Wise Dan achieves historic sweep as Horse of the Year
But the electorate preferred Wise Dan over Fort Larned in the older male division by a 139-109 vote. This marks the third time in the last four years that the champion older male was rewarded for his prowess on a surface other than dirt, the others being Gio Ponti (2009) and Acclamation (2011).
The first Horse of the Year since Kotashaan (1993) to race primarily on turf, Wise Dan also ranks as the first gelding since John Henry (1981/1984) to win the golden statuette.
Wise Dan and John Henry are the only champions to achieve the remarkable trifecta of Horse of the Year, champion older male and turf male since the Eclipse era commenced in 1971. John Henry turned his triple in 1981; when regaining Horse of the Year status in 1984, he won the turf, but not older male, Eclipse.
At the same time, Wise Dan was emulating his ancestor Round Table, who was the first to reign as Horse of the Year, champion handicap horse and champion grass horse under the old voting system in 1958. Making the genetic link even stronger, Wise Dan is inbred to Round Table 5 x 4.
Two other Hall of Famers, Dr. Fager (1968) and Fort Marcy (1970), accomplished the triple, albeit in split decisions. Dr. Fager was accorded the 1968 grass title by Daily Racing Form (DRF), with the Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA) siding with Fort Marcy. In 1970, the DRF bestowed all three crowns on Fort Marcy, but the TRA named Personality Horse of the Year and Nodouble champion handicap horse.
Wise Dan ended 2011 on a white-hot note, rolling to a four-length victory in the Grade 2 Fayette over Keeneland's Polytrack and a 3 3/4-length score in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on the dirt at Churchill Downs. Those performances marked him out as a horse of exciting potential for 2012, and Wise Dan wasted no time in fulfilling it.
The older, stronger model of Wise Dan, however, was a different proposition. After a dazzling five-furlong bullet in :58 2/5 over the Oklahoma training turf, he lined up in the Grade 2 Fourstardave at the Spa. Wise Dan didn't have a textbook passage, but it didn't matter. Despite hitting the gate at the start, and having to await room on the inside, he burst through on the rail and drew off by five lengths.
Wise Dan was expected to face a stiffer test in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, courtesy of European shipper Cityscape. It turned out to be no contest at all. Always cruising on the bridle, Wise Dan effortlessly opened up by 3 1/4 lengths.
Collaring Obviously just past the eighth-pole, Wise Dan blithely extended his winning streak to four. So easily did he appear to be traveling that only afterward was it clear how fast he had gone: Wise Dan blitzed to a new course (and Breeders' Cup Mile) record of 1:31.78.
His Breeders' Cup heroics improved his 2012 record to 6-5-1-0, $2,622,037, and his career resume stands at 20-13-1-0, $3,541,638. Unraced at two, Wise Dan tipped his hand in his sophomore year. He broke his maiden by 15 1/4 lengths in his second start at Turfway Park, followed up promptly in an entry-level optional claimer in the Churchill slop, and returned from a five-month layoff to land the Grade 3 Phoenix in his stakes debut. Trying the 2010 Breeders' Cup Sprint in only his fifth lifetime start, he checked in a creditable sixth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Big Drama.
Wise Dan took a few starts to get his act together in 2011, but the sleeping giant woke up in the Firecracker. He went on to add the Presque Isle Mile on Tapeta, and briefly halted his progress in that fall's Shadwell, only to resume it with a vengeance in the aforementioned Fayette and Clark.
Aside from his aforementioned inbreeding to Round Table, Wise Dan's pedigree features a similar duplication to another fantastically versatile legend, 1972-73 Horse of the Year Secretariat.
As a gelding who just turned six years old, Wise Dan figures to be a towering presence on the racetrack for the foreseeable future. Regular rider John Velazquez thinks so highly of him that he would "go to China" to maintain the mount, as retired Hall of Famer-turned-agent Angel Cordero had quipped.
With connections having little enthusiasm for foreign ventures, Velazquez won't have to go that far. Lopresti expects to launch Wise Dan's 2013 campaign in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile over the Keeneland turf on April 12, but dirt could also be in the long-range forecast.
Royal Delta -- Champion Older Female
She almost didn't show up in the Ladies' Classic, as trainer Bill Mott and Benjamin Leon of owner Besilu Stables pre-entered her in both the Ladies' Classic and Classic against the boys. In the end, her connections decided to stick with the girls and Royal Delta proved best yet again.
