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Wise Dan achieves historic sweep as Horse of the Year

Wise Dan has emulated his ancestor Round Table and fellow gelding John Henry (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
Morton Fink's homebred WISE DAN became the first since Hall of Famer John Henry to sweep the Horse of the Year, champion older male and champion turf male titles at Saturday night's 42nd annual Eclipse Awards gala at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Honored for his near-perfect 2012 campaign, Wise Dan garnered 194 first-place votes for Horse of the Year, dominating his nearest competitor, champion three-year-old male I'll Have Another, with 30 supporters.

The Charles Lopresti charge was unbeaten from four starts on the turf last season, and comfortably won that divisional Eclipse by a tally of 170-78 over principal rival Little Mike. Each contender had a resume worthy of a championship in any typical year -- a trio of Grade 1 trophies in his cabinet, highlighted by record-setting victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile and Turf, respectively. But Wise Dan's perfection trumped the competing claims of Little Mike, whose scorecard was blotted by three losses.

More hotly contested was the vote for champion older male, a title most associated with the top performer in that category on the traditional American surface, dirt. Although Wise Dan is a triple-surface threat who is effective on dirt and synthetic as well, he spent the bulk of his time on the grass in 2012. He was also up against a serious contender with an Eclipse-caliber profile on dirt -- Fort Larned, whose productive campaign featured victories in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap and the Breeders' Cup Classic.

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.

Wise Dan opened the year with a track record-setting romp in the Ben Ali (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
In a sensational reappearance in the Grade 3 Ben Ali back on the Keeneland Polytrack, Wise Dan seized command early and widened his advantage at every call, ultimately crossing the wire 10 1/2 lengths clear. The visual impression was confirmed by the clock: he sizzled to a new track record of 1:46 3/5 for 1 1/8 miles.

Wise Dan reverted to the Churchill dirt next time out for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. But unlike his Clark effort from the prior November, he endured a troubled trip under the top weight of 123 pounds, and came up just short of beating Ron the Greek. That loss -- by a scant head -- was the margin separating him from a perfect season.

Lopresti decided to switch Wise Dan to the turf at Saratoga. He had raced on turf just twice previously in 2011, with mixed results. A dynamite winner of Churchill's Grade 2 Firecracker in his experiment on the surface, Wise Dan didn't run up to that level when fourth to Gio Ponti in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile during Keeneland's 2011 fall meet.

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.

Wise Dan ended the year with another course record in the BC Mile (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
Lopresti now faced a dilemma: should he train up to the Breeders' Cup, or run again in the Shadwell Turf Mile? Wise Dan answered the question himself, for he was too exuberant to be put on hold. Lopresti correctly read the signal, and yet another eye-catching display was in the offing. Wise Dan blew his rivals away turning for home and coasted to a 2 1/4-length score, relegating a Grade 1 race into a paid workout.

Connections had another decision to make: should he stick to turf for the Mile, or return to dirt for the Classic? Fink and Lopresti reportedly didn't have a tough time siding with the Mile. Not only had he won three straight going a mile on turf, but Lopresti also voiced concern about how Wise Dan might handle the Santa Anita dirt.

The Mile wasn't exactly a cakewalk on paper, either. The European Excelebration had been the perennial runner-up to the unconquerable Frankel, and fellow international raider Moonlight Cloud, champion Animal Kingdom, and dangerous front runner Obviously all had respectable credentials. But none could hold a candle to Wise Dan.

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.

The homebred's parents likewise raced for Morton Fink (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
Befitting a Horse of the Year campaigned by an octogenarian, Wise Dan has a sentimental story. He is both the pinnacle, and summary, of Fink's racing and breeding enterprise that spans 40 years.

Fink co-owned sire Wiseman's Ferry, who captured the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby and Grade 3 West Virginia Derby in 2002. He purchased Wise Dan's dam, Lisa Danielle, for $29,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 1995. A daughter of South African great Wolf Power, Lisa Danielle won only once from seven starts, and didn't stand out as a broodmare prospect. But Fink had named her after his granddaughter, and so kept her.

Lisa Danielle rewarded him by producing three stakes winners -- the filly Our Royal Dancer, herself the dam of multiple Argentinean Group 2-placed Bailando Voy; multiple Grade 2 hero Successful Dan, who set a track record at Churchill Downs when winning the Grade 2 Alysheba last May; and now the 2012 Horse of the Year.

