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Eclipse Awards Finalists Named

Times Staff Writer

Finalists for horse racing’s annual Eclipse Awards were announced Thursday and five of last year’s winners are in a position to repeat.

Ashado, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2004, her trainer Todd Pletcher and regular rider John Velazquez, as well as Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs breeding organization and steeplechase horse Hirapour, could all be winners again when the awards are presented Jan. 23 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, wasn’t as effective in 2005 as she was the previous year but still won three Grade I races in New York. The other two finalists in the older female category are Pleasant Home, the upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Stellar Jayne.

Pletcher and Velazquez set earnings records last year. The trainer’s stable banked nearly $21 million, and Velazquez’s mounts earned more than $24 million.

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The other finalists for top trainer are Bobby Frankel, who trained three Eclipse finalists, and Steve Asmussen, who led the country in victories with 474. Jerry Bailey and Edgar Prado are the other finalists for top jockey.

Adena Springs, which has farms in Florida and Kentucky, is in the running for top breeder, along with Edward Evans and Live Oak Stud.

Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, is all but a lock to be named 3-year-old champion over Kentucky Derby upsetter Giacomo and Travers winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Flower Alley.

Afleet Alex, who was retired after his seven-length victory in the Belmont Stakes last June 11, also is a leading candidate for horse of the year, along with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam.

Saint Liam also is a finalist in the older male division with Rock Hard Ten, the Strub Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap winner, and Borrego, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in New York before finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

All three of the finalists trained by Frankel have been retired. The Hall of Famer trained two of the three contenders in the female turf division -- Intercontinental, who led wire-to-wire in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Megahertz, a multiple stakes winner in California. The other finalist is the Japanese-bred Cesario.

Frankel also trained Leroidesanimaux, whose eight-race winning streak ended in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Before finishing second as the favorite in the BC Mile, the Brazilian-bred had won the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga and the Atto Mile at Woodbine near Toronto.

Artie Schiller, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and Shirocco, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, are the other finalists for older male turf horse.

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Despite his loss in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, his first after beginning his career with 10 consecutive wins, Lost In The Fog is the front-runner for the Eclipse in the sprint division. His competition includes Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Silver Train and the ill-fated Saratoga County, who won all three of his races last year, including the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai, before he became ill and died.

Stevie Wonderboy, the hero of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after his win in the Del Mar Futurity, is favored to win the 2-year-old award over Henny Hughes and First Samurai.

Similarly, Folklore, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after a 14-length romp in the Grade I Matron at Belmont, is expected to give trainer Wayne Lukas his seventh 2-year-old filly champion. Other finalists are Adieu, winner of the Frizette and Spinaway, and Wild Fit, Del Mar Debutante winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up.

The contenders for top owner are Michael Gill, who led the country in wins and earnings; Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, and Eugene and Laura Melnyk’s Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.

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Besides Hirapour, the steeplechase finalists are McDynamo and Sur La Tete, and the candidates for top apprentice jockey are Channing Hill, Justin Stein and Emma-Jayne Wilson.


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