The Kentucky-bred filly wrapped up her four-year-old campaign in style in the Ladies' Classic, taking four of seven races while placing in two others during 2012. Her only off-the-board placing came when trying the synthetic Tapeta at Meydan in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in late March.
That race followed Royal Delta's season-opening second in the Grade 3 Sabin, and the dark bay was given plenty of time to recover from her overseas experience before running in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16, which she won by eight lengths.
Lyphard's Delta is herself a daughter of Proud Delta, who was honored as champion handicap mare in 1976, and counts as a full brother Grade 3 hero and sire Proud Debonair.
Royal Delta has continued the championship tradition of her family and is already preparing for her 2013 campaign, breezing three furlongs in :38 on January 5 and clocking a half-mile in :49 1/5 on January 13, both coming at Payson Park Training Center in Florida. Early plans call for the four-year-old to face the boys once again in the Dubai World Cup on March 30.
I'll Have Another -- Champion Three-Year-Old Male
I'll Have Another was two for two in 2012, including a win in California's most prestigious prep, but wound up being overlooked at 15-1 odds among 20 rivals in the Kentucky Derby field. Before a record crowd of 165,307, he advanced into contention on the far turn and boldly rallied down the middle of the track in the stretch to overhaul pacesetter and favorite Bodemeister, drawing away late to a 1 1/2-length decision.
I'll Have Another initially sold for $11,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and was purchased by Reddam for $35,000 at the 2011 OBS April Two-Year-Old Sale.
"We're kind of a working class group, from the trainer, the owner, the jockey. We don't come from the bluest of blood for horse racing, and that's OK. The horse matches that absolutely completely, right,?" Reddam said after winning the Kentucky Derby. "I can remember (1977 Triple Crown winner) Seattle Slew being bought for $17,000, how amazing that was. Now we got this horse for $35,000. In Seattle Slew dollars, he was probably cheaper."
"Yeah, this is extremely tough for all of us," O'Neill said at a press conference announcing I'll Have Another's retirement. "Though it's far from tragic -- no one died or anything like that -- but it's extremely disappointing and I feel so sorry for the whole team. We have had such an amazing run, you know, for me, taking three buses to go to Santa Anita at age 10 to be here and try to make history."
"I just want to thank Doug and his entire team for the great care they have given this horse," Reddam said. "It was a hell of a run and I know they are all personally very disappointed, of course, that he didn't get to show his stuff (in the Belmont Stakes)."
I'll Have Another retired with $2,693,600 in earnings from a 7-5-1-0 career line. He was sold to Shigeyuki Okada's Big Red Farm in Japan and is scheduled to take up stud duty in 2013.
Questing -- Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
The Darley-bred filly sported the Godolphin blue for the first time next out in the CCA Oaks and did the colors proud when drawing off to a 4 1/4-length score after grabbing command on the backstretch. Questing stayed at Saratoga to show off her front-running prowess in the Alabama, leading every step of the way to be nine lengths clear on the wire while earning a stellar 108 BRIS Speed rating.
A date with My Miss Aurelia, who beat her in the Juvenile Fillies in 2011, awaited Questing in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx on September 22. The speedy bay miss took up her customary position on the front end while My Miss Aurelia was parked in a stalking second. Although Questing was setting surprisingly slow fractions of :25 and :50 with a clear lead, My Miss Aurelia patiently bided her time in second until the far turn.
Questing's margin was down to a half-length by the time she reached the six-furlong mark in 1:14 3/5. Swinging into the stretch, My Miss Aurelia drew alongside Questing, and the stage was set for a rousing duel.As both fillies dug in, neither giving an inch, they bumped and brushed with each other. Questing, the 124-pound highweight who was spotting seven pounds to My Miss Aurelia, was holding on by a desperate head in midstretch, but her foe was relentless. My Miss Aurelia surged in the final strides to overtake Questing by a head on the wire to remain undefeated at that point.
The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic became the showdown between the two sophomore fillies, but Questing suffered an eye injury at some point in either the starting gate or early running of the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. pulled up his struggling mount and she was vanned off. My Miss Aurelia would go on to finish second behind a front-running Royal Delta, who defended her crown in the race to become just the second two-time winner of the race after Bayakoa (1989-90).
Questing is out of the dual-listed winning Seeking the Gold mare Chercheuse, who concluded her time on track with a third in the C.E.R.F. Handicap at Del Mar in 2003. Chercheuse is herself a daughter of the Storm Bird mare Sassy Bird, who also produced Group 2-placed listed diva Asawer and is probably best known as a full sister to Group 2-winning sire Mukaddamah. Another of Sassy Bird's siblings is the granddam of multiple Grade 1 sprinter Switch.
