I have a confession to make: this year was the first year that I watched the entire presentation of the Eclipse Awards, this year telecast live from Beverly Hills. If I may say, I’m glad I picked this year to watch it in its entirety. Not only did some of my favorites win the highest honors in the Thoroughbred industry, but I watched history made as Havre de Grace became the third consecutive female Horse of the Year. As the evening’s hostess, ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards—the event’s first female host, by the way—stated, racing can easily be referred to as the “sport of kings and queens.”
The evening had a couple of surprises, but most of this year’s winners won by a fairly large margin. Jeannine Edwards was an engaging host and presenters included a variety of personalities such as trainer Todd Pletcher; jockeys Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith; actress and equine advocate Bo Derek; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; stars of the HBO series Luck John Ortiz and Don Harvey; writer/producer of the horse racing comedy And They’re Off, Alan Grossbard; CEO John Hartig, Publisher Emeritus Steve Crist, and Jay Privman from the DRF; Alan Foreman of the RMTC and THA; Craig Fravel of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., U.S. Congressman from California, Dennis Cardoza; and DelMar President Joe Harper, among other industry figures.
Personally, I was thrilled that the few nominees I favored were honored: Bill Mott winning his third Trainer of the Year Eclipse, Royal Delta being named Champion 3yo Filly, and Rapid Redux being recognized for his historic record of twenty-two wins. When I learned that my friend Claire Novak would also accept her first Eclipse Award (for her ESPN feature on Tom Durkin) I couldn’t have been happier for her and was eager to see her on stage, statue in hand. While these awards are based on measureable results, I’m always more interested in the stories.
Profiles and PPs are easy enough to access, so I won’t reiterate those here. What I will share here are some words from the evening—some funny, some touching, many grateful. It was satisfying to hear the many thanks extended to those who work in the barns and on the track, day in and day out, to keep the machinery of the industry running. There was talk of racing’s past and its future; of industry goals and of upcoming campaigns; also of family, friends, and a true love of the horse and the sport.
Champion 2 yo Colt or Gelding: Hansen
“I won a freaking Eclipse Award!” –Dr. Kendall Hansen, owner of Hansen
Champion 2 yo Filly: My Miss Aurelia
“I was dumbfounded that Jess [Jackson] and Barbara [Banke] decided to name not just a filly, but this filly after me. . . . I’m just glad my name didn’t jinx her!” –Aurelia Bolton, namesake of My Miss Aurelia
Champion Turf Male: Cape Blanco
“We are delighted to have Cape Blanco at Ashford and are overwhelmed by the support of American breeders.” –Dermot Ryan
Champion Turf Female: Stacelita
“[Stacelita] took us on a magic carpet ride.” –Martin Schwartz, owner of Stacelita
Champion Steeplechase Horse: Blackjack Blues
“It’s an honor we never would’ve imagined.” –J.W. Delozier, trainer of Blackjack Blues
Champion Sprinter Male: Amazombie
“We’ve had a lot of help . . .” –Bill Spawr, trainer and co-owner of Amazombie
Champion Sprinter Female: Musical Romance
“Thanks to Cot Campbell for his idea. If it weren’t for him, I would not be here.” –Adam Lazarus of Pinnacle Racing
Champion Older Male: Acclamation
“After only fifty-five years in the business!” –Bud Johnston, owner of Acclamation upon accepting the Eclipse Award
Champion Older Female: Havre de Grace
“I thought I was through! . . . Everyone can pretty well see why I came back [to training].” –Larry Jones, trainer of Havre de Grace
Champion 3yo Male: Animal Kingdom
“For us to win the Kentucky Derby was a miracle.” –Team Valor’s Barry Irwin, by way of comments read by Mark Polivka
Champion 3yo Filly: Royal Delta
“It is absolutely spectacular that we should win this.” –Ron Wallace, President of Chanticleer Farm
Horse of the Year: Havre de Grace
“I’ve seen a lot of lows and a lot of highs, but nothing rivals Havre de Grace. . . . She did it her way. . . . She’s a perfect racehorse.” –Rick Porter, owner of Havre de Grace
Trainer of the Year: Bill Mott
“I’ve got some assistants that I think are a big part of this. . . . On a daily basis they are my eyes, my ears, and lately it seems like some of my memory.” –Bill Mott
Owner of the Year: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
“Love your family, treat your horses well, and believe in yourself.” –Ken Ramsey shares the family motto, epitomized by his wife and partner Sarah
Breeder of the Year: Adena Springs
“I hope that one day people will say that I made a contribution to great racing.” –Frank Stronach
Apprentice Jockey of the Year: Kyle Frey
“I’m absolutely speechless. . . . This one’s for my grandpa, though.” –Kyle Frey dedicating his win to his grandfather, who passed away only a few days before the award presentation
Jockey of the Year: Ramon Dominguez
“[These awards] are a product of all of the hard word of everyone in the industry; because of their efforts we can have moments like these.” –Ramon Dominguez
Eclipse Award of Merit: Cot Campbell
“Lastly I’d like to thank the horses, the horses, and the horses.” –Cot Campbell, Dogwood Stables
Special Eclipse Award: Rapid Redux
“What a wonderful ride it’s been. . . . It’s unlikely I’ll make this stage again!” –Robert Cole, owner of Rapid Redux
Media Eclipse Awards
Photography: Bob Mayberger, Sports Illustrated Snapshot; “A.P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes,” August 4, 2011.
