01/19/2017 2:06PM

Chrome seeks rare Eclipse double

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome could win his second Horse of Year award, becoming only the second horse to do so in nonconsecutive years.

Since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971, just one horse – John Henry – has been named Horse of the Year in nonconsecutive years, a feat California Chrome could equal on Saturday night when the 46th annual Eclipse Awards dinner is held at Gulfstream Park.

California Chrome was named Horse of the Year in 2014. After a 2015 campaign cut short by injury and squabbles among his original owners, he rebounded in 2016 with a nearly flawless campaign highlighted by victories in the Dubai World Cup and Pacific Classic, his lone loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against Arrogate.

Arrogate and California Chrome are the two leading contenders for Horse of the Year. The 248 Eclipse Award voters who submitted ballots had to decide if California Chrome’s overall body of work was superior to their lone head-to-head showdown. Based on what many voters have posted on social media or in their respective publications, it appears that California Chrome has the edge.

Arrogate – who also won the Travers – is favored to be named champion 3-year-old male. The other finalist for Horse of the Year, Songbird, is an overwhelming favorite to be named champion 3-year-old filly. Songbird was the champion 2-year-old filly of 2015.

Beholder, who ended Songbird’s perfect record in a thrilling Breeders’ Cup Distaff, is favored to win the title as champion older female, which would mark the fourth Eclipse Award of her remarkable racing career.

The Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes – which owns Beholder – has another prominent finalist in Lord Nelson, who is up for champion male sprinter along with Drefong and A. P. Indian.

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Arrogate, Drefong, and Lord Nelson, is a finalist for champion trainer, but sentiment seems to be favoring Chad Brown, who led the nation in purse earnings and is seeking his first trainer title. Flintshire, a finalist in the male turf category, seems like the Brown trainee given the best chance of winning a divisional Eclipse.

The other trainer finalist is Mark Casse, who had a sensational year highlighted by likely champions Classic Empire (2-year-old male) and Tepin (female turf).

Steven Crist, the former editor and publisher of Daily Racing Form, and Andrew Beyer, the longtime Washington Post writer whose eponymous speed figures are a feature of DRF, will be presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit for their decades-long contributions to the sport, namely advocating for horseplayers and increasing the quality of information presented to the public.

The entire Eclipse Awards ceremony will be televised live by TVG2 and will be streamed live by several sites, including DRF.com, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. The Horse of the Year announcement is scheduled for approximately 10:30. Jeannine Edwards of ESPN is again the emcee.