Five of the seven winners of the Breeders' Cup races have earned Eclipse Awards as America's champion racehorses.
The only Eclipse Award winners who did not compete in the Breeders' Cup series at Aqueduct were the 3-year-old champions, Spend a Buck and Mom's Command. And they probably earned their titles because their major competitors flopped in the Breeders' Cup.
The results of the voting announced yesterday make it clear that the criteria for Eclipse Awards have changed drastically. Apparently, it is no longer necessary for a horse to have a distinguished campaign or to win a succession of major stakes to be named a champion; what he or she does on one day in November is all-important.
Tasso, who beat an undistinguished field in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was voted the champion 2-year-old colt. Family Style, runner-up in the Juvenile Fillies, took the 2-year-old filly championship.
Cozzene and Pebbles, who won the two Breeders' Cup turf races, were named the champion male and female grass runners.
Vanlandingham won the award as the country's top older male horse and Life's Magic, another Breeders' Cup winner, was voted the best older filly or mare.
Flatterer was the champion steeplechaser.
It was in the balloting for champion sprinter that the voters showed how much they have come to depend on the Breeders' Cup for guidance. Precisionist competed in only three sprints during 1985 and managed to finish in the money in only one of them. But that lone good performance at six furlongs came in the Breeders' Cup, and that was enough to win him the title.
The Eclipse Awards are decided by the votes of three organizations -- the Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers Association and the racing secretaries of the Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The top three choices of each group are given 10 points, five points and one point, respectively, although this rating system wasn't necessary in most cases; the groups tended to agree. The one very close vote was for male turf horse, where Cozzene edged out Win, 21-20. The voters were definitely more impressed by Cozzene's Breeders' Cup victory than by the fact that Win beat Cozzene in their only meeting.
The major surprise in the voting was the choice of Mom's Command as the best 3-year-old filly.
Although she did win New York's filly triple crown series, she was retired in midsummer and seemingly was outperformed by Lady's Secret, who won eight straight stakes races later in the year. But Lady's Secret was beaten soundly in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, which probably cost her the title. Similarly, the poor performance by Chief's Crown in the Breeders' Cup Classic ended his chances for the 3-year-old colt title and allowed Kentucky Derby-winner Spend a Buck to get it.
Wayne Lukas, who broke all records for money and stakes won in a single season, was named the country's top trainer. His principal clients, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Klein, were chosen the leading owners. Laffit Pincay Jr. won his fifth Eclipse Award as leading jockey, and Art Madrid Jr. was named the best apprentice rider. Nelson Bunker Hunt was the outstanding breeder.
The horse of the year will be announced some time before the Eclipse Award banquet in Miami Feb. 7.