By Richard Rosenblatt
The Eclipse Award finalists have been selected in 16 of the 17 categories equine and human, leaving Horse of the Year finalists and all the winners to be announced at the awards ceremony on Feb. 10.
Of course, there should be no surprise when Knicks Go is voted 2021 Horse of the Year at the conclusion of the 51st Eclipse Awards, which starts at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by TVG.
Knicks Go, Maxfield and Mystic Guide are the finalists for Older Dirt Male, while Knicks Go trainer Brad Cox and jockey Joel Rosario are also finalists in their respective categories. All totaled, that’s four probable Eclipse Awards for Team Knicks Go.
Knicks Go won the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Whitney Stakes (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and posted a 7-5-0-0 record with $7.3 million in earnings in 2021.
“He’s traveled around the world and he’s a very tough, durable horse,’’ Cox has said, a reference to the 6-year-old’s fourth-place finish in the $20 million Saudi Cup last February. “He’s extremely sound. And I think we’re in a day and age where horses go to stud so early and he’s a little bit of a throwback horse in that he’s raced at 4 and 5 and raced as much as he has.”
The Eclipse Awards recognize excellence in thoroughbred racing; the voting is conducted by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB).
A total of 235 of the 245 eligible voters (95.9%) responded, with the three finalists in each category determined by a 10-5-1 points system. The winners are determined by first-place votes only.
Cox, the favorite to win a second Eclipse as top trainer, has four division finalists: 2-year-old filly Juju’s Map; 3-year-old male Essential Quality; older dirt male Knicks Go (plus he’s the favorite for Horse of the Year); and older dirt female Shedaresthedevil. Also, Godolphin is a finalist for top owner and top breeder (Belmont, Travers winner Essential Quality, BC Turf winner Yibir, BC Mile winner Space Blues, BC Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games).
Embattled Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has three finalists: 2-year-old male Corniche (3-for-3, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), 3-year-old male Medina Spirit (won Kentucky Derby); and female sprinter Gamine (4-of-5, including two Grade 1s).
Baffert is currently suspended from racing at Churchill Downs, barred from the track following Medina Spirit’s post-Derby positive for a prohibited race-day medication. An official ruling on the Derby winner is pending.
A rundown of the finalists:
2-Year-Old Male: Corniche, Jack Christopher, Modern Games
2-Year-Old Filly: Echo Zulu, Juju’s Map, Pizza Bianca
3-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality, Life Is Good, Medina Spirit
3-Year-Old Filly: Clairiere, Malathaat, Santa Barbara (IRE)
Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go, Maxfield, Mystic Guide
Older Dirt Female: Letruska, Marche Lorraine (JPN), Shedaresthedevil
Male Sprinter: Aloha West, Flightline, Jackie’s Warrior
Female Sprinter: Bella Sofia, Ce Ce, Gamine
Male Turf Horse: Domestic Spending (GB), Space Blues (IRE), Yibir (GB)
Female Turf Horse: Loves Only You (JPN), Santa Barbara (IRE), War Like Goddess
Steeplechase Horse: Baltimore Bucko (GB), Snap Decision, The Mean Queen (IRE)
Owner: Godolphin LLC, Juddmonte Farms Inc., Klaravich Stables Inc.
Breeder: Calumet Farm, Godolphin LLC, Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC
Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr., Flavien Prat, Joel Rosario
Apprentice Jockey: John Hiraldo, Charlie Marquez, Jessica Pyfer
In addition, Justin Mustari will receive the Eclipse Award as the 2021 Horseplayer of the Year. Members of the media will be honored for outstanding coverage in six categories.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.