Lisa Danielle is in turn a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Carsona, who has produced Grade 2 victor Siphon City. This is the family of German Group 1-winning highweight Scalo, and further back, French champion, classic winner and noted sire *Val de Loir as well as dual classic heroine and Irish champion *Valoris II.

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.

HORSE OF THE YEAR   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
WISE DAN   194
I'll Have Another   30
Fort Larned   12
     
OLDER MALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
WISE DAN   139
Fort Larned   109
Little Mike   4
     
TURF MALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
WISE DAN   170
Little Mike   78
Point of Entry   5

Royal Delta -- Champion Older Female

Royal Delta is now a two-time Eclipse Award winner (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
ROYAL DELTA joined the great Bayakoa as the only two-time winners of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on November 2, and on Saturday was honored with a second straight Eclipse Award for her accomplishments in 2012. The Empire Maker filly garnered an Eclipse as the 2011 champion three-year-old filly and this time around was named champion older female following her front-running Ladies' Classic score.

Royal Delta took 231 of the first-place votes, easily beating out Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint heroine Groupie Doll who attracted 22 votes. Last year, the dark bay filly was just four shy of being the unanimous three-year-old filly champ.

Questing tried to emulate Royal Delta's feat of taking the Ladies' Classic as a sophomore and was expected to set the pace in the nine-furlong affair. However, that British-bred lass fell back at the start and was eventually vanned off. Royal Delta grabbed command and proceeded to lead all the way home, crossing the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front of My Miss Aurelia.

Her margin of victory wasn't as much as the 2011 Ladies' Classic, when coming widest of all rounding the turn and powering home to a 2 1/2-length triumph, but Royal Delta was taken out of her normal rallying game after Questing fell back and no other runner showed interest in the lead.

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.

Royal Delta joined Hall of Famer Bayakoa as the only dual BC Ladies' Classic winner (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
Following a gutsy neck score in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, where she conceded nine pounds to runner-up Tiz Miz Sue, Royal Delta was upset by Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga. Washy in the post parade, she missed by only a half-length but never looked a serious threat to win during the stretch run.

The four-year-old quickly rebounded with a 9 1/2-length romp in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, a race in which she finished second in 2011 to eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.

Royal Delta is now 9-3-1 from 15 career starts, having been unplaced just twice in the aforementioned Dubai World Cup and the 2011 Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs as a sophomore. She's banked $3,703,851, of which $2,009,251 was accumulated during her 2012 season.

She's slowly, but surely, earning back the sale-topping $8.5 million Leon paid for her following the 2011 Breeders' Cup at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. That was the most ever paid for a horse in training at Keeneland November and the most paid for any horse at the sale since broodmare Playful Act brought $10.5 million in 2007.

Royal Delta is descended from a black-type rich family as a daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. That one would capture six stakes, including three Grade 3 contests, during her time on track while racking up nearly $750,000 in earnings. Royal Delta's second dam is Group 2 victress Lyphard's Delta, who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Grade/Group 1 winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.

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.

OLDER FEMALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
ROYAL DELTA   231
Groupie Doll   22

I'll Have Another -- Champion Three-Year-Old Male

I'll Have Another became a star in the Kentucky Derby (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
I'LL HAVE ANOTHER captivated racing fans with stirring victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and his perfect season in 2012 made him an easy selection for Eclipse voters. The champion three-year-old male won by an overwhelming margin of 247-3 margin over Bodemeister, who also finished second to his rival in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

Owned by Reddam Racing LLC and trained by Doug O'Neill, I'll Have Another made his 2012 bow in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis on February 4, his first outing since a disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in early September. The chestnut colt was sidelined after the Hopeful by shin problems and bettors dismissed him off the five-month layoff at 43-1 odds in the Lewis. I'll Have Another served notice that he was a three-year-old with a bright future that afternoon, seizing the lead off the far turn with a powerful move that left him well clear of his nearest challengers. He strolled home a convincing 2 3/4-length victor.

