Updated on 01/19/2013 11:55PM

Wise Dan named Horse of the Year, wins turf male, older male titles at Eclipse Awards

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Tom Keyser
Wise Dan won titles as Horse of the Year, champion male turf horse, and champion older male on Saturday at the Eclipse Awards.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Wise Dan became the first horse since John Henry in 1981 to win three Eclipse Awards in the same year, including Horse of the Year, at the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards on Saturday night at Gulfstream Park.

He was announced as Horse of the Year at the end of the evening after having earlier won divisional titles as both champion male turf horse and champion older male. His three awards are the exact same three that went to John Henry in 1981.

Wise Dan, like John Henry a gelding, won five of six starts in 2012, concluding with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He is trained by Charlie Lopresti, was bred and is owned by Morton Fink, and was ridden by John Velazquez.

“For me, after all these years, you need something to get up in the morning and look forward to,” Fink said when accepting the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. “This horse has made me so happy, I can’t express it in words.”

Despite Wise Dan’s big night, neither Lopresti, Fink, nor Velazquez won individual Eclipse Awards

[ECLIPSE AWARDS: Full list of 2012 winners, video from the ceremony]

There were 272 eligible voters for the Eclipse Awards from Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose voting members include racetrack racing secretaries and members of Equibase. Of those 272 voters, 254 returned ballots. Winners in each category are determined solely by first-place votes, which are pooled.

Wise Dan received 194 votes for Horse of the Year, easily outpolling I’ll Have Another, who got 30 votes. Fort Larned was next with 12. Royal Delta received 8 votes, Little Mike 6, and 1 vote each went to Groupie Doll, Shanghai Bobby, and, inexplicably, to the European horse Frankel. One voter abstained.

Wise Dan was an easy winner as champion male turf horse, outpolling Little Mike, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, by 170 votes to 78. Wise Dan’s margin was narrower for older male, in which Wise Dan got 139 votes to 109 for runner-up Fort Larned, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Though he was second for Horse of the Year, I’ll Have Another did score an expected runaway victory for champion 3-year-old male, garnering 247 votes. Bodemeister, second in both the Derby and Preakness, was a distant second with 3 first-place votes.

The other equine divisional winners were Shanghai Bobby (2-year-old male), Beholder (2-year-old filly), Questing (3-year-old filly), Royal Delta (older female), Trinniberg (male sprinter), Groupie Doll (female sprinter), Zagora (female turf horse), and Pierrot Lunaire (steeplechase).

For Royal Delta, it was her second straight Eclipse Award. She was the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011.

Ramon Dominguez was named the Eclipse Award-winning jockey for the third straight year. He received 201 votes, to 37 for Velazquez. Dominguez was unable to attend the Eclipse Awards, having been hospitalized in New York after sustaining a skull fracture in an accident at Aqueduct on Friday.

In one of the classy touches of the evening, Velazquez and third-place finisher Javier Castellano accepted the award on behalf of the well-liked Dominguez.

“He’s a great person,” Castellano said.

Jose Montano won the title as champion apprentice jockey. He received 127 votes. Irad Ortiz Jr., who was an apprentice for just one month in 2012, was second with 34 votes.

Dale Romans picked up his first-ever title as champion trainer. He garnered 119 votes to 87 for Todd Pletcher and 35 for Bob Baffert. Both Baffert and Pletcher had won this category in previous years. Romans’s stable was led by Little Mike, whose biggest wins were in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Arlington Million, but Romans also won such major races as the Met Mile with Shackleford and the Just a Game with Tapitsfly.

Pletcher was the choice of Daily Racing Form, which favored him by 30-23 amongst its members, and by the NTRA bloc, which had him by a 24-18 margin over Romans. But Romans was the overwhelming choice of the largest bloc, the NTWAB, from whom he received 78 votes to 33 for Pletcher.

Entities overseen by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, won two awards. His Godolphin Racing was named champion owner, receiving 138 votes to 50 for Midwest Thoroughbreds. Darley, also part of Sheikh Mohammed’s racing holdings, won the award for champion breeder with 170 votes, easily outdistancing Adena Springs, the breeding operation of Frank Stronach, which received 25 votes.

Questing, the champion 3-year-old filly, was bred by Darley and raced under the Godolphin banner.

Questing prevailed in the closest call of the divisional awards. Questing got 106 first-place votes, just 4 more than My Miss Aurelia, who got 102. My Miss Aurelia finished in front of Questing the only two times they met, including the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, in which My Miss Aurelia finished second to Royal Delta.

Daily Racing Form preferred My Miss Aurelia by 27-24 over Questing, and the NTRA, the smallest bloc, narrowly went for My Miss Aurelia, 19-18, but the NTWAB had an eight-vote margin (64-56) for Questing, giving her the title.

The next-closest call came for steeplechase horse, in which Pierrot Lunaire beat Demonstrative by 116-99.

The other winners were clear-cut and reflected the results of the Breeders’ Cup races for their respective divisions.

Shanghai Bobby, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, came closest of all to being a unanimous selection. He received 253 votes, his sweep denied because one voter from Daily Racing Form opted for Uncaptured.

