Wise Dan Repeats as Horse of the Year
Wise Dan was voted 2013 Horse of the Year, becoming the sixth horse in the 41-year history of the Eclipse Awards to repeat as North America's outstanding Thoroughbred. Owned and bred by Chicagoan Morton Fink, Wise Dan also repeated in two divisional categories as champion older male and champion turf male.
The Eclipse Awards were held Saturday evening at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.
Wise Dan finished first in Horse of the Year balloting with 208 votes, followed by Reeves Thoroughbreds' Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, with 21 votes, and Will Take Charge, winner of the Travers Stakes, Pennsylvania Derby and the Clark Handicap, with 15 votes.
Charlie LoPresti, who trains Wise Dan, said he hopes the gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry is capable of bidding for championship honors again in 2014. Owner Fink said he hopes to convince LoPresti to run Wise Dan “on the dirt, long.”
Wise Dan won six of seven starts in 2013, including a repeat victory in the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf. All of his victories came on turf, his only defeat occurring on Polytrack at Keeneland in a race taken off the grass course because of heavy rain.
Previous repeat winners of the golden statuette symbolizing the Horse of the Year were Secretariat in 1972-73; Forego, 1974-75-76; Affirmed, 1978-79; Cigar, 1995-96; and Curlin 2007-08.
The Eclipse Awards are voted on by employees or members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB). Voters cast ballots to rank the top three horses and individuals in each division on a 10-5-1 point system basis. Finalists announced Jan 8 were determined using this formula. Of 272 eligible voters, 249 turned in ballots, although there were abstentions in various categories, most notably the steeplechase division, where 52 voters abstained.
For a complete rundown of the voting, click here.
Following are all of the Eclipse Awards, in the order they were presented.
James Wigan's Dank, bred in Great Britain by London Thoroughbred Services, dominated the female turf division in her two stateside journeys, winning the Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park in August and returning in November to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf for her trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. She received 229 first-place votes, with Laughing and Mizdirection each getting eight. Laughing, who won her only four starts of 2013 before finishing seventh to Dank in the Breeders' Cup, recently was euthanized after suffering from colic.
In winning a second consecutive male turf Eclipse Award, Wise Dan received 243 first-place votes of a possible 249 to four to runner-up Magician. The third finalist, Point of Entry, received one vote. Wise Dan races for his breeder, Morton Fink, and is trained by Charlie LoPresti. After winning all six of his 2013 turf starts (he lost once on Polytrack), Wise Dan improved his career record to 19 wins from 27 starts and will be a sure-thing first-ballot inductee to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Wiseman's Ferry returns for another season of racing in 2014.
Divine Fortune won the steeplechase division, getting 112 first-place votes, with 27 for Italian Wedding, and 25 for Gustavian. He is trained by Hall of Fame trainer and steeplechase legend Jonathan Sheppard and co-owned by Sheppard and William Pape. Divine Fortune is a 10-year gelding by Royal Anthem who won two of seven of his 2013 starts.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey received 235 votes as outstanding owner of 2013, with Midwest Thoroughbreds receiving four first-place votes and Juddmonte Farms was the third finalist despite receiving no first-place votes. Others receiving first-place votes were Morton Fink (3), Gary and Mary West (2), Jungle Racing and Maggi Moss (1 each). This was the third time the Ramseys have won the outstanding owner award.
The comeback kid, Gary Stevens spoke about the NTRA Moment of the Year winner, Mucho Macho Man's victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which capped a remarkable comeback after seven years in retirement that also included a riding victory aboard Beholder in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Besilu Stable's Royal Delta easily won her third consecutive Eclipse Award, getting 234 votes in the older female division. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the daughter of Empire Maker, bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments, won just three of seven in 2013, including the G1 duo of the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign Handicap. Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Dank received five votes, second-highest, but was not a finalist in the category. The other two finalists were Joyful Victory (three votes) and Tiz Miz Sue (two).
Wise Dan repeated as champion older male after winning six of seven starts, his lone defeat coming on Polytrack at Keeneland in the Shadwell Turf Mile, moved on turf because of heavy rain. All of Wise Dan's wins came on turf. He received 123 first-place votes to Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man and 31 for Game On Dude, the divisional leader off five graded wins (three G1). A ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic and narrow defeat in the Clark to Will Take Charge cost him the championship. Wise Dan, now 6, is a Kentucky-bred gelding by Wiseman's Ferry trained by Charles LoPresti.
Media Eclipse Awards were presented to:
– NBC Sports, televised live racing coverage for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Rob Hyland, coordinating producer.
– HRTV, television features, for the special, “HRTV Presents Saratoga WarHorse, Stacie Clark-Rogers, producer.
– Marty McGee, feature/commentary writing for his in-depth story on the struggles of jockey Kent Desormeaux in Daily Racing Form.
– Marcus Hersh, news/enterprise writing for his story on return to racing by injured Rene Douglas at the Dubai World Cup.
– New York Times, audio and multi-media internet for the feature on Hall of Fame rider Russell Baze, written and narrated by Barry Bearak.
– Jamie Radosevich-Hernandez, photography for her picture of Wise Dan winning Firecracker Handicap in a driving rainstorm, which appeared in USAToday.com and other publications.