The Lewis marked the first start with unheralded jockey Mario Gutierrez, who had moved his tack from Hastings Park to Southern California, and it proved to be a perfect fit. Following a nine-week freshening, I'll Have Another received a heady ride along the way to a game victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, defeating heavily-favored Creative Cause by a nose on the wire. The improving son of Flower Alley was now headed to Churchill Downs for the 138th edition of the Run for the Roses.

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."

I'll Have Another ran down Bodemeister again in the Preakness, raising hopes of an elusive Triple Crown (Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue)
I'll Have Another took another step toward Thoroughbred racing immortality two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. For the fourth consecutive start, he did not leave the starting gate as the favorite, with that honor going to Bodemeister once again. But the 137th edition of the middle jewel in the Triple Crown produced the same result as the Kentucky Derby, with I'll Have Another determinedly running down the front-running Bodemeister to win by a neck in front of a record crowd of 121,309.

"He has proven a lot of people wrong," Gutierrez said after the Preakness. "He's an amazing horse."

"It's one of those things where it's good for the sport. It's good for the Belmont," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Bodemeister. "The winner's a good horse. He'll get the respect now that he deserves."

I'll Have Another shipped to Belmont Park shortly after the Preakness and trained for his Triple Crown bid three weeks later. He drew gate 11 and was installed as the 4-5 morning line favorite at the Belmont Stakes post position draw, but his connections were forced to withdraw I'll Have Another the day before due to a career-ending tendon injury.

"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.

THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
I'LL HAVE ANOTHER   247
Bodemeister   3
Union Rags   1

Questing -- Champion Three-Year-Old Filly

Questing's electric performances at Saratoga were burned in the voters' memory (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
It was a close race between 2011 champion two-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia and British-bred QUESTING for the honor of being named 2012 champion three-year-old filly, and the final tally of first-place votes reflected that when Questing eked out the Eclipse Award with 106 votes, just four more than her rival.

My Miss Aurelia suffered the only two losses of her career last season, and finished ahead of Questing in their two meetings in 2012, but the latter filly's easy scores in the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks, both Grade 1s, swayed voters in her favor.

Questing debuted in her native Great Britain, breaking her maiden at Newbury in June 2011 before recording a pair of neck misses when third in the Group 3 Prestige Stakes and second in the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes. Then trainer John Gosden shipped Questing to the United States for the Breeders' Cup, but she could do no better than fifth while trying dirt for the first time in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Questing wasn't seen again until new trainer Kiaran McLaughlin saddled her for a close fourth back on the turf at Gulfstream Park in mid-March, and then ran fifth when trying Belmont's grass on May 11. It wasn't until McLaughlin switched his charge back to dirt that Questing found new life, and she proceeded to post three straight dominant wins beginning with an allowance/optional claiming victory at Belmont Park in late June.

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.

THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
QUESTING   106
My Miss Aurelia   102
Believe You Can   17

Shanghai Bobby -- Champion Two-Year-Old Male

Shanghai Bobby was unbeatable in 2012 (Benoit Photos)
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile proved to be a close-run thing for SHANGHAI BOBBY, but his victory in the 1 1/16-mile test at Santa Anita on November 3 capped a perfect five-for-five season and resulted in a more emphatic victory in the race for championship honors as the nation's best juvenile colt of 2012.

Shanghai Bobby earned the support of all but one of the Eclipse Award electors. The lone dissenter cast their vote for Uncaptured, whose five 2012 stakes wins included the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had the son of Harlan's Holiday ready to run near the beginning of the New York two-year-old season, in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden at Aqueduct on April 19. The even-money favorite against five rivals, Shanghai Bobby tracked in third around the far turn and exploded inside the final furlong to win by four lengths in a time of :51 4/5, one-fifth off the track record set in 1984. He was piloted that day by Rosie Napravnik, who would retain the mount for the remainder of the season.

Shanghai Bobby reappeared two months later, on June 27, in the Track Barron overnight stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont. Favored again, at 1-2, the colt overcame an early bump and speed duel to to score by a length.

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.

TWO-YEAR-OLD MALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
SHANGHAI BOBBY   253
Uncaptured   1

Beholder -- Champion Two-Year-Old Filly

Beholder was a beauty in the BC Juvenile Fillies (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
Unlike the past two champion juvenile fillies, BEHOLDER was unable to put up a perfect mark during her two-year-old campaign but still won when it mattered, taking the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 2, to be honored as the Eclipse Award winner for 2012. The bay miss did continue the trend of Juvenile Fillies winners being awarded the championship, a trend that started in 2000 with Caressing.

