01/14/2016 1:00PM

American Pharoah and Co. in spotlight at Eclipse Awards

Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah is a shoo-in to be named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male Saturday night.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – There will be a final celebration of the historic year of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah when the 45th annual Eclipse Awards are held Saturday night here at Gulfstream Park, where American Pharoah is a shoo-in to be named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

Much of the interest, though, will focus on how extensive the coattails are for American Pharoah because his trainer, jockey, and owner and breeder all are up for awards in their respective divisions.

In addition, several of the 17 categories – most notably female sprinter and 3-year-old filly – truly look like toss-ups, adding some real drama to the ceremony.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by employees of Daily Racing Form, members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose bloc includes Equibase employees and many of the nation’s racing secretaries. The votes of all 261 voters who returned ballots are pooled, and the horse or person with the most votes is declared the winner.

When the top three in each division were announced as finalists earlier this month, American Pharoah was named a finalist for Horse of the Year along with Beholder and Runhappy, and for 3-year-old male along with Dortmund and Runhappy, but he’s obviously a slam dunk for both. Victories would make American Pharoah the first horse since Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, to win divisional titles at ages 2 and 3 and Horse of the Year at 3.

Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables, which bred and owned American Pharoah, has a strong chance to be named both champion owner and breeder. Ken and Sarah Ramsey are finalists in both of those categories, too.

American Pharoah’s trainer, Bob Baffert, also is favored against Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher.

Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah, is a finalist against Javier Castellano and Irad Ortiz Jr., but Castellano had a record-setting year for purse earnings and appears to be in the best position to prevent a clean sweep for American Pharoah’s connections.

In addition, American Pharoah’s Belmont Stakes victory is the most likely winner of the NTRA’s moment of the year.

:: Eclipse Awards: Watch Saturday’s ceremony live.

Beholder (dirt female), Runhappy (male sprinter), Nyquist (2-year-old male), and Songbird (2-year-old filly) are all Eclipse slam dunks, while Honor Code (dirt male) and Big Blue Kitten (turf male) are considered favorites.

There was no standout during the year, though, for female sprinter nor 3-year-old filly, which makes those two categories among the most intriguing for Saturday night. Lady Shipman, La Verdad, and Wavell Avenue are the female sprint finalists, while Found, I’m a Chatterbox, and Stellar Wind are the finalists for 3-year-old filly.

Found also is a finalist for female turf horse against Stephanie’s Kitten and Tepin, all of them Breeders’ Cup winners.

Defending champ Demonstrative is a finalist for steeplechase horse along with Bob Le Beau and Dawalan.

The finalists for apprentice jockey are Eric Cancel, Angel Cruz, and Tyler Gaffalione.

The Eclipse Award of Merit will be presented to Leonard Lavin, and all media award winners will be recognized, too.

Jeannine Edwards of ESPN will host the awards for the fifth straight year. Preshow coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, with the awards commencing at 8, all streamed live at DRF.com and Xpressbet.com.

Kimberly More than 1 year ago
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Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
I agree that Cancel, Cruz, and Gaffalione all had great Apprentice years. Cancel just blew up yesterday's early Pick 4 and the Pick 5 on the #6 horse. Is he still getting weight in January 2016?