Beholder, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, received 225 first-place votes, nearly 200 more than runner-up Executiveprivilege, who had 27.

In the older female category, Royal Delta got 231 votes to 22 for Groupie Doll. But Groupie Doll, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, was an easy winner in the female sprint category, racking up 250 first-place votes to 3 for Mizdirection, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Trinniberg parlayed his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to the male sprint title, easily winning that division with 233 votes to 11 for Shackleford.

Similarly, Zagora won the title-deciding race for female grass runners, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and won the Eclipse Award with 242 votes to 5 for runner-up Marketing Mix. The female turf championship was the second straight for owner Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown, who won the 2011 title with Stacelita.

Also Saturday, Nick Nicholson was presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit for his long service to the sport, most recently at Keeneland.

Michael Beychok, who won the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship last year, was acknowledged as the handicapper of the year.

In addition, media awards were presented to Ryan Goldberg of Daily Racing Form (feature writing), Mary Simon of the late Thoroughbred Times (news writing), Tom Keyser of Daily Racing Form (photography), Glenye Cain Oakford of Daily Racing Form (audio and multi-media Internet), NBC Sports (live television), and ESPN (television feature).

Ian Phillips More than 1 year ago
wise dan the best. little mike split decision with point of entry and was lucky to win breeders cup turf because of post position point of entry got.point of entry a better turf horse than little mike and will prove it. first he will dust animal kingdom in gulf stram park hck. johnny v sticking with point of entry tells you all you want to know who better. animal kingdom will be better on synthetics and dirt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike, Congratulations, you seem to have an amazing knowledge of British and European racing. Far more than some of my fellow Brits. However, your interpretation of the facts behind that knowledge makes no sense in the context of our horses. I agree with your statement that "distance makes a difference", but not the way you suggest. Although the Epsom Derby is more prestigious than the 2000 Gns and the St Leger, it doesn't necessarily make the Derby winner a better horse than the winners of the other two races. Although the British bookies made Frankel the favourite for the Derby, he didn't "skip" the Derby or the Arc. You said it yourself, the trainer never had any intention of sending the horse 12 furlongs. In Europe, when we compare horses, we don't usually make a distinction between Milers, and 10 or 12 furlong horses. Therefore, comparing Frankel with say Sea Bird or Shergar, is just as valid as comparing him with Miesque or Goldikova.. Despite our differences, I hope that at some time in the future we get to discuss other great horses. Best Regards - Bernard Downes
Mike More than 1 year ago
Thanks Bernard, I know that in europe a mile is an important distance and over there you do not make a distinction between milers, 10 and 12. BUT IN REALITY, there is a difference between those horses.whether it is in europe, asia, south america or wherever. Even SHC said that during those interviews. A horse that can perform at the highest group 1 level at 8 10 11 12 like say a Sea The Stars or Ribot is definitely superior to a horse that has limited distance. There is no future in saying your "greatest horse" DID NOT RUN IN YOUR MOST PRESTIGIOUS RACES. There is a reason why the Derby is the most prestigious derby in the world. Why races like the King George VI and Arc has been revered for decades. Sure traveling is not a pre-requisite to greatness but he did not even have to travel to the Eclipse or King George. Will the accolades for Frankel help the industry? Doubtful, here in the USA we have bred away from the Triple Crown races. We have gone to the short distance fast horses like Frankel and our last HOY is a miler. Has this help us? not at all. We are nothing more than a niche sport subsidized by casinos. IMO eventually will not survive. I saw the best thoroughbred last year race in the Arc. A thoroughbred who got a bad wide gate, had no cover for 10.5 furlongs and yet had a turn of foot in the last furlongs in a very deep surface that was amazing. Champions are not defined by racing in their comfort and wheelhouse or defined by numbers. Yes Frankel greatest is just an opinion but fawning over a horse because you are breeding away from your most prestigious races is a sure path to irrelevance. The Queen Anne will never be the Derby or the Champion Stakes as much as TF wants to trumpet it will never be the Arc de Trioumphe.
John Doe More than 1 year ago
Brandon, Ignorance must be bliss. You conveniently omitted several multiple G1 winners beaten by Wise Dan. Do you also think Fort Larned and Excelentation are weak? Both of these were spanked by Wise Dan. Animal Kingdom is weak? The truth must really hurt. But hey, don't let the facts get in your way.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
These are the horses who finished directly behind Wise Dan in each of his races : Animal Kingdom, Wilcox Inn, Hunters Bay, Corporate Jungle, Nate's Mineshaft and Big Blue Kitten. Weak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike, Yes, despite our differences, we should keep it civil, but we should also keep it factual. First off, I do not understand why you think a bend runner is more meritorious than a straight course runner. Yes, all 8 of Frankel's straight course wins were run "WITHOUT ANY BENDS AT ALL". Dancing Brave is just about my all-time favourite horse, and his Arc win was exceptional, but I have no objection to someone trying to re-evaluate his merits against more recent stars such as Frankel. As I have posted before, I don't recognise a 12 furlong horse being inherently better than an 8 furlong horse. Finally, but most importantly, those turns. I am a regular visitor to Epsom, Ascot, Goodwood and York, and I have been to Longchamp a few times, and I am very surprised that you think that Epsom and Longchamp are longer and more sustained bends. It is news to me. Please share your factual information. Best Regards - Bernard Downes
