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Invasor, Maktoums steal show
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Invasor, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, led a strong showing for the ruling family of Dubai at the 36th annual Eclipse Awards dinner Monday night by being named the 2006 Horse of the Year and champion older horse.
Invasor is owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's Shadwell Stable. Sheikh Hamdan's brother, Sheikh Mohammed, won Eclipse Awards for his Darley Stable through Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini, who was named champion 3-year-old male, and as champion owner, in which Darley finished in a dead heat with the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the owners of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Since there is no rule for breaking a statistical tie, Darley and the Jacksons each received Eclipse Awards as champion owner.
All the Eclipse Awards were presented Monday night at a black-tie dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel.
Barbaro finished second to Invasor for Horse of the Year and to Bernardini for champion 3-year-old male, but those associated with the popular colt were honored throughout the night. In addition to the Jacksons receiving an Eclipse Award as champion owner, a special Eclipse Award was presented to the Jacksons and Barbaro's medical team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center. And Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado, received his first Eclipse Award.
The dead heat for champion owner was one of several surprises during the evening. Wait a While, who did the bulk of her work on the turf during the year, outpolled the deceased Pine Island to be named champion 3-year-old filly. Prado easily outdistanced Garrett Gomez for champion jockey in a race that was considered closer. And in a division in which there was no standout, Breeders' Cup Mile winner Miesque's Approval beat out finalists The Tin Man and English Channel to be named the Eclipse Award-winning male turf horse.
Invasor and Miesque's Approval led a parade of Breeders' Cup winners who won Eclipse Awards, including Dreaming of Anna (2-year-old filly), Street Sense (2-year-old male), Thor's Echo (sprinter), Ouija Board (female turf horse), and McDynamo (steeplechaser).
Todd Pletcher, who set a single-season record for purse earnings, won the Eclipse Award as champion trainer for the third straight year. He trained two Eclipse Award winners last year - Wait a While and Fleet Indian, who was named champion older female.
Julien Leparoux was an overwhelming winner as champion apprentice jockey, and Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm was named champion breeder. The Jacksons finished second for champion breeder, with Darley third.
The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers' Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which includes employees of Equibase. All votes are pooled. Of the 315 eligible voters, 271 returned completed ballots.
Darley and Lael Stables each received 110 votes for champion owner, but the breakdown by the three blocs, provided by the NTRA, was fascinating. The turf writers voted for Lael over Darley, 78-41. Daily Racing Form preferred Darley by 33-26. But the NTRA went for Darley by an overwhelming margin of 36-6.
Each bloc preferred a different horse in balloting for male turf horse, but Miesque's Approval came out the narrow winner with 74 votes to The Tin Man (69 votes) and English Channel (63). The turf writers went for Miesque's Approval (40) over The Tin Man (33) and English Channel (32). Daily Racing Form gave the edge to The Tin Man (22) over Miesque's Approval (19) and English Channel (14). But English Channel (17) was slightly preferred to Miesque's Approval (15) and The Tin Man (14) by the NTRA.
There was a difference of opinion for jockey, too. Prado easily outpolled Gomez by 84-41 among the turf writers and by 39-15 by the NTRA, but DRF sided with Gomez by 34-29. Overall, though, Prado won easily, 152-90.
In balloting for champion 3-year-old filly, Wait a While was preferred over Pine Island by all three blocs and received 138 overall votes to Pine Island's 108. Wait a While also finished third for champion female turf horse with 15 votes, trailing Ouija Board (217) and Gorella (35).
The debate over champion 3-year-old male was lively, but voters preferred Bernardini over Barbaro by a comfortable margin, 210-56.
Invasor was a runaway winner for Horse of the Year. He received 228 of the 271 votes. Barbaro was second with 21, and Bernardini third with 16. The only others receiving votes for Horse of the Year were Lava Man and Ouija Board, who each got 3 votes.
Invasor also was an overwhelming winner for champion older horse, easily defeating Lava Man by 262-8. One voter abstained.
Invasor, a champion in Uruguay before coming to the United States, won 4 of 5 starts last year. He lost his first start of the year in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates Derby, but then reeled off four straight victories, all in Grade 1 races, for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He won the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, and Whitney Handicap, then came off a 90-day layoff to beat Bernardini and Lava Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic under jockey Fernando Jara.
He has remained in training this year, and is expected to make his first start of the year on Feb. 3 in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Several other Eclipse Awards, announced previously, also were presented Monday night, including to John Nerud, who received the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of achievement in the sport. Nerud, who lives on Long Island, was unable to attend. His award was accepted by Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Street Sense.
Also receiving awards were Matt Goins of the Lexington Herald-Leader for photography, HRTV and Pony Highway Productions for national television feature, and WLKY-TV Louisville for local television.
Barbaro's emotional odyssey brought previously announced Eclipse Awards to Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News and Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer for their print reporting, and to NBC-Sports television and WBAL radio for their coverage of the Preakness, in which Barbaro suffered life-threatening injuries.