Beholder garnered 225 of 254 first-place votes cast. Coming in second with 27 votes was Executiveprivilege, who had the privilege of beating Beholder in a maiden and the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, while Dreaming of Julia, who suffered her first loss in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies following a head score in the Grade 1 Frizette, garnered just one vote.

Similar to Caressing, Beholder suffered two losses from five starts as a juvenile. The Richard Mandella pupil raced exclusively in California during that time, beginning her career at Hollywood Park. She finished fourth behind Executiveprivilege in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on June 28 before trying Del Mar next out to earn that elusive first victory on July 22 under the same conditions.

Beholder immediately stepped up to face stakes rivals in the Del Mar Debutante and found a familiar rival in Executiveprivilege. Despite a game front-running effort, Beholder was just nipped on the wire of that seven-furlong affair by her opponent, but still earned a career-best 94 BRIS Speed rating for her run.

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.

TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
BEHOLDER   225
Executiveprivilege   27
Dreaming of Julia   1

Groupie Doll -- Champion Female Sprinter

Groupie Doll capped a five-race winning streak in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
GROUPIE DOLL dominated her division like few 2012 champions did. She suffered only one loss at a distance less than a mile, reeled off five straight stakes wins against her peers by an average margin of five lengths, and nearly put her in name in the hat for Horse of the Year honors with a stellar performance against males in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Bred by Fred Bradley and his son, trainer Buff Bradley, Groupie Doll races for that father-son team, Carl Hurst, and Brent Burns. She entered the 2012 season a Grade 3 winner, having annexed the 2011 Gardenia at Ellis Park in only her fourth career start. Groupie Doll kicked off her championship campaign with a close second-placed finish against males in a one-mile Gulfstream allowance on January 27. The winner was Boys at Tosconova, who had captured the Grade 1 Champagne in 2010.

Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the Grade 3 Sabin on February 25, Groupie Doll proved no match for either multiple Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria, who defended her title by eight lengths, or champion Royal Delta, who beat Groupie Doll for second by a head. There would be one more defeat at Gulfstream, in the Grade 2 Inside Information on March 17 going seven furlongs. Despite being the mild 3-1 favorite, Groupie Doll's late rally fell 1 1/4 lengths short as 2011 champion female sprinter Musical Romance posted the victory.

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.

FEMALE SPRINTER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
GROUPIE DOLL   250
Mizdirection   3
Contested   1

Trinniberg -- Champion Male Sprinter

Trinniberg trumped older rivals in the BC Sprint (Benoit Photos)
Although he was on few people's list as a leading champion male sprinter prospect heading into the Breeders' Cup Sprint, TRINNIBERG's victory at Santa Anita proved to be the definitive performance in a division where no standouts had emerged during the course of the previous 10 months.

A three-year-old son of Teuflesberg, Trinniberg showed promise at two with close second-place finishes in the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 2 Nashua, with eventual dual classic winner I'll Have Another finishing behind him in the Hopeful. Trinniberg earned his first stakes win in his 2012 debut, the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream, by six lengths, and then captured the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct by three lengths.

Tossed in the Kentucky Derby without having raced beyond seven furlongs, Trinniberg finished as well as could have been expected. Chasing a blistering pace set by eventual runner-up Bodemeister, Trinniberg readily gave way approaching the mile mark and finished 17th in the 20-horse field. Returned to a more suitable trip in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard, the colt rebounded with a 1 3/4-length triumph in the seven-furlong test after setting a swift pace.

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.

MALE SPRINTER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
TRINNIBERG   233
Shackleford   11
The Lumber Guy   8

Zagora -- Champion Turf Female

Zagora's high-class consistency was rewarded in the BC Filly & Mare Turf (Benoit Photos)
In a division that lacked clarity for much of the year, ZAGORA stepped up to the plate in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and clinched an Eclipse Award for owner Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown. Also the connections responsible for 2011 champion turf female Stacelita, Schwartz and Brown became just the second owner/trainer tandem to win two straight Eclipse Awards in this division with different horses.