Questing's fourth dam is noted Broodmare of the Year and 1966 Alabama queen Natashka, and this black-type rich female line includes the likes of multiple Group 1 stars, highweights and half-siblings Ezzoud and Distant Relative; Grade 3-winning top sire Elusive Quality; Group 1 Irish St Leger heroine Dark Lomond; German and Italian champion Gold and Ivory; and Grade/Group 1 scorers Gregorian and Capote Belle.
Questing had a bone chip removed from a hind ankle in November and has been recuperating from that surgery, but is expected to return at some point in 2013 for a four-year-old campaign.
Shanghai Bobby -- Champion Two-Year-Old Male
An intended runner in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August, Shanghai Bobby was forced to scratch due to a temperature. The absence of a prep prior to Saratoga's prestigious Hopeful, temporarily downgraded to a Grade 2, hardly fazed the colt in the Labor Day feature. Kept in a stalking position through a quick opening quarter-mile, Shanghai Bobby made a bid for contention approaching the half-mile mark and then opened up an insurmountable advantage in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:22 3/5 for seven furlongs.
The margin was even larger following the Grade 1 Champagne over one mile at Belmont on October 6. Tracking in second behind a more modest pace, Shanghai Bobby applied his usual pressure around the far turn, seized command in the stretch and drew off to win by five lengths over Goldencents, who later went on to win a pair of Grade 3 events.
Despite making the long ship from New York and not having raced around two turns, Shanghai Bobby was easily the most accomplished of the nine colts and geldings in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was favored at 6-5. Over a track playing kindly to speed, the colt stayed in close attendance for the opening half, moved into a one-length lead after six furlongs, and then dug deep for a courageous head victory over a determined He's Had Enough. His undefeated campaign produced a bankroll of $1,687,000.
Shanghai Bobby was bred in Kentucky by Stonehaven Steadings and sold as a Keeneland September yearling for $105,000. He races in the colors of Starlight Racing, who sold a half-interest in the colt to the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith prior to the Breeders' Cup.
Shanghai Bobby was produced by the stakes-winning Orientate mare Steelin', who hails from the family of the Grade 1 winner City Band and Grade 3 victor American Lion.
The Grade 3 Holy Bull, a one-mile event at Gulfstream Park on January 26, is scheduled to be Shanghai Bobby's three-year-old debut.
Beholder -- Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
Originally pointed for the Grade 1 Chandelier next out on September 29 at Santa Anita, Mandella instead opted to give his filly a confidence builder, and the move paid off when Beholder romped by 11 lengths in a six-furlong allowance over Santa Anita's dirt on October 4.
The Spendthrift Farm colorbearer was expected to appear in the Breeders' Cup off that spectacular triumph, which garnered her a 110 BRIS Speed rating, but many thought she would be entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. It was somewhat of a surprise to see the swift filly on the Juvenile Fillies entry list, but Beholder more than lived up to her connections' expectations.
The bay daughter of Henny Hughes used her speed to open a comfortable margin on the backstretch while tracked by Kauai Katie and 3-2 favorite Executiveprivilege through fractions of :22 3/5, :46 2/5 and 1:11. Beholder held that latter rival in the lane to finish a length in front, getting the 1 1/16-mile test on Santa Anita's fast dirt in 1:43 3/5.
"When we came from Del Mar she had just run her third race in the Debutante," Mandella explained the decision to skip the Chandelier and eventually run Beholder in the Juvenile Fillies. "She is excitable, you would probably consider her a sprinter stretching out not a two-turn horse getting a prep race sprinting. Consequently, the race the last few days at Del Mar, and shipping up to Santa Anita at that, caught up with her and mentally she wouldn't turn off and relax going into the Chandelier Stakes.
"I called (B.) Wayne (Hughes of Spendthrift Farm) and voiced my concern and thought I would train her up to the sprint. Immediately she settled down and I saw the allowance race there and I thought as bad as we need money we might as well work her for something and get paid and we did that. Then it was easy to go for the big money. She never got upset after the race and that was the concern."
Beholder indeed got the money and currently boasts $1,215,000 in career earnings to go along with her 5-3-1-0 career mark. The Kentucky-bred lass is scheduled to revert in distance to 6 1/2 furlongs while making her three-year-old debut on Monday in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita.
Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, Beholder came to her current connections as a $180,000 Keeneland September yearling. She is out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady, making her a half-sister to Grade 1-scoring sire Into Mischief, who has a couple of colts currently on the Triple Crown Trail. This is the same female family as yet another Grade 1-winning stallion in Roanoke.
Groupie Doll -- Champion Female Sprinter
Returned to her Kentucky base, Groupie Doll next set her eyes on the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland. Outfitted with blinkers for the first time, the four-year-old filly ran away from a field that included Musical Romance to win by three lengths. She next demolished that rival, and others, more emphatically in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, winning by 7 1/4 lengths in track-record time of 1:20 2/5 for seven furlongs.
Like the three previous champion female sprinters before her -- Musical Romance, Dubai Majesty and Informed Decision -- Groupie Doll made her final two pre-Breeders' Cup starts in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters and Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America. The daughter of Bowman's Band hardly turned a hair in either, winning the Presque Isle feature by 3 3/4 lengths and the Keeneland fixture by 6 1/2 lengths.
One of the heaviest favorites of Breeders' Cup weekend, Groupie Doll broke left the gate in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita as the 3-5 choice. Forced to break from post 9, the mid-pack stalker showed true class in overcoming a track bias tilted towards speed. Racing well off the inside to the far turn, Groupie Doll steadily made up ground, took aim at long-time leader Dust and Diamonds at the top of the stretch and drew off to a 4 1/2-length triumph in what was arguably the most impressive score of Breeders' Cup weekend.
Virtually assured a divisional title, Groupie Doll's connections aimed for Horse of the Year consideration with an appearance in the November 24 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Favored at even-money and carrying a higher impost on the scale than her male counterparts, Groupie Doll took a narrow lead in the final furlong but was edged in the last stride by Stay Thirsty. Groupie Doll's 2012 ledger read 9-5-2-2, $1,385,314, while her overall record improved to 17-9-4-2, $1,657,850.
The Kentucky-bred Groupie Doll is out of the winning Silver Deputy mare Deputy Doll, who is a half-sister to dual stakes victor Russellthemussell, stakes-placed Slick Report and the dam of multiple Grade 2-placed stakes hero Aristotle. This is the same female family as Grade/Group 1 winners Rootentootenwooten and Prorutori; Grade 2 diva Ivanavinalot;, and Grade 3 scorers It's Tea Time and Kukulcan.
Groupie Doll's fourth dam is Floral Park, a stakes-winning half-sister to the dam of multiple champion Gallant Bloom as well as a full sister to Delaware and Ladies Handicap queen Flower Bowl, who is famous for producing Graustark and His Majesty.
Groupie Doll remains in training, but has seen her 2013 debut potentially delayed due to a recent illness. She is currently stabled in South Florida for the winter.
Trinniberg -- Champion Male Sprinter
The Woody Stephens would prove to be Trinniberg's last visit to the winner's circle prior to the Breeders' Cup. Favored at 1-5 in the Grade 3 Carry Back at his Calder homebase, Trinniberg was ineffectual at resisting the late bid of Fort Loudon in the final sixteenth and lost to that rival by a neck. Things went worse for the dark bay in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, as he set a blistering pace to the top of the stretch before throwing in the towel and finishing ninth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths. It was later revealed Trinniberg had lost a hind shoe during the running of that seven-furlong dash.
Trinniberg rebounded with a better effort in the September 22 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing, but the runner-up defeat by a half-length to fellow three-year-olds in an ungraded stakes did not inspire much confidence among bettors at Santa Anita, or elsewhere, who sent Trinniberg off at 13-1 in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, his first ever test against older horses.
Aiding Trinniberg in his championship-clinching run were two factors: blinkers were put back on the colt for the first time in his juvenile campaign, and the Santa Anita track had been playing favorably to those showing early foot for most of the Breeders' Cup weekend. Outbreaking all but one in the full field of 14, Trinniberg seized control at the half-mile mark, opened up a 1 1/2-length lead with an eighth to go, and dug in to win by three-quarters of a length over fellow sophomore The Lumber Guy. The final time for six furlongs was a scorching 1:07 4/5.
Trinniberg races for Sherry Parbhoo, whose grandfather, Bisnath Parbhoo, trained the colt up through the King's Bishop. Shivananda Parbhoo, the son of Bisnath and father of Sherry, assumed training duties for the Gallant Bob and Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trinniberg was ridden throughout his campaign by the low-profile journeyman Willie Martinez.
