Justify vs. Accelerate for Horse of the Year

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The votes are in and the finalists for the Eclipse Awards are out with few surprises in the categories honoring racing’s best performers of 2018.

Undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, along with probable 3-year-old filly champion Monomoy Girl, were announced as finalists for Horse of the Year honors. It’s expected to come down to Justify and Accelerate as voters were asked to weight an unbeaten run through North America’s most prestigious races over a short span versus a mapped out campaign in the handicap division with a victory in the sport’s signature fall race.

Justify (3-year-old male) and Accelerate (older dirt male) are heavy favorites in their respective divisions along with Monomoy Girl, Game Winner (2-year-old male), Jaywalk (2-year-old filly), Roy H (male sprinter) and Shamrock Rose (female sprinter).

Several of the other divisions are more of a tossup, with finalists Expert Eye, Glorious Empire and Stormy Liberal vying for male turf honors; A Raving Beauty, Enable and Sistercharlie in the mix for female turf; Abel Tasman, Marley’s Freedom and Unique Bella in the older dirt female and Jury Duty, Optimus Prime and Zanjabeel vying for steeplechase horse.

The human categories could be interesting, too, with nearly all the connections of Justify and Accelerate named as finalists in their respective categories.

The winners in the 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 48th annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony, presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup and The Stronach Group Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park.

Of the 271 eligible voters representing the NTRA, National Turf Writers And Broadcasters and Daily Racing Form, 249 (91.88 percent) took part in the 2018 voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first-place votes.  

Here is a complete list of the Eclipse Award finalists, listed alphabetically:

Horse of the Year: Accelerate, Justify, Monomoy Girl.
Two-Year-Old Male: Game Winner, Improbable, Knicks Go.
Two-Year-Old Filly: Bellafina, Jaywalk, Newspaperofrecord.
Three-Year-Old Male: Catholic Boy, Justify, McKinzie.
Three-Year-Old Filly: Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl, Rushing Fall.
Older Dirt Male: Accelerate, City of Light, Gun Runner.
Older Dirt Female: Abel Tasman, Marley’s Freedom, Unique Bella.
Male Sprinter: Imperial Hint, Roy H, Stormy Liberal.
Female Sprinter: Finley’sluckycharm, Marley’s Freedom, Shamrock Rose.
Male Turf Horse: Expert Eye, Glorious Empire, Stormy Liberal.
Female Turf Horse: A Raving Beauty, Enable, Sistercharlie.
Steeplechase Horse: Jury Duty, Optimus Prime, Zanjabeel.
Owner: Peter Brant; Hronis Racing; WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners.
Breeder: Mike Abraham, John D. Gunther, WinStar Farm.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Chad Brown.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith.
Apprentice Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez, Weston Hamilton, Edgar Morales.

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. The Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories.

Eclipse Awards tickets are available for $425 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. Additional details can be found on the NTRA website at NTRA.com/eclipse-awards.  

The “black-tie optional” Eclipse Awards is part of a full week of events that will culminate with the third running of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the inaugural running of the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Jan. 26. 

Tickets to the Eclipse Awards also include an invitation to a party Friday night, Jan. 25, in the Gulfstream Park walking ring on the eve of the Pegasus.

Officials Partners of the Eclipse Awards include The Stronach Group, Breeders’ Cup, Daily Racing Form, Keeneland, Florida HBPA, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Red Brand, Roberts Communications, The Jockey Club, Dean Dorton, WinStar Farm, EquiLottery Win Place Show, IOA Insurance, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, Hagyard, Hallway Feeds, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, New York Racing Association, LUXAIR Jets, Jackson Family Wines, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Indiano Tequila. The official charity of the Eclipse Awards is the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).