Since the champion turf female category was inaugurated in 1979, the only previous owner/trainer combination to achieve the same feat was Brown's mentor, the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, and Juddmonte Farms.

Their Wandesta took the award in 1996, followed by Ryafan the next year. It should be noted, however, that Ryafan was trained by John Gosden for all but her grand finale, when she captured the 1997 Grade 1 Matriarch in her lone outing for Frankel.

Zagora was the overwhelming choice, attracting 242 first-place votes. Marketing Mix, a close runner-up in the Filly & Mare Turf, was a remote second in the Eclipse balloting with a mere five.

Although Zagora and Stacelita were both French imports previously trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, their similarity ends there. Stacelita, a champion in her native France, was almost literally an overnight success in the United States. Descending from Europe in midseason, she took immediate control of the division, and retained the Eclipse despite an uncharacteristic 10th in the Filly & Mare Turf.

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 later sold for $2.5 million and reportedly has a date with Frankel (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)
Her busy first half of the 2012 season was halted by a splint injury. Brown believed that he had her back on song for a title defense in the Diana, but realized that in hindsight, maybe she wasn't quite primed. Although the impressive Winter Memories would have been tough to beat that day in any event, Zagora was clearly not herself when a flat third.

Zagora moved forward substantially off the Diana, and one month later, she was at her brilliant best in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. Relishing the hot pace that set up her late rally, Zagora zoomed past to break the course record set by champion Leroidesanimaux in 2005. Her final time of 1:39.07 smashed his mark of 1:39.92 for 1 1/16 miles on Saratoga's inner turf.

Stepping up in distance for the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational over 1 1/4 miles, Zagora struck the front a bit earlier than usual. She opened up by 1 1/2 lengths in midstretch, but the early move on yielding ground proved too taxing. Although she bravely fought off stablemate Dream Peace, she was just caught in the final strides by Nahrain.

The betting public looked askance at that loss, and let Zagora go off at a generous 9-1 in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita. Living up to Brown's earlier characterization of her as a clutch player, Zagora delivered a pitch-perfect performance under Javier Castellano. She outkicked Marketing Mix by three-quarters of a length, with the troubled The Fugue another half-length astern in third, and thereby sealed her career with a championship.

Zagora compiled an 8-5-1-1, $1,689,000, record in 2012, and the daughter of Green Tune retires with an overall line of 22-10-5-3, $2,368,577.

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.

TURF FEMALE   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
ZAGORA   242
Marketing Mix   5
Lady of Shamrock   4

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.

STEEPLECHASER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
PIERROT LUNAIRE   116
Demonstrative   99
Arcadius   1

Dale Romans -- Champion Trainer

Dale Romans was recognized for his career year (Keeneland Photo)
Dale Romans capped a fantastic 2012 season with his first Eclipse Award for leading trainer. The 46-year-old conditioner defeated five-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher by a 119-87 margin, with Hall of Famer and three-time champion trainer Bob Baffert finishing third with 35 votes.

Romans posted 27 stakes wins, including 20 graded events, and notched notched his ninth Grade 1 victory of 2012 when Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, concluded his racing career in grand style, recording a popular win in the Clark Handicap in late November. He won major races on every surface with a wide array of horses, including the Breeders' Cup Turf and Arlington Million with Little Mike; the Metropolitan Handicap with Shackleford; and the Pacific Classic and Blue Grass Stakes with Dullahan; and a pair of Grade 1 events with female turf miler Tapitsfly.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Romans grew up around Thoroughbred racing at Churchill Downs and followed his father, the late Jerry Romans, one of the winningest conditioners on the Kentucky racing circuit, into the training business in the mid 1980s, saddling his first winner of February 15, 1987. He works closely with life partner Tammy Fox, a former jockey who still exercises all of Romans' horses and provides invaluable advice on their condition.

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.

TRAINER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
DALE ROMANS   119
Todd Pletcher   87
Bob Baffert   35

Ramon Dominguez -- Champion Jockey

Ramon Dominguez enjoyed a record-setting season (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Ramon Dominguez was honored with his third straight Eclipse Award as leading jockey, a fitting accomplishment following a 2012 season in which Dominguez's mounts earned a record $25,582,252, easily besting the previous mark of $23,354,960 set by Jerry Bailey in 2003. However, the 36-year-old native of Venezuela was unable to attend the Eclipse ceremonies after sustaining a slightly displaced skull fracture during a spill at Aqueduct on Friday.

