California Chrome runs away with vote for horse of the year
California Chrome’s rags-to-riches story keeps getting better.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness last year picked up two Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park on Saturday night, including horse of the year – the biggest prize, one that would have figured to be unthinkable for the offspring of an $8,000 mare and $2,500 stallion.
California Chrome also won the Eclipse for 3-year-old males, getting more than three times the first-place nods that went to Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Bayern.
”This has been an incredible journey,” said Steve Coburn, California Chrome’s co-owner.
California Chrome’s bid to become the sport’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978 was foiled in the Belmont Stakes when he finished tied for fourth, but his year was still an unmistakable success with just over $4 million in earnings and six wins in nine starts.
Bayern was also up for the horse-of-the-year award, as was Main Sequence – who went 4 for 4 in 2014, all on turf.
”This is a fairytale come true for us … it’s just amazing,” Coburn said.
Todd Pletcher extended his record with a seventh Eclipse award as top trainer, all in the last 11 years. Chad Brown was second and Art Sherman – California Chrome’s trainer – was third.
Pletcher recalled the story of how his application for stall space at Gulfstream when he was getting started in 1995 was denied.
”And rightfully so,” Pletcher said. ”I had seven horses, four of them were owned by my dad and they were all maidens. So at that time, I never could have even dreamed that being nominated for an award like this was possible.”
Javier Castellano won his second straight Eclipse award in the jockey division, making the 11th rider in history to take that honor in consecutive years. Castellano was the top choice on 77 percent of the ballots cast.
Main Sequence got a pair of Eclipse awards, in both the older male category – edging Palice Malice in perhaps a surprise – and as a runaway winner in the male turf division over Wise Dan.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey repeated as Eclipse winners in the owner and breeder divisions. They took the owner Eclipse for a record-tying fourth time, the breeder one for the second straight year.
”It never gets old,” Kenneth Ramsey said.
Texas Red was an upset winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race that opened up when heavy favorite American Pharoah was scratched in the days leading up to the race with a foot problem. Voters rewarded American Pharoah’s two wins in three races last year with the Eclipse, in the closest balloting – 126 votes for American Pharoah, 111 for Texas Red.
In many of the filly classes, the votes were runaways.
Out of the 265 ballots cast, Untapable was a unanimous selection for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse, Judy the Beauty got all but four votes in the female sprinter class, Dayaththespa got every first-place nod but five in the female turf division and Take Charge Brandi – who led all juveniles with just over $1.6 million in earnings last year – got 89 percent of the support in the 2-year-old filly division.
”I think you’ve made a smart decision,” said Take Charge Brandi owner Willis Horton, as the room broke into laughs.
Others winners included Close Hatches (older female), Work All Week (male sprinter), Demonstrative (steeplechase horse) and Drayden Van Dyke (apprentice jockey). Retired track announcer Tom Durkin – who said he’s allergic to horses – was given the Eclipse Award of Merit for outstanding lifetime achievement.
”All I ever had to do was describe what you made possible,” Durkin said. ”It just doesn’t seem right – but I’ll take it.”
The Eclipse Awards are voted on by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.