01/26/2004 12:00AM

Mineshaft in a runaway

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Mineshaft is named the 2003 Horse of the Year at the 33rd annual Eclipse Awards ceremony.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Mineshaft, who was a bust in Britain but became a repatriated star in the United States, was named the 2003 Horse of the Year at the 33rd annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Monday night.

Mineshaft was also named champion older horse at the black-tie dinner held at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa. He was rewarded for a year in which he won seven of nine starts and scored victories in four Grade 1 stakes - the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, Woodward Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

William S. Farish, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, bred and raced Mineshaft in partnership with James Elkins and Temple Webber Jr. Mineshaft began his career in Britain but won just once there. Last year, at age 4, the son of A.P. Indy developed into a terror for trainer Neil Howard. He was ridden in all his starts by Robby Albarado.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by racing secretaries and Equibase personnel from National Thoroughbred Racing Association member tracks, Daily Racing Form writers and editors, and members of the National Turf Writers Association. Of the 313 eligible voters, 248 cast ballots. Voters were asked to select their top three choices in each category, so as to have three finalists in each division, but the winners were determined solely by first-place votes.

Mineshaft was a runaway winner for both titles. He received 209 votes for Horse of the Year. Congaree, who won the Carter Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Cigar Mile, was a distant second with 11 votes. Others receiving votes for Horse of the Year were Halfbridled (9 votes), Funny Cide (4), Candy Ride (3), High Chaparral (2), Medaglia d'Oro (2), Azeri (1), Empire Maker (1), Perfect Drift (1), Pleasantly Perfect (1), and Six Perfections (1). Three voters abstained.

Mineshaft received 221 votes for champion older male, again easily distancing Congaree, who got the same 11 votes he received for Horse of the Year.

Several of the categories were considered close calls, but in most instances, the results were one-sided.

The closest result was for champion 3-year-old filly, in which Bird Town, the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn Stakes winner, edged Six Perfections, the European turf runner who beat males in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Bird Town received 96 votes to 94 for Six Perfections.

In other hotly contested races, Azeri was named champion older filly or mare over Sightseek, Funny Cide beat Empire Maker for champion 3-year-old male, Aldebaran was named champion sprinter over Cajun Beat, Islington defeated Heat Haze and Six Perfections for champion female turf runner, and High Chaparral proved a surprisingly easy winner over Storming Home and Johar for champion turf runner, winning that title for a second straight year.

Azeri, the Horse of the Year and champion older filly or mare in 2002, narrowly beat Sightseek, 123-107. Funny Cide, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, received 150 first-place votes to 92 for Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. Aldebaran, who won the Metropolitan Mile and two other Grade 1 races, outpolled Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat by 137-74, with Congaree a distant third with 27 votes. Islington, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, received 90 votes to 74 for Matriarch Stakes winner Heat Haze and 66 for Six Perfections. High Chaparral finished in a dead heat with Johar in the Breeders' Cup Turf - but in the voting box, he was an easy winner, garnering 138 votes to just 17 for Johar. Storming Home finished second with 73 votes.

Action This Day and Halfbridled, both of whom won Breeders' Cup races, were easy winners in the 2-year-old categories. Action This Day, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, received 114 first-place votes for 2-year-old male, more than twice as many as second-place Cuvee, who had 42.

Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly who won all four of her starts last year, just missed being a unanimous selection; one voter instead chose Ashado, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

McDynamo was an easy winner as champion steeplechase runner. He received 225 first-place votes.

Jerry Bailey and Bobby Frankel continued their reign as champion jockey and trainer. For Bailey, who set records for purse earnings and stakes wins last year, it was a record seventh Eclipse Award, and his fourth in a row. He received 211 votes. Patrick Valenzuela was second with 17.

Frankel, whose lone champion last year was Aldebaran, won a record 25 Grade 1 races last year. He has won the Eclipse Award four straight years, and a record five times overall. Frankel received 193 votes. Richard Mandella, the trainer of both Action This Day and Halfbridled and two other winners on Breeders' Cup Day, finished second with 44.

Frankel's primary client, the Juddmonte Farms of Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Abdullah, was the winner as both champion owner and breeder. Juddmonte's homebred winners last year included Empire Maker, Heat Haze, Sightseek, and Tates Creek.

Juddmonte received 102 first-place votes for champion owner, exactly twice as many as runner-up Michael Gill. Another Frankel client, Ed Gann, was third with 32 votes. Juddmonte also was champion owner in 1992.

The margin of victory was more pronounced for champion breeder. Juddmonte received 171 votes, easily outdistancing second-place Frank Stronach, who received 36 votes. Juddmonte has won the Eclipse Award as champion breeder four times, including the last three years.

Eddie Castro was named champion apprentice jockey. He tallied 147 votes. Ryan Fogelsonger, last year's winner, finished second with 52.