Summer Bird.

Mine That Bird broke his maiden at Woodbine for David Cotey

The above-mentioned Woodbine Mile winner Ventura popped up with six votes for Female Sprinter and 41 votes for Female Turf Horse won by Informed Decision and Goldikova respectively.

Thanks for the memories Ventura

Catch her if you can...Ventura out for a gallop on a gloomy Woodbine morning

Adena Springs (44 Votes) and Eugene Melnyk (2 Votes)factored into the voting for Outstanding Breeder won by Juddmonte. Adena Springs, owned by the Stronach family, have a huge presence in Ontario with stallions Aplhabet Soup, Giant Gizmo, Milwaukee Brew, Olmodovar, Silent Name and Sligo Bay all standing locally.

Bay to Bay - a daughter of Adena's Sligo Bay won Woodbine's Natalma Stakes

Eugene Melnyk, of Toronto (and Barbados and owner of the Ottawa Senators among other holdings) is frequently found in the Woodbine winners circle. Top turfer Sterwins is one of many runners to have success here in 2009 when he defeated Rahy's Attorney in the Connaught Cup.

G3 Connaught Cup winner Sterwins is just one of Melnyk's many successes

One other voting item worth noting is the four votes for Michael Straight in the Apprentice Jockey category. Straight was injured in a terrible accident at Arlington Park and is fighting the long hard battle to recovery. Writer Jay Hovdey launched the campaign to honour Straight in his Jay Hovdey Blog.

"And second, in voting for Michael Straight, I felt like I was honoring an apprentice who gave up more for trying to live the dream of a riding career than ever should be required. He is 23 and he can't walk."

Compassionate words from Hovdey. Those wishing for an update on Straight can browse to the Michael Straight Get Well Card on Facebook.

All things considered, Woodbine punters had an opportunity to watch some fantastic horses in 2009. Thank you to the Paulick Report for the following 2009 Eclipse Award vote count.

Two-Year-Old Male (Name, First-Place Votes)
Lookin At Lucky, 209; Vale of York, 17; Buddy’s Saint, 2; Noble’s Promise, 2; D’Funnybone, 1; Jackson Bend, 1.

Two-Year-Old Filly
She Be Wild, 171; Blind Luck, 41; Hot Dixie Chick, 17; Awesome Maria, 1; Biofuel, 1; Tapitsfly, 1.

Three-Year-Old Male
Summer Bird, 225; Mine That Bird, 4; Blame, 1; I Want Revenge, 1; No Vote, 1.

Three-Year-Old Filly
Rachel Alexandra, 232.

Older Male
Gio Ponti, 184; Einstein (BRZ), 18; Kodiak Kowboy, 16; Macho Again, 5; Furthest Land, 2; Rail Trip, 2; Well Armed, 1; Voter Abstentions, 4.

Older Female
Zenyatta, 231; Icon Project, 1.

Female Sprinter
Informed Decision, 222; Ventura, 6; Game Face, 1; Indian Blessing, 1; Music Note, 1; Diamondrella, 1.

Male Sprinter
Kodiak Kowboy, 118; Zensational, 54; Dancing in Silks, 43; Fabulous Strike, 9; California Flag, 6; Vineyard Haven, 1; Voter Abstentions, 1.

Male Turf Horse
Gio Ponti, 206; Conduit, 22; Presious Passion, 3; Court Vision, 1.

Female Turf Horse
Goldikova (IRE), 172; Ventura, 41; Magical Fantasy, 7; Midday (GB), 7; Pure Clan, 3; Forever Together, 1; Voter Abstentions, 1;

Steeplechase Horse
Mixed Up, 209; Red Letter Day, 3; Voter Abstentions, 20.

Horse of the Year
Rachel Alexandra, 130; Zenyatta, 99; Voter Abstentions, 2; No Vote, 1.

Outstanding Owner
Godolphin Racing, 61; Mr. and Mrs. Jerome S. Moss, 56; Juddmonte Farms, 40; WinStar Farm, 38; Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, 15; Augustin Stables, 7; Michael Gill, 6; Darley Stable, 3; Zayat Stables, 2; Heiligbrodt Racing Stables, 1; Midwest Thoroughbreds, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.

Outstanding Breeder
Juddmonte Farms, 157; Adena Springs, 44; Dolphus Morrison, 16; Maverick Productions, Ltd., 3; WinStar Farm, 3; Eugene Melnyk, 2; Darley Stable, 1. Voter Abstentions, 6.

Outstanding Trainer
Steve Asmussen, 130; John Shirreffs, 57; Jonathan Sheppard, 19; Bob Baffert,10; Saeed bin Suroor, 5; Bobby Frankel, 4; Jerry Hollendorfer, 2; Hal Wiggins, 2; Todd Pletcher, 2; Voter Abstentions, 1.

Outstanding Jockey
Julien Leparoux, 122; Garrett Gomez,46; Ramon Dominguez, 45; Calvin Borel, 13; Mike Smith, 3; Kent Desormeaux, 2; Russell Baze, 1.

Apprentice Jockey
Christian Santiago Reyes, 93; Luis Saez, 48; Luis Batista, 47; Inez Karlsson, 8; Michael Straight, 4; Omar Moreno, 3; Jose Vega, 3; Tony Maragh, 2; Casey Papineau, 1; Angel Serpa, 1; Voter Abstentions, 21, No Vote, 1.

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