In the end, there wasn't all that much drama. Since November, Thoroughbred racing’s water-cooler conversations spun a Horse of the Year debate between Triple Crown winner Justify and leading older horse and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate. They never met on the racetrack, but they did clash in the ballot box. Sort of.
In results announced Thursday night at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park, Justify received 191 of the possible 249 first-place votes to outpace Accelerate, who received 54. Monomoy Girl (two) and Enable (one) also received first-place votes.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced that Justify who became horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner by sweeping the 3-year-old classics of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, was voted the 2018 Horse of the Year, at the 48th Annual Eclipse Awards Ceremony at the Hallandale Beach, Fla. racetrack.
The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, presented by The Stronach Group, Daily Racing Form and the Breeders’ Cup, are voted on by the NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club Intl., Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners and trained by Bob Baffert, Justify was also voted the unanimous 3-year-old champion, garnering all 249 votes. He was undefeated in six career starts, including the Santa Anita Derby and his Triple Crown sweep. He was retired in July of last year.
A chestnut son of Scat Daddy out of Stage Magic by 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Justify was bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, who was also voted Outstanding Breeder of 2018.
Justify becomes the third Horse of the Year to be trained by Baffert, who also trained 2015 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the 2001 winner Point Given.
“I’m so proud of Justify and I’m happy to see he is being rewarded for his unbelievable accomplishments in his run up to the Triple Crown,” Baffert said. “I’ve had the great fortune to be around some of the most talented horses and what Justify was able to do in such a short amount of time still takes my breath away. He is truly a horse for the ages and deserves his place among racing’s elite. I’m grateful to WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Bloodstock for sending this horse to me to train. It has been an honor and privilege and a hell of a lot of fun to be part of his story.”
In other awards tonight, the Baffert-trained Game Winner was named Champion Two-Year-Old Male for owners Gary and Mary West. Trainer Peter Miller saddled two Eclipse Award winners: Roy H repeated as Champion Male Sprinter and Stormy Liberal claimed the Champion Male Turf Horse title.
Sistercharlie (IRE), winner of the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, was voted Champion Female Turf Horse. She is trained by Chad Brown, who won the Outstanding Trainer award for the third consecutive year.
Hronis Racing LLC, which campaigned Accelerate to the Champion Older Dirt Male title, won the Outstanding Owner Award.
Irad Ortiz Jr., who led all riders in wins with 346 and total earnings of more than $27 million was named Champion Jockey.
The complete list of 2018 Eclipse Awards winners and vote totals appears below
(Horse ages in parenthesis where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation):
- Two-Year-Old Male: Game Winner
- Two-Year-Old Filly: Jaywalk
- Three-Year-Old Male: Justify
- Three-Year-Old Filly: Monomoy Girl
- Older Dirt Male: Accelerate (5)
- Older Dirt Female: Unique Bella (4)
- Male Sprinter: Roy H (6)
- Female Sprinter: Shamrock Rose (3)
- Male Turf Horse: Stormy Liberal (6)
- Female Turf Horse: Sistercharlie (IRE) (4)
- Steeplechase Horse: Zanjabeel (GB) (5)
- Owner: Hronis Racing, LLC
- Breeder: John D. Gunther
- Trainer: Chad Brown
- Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
- Apprentice Jockey: Weston Hamilton
- Horse of the Year: Justify (3)
The Eclipse Awards
Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon the Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective divisions. The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-Century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.
In voting that concluded January 2, 2019 Eclipse Awards voters cast their ballots to rank the top three horses and individuals in each Championship division on a 10-5-1 point system basis. This voting established the top three finalists in each division, whose names were released on Jan. 5, 2019.
The tallies represent only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.
Voter participation rate: 249/271= 91.88%
Two-Year-Old Male (Name, First-Place Votes): Game Winner, 247; Bulletin, 1; Knicks Go, 1.
Two-Year-Old Filly: Jaywalk, 214; Newspaperofrecord (IRE), 31; Bellafina, 4.
Three-Year-Old Male: Justify, 249.
Three-Year-Old Filly: Monomoy Girl, 247; Magical (IRE), 1; Rushing Fall, 1.
Older Dirt Male: Accelerate, 245; Gun Runner, 2; Discreet Lover, 1; Roy H, 1.
