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by George Stubbs
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2021 Eclipse Award Winners

Date: 02/10/2022

The 51st annual Eclipse Awards were presented Thursday night at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California honoring the champions of North American racing in 2021. Of the 245 eligible voters represented by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, the NTWAB, and Daily Racing Form, 235 (95.9%) took part in the 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.

horse racing
Knicks Go winning the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1)
Knicks Go was voted the 2021 Horse of the Year by a landslide, to go along with his nearly unanimous selection as Champion Older Male. His 5 for 7 record included Grade 1 wins in the Pegasus World Cup, Whitney, and Breeders' Cup Classic, earning $7.324 million on track. Jun Park, manager for owner the Korea Racing Authority said, "Brad has done a tremendous job with Knicks Go and Knicks Go has done so much more than we expected in his career. We'd like to have another horse like him, but we know that will be hard to do. During the pandemic people in Korea could not race, so being able to follow Knicks Go in America and celebrate his victories it was great news for them and helped to cheer them up. They now have a display of his winning trophies there and have extended showing them until March." Trainer Brad Cox added, "He was a true Horse of the Year. It started in January with a win in the Pegasus World Cup and went through November when he won the Breeders' Cup Classic and sealed his championship. It was a tremendous year. It wasn't a half-year campaign or one in which he won the award by default because no one else had strong credentials. There was a great group of horses this year. It was a big, big run and he had a great couple of years for us."

horse racing
Essential Quality wins the Belmont Stakes (G1)
Knicks Go's trainer Brad Cox picked up the Outstanding Trainer trophy for the second year in a row, capping off a season with purse earnings of $31.8 million and a 1-2 finish in the Classic, as stablemate and Champion 3-Year-Old Male Essential Quality finished third. He said, "You get to celebrate for about 15 minutes, maybe 30, and then it's always back to work. It's a demanding job, but hopefully it will leave a legacy." In addition, Knicks Go's regular rider Joel Rosario was named Outstanding Jockey for the first time, off a year where despite ending the season on December 2 after fracturing a rib in a fall, he still led all jockeys in earnings with $32.944 million, along with 69 stakes wins, 49 graded. Agent Ron Anderson said, "It's very well-deserved. He's been a consistent, top echelon rider for years. With the year he had, it's very gratifying. I had calls in at least six stakes before he got hurt and I'm sure he would have broken all three records. It didn't work out but we can look forward to 2022."

There were two horses who picked up 2 votes each for Horse of the Year. Champion Older Female, Letruska, despite disappointing as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). She won four Grade 1 events: the Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, Personal Ensign, and Spinster, along with the Fleur de Lis (G2) by 5 3/4 lengths. Trainer Fausto Gutierrez said that what made her a true champion, "She just has an enormous heart." In 2021 she was 6 for 8 with 1 second place finish, earning $1.946 million for owner-breeder St. George Stable.

The other with 2 votes was Champion Female Turf Horse Loves Only You, the first Japanese-based horse to win a Breeders' Cup race, the Filly and Mare Turf, and now the first Japanese-based Eclipse winner. Along with the win at Del Mar, her only American start, she won the Kyoto Kinen (G2) at home and the Hong Kong Cup (G1). Trainer Toshito Yahagi said after the Filly and Mare Turf, "The race seemed like a very competitive race; it was a very tough race. But before the race we thought our horse was number one. We believed it. She won this great race and so I like to respect my horse." In 2021 she was 4 for 6 with earnings of $6.425 million.

horse racing
Echo Zulu winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)
There were no unanimous choices this year. However the largest vote total margin went to Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu, taking 233 or the 235 votes cast in her category. She was undefeated in four starts, including Grade 1 events the Spinaway, Frizette, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, earning $1.48 million for owners L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds. Co-owner Ron Winchell said, "It's incredible. It's something you always dream about when you have a horse like Gun Runner, and a first crop getting going with what will be a champion 2-year-old filly. For us to actually own the filly, after what we did with Gun Runner, like Steve was saying, it just makes it that much more special." The closest vote was in the Female Sprinter category, where Ce Ce defeated Gamine by just 39 votes, off wins in the Princess Rooney (G2), Chillingworth (G3), and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) where she upset the heavily favored Gamine. Owner-breeder Bo Hirsch said, "She's just very professional, from what I hear from Victor Espinoza. She's smart and she does what she's told. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to have a mare like this."

Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin took home the most trophies on the night. For the Owner award, they won 84 races with $17.4 million in earnings, of which 23 of the wins were in graded stakes competition. For the Breeder award, they had 100 homebred stakes winners worldwide, 8 of which were in Grade 1 stakes in North America, wih 172 North American starters earning $18.447 million. Among these, Breeders' Cup Turf winner Yibir was named Champion Turf Male, and Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Essential Quality was named Champion Three-Year-Old Male. At the Breeders' Cup, their three winners (Yibir, Mile winner Space Blues, and Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games) were all homebreds, sired by Dubawi.

