Three multiple stakes-winning hurdlers campaigned by leading owner Irvin S. Naylor–Black Jack Blues, Tax Ruling, and Decoy Daddy–are the finalists for the 2011 Eclipse Award as North America’s champion steeplechase. The finalists were announced on Jan. 5, and the Eclipse Award will be presented on Jan. 16 at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Naylor, a York, Pa., sportsman and philanthropist, was 2011’s leading National Steeplechase Association owner with record purse earnings of $719,725, surpassing the former record by more than $100,000.
Black Jack Blues, an Irish-bred who was imported over the summer, easily won his two NSA starts, in the $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Stakes at the Virginia Fall Races on Oct. 1 and in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 21. Those two victories earned him $171,000, and as the earnings leader he was honored with the Lonesome Glory Champions Award.
Tax Ruling was the year’s only two-time Grade 1 winner, a repeat score in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois on May 14 at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park and a gutty 1 1/4-length victory in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup on Nov. 19 in Camden, S.C.
The Dynaformer gelding also finished fourth in the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) on April 2 on Camden’s Springdale Course, and he was pulled up in the Grand National. He had prepared for his fall campaign over fences with a victory in a training flat race at Shawan Downs in Maryland on Sept. 24. His 2011 earnings totaled $153,500, second-highest on the NSA circuit.
Naylor’s third Eclipse finalist is Decoy Daddy, who won three stakes races, two of them graded. In the spring, he won the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia on April 23 and took the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Iroquois three weeks later. He also won the $40,000 Noel Laing for the second straight year at the Montpelier Hunt Races in Virginia on Nov. 5. He closed out the season with an unplaced finish in the Colonial Cup. His 2011 earnings totaled $124,100, third on the year-end list.
Naylor is only the second owner to be represented by all three Eclipse finalists. He duplicated the feat of Augustin Stables, which had the three finalists in 2001, led by Eclipse winner Pompeyo.
The finalists were determined by votes of the Eclipse Awards’ three sponsoring organizations, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and Daily Racing Form. Top vote-getters from the balloting that ended Jan. 3 will be announced as the Eclipse Award winners at the annual awards banquet, sponsored this year by the Breeders’ Cup and Daily Racing Form.