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Updated on 01/19/2012 2:37PM
Havre de Grace becomes third female Horse of the Year in a row
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Havre de Grace on Monday night joined Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta by becoming the third straight female to be named Horse of the Year, a feat never before accomplished in American racing.
Havre de Grace also was an overwhelming winner as champion older female, and her rider, Ramon Dominguez, was named champion jockey. The winners of all human and equine divisions were announced at the 41st annual black-tie Eclipse Awards dinner here at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons hotel.
[ECLIPSE AWARDS: 2011 Eclipse Award winners, vote totals, DRF profiles]
Havre de Grace, whom Larry Jones trains for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, won 5 of 7 starts last year, including a pivotal victory against males in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
“It’s some kind of thrill to win this award that I only dreamed of 10 or 15 years ago,” Porter said when accepting the gold Eclipse trophy for Horse of the Year.
“I’ve seen the lowest of the lows,” Porter said, referring to the tragic death of his filly Eight Belles following her runner-up finish in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, “and I’ve seen a lot of highs, but nothing rivals Havre de Grace.”
The Eclipse Awards are voted on by Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which also includes members of Equibase. Voters had to name their top three in each division in order to produce three finalists for Monday’s ceremony, but only first-place votes were used to determine the winners.
Of the 267 eligible voters, 248 returned ballots. In the Horse of the Year balloting, Havre de Grace received 166 first-place votes, easily defeating second-place Acclamation, the champion older male, who got 26 votes. Eleven other horses received at least one first-place vote -- Game On Dude (10), Cape Blanco (9), Drosselmeyer (6), Royal Delta (6), Tizway (6), Rapid Redux (4), Animal Kingdom (3), My Miss Aurelia (3), Caleb’s Posse (2), and Court Vision and Hansen, who received one vote each. There were four abstentions, and one ballot was counted as a no vote.
Havre de Grace was an even easier winner for champion older female, receiving 245 first-place votes for champion older female. Blind Luck got 2 votes, and Awesome Maria 1.
Other divisional winners were Hansen (2-year-old male), My Miss Aurelia (2-year-old filly), Animal Kingdom (3-year-old male), Royal Delta (3-year-old filly), Acclamation (older male), Cape Blanco (male turf horse), Stacelita (female turf horse), Amazombie (male sprinter), Musical Romance (female sprinter), and Black Jack Blues (steeplechaser).
Apprentice jockey, which needed a re-vote last week because the information originally provided to voters was not accurate, resulted in Kyle Frey being declared the winner. Rosario Montanez, perceived as the favorite before the voting snafu, was a distant third, behind runner-up Ryan Curatolo.
While the divisional titles of Havre de Grace, My Miss Aurelia, and Royal Delta were not a surprise, there were several categories that were not as clear cut, and produced close finishes, surprising results, or both.
The tightest finish occurred for champion 3-year-old male, where Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner, edged out Caleb’s Posse by a mere three votes, 114-111. Shackleford (12 votes), Ruler On Ice (5), Stay Thirsty (4), and Uncle Mo (1) also received first-place votes, and one voter abstained.
Caleb’s Posse, who won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, was the unluckiest horse at this Eclipse Awards. He also finished second for the male sprint title to Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie, 201-42, in a category in which Amazombie was the strong favorite. Others receiving first-place votes for champion sprinter were Regally Ready (2), The Factor (2), and Jackson Bend (1).
The female sprint championship was considered a toss-up among Hilda’s Passion, Musical Romance, and Sassy Image, but Musical Romance – the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – prevailed by a comfortable margin, receiving 131 votes to the 53 of runner-up Hilda’s Passion. Sassy Image was third with 46 votes. Others receiving votes in this category were Turbulent Descent (13) and Switch (2). Two voters abstained, and one ballot was recorded as a no-vote because, according to Jim Gluckson, a publicist for the Eclipse Awards, that voter named a horse ineligible for the division.