Earle I. Mack was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit, a lifetime achievement award. Starting in 1963, Mack has bred or raced 25 stakes winners as well as served the industry as part of the New York Racing Association, New York State Racing Commission, New York State Thoroughbred Racing Capital Investment Fund, and the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund Corp. He also supported numerous charities including the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, and the Man O'War Project. Along with Thoroughbred racing, Mack's career included military, business, government, and the arts, and he serbed as the U.S. Ambassador to Finland in 2004 and 2005. His homebred winners include 2002 Brazilian Triple Crown winner Roxinho, 1993 Canadian Triple Crown winner Peteski, November Snow, and Mr. Light. Mack said, "Since college I have devoted my life to the equine industry. I love the horse. I love our veterans who have fought hard for the survival of our freedoms and the democracy we embrace as Americans. I am grateful for and would like to give special thanks to the NTRA and the Eclipse selection committee for this special recognition. I am also immensely grateful to those in the industry who have supported my vision for the Man O' War Project, most especially The Jockey Club. The health, safety, and welfare of our horses and the integrity of our sport have been at the center of my advocacy over the years. I'm very heartened by the new (Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act) legislation which will most certainly inure to the greater good of our industry."

All the winners for 2021 are listed below with the actual vote totals. A link to a full profile is given for each winner. You can look up past year's winners here. You can see how the awards are decided here.

horse racing
Horse of the Year: Knicks Go

Voting: Knicks Go, 228; Letruska, 2; Loves Only You (JPN), 2; Essential Quality, 1; Lil Latigo, 1; Medina Spirit, 1.

horse racing
Two-Year-Old Male: Corniche

Voting: Corniche, 214; Jack Christopher, 12; Modern Games (IRE), 2; Tiz the Bomb, 2; Frosty Storm, 1; Gunite, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

horse racing
Two-Year-Old Filly: Echo Zulu

Voting: Echo Zulu, 233; Baytown Valleygirl, 1; Twilight Gleaming (IRE), 1.

horse racing
Champion Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality

Voting: Essential Quality, 131; Medina Spirit, 84, Life Is Good, 18; Hurricane Nation, 1; Hot Rod Charlie, 1.

horse racing
Champion Three-Year-Old Filly: Malathaat

Voting: Malathaat, 227; Going Global (IRE), 3; Shantisara (IRE), 2; Bella Sofia, 1; Eida’s Storm, 1; Santa Barbara (IRE), 1.

horse racing
Older Male: Knicks Go

Voting: Knicks Go, 232; Maxfield, 2; Lil Latigo, 1.

horse racing
Older Female: Letruska

Voting: Letruska, 221; Marche Lorraine (JPN), 11; Damisela, 1; Gamine, 1; Monomoy Girl, 1.

horse racing
Male Sprinter: Jackie's Warrior

Voting: Jackie’s Warrior, 110; Aloha West, 50; Flightline, 33; Golden Pal, 19; Dr. Schivel, 18; Extravagant Kid, 1; Life Is Good, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

horse racing
Female Sprinter: Ce Ce

Voting: Ce Ce, 136; Gamine, 97; Bella Sofia, 1; Voter Abstention, 1.

horse racing
Male Turf Horse: Yibir

Voting: Yibir (GB), 135; Domestic Spending (GB), 33; Space Blues (IRE), 33; Golden Pal, 14; Colonel Liam; 11; Smooth Like Strait, 6; Town Cruise, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.

horse racing
Female Turf Horse: Loves Only You

Voting: Loves Only You (JPN), 136; War Like Goddess, 70; Santa Barbara (IRE), 10; Going Global (IRE) 6; Althiqa (GB), 5; Shantisara (IRE), 2; Con Lima, 1; My Sister Nat (FR), 1; Regal Glory, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

Steeplechase: The Mean Queen

Voting: The Mean Queen (IRE), 210; Snap Decision, 2; Voter Abstentions, 23.

horse racing
Owner: Godolphin LLC

Voting: Godolphin LLC, 216; Klaravich Stables LLC, 7; End Zone Athletics Inc, 2; Korea Racing Authority, 2; Gary Barber, 1; Calumet Farm, 1; LNJ Foxwoods, 1; St. George Stable LLC, 1; Voter Abstentions, 4.

horse racing
Breeder: Godolphin

Voting: Godolphin LLC, 205; Calumet Farm, 8; Angie Moore, 7; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, 6; Gail Rice, 3; Nick Alexander, 1; Fred W. Hertrich III and John Fielding, 1; Spendthrift Farm LLC, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

horse racing
Trainer: Brad Cox

Voting: Brad Cox, 189; Steve Asmussen, 33; Charlie Appleby, 3; Bob Baffert, 2; Chad Brown, 2; Karl Broberg, 1; Michael McCarthy, 1; Todd Pletcher, 1. Voter Abstentions, 3.

horse racing
Jockey: Joel Rosario

Voting: Joel Rosario, 213; Irad Ortiz Jr., 17; Paco Lopez, 1; Flavien Prat, 1; Luis Saez, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.

horse racing
Apprentice Jockey: Jessica Pyfer

Voting: Jessica Pyfer, 156; John Hiraldo, 46; Charlie Marquez, 12; Voter Abstentions, 21.
The Media Eclipse Awards were announced January 6. The articles can be read and photo viewed here.

How the Awards are Decided

The old three-bloc voting system was replaced in 2003 with a one vote per person system, where every voter's selection is weighted equally. Voters rank their top three selections in each of the 16 voting categories and points are awarded on a 10-5-1 basis. The voting point system determines the three finalists in each category, but the winner is determined by first-place votes only.

More about the Eclipse Awards:

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