Finalists for the 2017 Eclipse Awards Announced

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Gun Runner | Sarah Andrew

By Alan Carasso

Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), ‘TDN Rising Star’ Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song), the horse that handed him his lone defeat of the year, and World Approval (Northern Afleet), who closed out his season with a stirring success in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile, are the three finalists for the Eclipse statuette for U.S. Horse of the Year, it was announced Friday afternoon.

Gun Runner was nothing short of brilliant in 2017, with five wins from six trips to the races, including the GI Stephen Foster H., GI Whitney S. and GI Woodward S., storied races he won by a combined 22 1/2 lengths. Trained up to the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, the athletic chestnut was pressured through sharp fractions on that Saturday afternoon by the seaside, but turned back the challenge of GI TVG Pacific Classic hero and champion Dirt Male finalist Collected (City Zip) en route to a 2 1/4-length tally. Partnered throughout the season and in all but three of his 18 career starts by Florent Geroux, Gun Runner remains in training for the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in three weeks’ time. Gun Runner would become the fourth Horse of the Year for trainer Steve Asmussen (Curlin, 2007, 2008; Rachel Alexandra, 2009).

Arrogate parlayed success in the inaugural Pegasus into a 2 1/4-length defeat of Gun Runner in the G1 Dubai World Cup, overcoming a woeful beginning to record an astonishing victory that to this date remains the world’s highest-rated performance of 2017. The $560,000 Keeneland September graduate, who enters stud in 2018 at Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky, was the runner-up to California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) in 2016. Arrogate and Gun Runner are also finalists in the Older Dirt Male category.

Like Gun Runner, Live Oak Plantation’s World Approval posted wins in five of his six starts in 2017, his lone blemish a fifth in the GI Manhattan S. in June. The homebred, a half-brother to Eclipse Award winner Miesque’s Approval (Miesque’s Son), ran the table thereafter, with victories in the GI Fourstardave H. and the GI Ricoh Woodbine Mile prior to a perfect-trip success on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

Several of the categories have a wide-open feel to them. In the Juvenile divisions, it remains to be seen if voters opted for body of work over Breeders’ Cup success in the case of Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) versus Good Magic (Curlin) among the males and between Moonshine Memories (Malibu Moon) and Caledonia Road (Quality Road) in the fillies’ division. There are no Tepins standing in the way of a divisional championship for Lady Eli (Divine Park), assuming voters were willing to forgive her unplaced effort behind fellow finalist Wuheida (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Roy H (More Than Ready) seems to have accomplished enough in the Male Sprinter category, but no horse set itself apart in the female counterpart, with the 66-1 upset in the GI Filly & Mare Sprint by Bar of Gold (Medaglia d’Oro) only further complicating an already muddled picture. Abel Tasman (Quality Road) holds a strong hand for sophomore filly Eclipse, but one of the more surprising omissions across all categories was that of ‘TDN Rising Star’ Paradise Woods (Union Rags), who thrashed her peers in the GI Santa Anita Oaks and could boast of a defeat of older females in the GI Zenyatta S. ahead of a third-place finish in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Among all sires, Medaglia d’Oro is represented by five individual finalists, with Curlin, More Than Ready, Quality Road and Unbridled’s Song with two apiece.

In addition to honoring the 17 winners in the horse and human categories, Frank Stronach, Thoroughbred owner, breeder and racetrack owner, will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of achievement in the Thoroughbred industry. Ray Arsenault will receive an Eclipse Award as the 2017 Horseplayer of the Year. Members of the media will be honored for outstanding coverage in six categories.

Tickets to The Eclipse Awards ceremony, to be held Thursday, Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park, are on sale for $425 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Casey Hamilton of the NTRA at [email protected], or call (859) 422-2627. For more information, visit www.ntra.com/eclipse-awards/2017-eclipse-awards.

TVG will air the Eclipse Awards ceremony live as part of an agreement finalized this week with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which administers the award. Nick Luck will serve as master of ceremonies.

The 2017 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Horse of the Year
Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song)
Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg})
World Approval (Northern Afleet)

2-Year-Old Male
Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro)
Good Magic (Curlin)
Solomini (Curlin)

2-Year-Old Filly
Caledonia Road (Quality Road)
Moonshine Memories (Malibu Moon)
Rushing Fall (More Than Ready)

3-Year-Old Male
Always Dreaming (Bodemeister)
Battle of Midway (Smart Strike)
West Coast (Flatter)

3-Year-Old Filly
Abel Tasman (Quality Road)
Elate (Medaglia d’Oro)
Unique Bella (Tapit)

Older Dirt Male
Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song)
Collected (City Zip)
Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg})

Older Dirt Female
Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song)
Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro)
Stellar Wind (Curlin)

Male Sprinter
Imperial Hint (Imperialism)
Mind Your Biscuits (Posse)
Roy H (More Than Ready)

Female Sprinter
Bar of Gold (Medaglia d’Oro)
Paulassilverlining (Ghostzapper)
Unique Bella (Tapit)

Male Turf Horse
Beach Patrol (Lemon Drop Kid)
Talismanic (GB) (Medaglia d’Oro)
World Approval (Northern Afleet)

Female Turf Horse
Lady Eli (Divine Park)
Off Limits (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire})
Wuheida (GB) (Dubawi {Ire})

Steeplechase
All the Way Jose (Senor Swinger)
Mr. Hot Stuff (Tiznow)
Scorpiancer (Ire) (Scorpion {Ire})

Owner
Godolphin Racing LLC
Juddmonte Farms Inc
Winchell T’breds & Three Chimneys Farm

Breeder
Besilu Stables LLC
Clearsky Farms
WinStar Farm LLC

Trainer
Steve Asmussen
Bob Baffert
Chad Brown

Jockey
Javier Castellano
Jose Ortiz
Mike Smith

Apprentice Jockey
Katie Clawson
Hector Rafael Diaz Jr.
Evin A. Roman

 

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