Tonight's the night North America's horse racing champions – both the equine and human stars – are being crowned. Gulfstream Park plays host to the 45th annual Eclipse Awards, which Xpressbet.com is live streaming to fans everywhere.
Jeannine Edwards of ESPN and ABC Sports hosted the event, which got under way at 8 p.m. EST.
Join us throughout the evening as we bring you the names of the 2015 champions as they are announced, along with vote counts and selected comments from the winning connections.
The first award given was outstanding 2-year-old filly, which went to Rick Porter's Songbird, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro who was a perfect 4-for-4 in 2015, culminating with a 5 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, she was bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli and purchased for $400,000 by Tom McGreevy on behalf of Porter's Fox Hill Farm from Hill ‘n' Dale Sales. Songbird received 260 of 261 first-place votes, the other vote going to G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Catch a Glimpse.
Reddam Racing's Nyquist received 255 of 261 first-place votes to win the Eclipse Award as outstanding 2-year-old male. Nyquist, perfect in five starts including the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is a son of leading first-crop sire Uncle Mo. He was bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Farm. Nyquist is trained by Doug O'Neill. Dennis O'Neill picked Nyquist out of the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training from Niall Brennan's consignment, paying $400,000 on behalf of Reddam.
In a very close vote (98 to 90), Lady Sheila Stable's La Verdad edged Wavell Avenue as champion female sprinter. Trained by Linda Rice, La Verdad won five of eight starts in 2015 but was second to Wavell Avenue in the G1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. The daughter of Yes It's True was bred in New York by Eklektikos Stable LLC and is trained by Linda Rice. Lady Shipman finished third in the balloting and received 41 first-place votes. Eight fillies or mares received first-place votes in this category.
Runhappy received 255 of the 261 first-place votes in the male sprint category. Owner James McIngvale accepted the award for Runhappy, a son of Super Saver who won six of seven starts, including three Grade 1s, the King's Bishop at Saratoga, Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland and Malibu at Santa Anita. Runhappy was bred in Kentucky by Wayne, Gray and Bryan Lister and sold by their Ashview Farm at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $200,000. He was trained for most of the year by Maria Borell, who was replaced the day after the Breeders' Cup by McIngvale and subsequently sued the owner. In his acceptance speech, McIngvale did not mention Borell.
Zayat Stables, breeder of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, was voted outstanding breeder, receiving 190 first-place votes, with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey second with 39. “This is not an award I would have expected to win,” said Ahmed Zayat, who said the operation began with just two broodmares. “I'm so humbled and grateful,” he said.
Dawalan took home the Eclipse Award for Champion Steeplechaser, receiving 165 first-place votes, following a season that saw him win two Grade I races including the Far Hill Grand National and the Camden Colonial Cup. Trained by Cyril Murphy and owned by Irv Naylor, the French-bred Dawalan was ridden by Ross Geraghty in all of his races this season. By Azamour, the now 6-year-old gelding was bred by Aga Khan Stud.
Tepin received 211 of the votes for female turf horse, a result of her resounding victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile in which she defeated the boys. Found was second with 38 votes. A $140,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase by owner Robert E. Masterson from Select Sales, agent, the now 5-year-old Tepin was ranked second by earnings across all of North America in 2015 with $2,092,520. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, the Mark Casse trainee won five of her seven races, three of which were Grade Ones. The daughter of Bernstein was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Big Blue Kitten won the male turf horse category with 134 first-place vote. Golden Horn finished in second place with 63 votes, and The Pizza Man was third with 41 votes. The 8-year-old son of Kitten's Joy won two Grade I races in 2015, and is now owned by Calumet Farm and will continue to be trained by Chad Brown. Big Blue Kitten was never off the board in 2015, and Ramsey pointed out that he ran the fastest 1 1/2 miles on either dirt or turf at Belmont Park in winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
In the category for apprentice jockey, Tyler Gaffalione captured the Eclipse Award with 149 first-place votes. Eric Cancel came in second with 63 votes. With 217 wins from 1,419 starts in 2015, Gaffalione completed the year with $5,805,176 in earnings. The 21-year-old won six stakes races in 2015, and had a five-win day with trainer Ralph Nicks at Gulfstream Park. Gaffalione showed his class in acknowledging the other finalists when he first stepped on the stage.
Javier Castellano took home the Eclipse for outstanding jockey for the third year in a row, earning 184 first-place votes to 70 for Victor Espinoza, the regular rider of American Pharoah. Castellano outdid his own single-season record, taking home purse earnings of over $28 million with a total of 344 wins, leading all North American riders. Of those, 46 came in graded stakes races, 17 of which were Grade 1. The Venezuela native made sure to thank “everyone behind the scenes,” along with all the trainers and the owners that allowed him to ride their horses.
The Eclipse Award for outstanding 3-year-old filly went to Stellar Wind, with 108 first-place votes. I'm A Chatterbox received 47 votes, and Found received 46 votes. Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind won four graded stakes in 2015, including the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, and was ridden by Victor Espinoza in all of her starts. The John Sadler trainee was acquired privately by Hronis Racing after breaking her maiden in Maryland. She was an $86,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Yearling Sale, where Barbara Houch bought her from the consignment of Marshall W. Silverman, agent. Stellar Wind, a daughter of Curlin, was bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.
Zayat Stable's American Pharoah took home the Eclipse Award for outstanding 3-year-old with a unanimous decision from the voters. Justin Zayat spoke onstage about the team effort required to bring about a Triple Crown Champion after 37 years, especially following the injury that prevented the son of Pioneerof the Nile from running in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He was trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza.
