We are not quite halfway through 2018 on the calendar, but with completion of the Belmont Stakes comes the unofficial break from the first half of the season to the next. With plenty of historic racing already in the books, let’s hand out the Mid-Season Awards to the horses that would win the hardware if the season ended today …
Three-Year-Old Male – Justify – Six races this year to begin his career, six wins, four of them Grade 1 victories, and the last three coming in a historic sweep of the Triple Crown — This colt may be on the fast track to all-time great status.
Three-Year-Old Filly – Monomoy Girl – If it wasn’t for Justify, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn, Ashland, and Rachel Alexandra would be in the Horse of the Year race. It’s still a few races off, but I cannot wait to see what she does against top older females.
Older Dirt Male – Accelerate – The son of Lookin At Lucky has made four starts this year, all in graded stakes, and is only a tough decision in Arkansas away from a perfect season. Easy wins in the Big Cap and Gold Cup give him the nod.
Older Dirt Female – Unique Bella – After a strange second-place finish in the Apple Blossom, this big, strong lady was back to herself with an impressive run in the Beholder Mile. Abel Tasman fired a warning shot Saturday at Belmont, but as of now, this one still leads the division.
Turf Male – Itsinthepost – This one may come as a surprise, and I really don’t expect the gelding to be there at the end of 2018, but in just looking at the first half of this year, his four graded stakes wins stand out in a division still ripe for the taking.
Turf Female – A Raving Beauty – Take your pick among a trio of lovely Chad Brown trained turf females. In the end, I gave this one the edge because of a perfect record in 2018, with two impressive graded stakes wins in New York.
Sprint Male – Mind Your Biscuits – With no clear leader in the division so far, I give the NY-bred the slight edge on the strength of his powerhouse rally to win in Dubai over X Y Jet and Roy H. His Met Mile near miss was a big performance, as well.
Sprint Female – Selcourt – A dominant winner in three stakes races at Santa Anita earlier this year, hopefully we see the talented daughter of Tiz Wonderful back to the races sooner rather than later.
Yes, I know it’s a little early for these, but let’s get an early start …
Two-Year-Old – Dream Maker – I absolutely loved what I saw from the son of Tapit in his career debut at Churchill Downs. After a poor break, the John Oxley homebred circled the field and won the maiden race for fun.
Two-Year-Old Filly – Shang Shang Shang – After a facile score at Keeneland in her debut, the daughter of Shanghai Bobby has trainer Wesley Ward very excited about taking on the males at Royal Ascot.
They may not be categories of the Eclipse Awards, but maybe they should be …
Marathon Man – Hoppertunity – He never could make up the necessary ground against Backyard Heaven in the Alysheba, but in his other two races this year, the 7-year-old rolled home in the Brooklyn and Tokyo City, both at 12 furlongs.
Miler – Bee Jersey – Going into the year, he had won only once in six starts, now he has won four straight, including a big win over Girvin in Texas, before winning a thriller over Mind Your Biscuits in the Met Mile.
And to no surprise at all …
Horse of the Year – Justify – Win the Triple Crown and you are Horse of the Year, it is as simple as that.
Photo of Justify courtesy of NYRA/Adam Mooshian