01/05/2011 1:49PM

Claiborne, Marylou Whitney, Team Zenyatta honored with Eclipse Awards


Storied Claiborne Farm, those associated with the storybook horse Zenyatta, and Marylou Whitney, for decades one of racing’s shining beacons both on and off the track, were announced on Wednesday as Eclipse Award winners by the three sponsoring organizations of the awards.

Claiborne Farm and Whitney will each receive the Eclipse Award of Merit, given for meritorious service to the sport. Team Zenyatta will receive a Special Eclipse Award, in large part due to the way her connections embraced her popularity and shared her with the public in 2010. All three awards were determined by a committee made up of representatives from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

They will receive their awards on Jan. 17 at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in Florida.
Blame – bred and owned in part by Claiborne – and Zenyatta will be the focal points of that black-tie dinner. Both horses are heavy favorites to win Eclipse Awards in their respective division – Blame as champion older male, Zenyatta champion older female – and they are acknowledged as the two front-runners for Horse of the Year.

Voting for divisional honors, both human and equine, and Horse of the Year closed Tuesday. Three finalists in each division – with the exception of Horse of the Year – were to be announced on Thursday. All winners will be announced at the dinner.

Claiborne Farm, owned by the Hancock family, celebrated its 100th anniversary this past year. Based in Paris, Ky., Claiborne for decades has been one of the top breeding farms in the world. It has been under the direction of Seth Hancock and his sisters, Dell and Clay, since the 1972 death of their father, Arthur B. Hancock Jr., better known as “Bull.” Claiborne has been the home of Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Danzig, Mr. Prospector, Nasrullah, Nijinsky II, Round Table, and Secretariat during their breeding careers. The farm also bred and raced Swale, the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner.

Blame, bred by Claiborne along with longtime client Adele Dilschneider, has a chance to be the first Horse of the Year to have raced for and then retired to stud at Claiborne.

Whitney has had great success with homebreds such as Birdstone, the winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004, and Bird Town, the winner of the 2003 Kentucky Oaks. She has donated generously to a number of organizations, both equine and medical. She was one of the founding members of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

The Special Eclipse Award for Team Zenyatta cites the unfailing generosity of her connections – owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs; jockey Mike Smith, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, exercise rider Steve Willard, groom Mario Espinoza, hotwalker Carmen Zamona, and assistant trainer Michelle Jensen – for making Zenyatta so accessible to the public during her encore year in 2010.

No matter where Zenyatta went – to Oaklawn Park, Del Mar, Churchill Downs, or her base at Hollywood Park – there was a caravan of visitors marching to see her every day. Her popularity extended to “60 Minutes,” W Magazine, and Oprah Winfrey’s “O Power List,” which named Zenyatta as one of the 20 most influential females of the year. She finished second in the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year balloting behind only Olympic gold medal winning skier Lindsey Vonn.