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Posted 2021-01-29 06:03:41  
Authentic Named United States Horse of the Year

Authentic became the fourth horse in the last seven years to win both Horse of the Year and the 3-year-old male title, the highlight of the 50th annual Eclipse Awards, which were announced Thursday night.

It was a night of something old – with Monomoy Girl winning her second Eclipse Award, this time as champion older dirt female, and Irad Ortiz Jr. being named top jockey for the third straight year – and something new, with Brad Cox claiming his first title as champion trainer, beating out Bob Baffert, whose horses took home four of the 12 equine trophies.

The coattails of Authentic for the 2020 season were surprisingly non-existent, as neither his trainer, jockey, breeder, nor ownership group won their divisions. WinStar Farm, which led the nation in Grade 1 wins, highlighted by champion 3-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver, was named champion breeder, while Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin won champion owner, that outfit’s year topped by Essential Quality, the champion 2-year-old male.

Trainers Baffert and Cox were responsible for half of the 12 equine winners. Baffert also was represented by Improbable, the champion older dirt male, and Gamine, who won the title as champion female sprinter. Cox trains both Essential Quality and Monomoy Girl, who was the champion 3-year-old filly of 2018. In addition to being champion breeder, WinStar took home a trophy for Improbable, whom WinStar owned in a partnership.

Owner Gary Barber also had a big night, as two horses in whom he is partners – Channel Maker and Vequist – won Eclipse Awards, for turf male, and 2-year-old filly, respectively.

Whitmore parlayed his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to the male sprint title.

In the closest vote in the equine categories, Rushing Fall captured champion female turf horse by 115-106 over Tarnawa, whose lone start in this country was a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf against males.

The closest vote of the night belonged to apprentice jockey, in which Alexander Crispin edged Yarmarie Correa by 79-74.

Moscato, the oldest Grade 1 winner last year at age 9, was named champion steeplechase horse.

This Eclipse Awards presentation was a departure from the norm owing to the ongoing pandemic. Instead of a black-tie optional dinner at a single location, this year’s event was largely pre-produced, with hosts, presenters, and winners taping their portions ahead of time at different locales. The final product was assembled in Kentucky, and much of the show was shot at Spendthrift Farm, where Authentic is about to begin stud duty next month.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose bloc includes racing secretaries and field personnel for Equibase. The finalists for all 17 divisions – 12 equine, five human – were announced Jan. 16 and represented the top three receiving votes in those categories based on a 10-5-1 point system. The winners announced Thursday were determined solely by the first-place votes in those categories from the 238 out of 249 eligible voters who returned ballots.

Authentic beat out Improbable and Monomoy Girl for Horse of the Year. He won the year’s two biggest races – the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic – as well as the Haskell, San Felipe, and Sham, and was second in his two losses, in the Preakness and Santa Anita Derby.

Authentic received 224 first-place votes for Horse of the Year, to seven for Monomoy Girl, and six for Swiss Skydiver. The only other horse receiving a first-place vote for Horse of the Year was Vekoma with 1.

Authentic was a lopsided winner for champion 3-year-old male. He received 236 votes to two for runner-up Tiz the Law, the Belmont winner, who finished behind Authentic in their two meetings, the Derby and BC Classic. Authentic joined Justify (2018), American Pharoah (2015), and California Chrome (2014) as recent champion 3-year-old males to also be named Horse of the Year.

John Velazquez rode Authentic to his two biggest victories. Peter Blum Thoroughbreds bred Authentic, a colt by Into Mischief out of the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless. Spendthrift bought into Authentic midway through the year and campaigned him through his three Grade 1 victories in partnership with MyRacehorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing.

Starlight and Madaket also were involved with Justify, the 2018 Horse of the Year.

Authentic is the fourth Horse of the Year trained by Baffert, who also trained Justify, American Pharaoh, and Point Given (2001).

Baffert was denied his fifth training title by Cox, who had a sensational year, with two individual champions, both of whom were part of a four-winner Breeders’ Cup for Cox. He received 106 first-place votes to 69 for Baffert and 44 for Steve Asmussen. Eight other trainers received first-place votes, including Chad Brown, who finished fourth with eight. Brown had been champion trainer the previous four years.

Authentic’s ownership group finished second for champion owner to Godolphin, 78-56, in a category in which 14 different persons or partnerships received first-place votes. This was the third title in this division for Godolphin, which also won in 2012 and 2009.

Similarly, Blum finished second for champion breeder, with WinStar easily outpolling him by 128-52 to give WinStar its second Eclipse in this category, following a win in 2016. Four other persons or farms received first-place votes.

Velazquez was the regular rider for both Authentic and Gamine, but he finished a distant third for champion jockey to Ortiz, who won his third straight title in a runaway, with 162 first-place votes to 54 for Joel Rosario and 14 for Velazquez. Ortiz won key races with champions Improbable and Whitmore.

Four other jockeys received first-place votes.

Most winners were heavily favored and won by wide margins.

Essential Quality received 231 of the 238 votes for champion 2-year-old male, and Vequist rang up 212 first-place votes for champion 2-year-old filly. Monomoy Girl got 234 votes for champion older dirt female, Gamine received 219 for female sprinter, and both Swiss Skydiver (3-year-old filly) and Improbable (older dirt male) got 218 of the 238 votes in their divisions.

Essential Quality, Vequist, Monomoy Girl, and Gamine all won their respective Breeders’ Cup races. Of the 11 equine Eclipse Awards on the flat, seven – including the two for Authentic – went to horses who won Breeders’ Cup races.

Most impactful was male sprinter, in which Whitmore’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint win propelled him to the title, capping off a terrific night for owner Sol Kumin, who is partners in Whitmore, Authentic, and Monomoy Girl. He received 132 first-place votes to 83 for Vekoma and 16 for Volatile. Two others received first-place votes.

Rushing Fall’s overall body of work, including two Grade 1 wins, was enough for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf runner-up to stave off challenges in the female turf division from two Europeans who won Breeders’ Cup races in their lone U.S. appearances. Though the votes of the three blocs are pooled, the blocs diverged wildly. Daily Racing Form (22-18) and the NTWAB (76-61) preferred Rushing Fall over Tarnawa, but the NTRA went for Tarnawa by 27-17. Rushing Fall is the fifth winner in this division in the last nine years trained by Brown.

There was a similar split for apprentice jockey, with the DRF (14-10) and NTWAB (48-42) going for Crispin over Correa, but the NTRA preferring Correa by 22-17.

Channel Maker, a two-time Grade 1 winner who was third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, emerged as the easy victor in the male turf division, garnering 180 votes to 17 for runner-up Zulu Alpha. Seven others received first-place votes. Channel Maker is the third male turf champion trained by Bill Mott, who also won with Paradise Creek in 1994 and Theatrical in 1987.

Moscato received 155 first-place votes for champion steeplechase horse to 28 for Snap Decision and 21 for Rashaan, who split his two meetings with Moscato, both in Grade 1 company.

Also Thursday, Eclipse Awards were presented to the previously announced media winners, including Natalie Voss of The Paulick Report for both feature/commentary writing and news/enterprise writing, NBC Sports for live television, the Hennegan Brothers for a television feature on NBCSN, Joe Bianca and Patty Wolfe of Thoroughbred Daily News for audio/multi-media Internet, and Alex Evers for photography for a photo published by The Paulick Report.

Drf

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