Welcome to the first in a series of articles titled “The Weekend Accolades,” in which we’ll look back on the previous week of racing and hand out a few informal awards to horses, trainers, jockeys, etc. that achieved notable feats in racing. We’ll start off this inaugural post with a set of four awards, each featuring a quick recap of the achievement that earned the accolade. Enjoy!
Veteran of the Week: Twilight Eclipse
After failing in ten previous attempts to win a grade I race, the six-year-old Twilight Eclipse finally secured his breakthrough top-level victory with a thrilling triumph in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Coming off a pair of narrow losses in grade II company at Gulfstream, Twilight Eclipse was sent off as the second choice in the wagering behind defending Man o’ War winner Imagining, but when that rival failed to bring his best form, Twilight Eclipse took advantage and wore down longshot War Dancer to win by a neck. Twilight Eclipse has now run twenty-four times during a lengthy career that began in June 2012 at Indiana Grand Race Course, but has gotten much better with age and seems to be in the best form of his career. What a horse!
Feel-Good Story of the Week: Bal a Bali’s Victory in the American Stakes
When Brazilian sensation Bal a Bali came down with laminitis last year, it looked as though his eagerly-anticipated campaign in the U.S. would be over before it even started. But the son of Put it Back fought back, overcame his hoof disease, returned to training, and picked up right where he left off by winning the American Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita. The performance was a very impressive one, as Bal a Bali settled in fifth behind slow fractions, then accelerated the final quarter-mile in a sharp :23 2/5 to win by a length over the very talented Talco. The victory brought his race record to an almost-perfect 12-for-13, and given the way he won the American, there’s little doubt that Bal a Bali will be adding many more victories to his stellar record in the future.
Jockey of the Week: Javier Castellano
It’s difficult to top the successful weekend experienced by Javier Castellano. On Saturday, he won the Man o’ War aboard Twilight Eclipse, the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) aboard Madefromlucky, and two other races at Belmont Park, then came back on Sunday and won an allowance race at Belmont and finished second by a head aboard Clearly Now in the Diablo Stakes. The two-time Eclipse award-winning jockey is in the midst of another great season, and if he keeps up the pace he has set thus far this season, a third Eclipse award may be waiting for him at the end of the year.
Upset of the Week: My Sweet Addiction in the Vanity Handicap
Coming off of three straight victories, including the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I), Warren’s Veneda was fully expected to defeat her three rivals in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita and was sent off at odds of 1-10. But after saving ground throughout and taking a brief lead at the top of the homestretch, Warren’s Veneda failed to draw away as expected and gave way late to finish third, beaten a length by My Sweet Addiction and a head by Gas Total. The winner, a five-year-old daughter of Tiznow, was kept on the outside by jockey Mike Smith while setting a slow pace, which left her with enough in the tank to fly home the final three furlongs in :36.69 to win the first stakes race of her career.