Jack Wolf and Anna Ford accepted the Special Eclipse Award on behalf of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Groupie Doll, who raced most of her career for her breeders, William “Buff” Bradley and his father, Fred Bradley, repeated as female sprint champion. Though not as dominant in 2013, winning two of five starts, the daughter of Bowman's Band won a second consecutive Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, icing her victory. After the win, she was purchased at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale for $3.1 million by Amanda Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, who raced her one more time, facing males, in the Cigar Mile, where she finished fourth after encountering traffic trouble at the top of the stretch. Groupie Doll received 192 votes to 45 for two-time Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection, Cluster of Stars received seven votes but had fewer overall votes than Dance to Bristol, who received five first-place votes. Groupie Doll is scheduled to make one more career starts at Gulfstream Park Feb. 9 in the G3 Hurricane Bertie.
California-bred Points Offthebench, who suffered a fatal injury in training the week before he was to appear in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, was voted male sprint champion. Racing for Donnier Crevier and Charles Martin, Points Offthebench won four of five starts in 2013, including the G1 duo of the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del mar and Santa Anita Sprint Championship. The Benchmark gelding, bred by Gary Rocks, was trained by Tim Yakteen. He received 125 first-place votes compared with 70 for Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle and 45 for Sahara Sky.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey dominated the outstanding breeder division getting 221 votes to 17 for perennial winner Adena Springs (which won seven of last eight) and four for Morton Fink, owner and breeder of Wise Dan. This was the first Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder for the Ramseys.
Todd Pletcher won an unprecedented sixth Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer. He received 183 first-place votes to 21 for D. Wayne Lukas, who was named on enough second- and third-place votes to be a finalist. The other two finalists were Bill Mott (seven first-place votes) and Bob Baffert (five). Jerry Hollendorfer received nine first-place votes and Charles LoPresti and Shug McGaughey each received six. The late Bobby Frankel won five Eclipse Awards.
Will Take Charge easily won the 3-year-old male division, getting 231 votes despite not hitting the board in any of the Triple Crown races. The colt by Unbridled's Song came on strong in late summer for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, recipient of an Eclipse Award of Merit tonight. Will Take Charge won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby, then lost the Breeders' Cup Classic by a nose to Horse of the Year finalist Mucho Macho Man, and ended his season with a head victory at Churchill Downs in the Clark Handicap over Game On Dude. Bred in Kentucky by Eaton, Will Take Charge raced for Willis Horton, and will remain in training in 2014 racing in partnership with Three Chimneys Farm, which will stand him at stud when his career is over. Kentucky Derby winner Orb received 15 first-place votes, with the third finalist, Palace Malice, getting one.
The 3-year-old filly division went to Beholder, the 2012 champion juvenile filly. Princess of Sylmar, on the strength of four G1 victories including the Kentucky Oaks, was the clear divisional leader until she shipped west for the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Beholder won convincingly, with Princess of Sylmar finishing sixth and last. Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm and racing for B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift, Beholder won two G1 races in the spring before finishing second to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks. She won the G1 Zenyatta over older fillies and mares in the fall at Santa Anita, then clinched the award in the Breeders' Cup. Beholder 207 first-place votes to 42 for Princess of Sylmar, the only fillies to receive first-place votes. Close Hatches was the third finalist, based on second- and third-place votes.
A late-season surge propelled Shared Belief to an Eclipse Award over Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day. A gelding by Candy Ride, Shared Belief is unbeaten in three starts, winning the G3 Hollywood Prevue and G1 CashCall Futurity at the now closed Betfair Hollywood Park. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer Shared Belief received 115 first-place votes to 99 for New Year's Day, making this the closest of the Eclipse Awards divisions. Havana received 24 first-place votes. Shared Belief was purchased after his maiden win by sportscaster Jim Rome's Jungle Racing, KMN Racing, Jerry Hollendorfer, Jason Litt, Alex Solis Jr., and George Todaro. The son of Candy Ride was bred in Kentucky by Martin and Pam Wygod.
In the 2-year-old filly category She's a Tiger, a Tale of the Cat filly who finished first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies but was disqualified for interference in deep stretch, was an easy winner. She's a Tiger, trained by Jeff Bonde, received 212 first-place votes, with Breeders' Cup Fillies Turf winner Chriselliam getting 15 votes. Ria Antonia, the third finalist and the filly awarded the Juvenile Fillies victory upon the DQ of She's a Tiger, received 10 votes. She races for a partnership including Dr. Mark Dedomenico and four others. She's a Tiger was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Rodney Orr.
Todd Pletcher introduced his mentor and former boss, D. Wayne Lukas, who accepted the Eclipse Award of Merit. “There's been a lot of talk this week,” Pletcher said, “about who's the better quarterback, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Who's had the better career. When it comes to Wayne Lukas, there is no comparison. He is unequivocally the greatest of all time.”
Lukas won three consecutive Eclipse Awards from 1997-99 and one in 1994. In accepting the award, Lukas spoke of how blessed he has been, training alongside legends like Woody Stephens, Charlie Whittingham and Laz Barrera, giving a leg up to Hall of Fame jockeys, but he spoke mostly about the owners he has been fortunate enough to know, learn from, and work for. “Live every day like it's your last, and one day you'll be right,” he said. “Thank you.”
Jockey Javier Castellano won his first Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey, receiving 134 first-place votes and beating a tough field that included runner-up Gary Stevens, who received 65 votes. The third finalist was Joel Rosario, who received 21 votes. Mike Smith received the fourth-highest number of first-place votes, 19. Castellano set a single-season earnings record in 2013.
Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey went to Maryland-based Victor Carrasco, with 172 votes. Edgard Zayas received 18 votes, and Manuel Franco 13.