Tomorrow evening in Hallandale Beach, Fla. the annual Eclipse Awards will be doled out and we’ll find out who the winners are in the 17 categories. Jeannine Edwards from ESPN will host the awards once again. American Pharoah and his connections are up for a total of seven of the 17 awards and could potentially sweep each category. Jockey Victor Espinoza probably has the biggest challenge in the Top Jockey category from Javier Castellano, who is had a tremendous season in 2015.
Let’s take a spin around the track on this wintry Friday afternoon in Western New York…
- Buffalo Raceway will open a 90-day meeting tonight at 5 p.m. with an 11-race program on tap. Peter Berry (@peterberry57) will take over the announcer duties from Michael Carter who moved on to Northfield Park. Berry, who has called the races at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia since 2004, will don the mike through mid-April.
- Yesterday I was a guest on Racing Across America with Seth Merrow on Capital-OTB TV in Albany. A podcast of the show can be found here (segment starts at the 15:36 mark). We discussed my annual Festivus and Kreskin posts in depth.
- The Road to the Kentucky Derby heads south to the Fair Grounds (LeComte, Saturday) and Oaklawn Park (Smarty Jones, Monday) for two races that will provide 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the top four finishers.
- The Grade 3 LeComte Stakes attracted a full field of 14 colts running one mile and seventy yards at the Louisiana track. The morning line favorite is Mo Tom (7-2); three horses share the second choice spot at 6-1 including the Todd Pletcher-trained Destin, who drew an outside post. It’s the local prep for the Risen Star, a 50-20-10-5 point race on Feb. 20.
- It’s Sunshine Millions Day on Saturday at Gulfstream Park for Florida-breds. The $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic will feature two classy horses in Mexikoma (7-2) and Jordan (7-2) who will try and jump start their 2016 seasons.
- The feature race at Santa Anita Park on Saturday is the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes which is shaping up to be a dual between Taris (2-1) and Birdatthewire (3-1).
- Three very good colts will face off in the headliner at Golden Gate Fields tomorrow in the $100,000 California Derby, the prep for the Derby qualifying El Camino Derby next month. Frank Conversation (2-1), Allaboutaction (5-2) and Canada (6-1) all rate a shot at moving forward on the Derby trail.
- Bona Venture Stables sends out two of its runners this afternoon at Aqueduct. River of Dreams (10-1) will go in the 6th race and Nicholson (8-1), named after Bona great Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic, will run in the 8th at the Big A. Leah Gyarmati trains both horses.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace