The annual Eclipse Awards celebration during which Thoroughbred racingâ€™s top honors for 2014 offered few surprises, but deserving winners took home their trophies and there was ample reasons for fans in Kentucky and Southern Indiana to cheer during Saturdayâ€™s awards ceremony at Floridaâ€™s Gulfstream Park.
Fans in our region saw the winners of Kentuckyâ€™s two biggest races take home major honors.Â California Chrome, the dominant winner of the Kentucky Derby earned Eclipse Awards that honored the 3-year-old California-bred as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old, each by lopsided voting margins. Trainer Art Sherman did a wonderful job with California Chrome and his decision finish the year with a run on grass in the Los Alamitos Derby â€“ a terrific performance that followed a brave near-miss against fellow 3-year-old Bayern in the rough-and-tumble Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic â€“ helped seal his championship deal.
The grass win was impressive and allowed Chrome to join Secretariat as the only Kentucky Derby winners to subsequently earn a Grade I win on turf. Thatâ€™s pretty good company.
The Horse of the Year is preparing for 2015 campaign with the goal of a big finish in Lexington when the Breedersâ€™ Cup World Championships stop at Keeneland Race Course for the first time.
The honor for champion 3-year-old filly went to the sublime Untapable, winner of the Longines Kentucky Oaks and a sublime talent who was unbeaten against her gender in 2014.Â She will return for a 4-year-old campaign for trainer Steve Asmussen that, with any luck, will include a run in the Grade I La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Weekend.
Ageless Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas raised his career total of Eclipse Award champions to 25 when, in the space of seven weeks, he guided 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi from a 61-1 long shot winner of the Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile Fillies to overwhelming choice as champion of her gender and age group. After her Breedersâ€™ Cup surprise, Take Charge Brandi shipped to Louisiana to win the Delta Princess and then traveled to Southern Californiaâ€™s Los Alamitos, where Lukas scored major triumphs in his days as a Quarter Horse trainer, to seal her championships with a triumph in the Grade I Starlet.
The Breedersâ€™ Cup win by the daughter of Giantâ€™s Causeway was a record-extending 20th for the 79-year-old Lukas, who is now working on a plan to get his newest star into the Kentucky Oaks winnerâ€™s circle.
Nicholasvilleâ€™s, Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned a pair of Eclipse Awards in the categories of top owner and breeder, the second time theyâ€™ve swept those honors in the same year. The earlier weep came in 2013, and the Ramseys earned previous Eclipse honors as leading owner in 2004 and 2011.
Prior to their big night in Miami, the Ramseysâ€™ International Star scored a mild surprise in winning the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds and placed his name in a prominent start on the list of major early contenders for the Kentucky Derby.Â International Star is now tied for the top spot in the â€œRoad to the Kentucky Derbyâ€ points system that will determine eligibility to compete in this yearâ€™s â€œRun for the Roses.â€
It was a good day to be Ken and Sarah Ramsey, but one could say that just about every day.
As expected, Zayat Stablesâ€™ American Pharoah easily earned the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old champion.Â American Pharoah returned to light training just after the first of the year and trainer Bob Baffert and connections hope heâ€™ll be ready for Kentucky Derby 141.
Trainer Graham Motionâ€™s Main Sequence, a winner of four consecutive Grade I turf races, was a solid choice for top older male, as was the Bill Mott-trained Close Hatches, the yearâ€™s best older female. Top Sprinter Work All Week and Judy the Beauty were good choices in perhaps the most wide-open divisions.
Main Sequence was an easy choice as turf champion, as was female counterpart Dayatthespa.
Jockey Javier Castellano and Apprentice Jockey winner Drayden Van Dyke were easy and deserving winners in their human categories, and Todd Pletcher earned his seventh â€œOutstanding Trainerâ€ trophy after another year of statistical dominance. Runner-up Chad Brown would also have been a good choice for a first Eclipse as top trainer, but his time will soon come. VT