ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2017)–Headed by Horse of the Year California Chrome, Southern California-based horses fairly dominated last night’s Eclipse Awards Dinner at Gulfstream Park, as seven horses took home a total of eight Eclipse trophies. Not only did the legendary 6-year-old California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit win for the second time in the Horse of the Year category, he was also voted Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Male as well.
“Chrome,” who began his 2016 campaign for trainer Art Sherman with an authoritative victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 9, would go on to win six consecutive races, including the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes here on Oct. 1, before running second by a half length to Arrogate in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 5.
A winner of the 2014 Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies, California Chrome is tentatively scheduled to retire to stud at co-owner Taylor Made Farms in Kentucky following next Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream.
Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita-based Arrogate, who followed his record-shattering win in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27 with his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory over California Chrome in only his sixth career start, was voted Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Male.
Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate, who completed his final work in preparation for a rematch with California Chrome yesterday morning at Santa Anita, was a perfect three for three at The Great Race Place in 2016, beginning with his maiden special weight win on June 5.
In addition to Arrogate, Baffert also tasted Eclipse victory with Drefong, who was voted Eclipse Champion Male Sprinter. Unbeaten in three starts here last year, Drefong capped his championship season with a 1 ¼ length win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 5.
“It just goes to show you how tough it is out here in California,” said Baffert this morning from Clockers’ Corner. “We work very hard to compete at the top level, win big races and championships…that’s always our goal. I’m proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished.”
In a masterstroke that has been commonplace throughout his incredible Hall of Fame career, trainer Richard Mandella oversaw Santa Anita-based Beholder’s fifth and final racing campaign, which was culminated by an epic nose victory over previously undefeated Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4. That, along with two other graded victories at Santa Anita, enabled the Spendthrift Farm color-bearer to be named Eclipse Champion Older Dirt Female–making her a four-time Eclipse Champion.
Undefeated in seven starts leading into the Distaff, Santa Anita-based Songbird began 2016 by streaking to four consecutive victories; in the Grade II Las Virgenes on Feb. 6, the Grade III Santa Ysabel on March 5, the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 9 and the Grade II Summertime Oaks on June 18, by a combined 20 ½ lengths.
Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird’s nose defeat to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff will no doubt go down as one of the greatest Distaffs of all-time, rivaling the 1989 showdown between Personal Ensign and Winning Colors.
In what trainer Ian Kruljac, 28, described as “a once-in-a-lifetime day,” his prized filly, Finest City, won yesterday’s Grade II Santa Monica Stakes, while Kruljac’s father, Eric, was on-hand at Gulfstream to pinch hit for his son and receive Finest City’s Eclipse Award as Champion Female Sprinter.
Based throughout the year at Santa Anita, Finest City, a 4-year-old filly by City Zip, capped 2016 with a three quarter length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint here on Nov. 5. Owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds, Finest City was 8-2-2-2 on the year and she amassed annual earnings of $823,200.
Like Kruljac, trainer Peter Eurton brought home his first Eclipse Award last night as well, as his Champagne Room was voted Champion 2-year-old Filly. Based at Santa Anita, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow broke her maiden in the Grade II Sorrento Stakes Aug. 6 at Del Mar and culminated her freshman season with an upset win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here Nov. 5. Owned by Ciaglia, Exline-Border, Gulliver Racing, R. Christiansen and Sharon Alesia, Champagne Room ended 2016 with a 5-2-1-1 mark and earnings of $1,286,600.
In addition to eight equine Eclipse Awards, Santa Anita-based Baffert and jockey Mike Smith were also finalists in their respective categories.
Suffice to say, Santa Anita was The Great Race Place to be in 2016!