Trinniberg was bred in Kentucky by J M Stables and sold for $21,000 at the OBS April Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. He was produced by the stakes-placed Bella Dorato, a daughter of Goldminers Gold, and is now the first stakes winner produced in the past four generations of his family. This female line once yielded Cavalcade, who captured the 1934 Kentucky Derby.
Trinniberg, who posted a 2012 mark of 8-4-2-0, $1,382,000, enters competition in 2013 with a career line of 13-5-4-0, $1,483,300.
Zagora -- Champion Turf Female
Zagora's road to her championship was quite different, however, and much longer in the making. Originally trained by Yves de Nicolay, the French-bred won her first two starts as a juvenile in 2009 before finishing fourth in her stakes debut in the Group 3 Prix des Reservoirs. She opened her three-year-old season with a near-miss second in the Prix la Camargo.
Subsequently purchased by Schwartz from Skymarc Farm and Ecurie des Monceaux, Zagora was transferred to Rouget. The chestnut made a winning debut for her new connections in the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux, earning a crack at the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks), where she checked in a decent fifth behind Sarafina. Zagora rebounded next time in the Group 3 Prix de Psyche, and following a fast-finishing third in the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette, she bid adieu to France and emigrated.
As a smart three-year-old filly with European form, Zagora was a logical contender for the 2010 edition of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. But she lagged too far behind early in her American premiere and moved belatedly, having to settle for second to the runaway winner Harmonious.
Zagora now took up her longtime residence in the Brown barn. She began 2011 with three straight placed efforts -- narrow losses in the Grade 3 Hillsborough and Grade 2 New York that bookended a third in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley. Zagora scored her breakthrough in the Diana at Saratoga, handing Brown his first Grade 1 triumph as a trainer. But she failed to sparkle when only seventh in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine, and was put away for the year, overshadowed by her high-flying stablemate Stacelita.
Once again reappearing at Tampa Bay Downs in early 2012, Zagora dominated the Grade 3 Endeavour and also collected the Hillsborough trophy that had eluded her the year before. She returned to Keeneland for another tilt at the Jenny Wiley, only to continue her frustration at the Lexington, Kentucky, venue. Her trademark late kick was completely neutralized by a farcical pace, and she could get no closer than fifth. With a more honest tempo in the Grade 3 Gallorette on Preakness Day, Zagora easily regained the winning thread.
Zagora initially brought $139,602 as an Arqana August yearling. Bred by E. Puerari and Oceanic Bloodstock, she is out of the unraced Mtoto mare Zaneton, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed Zanet. Zagora hails from the family of French highweight older sprinter Titus Livius and Group 2 German One Thousand Guineas heroine Briseida. Further back, her fifth dam is noted broodmare Mia Pola, ancestress of French classic winner and multiple champion Sulamani, dual classic victor Dream Well and Grade 1 diva Tuzla, among others.
Just three days after her Breeders' Cup victory, Zagora was sold for $2.5 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Nicolas de Watrigant's Mandore International Agency signed the ticket for an undisclosed client, who plans to return her to Europe as a broodmare.
Zagora now has something else in common with Stacelita: both will reportedly visit the great Frankel in his first season at stud.
Pierrot Lunaire -- Champion Steeplechaser
The long and winding road finally led to an Eclipse Award for PIERROT LUNAIRE, who on Saturday night was recognized as the champion steeplechaser of 2012. The eight-year-old War Chant gelding narrowly edged multiple Grade 1 winner Demonstrative by a margin of 116-99, or a difference of nine votes out of the 215 cast for either of the division's two main title contenders.
Originally campaigned in England, Pierrot Lunaire was an unknown when he posted a massive upset victory in the 2009 Iroquois at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, beating two-time champion Good Night Shirt. It was the fifth Iroquois win at the time for owner Calvin Houghland, a former jump rider and chairman of the Iroquois Steeplechase. Houghland died later that year and the Iroquois was later re-named in his honor.
Pierrot Lunaire, who now races for Houghland's widow, Mary Ann, subsequently struggled for much of the next three years while racing sporadically. Unplaced in all of his remaining 2009 outings, he did not run at all in 2010, and placed just once in three starts in 2011.
Pierrot Lunaire kicked off 2012 with a third in the April 21 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg, Virginia, which was followed by a distant fifth-place effort in the Iroquois. Following the latter race, long-time trainer Bruce Miller handed over conditioning duties to his daughter, Blythe Miller Davies, who famously rode Hall of Fame jumper Lonesome Glory.
