Eclipse frenzy

January, 14, 2010
It's hard to believe it's been almost two months since my last blog entry! I went to Japan for their jockey challenge at the beginning of December and that was a lot of fun even though I didn't win. I love the way they're so happy to have you there and it's an honor to be invited to participate. After that I just kind of laid low toward the end of the Hollywood meet, until I rode in the CashCall Futurity, which I was fortunate enough to win with Lookin at Lucky. We had a little bit of a Christmas break before Santa Anita started, and that was pretty much the end of the season.

Now here we are, just a few days before the Eclipse Awards. It's one of those years where anything could happen -- both with Horse of the Year, which I'll talk about a little later, and also with my category. For Outstanding Jockey this year you have me, Julien Leparoux, and Ramon Dominguez, and I respect my competition a lot.

Going into the end of the year, I really wanted the money title because I felt like if I had that, it would put me in a competitive position for the Eclipse. Julien had a good Breeders' Cup and a solid year, but I felt like if I captured the money title, when they hung up the numbers it would give me a chance. It came down to the wire, but we got it done and so my name is at the top of the list for Grade I races and Grade II races and we're tied with overall total of stakes victories. Winning the money title is a goal that we set up, something we wanted to do, but of course that's not the main goal. The main goal is to try to find the right horses and to win races day in and day out and then as the year progresses if you're lucky you start finding yourself in positions to do that and as time goes on that pushes you toward the top.

When you're a finalist for an Eclipse Award, it's something you'd love to win and of course that's the goal, but at this point there's nothing more you can do about it, so you try to keep it more in the back of your head. When you get to the dinner that changes, because you're in the moment and the nerves are building up. You get that queasy feeling like, oh, come on, please, please, please, please, please. That adrenaline goes to work. So on Monday I'll be sitting down with those butterflies in my stomach, and hopefully we walk out with some hardware.

Of course people aren't going to be fixated on the jockey category; everyone will be waiting to find out who is Horse of the Year. I actually threw my two cents into the ring in my November 9 entry after the Breeders' Cup, but I'll give you an updated version here. The Breeders' Cup races were drawn up by the Thoroughbred industry to have a championship moment for all these good horses to revolve around. Basically it was like, "You did that this year, and I did that this year, and let's see who's best." Those races are meant to bring all those good horses together, and this year one showed up and the other one didn't.

Now if Zenyatta hadn't shown up on Breeders' Cup day, there's no doubt she would have lost Horse of the Year. But on the biggest day at the biggest show of the year, she did exactly what she had to do to beat the other filly out of the Eclipse Award. It was one of those things where the odds were unbelievable -- she had to run against the boys, and at a mile and a quarter, and if she runs second it doesn't do her any good -- but the only thing that could have gotten the Eclipse Award taken away from the other filly was exactly what happened.

That's not to knock the other filly. Jess Jackson ran a gutsy campaign with her that not a lot of owners would have tried. It's a difficult decision and part of the excitement is not knowing what will happen. It should be interesting!

The next few months will be typical for the early 3-year-old season, waiting to see which horses pan out and how our prospects are shaping up for the Kentucky Derby. We have Lookin at Lucky, and then we have another nice horse of Baffert's named Conveyance, he's an Indian Charlie, two for two, and won a nice little allowance at Hollywood for me by seven lengths last time out. We have another horse with Baffert named Tiz Chrome, obviously by Tiznow, who is also two for two, and he just won the Stuka Stakes for me at Hollywood.

Of course it's still early and we're still searching because you know how difficult this road to the Derby is. A lot of these horses have a tough two-year-old campaign and have to be something special to make it through a tough three-year-old campaign as well, so you're always looking for that one.

I'll check in with you guys in about a month or so, once things start to pan out on the Derby trail and then we'll pick up the pace coming down to the wire. Until then, tune in Monday to catch the Eclipse Awards on TVG -- you might even catch a glimpse of me!



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