Dominguez is expected to make a full recovery, but the injury perfectly illustrates the inherent dangers of being a jockey. Dominguez was sidelined on two separate occasions in 2012, missing approximately six weeks of competition, but he still won 341 races from 1,398 starts (24 percent) and led all riders on the New York Racing Association circuit, compiling a total of 322 victories. He captured riding titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, establishing a new single-season record for wins at Saratoga with 68.

At Saratoga on July 22, Dominguez won six races on the same card for the third time in his career. The well-respected journeyman also received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2012, which honors jockeys whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

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.

JOCKEY   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
RAMON DOMINGUEZ   201
John Velazquez   37
Rosie Napravnik   4

Godolphin Racing -- Champion Owner

Sheikh Mohammed is the architect of Godolphin and Darley (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)
After capturing the world's richest race in 2012, the $10 Dubai World Cup with Monterosso, and leading all owners by graded stakes winners in North America, Godolphin Racing LLC was named leading owner at Saturday's night's Eclipse Award ceremonies.

Godolphin's distinctive Royal Blue silks are synonymous with top-class racing worldwide.

Founded in 1992 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Godolphin Racing is the Maktoum family's racing operation and was named in honor of the Godolphin Arabian, one of the three founding stallions of the modern Thoroughbred. Sheikh Mohammed collected his third trophy for leading owner after previously winning in 2006 with Darley Stables and 2009 with Godolphin. His Darley America stud farm was also named champion breeder in 2012.

Godolphin's runners compiled $13,449,075 in earnings for North America and Dubai in 2012. Their top U.S. performers included champion three-year-old filly Questing; Alpha, who dead-heated for the win in the Travers; and Grade 1 winners Better Lucky, Emcee, Nahrain and It's Tricky.

Godolphin, which employs multiple trainers worldwide, won four Grade 1s during the Saratoga meet, all under the direction of Kiaran McLaughlin.

"It's an honor to train for Godolphin and to have such quality horses," McLaughlin said last summer.

Sheikh Mohammed won his first race in 1977 and was honored with a Special Eclipse Award in 2001.

OWNER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
GODOLPHIN RACING LLC   138
Midwest Thoroughbreds   50
Reddam Racing LLC   26

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.

BREEDER   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
DARLEY   170
Adena Springs   25
Morton Fink   20

Jose Montano -- Champion Apprentice Rider

Jose Montano is the first Eclipse winner based at Charles Town (Mike Montgomery Photo)
After leading all apprentice jockeys by wins in 2012, Jose Montano won the Eclipse Award on Saturday night.

Montano captured 187 races from January 1 through October 14, scoring at a 21 percent rate from 899 mounts while he still had the bug. He was based primarily at Charles Town in West Virginia.

Montano won three of four racing titles at Charles Town last year (April 1-June 30 meet; July 1-September 30 meet; and October 1-December 29 meet) and tied for second during the other (January 3-March 31). While he had the apprentice bug, his mounts earned $2,891,906.

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.

APPRENTICE JOCKEY   FIRST-PLACE VOTES
     
JOSE MONTANO   127
Irad Ortiz Jr.   34
Angel Suarez   25

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:

  • Photography – Tom Keyser, Daily Racing Form, "Start of Brooklyn Handicap," July 11, 2012.
  • Writing – Feature/Commentary: Ryan Goldberg, Daily Racing Form, "Keiber Coa Presses on a Year After Father's Fateful Spill," July 7, 2012.
  • Writing - News/Enterprise – Mary Simon, Thoroughbred Times, "Added Obstacle" June 9, 2012.
  • Television - Live Racing: NBC Sports, "The Kentucky Derby"; Rob Hyland, Coordinating Producer; May 5, 2012.
  • Television - Feature: ESPN, "Notinrwilderstdremz," Heather Lombardo, Producer; October 30, 2012.
  • Audio and Multi-Media Internet – Glenye Cain Oakford, Daily Racing Form.com "Zenyatta: Wait for First Foal Combines Science, Art and Anticipation," February 28, 2012.

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