Finalists in the Eclipse Awards were announced Saturday night. Many Kentucky-based connections were included among the finalists including trainer Dale Romans and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, owned by the Louisville-based syndicate, Starlight Racing Partners. Winners will be announced Saturday, January 19 at the award ceremony being held this year at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.
The Eclipse Awards honor the horses and individuals in the horse industry that, through their achievements throughout the year, have earned the title of Champion in their respective fields. The Eclipse Awards are like what the Oscars are to the movies or the Grammys to music.
Members of the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the Daily Racing Form cast their ballots to determine the nominees and winners in each category. Voters select a first, second, and third choice for each category with the top-three first-place vote getters comprising the nominees in the respective category.
Eclipse Awards are also given to the winner of the Daily Racing Form/National Handicapping Championship and members of the media recognized for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.
This year may be unlike past years when it was relatively obvious which horse or person would be crowned divisional champion or Horse of the Year. Although there are a few of the 17 categories in which one should expect a landslide victory (Shanghai Bobby for Two-Year-Old Male or Groupie Doll for Female Sprinter), many of the categories are up for grabs, including Horse of the Year.
The nominees for Horse of the Year include Lexington-based Charlie Lopresti’s six-year-old Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Wise Dan, four-year-old Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Churchill Downs-based Fort Larned, and three-year-old Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. Fort Larned and Wise Dan are also in the running for Champion Older Male while I’ll Have Another is a nominee for Three-Year-Old Champion. Wise Dan grabbed a third nomination this year for Male Turf Champion.
In the days and weeks leading up to Saturday’s announcement, many voting members announced their selections via Facebook, Twitter, and various racing news outlets. One much discussed candidate was missing from the nominees for Horse of the Year—the Dale Romans’ trained Little Mike. Little Mike won the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Arlington Million, and the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He did receive nominations for Male Turf Champion and Champion Older Male, but was snubbed as overall champion.
Dale Romans, who had his best professional year in over 25 years as a horse trainer, is not only nominated for Trainer of the Year, but has trainees nominated in four categories: Little Mike for Male Turf Champion and Champion Older Male, Tapitsfly for Female Turf Champion, and Shackleford for Champion Male Sprinter.
“It would be an honor to win, but there’s a lot of good people out there,” said Romans in November when Little Mike and other locally-based Breeders’ Cup winners were honored at Churchill Downs. “We’ve won some major—there’s grade ones, then there’s major grade ones—and we’ve won a few of those major grade ones this year. It would be a nice honor.”
The full list of nominees for each category appears below in alphabetical order:
Horse of the Year: Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another, Wise Dan
Two-Year-Old Male: Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence
Two-Year-Old Filly: Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege
Three-Year-Old Male: Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Union Rags
Three-Year-Old Filly: Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing
Older Male: Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan
Older Female: Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta
Male Sprinter: Shackleford, The Lumber Guy, Trinniberg
Female Sprinter: Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection
Male Turf Horse: Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan
Female Turf Horse: Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora
Steeplechase Horse: Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire
Owner: Goldophin Racing, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Reddam Racing LLC
Breeder: Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez
Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Angel Suarez
Trainer: Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans