Updated on 01/24/2017 3:25PM

California Chrome crowned Horse of the Year for second time

Email
Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
California Chrome's win in the Dubai World Cup last March was part of a brilliant 5-year-old campaign for the two-time Horse of the Year.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Sunshine State became the Golden State on Saturday night at the 46th annual Eclipse Awards dinner, as California Chrome made off with the golden statuette as Horse of the Year for the second time and led a parade of California-based connections who won divisional titles.

California Chrome outpolled Arrogate for Horse of the Year, 202 to 40. Songbird received five votes and Highland Reel one.

What was an otherwise joyous night ended on a strange note, as Perry Martin, the co-breeder and co-owner of California Chrome, gave a rambling speech that went on for so long and was so poorly received that he was played off the stage, with a Bronx cheer from the crowd.

California Chrome, Arrogate, and Songbird all won divisional titles earlier in the evening. California Chrome was the unanimous choice among the 248 voters as champion older dirt male, Arrogate captured the title as champion 3-year-old male, and Songbird was a unanimous choice as champion 3-year-old filly.

Those three were based in California, as were divisional winners Champagne Room (2-year-old filly), Beholder (older dirt female), Drefong (male sprinter), and Finest City (female sprinter). Of the 12 equine Eclipse Awards, including Horse of the Year, eight went to horses from California.

The other equine divisional winners were Classic Empire (2-year-old male), Flintshire (male turf), Tepin (female turf), and Rawnaq (steeplechaser).

Classic Empire, Champagne Room, Arrogate, Beholder, Drefong, and Finest City all won Breeders’ Cup races, while Songbird, California Chrome, Flintshire, and Tepin all finished second in Breeders’ Cup races, underscoring the importance of that year-end event.

Human awards went to Javier Castellano (jockey), Luis Ocasio (apprentice jockey), Chad Brown (trainer), Juddmonte Farms (owner), and WinStar Farm (breeder).

California Chrome, who was Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male in 2014, became only the second horse to be named Horse of the Year in nonconsecutive years since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971. John Henry won in 1981 and 1984, but he was a gelding, so California Chrome is the first entire horse so honored.

California Chrome won seven of eight starts last year, including the Dubai World Cup and Pacific Classic. His lone loss came against Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But voters opted to reward California Chrome for his overall body of work, even though Arrogate – whose only other stakes win came in the Travers – beat California Chrome in their lone head-to-head meeting.

California Chrome, a California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit, is trained by Art Sherman and his son and assistant, Alan. California Chrome, 6, is owned by California Chrome LLC, a partnership that includes Taylor Made Farm and co-breeder Martin. Martin bred California Chrome with Steve Coburn. California Chrome is scheduled to make the final start of his career in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup next Saturday, after which he is scheduled to enter stud at Taylor Made in Kentucky.

The Eclipse Awards were presented during a gala, black-tie-optional program at Gulfstream Park. There were 248 voters – representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association – and in three cases, they voted unanimously for divisional titles.

In addition to California Chrome as champion older dirt male, Classic Empire received all 248 votes for 2-year-old male, and Songbird got every vote for 3-year-old filly. For Songbird, it was her second straight title, having won the 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award in 2015.

Songbird’s lone loss in 12 career starts came in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which she was nosed out by Beholder, who was an overwhelming winner as champion dirt female. Beholder outpolled Stellar Wind, 246-2, for the fourth year-end divisional title of her spectacular career.

Arrogate won his divisional title by almost as much as Beholder. He received 243 votes and became the seventh 3-year-old male champion trained by Bob Baffert, joining American Pharoah, Lookin At Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet, and Silver Charm. He is only the third 3-year-old male since 1971 to win the title without starting in a Triple Crown race, joining Wajima (1975) and Tiznow (2000).

Baffert also trained male sprint winner Drefong, who received 199 votes, easily beating the Baffert-trained Lord Nelson, who was second with 29.

Similarly, Mark Casse had two champions, with Tepin and Classic Empire. Tepin’s highlights included a victory in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, helping to give her a second straight divisional title as champion female turf runner. She received 225 votes. Found was second with 11.

Baffert and Casse had two year-end champions to just one for Brown, but Brown had a terrific year – he led the nation in purse earnings and won the training title at Saratoga – and finally got a personal Eclipse Award about two years late. Brown got 208 votes to 21 for Baffert and 11 for Casse.

Flintshire, whom Brown trained last year, won the male turf title with 137 votes, nearly double runner-up Highland Reel, who received 76. Flintshire was second to Highland Reel in the Breeders’ Cup Turf but won two other Grade 1 races.

Divisional titles for Flintshire and Arrogate helped propel their owner, the Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah, to the Eclipse Award as champion owner. Juddmonte received 134 votes to 45 for runners-up Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Javier Castellano, the rider of Flintshire and the leader in purse earnings among his brethren, captured the Eclipse Award as champion jockey for the fourth straight year. He received 146 votes to 44 for runner-up Mike Smith, whose divisional champs were Arrogate, Songbird, and Finest City and who rode champ Drefong to victory in the King’s Bishop.

Champagne Room and Finest City both were fairly easy winners of seemingly opaque divisions.

Champagne Room received 202 votes for champion 2-year-old filly to 21 for runner-up New Money Honey. Finest City got 185 votes for champion female sprinter to 20 for second-place Haveyougoneaway. Curiously, Songbird received a single vote for female sprinter even though she never competed in a race shorter than one mile and never ran in a one-turn race. These were the first Eclipse Awards for trainers Peter Eurton (Champagne Room) and Ian Kruljac (Finest City).

Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm, which led all breeders in purse earnings, won the Eclipse Award as champion breeder with 164 votes. The Cleary family’s Clearsky Farms, the breeder of Arrogate and Lord Nelson, was next with 62.

Two-time Grade 1 winner Rawnaq won the steeplechase title with 171 votes to 31 for runner-up Top Striker.

Ocasio – who won more races and more money than any other apprentice rider – received 182 votes for champion apprentice jockey, easily defeating runner-up Lane Luzzi, who had 34. Luzzi was seeking to emulate his father, Mike, who won this award in 1989.

Also Saturday night, the Eclipse Award of Merit was presented to journalists Andrew Beyer and Steven Crist for their lifetime achievement in helping to better the sport for horseplayers.

In addition, media Eclipse Awards were presented to NBC Sports for its live telecast of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, ESPN for television feature, DRF (Jay Hovdey, Barbara Livingston, and Molly McGill) for audio/multimedia, Natalie Voss of the Paulick Report for news/enterprise reporting, John Scheinman for feature writing in the Paulick Report, and Tod Marks for photography in The Chronicle of the Horse.

:: For a list of 2016 Eclipse Award winners from Saturday night, click here.