While the NTRA, DRF and NTWA have not released nominations for this year’s Eclipse Awards yet, and probably won’t until January, let me respectfully quash one potential candidate right now—the American Champion Female Turf Horse is not, and should not be, Goldikova.
Goldikova is a great turf filly, no doubt about it—her Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile win over Kip Deville was nothing less than breathtaking. However—and this is my grouse with the Eclipses—one race does not a champion make, particularly an American champion. There is the rub. She ran exactly one race on North American soil, albeit against males which may give her accomplishment additional significance (then again, whose to say the filly and mare BC turfsters were not a better quality group than the male turf milers?). However, let the Europeans give her a Cartier Award. The Eclipse should be a reward for the best horse campaigned on American soil. That would be Forever Together.
Forever Together not only captured the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but also the G1 Diana at Saratoga and G1 First Lady at Keeneland (where she defeated Precious Kitten, among others). She also finished third twice: to eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint victress Ventura and Lady of Venice in the G1 Just a Game at Belmont, and to J’Ray and Callwood Dancer in the G2 Canadian at Woodbine. She began her summer winning the non-graded Reluctant Guest Stakes over a yielding Arlington turf with Earlie Fires up on Preakness day. This mare has done nothing but improve as the year progressed, stretching out farther each time and attempting races at geographically diverse tracks—she began the year in an AOC at Gulfstream. Seven races in six states or provinces—Florida, Illinois, New York, Ontario, Kentucky and California—with four wins and two thirds. Unlike Goldikova who has yet to win past 1600m (one mile), Forever Together has proven to be a stayer over 10 furlongs, a feat itself that should be rewarded.
To be honest, I wish I could be advocating Mauralakana for this honor, but her connections probably took on one too many races this year. Still, what a fantastic season for a mare purchased last November as breeding stock! In March, she won the G3 Very One and finished second to the outstanding Hostess in the G3 Orchid at Gulfstream before capturing the non-graded Mairzy Doates at Calder. Spring in New York brought wins over Hostess in both the G2 Sheepshead Bay and G2 New York, and then her first G1 in the Beverly D at Arlington. Her second-place finish to Dynaforce in the G1 Flower Bowl prefaced her crushingly disappointing sixth-place finish in the BC F&M Turf. Not the perfect way to end a career, but Mauralakana should be one of the Eclipse finalists as well.
However, in terms of G1 victories and an accomplished campaign that stretched literally the length and breadth of this country, Forever Together has earned her title as American Champion Female Turf Horse for 2008. I hope Eclipse voters are wise enough to make that distinction and do the right thing.