Acclamation, who won races on turf and synthetic last year, prevailed in a hotly debated battle for champion older male, receiving 95 votes to the 70 of second-place Game On Dude. Tizway was third with 52 votes. Others receiving votes were Drosselmeyer (21), Flat Out (4), Cape Blanco (3), and Wise Dan (1). One voter abstained, and one ballot was counted as a no-vote.
Acclamation also finished second for champion male turf horse, well behind Cape Blanco, who received 172 votes to Acclamation’s 55. St Nicholas Abbey was third with 16 votes. Court Vision (2), Turallure (2), and, curiously, Drosselmeyer (1) also received first-place votes.
The re-vote for champion apprentice jockey found Frey the winner with 77 votes to 57 for Curatolo and a mere 19 for Montanez, even though Montanez won far more money than any rider who was an apprentice for at least part of the year, and he won more races than Frey while competing on the same circuit. But Montanez’s apprentice allowance ended in August, which was not reflected in the original material sent to voters and resulted in the unprecedented re-vote in this category.
C.J. McMahon (7), Irad Ortiz Jr. (3), Amanda Tamburello (3), and Constantino Roman (1) also got first-place votes. Seven voters abstained, and another 74 – including several who abstained on the original ballot – did not re-vote, meaning 81 of the 248 (32.7 percent) who cast ballots did not opine in this category, further reflection of the apathy that, combined with this year’s snafu, may lead to its discontinuation after this year.
By contrast, champion jockey was a runaway, with Dominguez receiving 197 votes to 30 for John Velazquez and 14 for Javier Castellano.
The Ramseys won a close battle for champion owner, garnering 66 votes to 60 for runner-up Midwest Thoroughbreds in a category in which 14 entities received first-place votes. Team Valor International, which owns Animal Kingdom, was third with 25 votes. Fox Hill was fifth with 20 votes, behind fourth-place Godolphin Racing (21).
The Ramseys also finished second for champion breeder to Adena Springs, which won for the sixth time; Stronach also won under his name in 2000, so he essentially has been the champion breeder a record seven times. Adena Springs received 151 votes to the Ramseys’ 62. Another 11 entities received first-place votes, including Nancy Dillman, the breeder of Havre de Grace, who finished fourth with 4, behind third-place Ocala Stud (5).
Royal Delta got 243 first-place votes for champion 3-year-old filly, easily outpolling Awesome Feather (2), Plum Pretty (2), and Zazu (1).
Royal Delta’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, along with the BC Classic win of Drosselmeyer, was part of a late-season surge by Mott that propelled him to his third Eclipse Award as champion trainer. Mott received 83 votes to 60 for Bob Baffert and 57 for Todd Pletcher. Graham Motion (23), Steve Asmussen (15), Aidan O’Brien (4), Jerry Hollendorfer (1), Eddie Gaudet (1), and Dale Romans (1) also received first-place votes, and three voters abstained. Jones did not get any first-place votes.
My Miss Aurelia, the unbeaten winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies, just missed being named a unanimous champion for 2-year-old filly. She received 247 votes, while one voter went for Stephanie’s Kitten, the winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The unbeaten Hansen was an easy winner as champion 2-year-old male, with 194 votes compared with 52 for Union Rags, whom Hansen narrowly defeated in the BC Juvenile. Secret Circle and Overdriven each received a single first-place vote in this division.
Stacelita was a handy winner for champion female turf horse with 158 votes, far more than runner-up Perfect Shirl (28). Never Retreat (25) and Dubawi Heights (17) were next in a category in which 13 runners, including Goldikova, received first-place votes.
Black Jack Blues outpolled Tax Ruling by 137 votes to 80 for champion steeplechase horse.
Also Monday night, Cot Campbell received the Eclipse Award of Merit, and Rapid Redux won a Special Eclipse Award for winning all 19 of his starts in 2011.
In addition, media Eclipse Awards were presented to Bob Mayberger for photography, Claire Novak for feature writing, Jennie Rees for news writing, ESPN for live racing television, HRTV for television feature, and Thoroughbred Times for audio and multimedia Internet.