“I never would have thought it was special.” –Bob Mayberger when asked his first impression of his award-winning photograph
Writing, Feature/Commentary: Claire Novak, ESPN.com; “Pressure off Durkin at Belmont,” June 10, 2011.
“I’m standing here today because so many of you helped me.” –Claire Novak upon asking industry professionals to encourage and educate the future generation in racing
Writing, News/Enterprise: Jennie Rees, Louisville Courier-Journal; “Breeders’ Cup 2011: Jockeys Rein in Their Emotions,” October 30, 2011.
“I’m a dinosaur! But I’m ready . . . I’ve been on Twitter a week!” –Jennie Rees
Television, Live Racing: ESPN, “The Breeders’ Cup Classic”; Mike McQuade, Coordinating Producer; November 5, 2011.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard you say that!” –Mike McQuade’s response to host Jeanine Edwards describing him as the best boss in racing at ESPN
Television, Feature: HRTV, “Inside Information: Randy Romero,” Amy Zimmerman, Executive Producer; December 26, 2010.
“These guys know horse racing and how to tell the stories . . . . It’s our job to bring those stories to the viewers. . . . What an incredible man [Randy Romero] is and what an incredible story he has.” –Scott Daruty, President, HRTV
Audio and Multi-Media Internet: Thoroughbred Times, “On the Scene,” November 1-6, 2011 Breeders’ Cup; Tom Law and Greg Charkoudian, co-producers.
“Accepting [the award] is Greg Charkoudian, co-producer, along with . . . Tom Law.” –Tom Law, Thoroughbred Times Managing Editor and President of the NTWAB, presenting the Eclipse Award to his colleague and to himself
Handicapper of the Year: John Doyle
“If we take care of the Thoroughbred, we take care of racing.” –John Doyle
NTRA Moment of the Year [determined by fan vote]
Drosselmeyer’s Breeders Cup Classic win at Churchill Downs [It is the third consecutive year that fans chose this race as their top “Moment of the Year.”
Some Parting Words . . .
“[These are] stories of racing that inspire fans. We need more fans.” –John Hartig, CEO of the Daily Racing Form
“Thank you all for opening your doors in a warm and gracious manner. Hope we do you proud.” –John Ortiz, star of the HBO drama Luck on the racing community.
“I have very deep gratitude for the astute, intelligent, and highly discerning people who have selected me to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit.” –Cot Campbell’s Eclipse Award of Merit acceptance speech
“Most people have lost more than they’ve ever won at the track. [And They’re Off] is a comedy that celebrates the loser in all of us.” –Alan Grossbard, writer/producer of And They’re Off
“It would have been criminal not to give [Rapid Redux] an Eclipse Award.” –Steve Crist on recognizing Rapid Redux’s undefeated twenty-two-win record
“[In racing] anyone with a dream can be king for a day.” Jeannine Edwards, Eclipse Awards host
One last thing . . .
The following poem was shared last night by Breeders’ Cup Ltd.’s Craig Fravel. Enjoy!
In Praise of the Horse
Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity?
Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent;
there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.
England's past has been borne on his back.
All our history is in his industry.
We are his heirs;
He is our inheritance
Ladies and Gentlemen - The Horse!
-Photos by Scott Serio, Eclipse Sportswire