The Eclipse Awards are of course the cream of the Thoroughbred awards crop. But before we see what’s in the big envelope, let’s take a look at some ciphering by a hillbilly turf writer. How did we add up the points in each respective category?…That’s why we don’t wear shoes…
THE BEAR REPELLENT – When I was just a kid my Uncle Onzie told me never to be scared about going into the woods. I said “what if I run up on a bear?” He told me “don’t fret, if you see one just reach back in your pants, grab a handful of dooty and throw it in his mouth…he will leave you alone.” I said “what if it’s not there?” He quickly replied “Son, if you see a bear don’t worry, it’ll be there”. As the 2017 season unfolded it was obvious one of the top conditioners was always there in his customary place on big race days…the winner’s circle. Pegasus Cup…BAM!…Dubai World Cup…Boom!…Kentucky Oaks…Biff!…Gold Cup at Santa Anita…Boo Ya!…Pacific Classic…Bada Bing!…Travers Stakes…Bombdiggiity!…And that is just to name a few. One thing you could be sure of in 2017 was the overwhelming presence of Bob Baffert. The hall of famer showed everyone why he is the best at getting his talent ready for the biggest days…again. Proven time after time, Baffert was dependable and did what he does best, win.
COUNTRY HARD BALL – Way before things got all grown up with thriving metropolises, communities would band together on Sunday afternoons and see who was the best on the baseball diamond. With pride on the line, whoever was hurling would usually bring the cheese. Forget about fooling old Willie from Walter Hill, we just gonna blow it by him. Irap came into the 2017 Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland winless for his career. Trainer Doug O’Neill had won the Kentucky Derby in 2016 with Nyquist, but most thought this runner was just showing up to be seen. Going off at 31 to 1, this son of Tiznow was about as respected as a baseball player in blue jeans. O’Neill knew his charge was maturing and had a real chance here. Running just off an early pace, Irap reached way back and cut loose the hometown heater. As he entered the far turn under jockey Julien Leparoux, Irap said here it comes, catch up to it if you can. Powering into the home stretch at Keeneland like the Auburntown Asiago, Irap blew past a talented field and became the first maiden to win the prestigious Bluegrass. Doug O’Neill and Irap played like a country boy on the hill. They toed the rubber and then flung that heater past everybody!
THE DAISY DUKES – Remember that TV show from the early 1980’s that featured some short shorts on a leggy female? Meant to accentuate the beauty of some female attributes, they certainly turned that trick and created a fashionable frenzy that is still popular today. If we want to talk pretty legs, we have to start with Forever Unbridled. Displaying a furious turn of foot down the homestretch, this Dallas Stewart trained daughter of Unbridled’s Song went undefeated in 2017 and did so in a jaw dropping way. She may have had only three starts, but they were at different tracks, (Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Del Mar) and saw her defeat top competition in all three including the speedy Songbird. Her powerful performance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was prettier than a pair of suntanned legs stretching up through those cut-off blue jeans. Forever Unbridled certainly turned some heads…like a pair of Daisy Dukes in a barbershop.
MOONSHINE MAGIC – Is that mountain dew mixture dripping off cousin Joe Bob’s still magical or what? Well, there have been stories about men drinking that elixir and then becoming capable of super-human feats…or so they thought. When shooting the shine amazing things are thought to be possible…and sometimes they are. Gun Runner began the year with one grade 1 victory and a bunch of competitive finishes against top competition. After winning the grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn Park and finishing a very game second in the Dubai World Cup, this four-year old son of Candy Ride drank from the still and rattled off four very impressive grade 1 wins to finish the year. Thought to be a very talented three-year old, the Steve Asmussen trained colt has matured into a monster in 2017. Running way better than the competition east of the Mississippi in the Stephen Foster, the Whitney, and the Woodward, Gun Runner indulged in a two glugger and went west for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He didn’t know that a hot early pace was supposed to be his undoing. As it turned out the white lightning carried him over the Del Mar dirt in dominating fashion. Gun Runner proved to be much the best at the Cup against some of the world’s finest. Was it the liquid courage or his furiously fast front-running style that made the magic?…I think you know the answer.