And Away We Go… Eclipse Awards Night At Gulfstream Park

by | 01.21.2017 | 8:26pm

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 46th annual Eclipse Awards, which XBTV.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 2016 champions as they are announced, along with vote counts and selected comments from the winning connections.

The first award was given to the outstanding female sprinter of 2016, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Finest City. With 185 of 245 winning votes, the daughter of City Zip was trained by the 28-year-old Ian Kruljac, featured on the Paulick Report here. Finest City also won the G2 Great Lady M Stakes, and finished third behind Beholder and Stellar Wind in the G1 Vanity Mile. “Thank you to the horse,” said Eric Kruljac, father to trainer Ian.

Drefong took him the award for outstanding male sprinter of 2016, undefeated in his 4-start season including in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trained by Bob Baffert for the Susan and Charles Chu family, the now-4-year-old son of Gio Ponti has only been beaten once, in his very first start. He garnered 199 first-place votes. “Racing is a part of our family,” said a very gracious Susan Chu. “Thanks to our trainer Bob Baffert.”

The NTRA moment of the year, the only Eclipse Award to be voted on by the fans, was announced earlier in the week as California Chrome's Dubai World Cup victory. “It's been a once in a lifetime horse, it's been a hell of a ride,” said trainer Art Sherman.

Announced after the media award winners was the Eclipse Award for 2016 Breeder of the Year. WinStar Farm LLC took home this award for the first time, after earning more than $10.5 million over the year with 238 races, more money than any other breeder. “Of all the awards, I think the Breeder Award is the most collaborative,” said Elliott Walden, CEO.

Rawnaq would win the 2016 Steeplechase Horse of the Year award at nine years old. He won three of his four starts over the season, finishing up with a second-place effort in the Colonial Cup.

Andrew Beyer was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit, for the development of his Beyer speed figures and his constant pressure toward positive change for the industry. “For a large part of my life in racing, I was considered kind of a crackpot,” Beyer laughed.

In the category for Female Turf Horse of the Year, Tepin received 225 of the 248 first-place votes. The Bernstein daughter was trained by Mark Casse for owner Robert Masterson, and amassed wins over males several times in 2016, including a Group 1 score at Royal Ascot. “What a joy this mare's been,” said Masterson. “The only thing she wants in return is a peppermint.”

The Eclipse for outstanding male turf horse went to Flintshire in 2016, with 137 of the 248 first-place votes. Though he didn't win the Breeders' Cup Turf (Highland Reel did), Flintshire was the dominant turf horse in the United States of the course of the season. The award was accepted by Garrett O'Rourke.

Luis Ocasio won the Eclipse for Apprentice Jockey, saying “I want to thank my family for allowing me to become a jockey.”

In the 2016 Eclipse Award Jockey race, Jose Ortiz and Mike Smith gave three-time winner Javier Castellano a run for his money, but in the end Castellano won the award for the fourth consecutive year, matching Jerry Bailey's record after earning more than any other jockey over the course of the season. “I feel fortunate to have come so far,” said Castellano.

Paul Matties took home the Eclipse for Horseplayer of the Year, saying “the horse's honesty and their desire to win is what makes the form.”

Outstanding older dirt female of 2016 was Beholder, with 246 of the 248 first-place votes for a season that culminated with her thrilling win over Songbird in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Owner B. Wayne Hughes accepted the award, which ties Beholder with Zenyatta as the most-decorated Eclipse winner of all time. “My life will never be the same without her,” said trainer Richard Mandella.

California Chrome was unanimously voted the outstanding older dirt male of 2016, following his nearly-undefeated season. “I think that the grooms and people back in the barns really should have their own Eclipse Award,” said owner Perry Martin. “I'd like to thank the fans, every year they're just marvelous.”

Steven Crist received an Eclipse Award of Merit for his work advocating for racing fans, including the introduction of the Eclipse for Horseplayer of the Year. “Somebody has made a terrible mistake,” Crist joked. “But I thank you for your mistake.”

The Eclipse for outstanding owner went to Juddmonte Farms, of Arrogate fame. Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte has won this Eclipse twice previously. “I really need to thank everyone back on the farm who works so hard and with such pride for everything Juddmonte,” said Garrett O'Rourke.

Chad Brown took home his first Eclipse for outstanding trainer, beating out Mark Casse and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Brown led all North American trainers in earnings, graded stakes wins, and G1 wins. “To all of you that are watching, thank you, you have a piece of this award,” Brown said.

Songbird was unanimously voted as the outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2016, suffering her only defeat to Beholder by a nostril in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She recorded seven consecutive victories this season before that loss under veteran Mike Smith. The award is Songbird's second; she won the outstanding 2-year-old filly Eclipse in 2015. “If I had to lose to anyone, I couldn't have picked a classier trio,” said owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm. “She truly is almost a perfect horse.”

For outstanding 3-year-old male of 2016, the Eclipse went to Arrogate, record-setting winner of the Travers and the Breeders' Cup Classic over California Chrome. The son of Unbridled's Song garnered 243 of the 248 first-place votes to become the seventh champion 3-year-old trainee of Bob Baffert. “You know the odds are stacked against you, but you calculate the odds because you dream of a big payoff,” said Juddmonte's Garrett O'Rourke. “I'd like to thank Mike Smith for his ability to fit his contribution to Arrogate's success into under four minutes.”

Breeders' Cup winner Champagne Room took home the honors for outstanding juvenile filly in 2016, with 202 of the 248 winning votes. “We're very proud of our horse,” said owner Joe Ciaglia. “This is a great group of people… so proud to be here.”

Another unanimous award winner was Classic Empire, winner of four of five starts to be named the outstanding juvenile male of 2016. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner was trained by Mark Casse for John Oxley. “Our ownership is simply good luck and good fortune,” read a statement penned by Oxley, and read aloud by Casse.

Finally, rounding out the Eclipse Awards ceremony was the presentation for 2016 Horse of the Year.

California Chrome was named the Horse of the Year for the second time. He becomes the first horse to win Horse of the Year titles in non-consecutive years since John Henry. Chrome won seven of eight starts in 2016 to earn more than $14 million, becoming the leading North American money-earner of all time.

“I read at least three articles that said I had a dry sense of humor,” said Perry Martin. “So that's why I went with a desiccant joke.”

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