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Naylor locks down Eclipse Award finalists for steeplechase division

Plum Pretty makes 3-year-old fillies' list

Posted: January 10, 2012 4:54 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2012 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

TAX RULING CARRIED Xavier Aizpuru to victory in last November’s $100,000 Colonial Cup steeplechase, making the 8-year-old gelding the only horse in the National Steeplechase Association ranks to win a pair of Grade I chases in 2011.

There are two certainties as to the 2011 Eclipse Award winner for steeplechasing. First, it will be an Irish-bred gelding. Second, it will be owned by Irv Naylor.
Defending Colonial Cup champion Tax Ruling, 2011 Grand National champion Black Jack Blues and three-time winner over fences last year, Decoy Daddy, are the finalists for chasing’s biggest yearly honor which will be presented at the 41st annual Eclipse Awards on Monday, Jan. 16 in Beverly Hills, Cal.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters released the names of the finalists for 2011 Eclipse Awards in all divisions, recognizing excellence in Thoroughbred racing, on Saturday. Finalists in the Horse of the Year category will be announced the night of the ceremony.
The jumpers are hardly the only horses with local ties which will try for racing’s biggest honor as Plum Pretty, owned by Camden resident John Fort’s Peachtree Racing Stable and developed in Camden at Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables, was one of three finalists in the 3-year-old filly division.
Tax Ruling, an 8-year-old gelding, capped off his 2011 campaign by winning with $100,000 Colonial Cup (Gr. I) in Camden on Nov. 19 with Xavier Aizpuru in the irons for trainer Brianne Slater.
The son of Dynaformer won half of his four starts last year, including a five-length victory in the $150,000 Iroquois (Gr. I) on May 11 in Nashville with Darren Nagle in the saddle. That performance came after he ran a distant fourth in his first start of the year, the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) in Camden on April 2. Prior to his taking the Camden fall classic, Tax Ruling was eased in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. I) in Far Hills, N.J.
He finished the year with $153,500 in earnings.
Black Jack Blues was purchased by Naylor in the fall in a private transaction. The one-time jumper in Great Britain made his American debut shortly after arriving on these shores for his new trainer, former steeplechase jockey J.W. Delozier, and ran off with a 4 ¼-length victory in the $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Stakes (Gr. 3) at Middleburg, Va., on Oct. 11 over a yielding surface.
The 8-year-old was brought back 12 days later and ran off with American steeplechasing’s richest race, the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. I) by seven lengths, again, over a course listed as yielding. In both instances, Ross Geraghty was in the irons.
Black Jack Blues was being pointed to the Colonial Cup feature, but the week of the race in his final work before being shipped to Camden, he was diagnosed with a mucus issue, forcing Delozier to scratch him.
In two American starts, Black Jack Blues earned $171,000, giving him the Lonesome Glory Award as the top earner in the National Steeplechase Association. He also made six starts over fences in Great Britain in 2011 and had total earnings of $200,949.
At 9 years old, Decoy Daddy was the third Naylor-owned gelding to be selected as a finalist by the voters.
The grandson of the great Sadler’s Wells, Decoy Daddy was trained by former jump jockey Tom Foley and made seven starts over fences, winning three times with a pair of seconds while having earned $124,100 in 2011.
After a second-place finish in the $45,000 Imperial Cup in Aiken last March, Decoy Daddy won the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2) in Middleburg in April and then took Marcellus Frost (Gr. 3) in Nashville in his next start in May.
Winner of the Noel Laing Stakes in Montpelier, Va., on Nov. 5 with Kevin Tobin up, Decoy Daddy closed his year with a 10th in the Colonial Cup feature.
Last year on this date, Plum Pretty made her 2011 debut with a third-place finish in the Santa Ynez Stakes (Gr. 2) at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. She was then third in her next start, the Las Virgenes Stakes (Gr. I) at Santa Anita, before her breakthrough performance, a 25-length victory in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 27 in New Mexico. Based on that performance, Baffert shipped Plum Pretty to Churchill Downs to run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks.
In the Run for the Lilies, Plum Pretty beat out another Camden product, St. John’s River, which was developed by Nancy Terhune, for the victory.
After her win in Louisville, Plum Pretty would capture the $250,000 Cotillion Stakes (Gr. 2) at Parx Racing before closing her memorable first full year at the track with a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (Gr. I) at Churchill on Nov. 4.
In 2011, Plum Pretty earned $1,333,900 from her nine starts in which she had three wins, two seconds and a pair of thirds.
 Of the 267 eligible voters representing the NTRA, the NTWAB and Daily Racing Form, 248 (92.88%) took part in this year’s voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first place votes. 
 The Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
• Steeplechase Horse: Black Jack Blues (IRE), Decoy Daddy (IRE), Tax Ruling (IRE)
• Two-Year-Old Male: Creative Cause, Hansen, Union Rags
• Two-Year-Old Filly: Grace Hall, My Miss Aurelia, Stephanie’s Kitten
• Three-Year-Old Male: Animal Kingdom, Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford
• Three-Year-Old Filly: It’s Tricky, Plum Pretty, Royal Delta
• Older Male: Acclamation, Game on Dude, Tizway                    
• Older Female: Awesome Maria, Blind Luck, Havre de Grace
• Male Sprinter: Amazombie, Caleb’s Posse, Regally Ready
• Female Sprinter: Hilda’s Passion, Musical Romance, Sassy Image                    
• Male Turf Horse: Acclamation, Cape Blanco (IRE), St Nicholas Abbey (IRE)       
• Female Turf Horse: Dubawi Heights (GB), Perfect Shirl, Stacelita (FR)
• Owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Team Valor       
• Breeder: Adena Springs, Brereton C. Jones, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey        
• Trainer: Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher     
• Jockey: Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez
• Apprentice Jockey: Ryan Curatolo, Kyle Frey, Rosario Montanez
The Eclipse Awards, presented by the Daily Racing Form and Breeders’ Cup, are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Those awards are voted by NTRA, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB). Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.



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