Following a modest fifth in the Zeke Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs, Davies removed the blinkers for the Lonesome Glory, a Grade 1 event at Belmont Park. Sent away at 48-1, Pierrot Lunaire seized control in the stretch and gallantly held off Spy in the Sky to win by a nose.
In the Grand National, at Far Hills, New Jersey, on October 20, Pierrot Lunaire proved his Lonesome Glory upset was no fluke with a winning stretch bid over boggy ground. The Kentucky-bred surged past Divine Fortune in the closing strides to win by three-quarters of a length, with Demonstrative, winner last season of the New York Turf Writers Cup and Colonial Cup, 10 lengths behind in fourth.
Pierrot Lunaire concluded his 2012 campaign with a mark of 5-2-0-1, $253,000. His overall record now stands at 26-5-5-4, $506,084.
Bred by Skymarc Farm, Pierrot Lunaire was produced by the stakes-winning Hernando mare Playact, who twice placed at the Grade 2 level in the U.S. Distantly hailing from this female family is another champion, Quill, the leading juvenile filly of 1958.
Dale Romans -- Champion Trainer
Dullahan also finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Romans finished third in the 2010 Derby with Paddy O'Prado and fourth in 2011 with Shackleford. All three horses competed in multiple Triple Crown events and continued racing through the end of their three-year-old season, a notable accomplishment in this day and age. The top two finishers in this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, as well as Belmont Stakes conqueror Union Rags, were all retired and never raced again after the 2012 Triple Crown.
Romans also received the Big Sport of Turfdom Award in 2012, which recognizes efforts to work with media and turf publicists to promote the sport.
Ramon Dominguez -- Champion Jockey
Dominguez compiled 10 Grade 1 wins in 2012, including the Breeders' Cup Turf and Arlington Million with Little Mike; the Travers via dead-heat with Alpha; and the Cigar Mile with Stay Thirsty.
Dominguez began riding horses at 16 and came to the United States from Venezuela in 1995, winning his first race at Hialeah in March 1996.
Godolphin Racing -- Champion Owner
Sheikh Mohammed won his first race in 1977 and was honored with a Special Eclipse Award in 2001.
Darley -- Champion Breeder
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Darley led all breeders with 15 American graded stakes wins in 2012 and captured their first Eclipse Award for leading breeder at Saturday night's ceremonies. It wasn't a close race, with Darley scoring comfortably by 170-25 margin over seven-time winner Frank Stronach's Adena Springs.
Darley-bred horses won 130 races from 747 starts (17 percent) and earned $8,460,884. It ranked third among North American breeders, but from a much smaller sample of starts than the top two, Adena (3,292) and Brereton Jones (1,881).
Darley also has divisions in Australia, China, England, Ireland and Japan. Darley America is based at the historic Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. It was purchased in 2001.
The current roster at Darley America consists of 17 stallions, including three of the world's best in Bernardini, Medaglia d'Oro and Street Cry. Leading sires Elusive Quality and Quiet American are also in residence as well as champion and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. In addition to standing stallions, Darley also manages the racing interests of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, and various members of the Maktoum family. The best of these horses will transfer to Darley's sister organization, the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing, to race in the famous blue silks that have been carried to victory in numerous Grade 1 races across the globe. Godolphin was named champion owner at the Eclipse Awards.
Darley's accomplishments in 2012 included breeding champion three-year-old filly Questing, winner of the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks; Travers dead-heat winner Alpha; Grade 1 Forego hero Emcee; Grade 1 Matriarch queen Better Lucky; and Grade 1 Flower Bowl heroine Nahrain. The latter raced in Darley's colors, while the rest were campaigned by Godolphin.
Jose Montano -- Champion Apprentice Rider
The 26-year-old native of Mexico rode his first race at Mountaineer Park, also in West Virginia, on October 4, 2011. He switched his tack to Charles Town and formed a partnership with leading trainer Jeff Runco. He won his first stakes race on September 22.
Award of Merit
The winner of the Award of Merit, voted on by a panel of representatives from the three presenting organizations and previously announced, is Nick Nicholson. The Award of Merit is presented to honor outstanding lifetime achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.
Media Eclipse Awards
Media Eclipse Awards also are given in the categories of photography, audio and multi-media Internet, news/enterprise writing, feature/commentary writing, national television–feature and national television–live racing programming to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. The 2012 Media Eclipse Awards winners, determined by a judges' panel for each category and previously announced, are:
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