Older Dirt Female: Unique Bella, 182; Abel Tasman, 34; Marley’s Freedom, 14; Blue Prize (ARG), 9; Wow Cat (CHI), 9; Voter Abstention, 1.
Male Sprinter: Roy H, 234; City of Light, 9; Imperial Hint, 3; Stormy Liberal, 2; Mind Your Biscuits, 1.
Female Sprinter: Shamrock Rose, 136; Marley’s Freedom, 113.
Male Turf Horse: Stormy Liberal, 85; Expert Eye, 66 (GB); Glorious Empire (IRE), 43; Catholic Boy 14; Heart to Heart, 12; Catapult, 8; Chanel Maker, 7; Raging Bull (FR), 7; Robert Bruce (CHI), 2; Funtastic, 1; Oscar Performance, 1; Yoshida (JPN) 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.
Female Turf Horse: Sistercharlie, 130; Enable, 119.
Steeplechase Horse: Zanjabeel (GB), 176; Optimus Prime (FR), 22; Jury Duty (IRE), 12; Iranistan, 4; Balance the Budget, 1; Voter Abstentions, 34.
Owner: Hronis Racing LLC, 141; Peter Brant, 27; WinStar Farm, China Horse Club Intl., Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners, 25; Calumet Farm, 8; Klaravich Stables, Inc., 8; Godolphin Racing, 6; End Zone Athletics, 5; WinStar Farm, 5; Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen, 4; Sol Kumin 3; Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group, Bethlehem Stables, 2; China Horse Club, 1; China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, 1;; Juddmonte Farms, 1; Loooch Racing Stables, 1; Voter Abstentions, 10.
Breeder: John D. Gunther, 102; WinStar Farm, LLC 68; Mike Abraham, 21; Calumet Farm, 14; Fred Hertrich III & John Fielding, 13; Juddmonte Farms, 8; Summer Wind Equine, 5; Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey, 3; Brereton C. Jones, 2; Besilu Stables, 1;FPF LLC & Highfield Ranch, 1; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, 1; Spendthrift Farm, 1; Voter Abstentions, 9.
Trainer: Chad Brown, 137; Bob Baffert, 94; Steve Asmussen, 6; Brad Cox, 4; John Sadler, 2; Karl Broberg, 2; Jason Servis, 1; Jerry Hollendorfer, 1. Voter Abstentions, 2.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr., 173; Mike Smith, 40; Jose Ortiz, 25; Joel Rosario, 8; Florent Geroux, 1; Javier Castellano, 1; Voter Abstentions, 1.
Apprentice Jockey: Weston Hamilton, 115; Edgar Morales, 87; Reylu Gutierrez, 11; Heriberto Figueroa, 7; Kazushi Kimura, 3; Assael Espinoza, 2; Evin Roman, 1; Johan Rosado, 1; Voter Abstentions, 22.
Horse of the Year: Justify, 191; Accelerate, 54; Monomoy Girl, 2; Enable, (GB), 1; Voter Abstention, 1.
Award of Merit
The recipient of the Award of Merit, voted on by a panel of representatives from the three presenting organizations and previously announced, is Joe Harper of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. The Award of Merit is presented to honor outstanding lifetime achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.
Media Eclipse Awards
Media Eclipse Awards also are given in the categories of photography, audio and multi-media Internet, news/enterprise writing, feature/commentary writing, national television–feature and national television–live racing programming to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. The 2018 Media Eclipse Awards winners, determined by a judges’ panel for each category and previously announced, are:
Feature/Commentary Writing – Tim Layden, SI.com; “Remembering Chic Anderson’s Legendary Call of Secretariat’s Record Run at 1973 Belmont Stakes”; June, 4, 2018
News/Enterprise Writing – Jeremy Balan, BloodHorse.com; “San Luis Rey Horsemen Faced Brutal Challenges in Fire”; Dec. 13, 2017
Television –Live Racing Programming – NBC Sports, 2018 Belmont Stakes, June, 9, 2018
Television – Features – NBC Sports, “San Luis Rey Fires”; May 5, 2018
Audio/Multi-Media Internet – Christie DeBernardis & Patty Wolfe, TDN Weekend; “Cozmic One: Shining New Light on OTTBs”; July 2018
Photography - Barbara D. Livingston, DRF.com; “Firenze Fire and Whereshetoldmetogo in Gallant Bob Stakes”; Sept. 9, 2018