Trainer of the Year went to Bob Baffert, who received 200 votes to the 44 for Todd Pletcher and 12 for Chad Brown. Baffert's year included over $16 million in earnings with 83 winners from 388 starts, 23 of which were graded stakes wins. The Hall of Fame trainer ranked third in earnings overall, behind the other two finalists, but Baffert trained the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, as well as racing's first “grand slam” winner when American Pharoah concluded his career with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Baffert dropped his Eclipse Award onstage, but didn't break it, thankfully. He thanked Pharoah's groom and “diva gallop boy,” as well as the champion's owners and breeders the Zayats.
The American Pharoah sweep continued with the Eclipse Award for owner of the year when Zayat Stables garnered 220 of the first-place votes. The Zayats were leading owners by earnings with over $10 million (80 percent of which came from American Pharoah), narrowly beating out Ken and Sarah Ramsey who had $9.3 million. However, the Zayats are particularly notable for the unparalleled access that they allowed fans to American Pharoah throughout the year. The Eclipse Awards' #APandme Twitter campaign was evidence of that commitment to the sport, as hundreds of fan pictures flooded in with Ahmed Zayat's champion. “This was the one I really wanted,” said the elder Zayat of the outstanding owner award. “I'm extremely proud of what we've achieved. Yes, American Pharoah is the jewel of the crown, but we are not a one-horse stable.”
The Eclipse for older dirt female went to Beholder, with the large majority of 256 first-place votes. This is Beholder's third Eclipse Award, following her awards for champion 2-year-old filly and 3-year-old filly in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The now 6-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes burst onto the main scene again in 2015, when she defeated males in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder won all five of her races under Gary Stevens in 2015, earning over $1 million. She was bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, and was purchased for $180,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale by B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm. Though she developed a fever and had to miss the Breeders' Cup Classic, the mare will return to the races in 2016.
The hotly-contested Eclipse for older dirt male went to Honor Code, who earned 126 first-place votes to Liam's Map's 95 votes and 14 forTonalist. The now 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy won three of six races in 2015 to earn just over $2 million under Javier Castellano, including the Grade I Whitney and Met Mile. The Shug McGaughey trainee also finished a strong third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Owned by Teresa Viola Racing, Lane's End Racing, and breeder Dell Ridge Farm, Honor Code was the third highest-earning Thoroughbred of 2015 in North America, behind only American Pharoah and Beholder. William S. Farish of Lane's End accepted the award, saying “it's just been a fabulous year.” The three finalists all have been retired to stand at Lane's End in 2016.
Horse of the Year, of course, went to racing's darling, American Pharoah. He earned over $8.2 million winning seven of eight races, including six grade ones. He won the Triple Crown after a 37-year drought, then added the Breeders' Cup Classic in his career finale. Ahmed Zayat's homebred propelled his owners, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza to super-stardom when he brought national attention to horse racing. A video clip showed the award being present to American Pharoah, only the second unanimous Horse of the Year in Eclipse Award history (first was John Henry in 1981). “For me, he's the horse of a lifetime,” said Zayat. “We lived the dream.” He took time to thank his wife Joanne, whom he says holds the whole team together, and who accepted the Horse of the Year Award.
“This journey has been really surreal,” said Joanne Zayat. “A state of shock is really what it was like when we won the Triple Crown… I want to thank you all for sharing it with us.”
The Eclipse Awards are presented by The Stronach Group – owner of Gulfstream Park and Xpressbet.com – Daily Racing Form and the Breeders' Cup. Voting is conducted among representatives of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form employees and members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. Voters cast their ballots to rank the top three horses and individuals in each category, and the totals are based on a 10-5-1 point system. This voting established the top three finalists in each division. Please note that tallies given here only represent first-place votes. There were 261 voters participating from among the 281 ballots distributed, a 92.88 percentage.
There are 17 Eclipse Awards categories. They are listed below with the three finalists. As winners are announced they will be listed in bold face.
Twelve of the categories are for horses.
–2-year-old male: Airoforce, Mohaymen, Nyquist
–2-year-old filly: Catch a Glimpse, Rachel's Valentina, Songbird
–3-year-old male: American Pharoah, Dortmund, Runhappy
–3-year-old filly: Found (IRE), I'm a Chatterbox, Stellar Wind
–older dirt male: Honor Code, Liam's Map, Tonalist
–older dirt female: Beholder, Sheer Drama, Stopchargingmaria
–male sprinter: Private Zone, Rock Fall, Runhappy
–female sprinter: La Verdad, Lady Shipman, Wavell Avenue
–male turf horse: Big Blue Kitten, Golden Horn (GB), The Pizza Man
–female turf horse: Found (IRE), Stephanie's Kitten, Tepin
–steeplechase horse: Bob Le Beau (IRE), Dawalan (FR), Demonstrative
–Horse of the Year: American Pharoah, Beholder, Runhappy
Five of the categories are for humans:
–owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Zayat Stables
–breeder: Darley, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Zayat Stables
–trainer: Bob Baffert, Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher
–jockey: Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza, Irad Ortiz, Jr.
–apprentice jockey: Eric Cancel, Angel Cruz, Tyler Gaffalione
In addition, Leonard Lavin, owner of Glen Hill Farm, is receiving the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.
John O'Neil will receive an Eclipse Award as the 2015 Horseplayer of the Year and members of the media are being honored for outstanding coverage in six categories.
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