Mike More than 1 year ago
Hey Bernard, this is a good discussion and by the time we are done...there will be plenty of thought. First, all we have to do is go to mapquest and pick the satellite or aerial view of these courses and the difference in the turns is quite significant. Second, a bend runner shows AGILITY compared to just a straight runner. Of course distance should make a difference. That is why the 2KGuineas is at 8 furlongs, and the Epsom Derby is at 12 furlongs and the leger further. It is an overall test of a thoroughbred. Who can decently sprint, and stay. I still find the hoopla about Frankel 2kG not a big deal. Sea The Stars had a faster time. Now some would say time is not a factor. Well then what factors are they using when they compare Dancing Brave's 12 furlongs at Longchamp vs Frankel's 8 furlongs at Ascot? and again if distance is not a factor, some of Black Caviar sectionals were faster than Frankel. Why isn't she the greatest then? I have followed the Frankel saga from the get go. Let's review - Frankel was the favorite in the Epsom Derby, he skipped and the UK media did not question it. I have no problem with that since SHC stated that he was not mentally ready for it. Cool he still has time to show his stuff. - During his 3 year old campaign and while winning at 8 furlongs only, the comparison to SeaBird, Ribot, See The Stars, Shergar were popping up in the UK media. I find that quite strange when you have the great milers like Miesque and even Goldikova recently to compare to. - at 4 years old, you'd think he give the top prestigious races a go. The Eclipse or the King George VI or even the Arc since he skipped the Derby. No dice, the media again said no need to, he could win the Arc easily. HAHAHAHAHA. - There are a few videos of SHC being interviewed. The interviewers always mentions 12 furlongs this and 12 furlongs that. To SHC credit, he says NO NO NO and he is quite irritated. Miler to 10 furlongs is what SHC have stated and even the Prince. So I find all these comparisons to past greats to 12 furlongs kind of fakey. I could add on more and more but let me get to Excelebration. I was surprised that they send him to the Breeders Cup Mile Turf. WOW, a short turnover on a horse who has no experience running our long oval turns and as it turned out, the turns did him in. Of course the excuses was he was tired and he had to travel. HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA. Guess what would have happen if Excelebration won the BC MILE TURF. It wouldn't be about him, it would be how REALLY GREAT FRANKEL IS. LOL. - then of course the recalibration of Dancing Brave to pop up Frankel. Sorry mate, I find the whole thing quite laughable.
John Doe More than 1 year ago
Little Mike deserving championship turf horse? NO WAY! He had not one but TWO off-the-board performances and in another race lost to Jeranimo and Suggestive Boy, who by the way, were both trounced by Wise Dan in the BC Mile! Wise Dan had a FAR, FAR more dominating season. There's a reason why Wise Dan easily beat him in the Eclipse Awards by such a wide margin. All the Little Mike groupies need to come back to reality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the biggest robbery of the century and guess what.......... they did not use a gun. LITTLE MIKE was ROBBED without a gun nor a knife, simple but some burocrats that did not like the Green, White and Red ITALIAN flag, that his owner is so proud of.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike, I enjoyed our exchanges about Camelot, even when we were speaking entirely different languages. However, your latest criticism of Frankel is a joke. You say Frankel was just a straight course runner, was he? I make it 8 wins over a straight course, 5 wins around a right hand turn and one win around a left hand turn. Its a shame you seem to be allowing jealousy to cloud your judgement. Best Regards - Bernard Downes
Mike More than 1 year ago
Bernard, yes we can discuss this civily. The turns that Frankel runs are short quick bends. Those are not the long sustained turns he would have encountered at Epsom or Longchamp. If you look at the layouts that Frankel has run they were basically straight runs with small bends. I do not know how much you know about leads but Frankel sometimes gets lost on his leads. The other big clue is SHC adamantly stated NO 12 furlongs for Frankel and he is the best miler he ever had that can get to 10 furlongs.
Mike More than 1 year ago
My point is that Frankel very long stride is not conducive to long sustained turns hence his AGILITY has never been tested.
Mike More than 1 year ago
His 147 on Queen Anne was aided by a straight run WITHOUT ANY BEND AT ALL!! Shamefully being compared to Dancing Brave's Arc de T at Longchamp! I found that not only foolish but without any merit.
David Kelly More than 1 year ago
30 years from now when they are having the Breeders Cup at Los Alamitos NBC will run a segment about how the old time horses use to run races over a mile in length.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
Horseracing is nothing more than a niche sport today......they be lucky to be around in another 10 to 15 years. By that time, the political base for the casinos will be so strong and the casinos couldn't wait to kick this leach out of their system.....All the big boys will be packed by then and will have move their tent towards the east and Japan.....
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
Most deserving!!!, maybe we'll see a showdown with some of the aforementioned...One things for sure, we get to see Wise Dan again in 2013 and that will be a good thing for racing.....we need it!