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).