American Pharoah Unanimously Wins 2015 Horse of the Year
American Pharoah – who had a phenomenal, near-perfect year in 2015 that included a Triple Crown sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont along with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – was a unanimous winner Saturday of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
American Pharoah’s connections also took home their share of awards in a ceremony from Gulfstream Park in Florida, with Bob Baffert winning the Eclipse for top trainer and Zayat Stables taking home the Eclipse awards for owner and breeder.
A jubilant Ahmed Zayat called him a “horse of a lifetime.”
Zayat, who was up against Darley and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey for top breeder, said he had never even dreamed of winning that award.
With just under a decade in the racing business, Zayat said the owner title was the one he “really wanted.”
Baffert, who had won the Eclipse for outstanding trainer three times before, said that he thought he’d never be “up here again.”
“I want to thank everybody who voted for me and I want to congratulate (fellow nominees) Todd Pletcher (and) Chad Brown … you guys were looking really strong, had a great year until June 6,” he quipped, referring to the day when American Pharoah won the first Triple Crown in 37 years.
American Pharoah won six Grade 1 races this year, losing only the Travers Stakes, and setting a record of nearly $8.3 million in earnings in a single season.
American Pharoah was shown nuzzling the Horse of the Year trophy after being secretly presented with it earlier at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., where the son of Pioneerof the Nile was retired for stallion duty after the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
American Pharoah was also honored with the National Throughbred Racing Association’s fan-voted “Moment of the Year” for his win in the Belmont Stakes.
But jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to victory, finished second in Eclipse voting for top jockey to Javier Castellano, who won for the third straight year.
American Pharoah got all 261 votes for Horse of the Year. He was nominated along with Beholder, who easily won an Eclipse for older dirt female, and Runhappy, who got all but a few votes to take the title for champion male sprinter.
A year after his Eclipse win for top 2-year-old male, American Pharoah unanimously won the 3-year-old male title over Runhappy and fellow Baffert stablemate Dortmund.
Fans’ photos with American Pharoah were interspersed throughout the awards show.
Zayat’s wife, Joanne, said she looked at American Pharoah as “America’s horse,” saying that he’s “like a teddy bear” and that he “wants you to be his friend.”
When asked how American Pharoah is doing as a recently retired racehorse-turned-stallion, Ahmed Zayat’s daughter, Ashley, quipped, “From what I’ve heard, he’s no beginner.”
Other Eclipse Award winners included:
Spendthrift Farms’ Beholder, who got all but five of the 261 votes to score her third Eclipse Award. The daughter of Henny Hughes, who is expected to return for the 2016 season, was undefeated in five races last year, including the Pacific Classic against males. She had previously won the Eclipse in 2012 for 2-year-old filly and 2013 for 3-year-old filly.
Lane’s End Racing’s Honor Code, who won top older dirt male with 126 votes over Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, who got 95 votes. Others receiving votes included Tonalist, Effinex, Shared Belief and California Chrome.
Santa Anita Oaks winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up Stellar Wind took top honors for 3-year-old filly for Hronis Racing LLC. Others in the running included Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Found and I’m a Chatterbox.
Reddam Racing LLC’s Nyquist, who won for top 2-year-old male. He was undefeated in five starts in 2015, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The brilliant filly Songbird, who dominated the top 2-year-old female category with all but one vote cast in her favor. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, who races for Fox Hill Farm, won all four of her starts in 2015, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Runhappy, who easily topped rivals Private Zone and Rock Fall to win the champion male sprinter title for James McIngvale following wins in races including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and King’s Bishop. McIngvale made no mention of former trainer Maria Borell, who was replaced a day after the Breeders’ Cup win.
Lady Sheila Stables’ La Verdad, who won the champion female sprinter in the tightest vote in the 2015 Eclipse Awards. La Verdad was just eight votes ahead of Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue.
Big Blue Kitten – who had victories for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey in races including the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes — won the Eclipse for male turf horse over rivals Golden Horn and The Pizza Man. Big Blue Kitten is expected to continue his racing career for Calumet Farm, and Kenneth Ramsey said he hopes the horse will repeat his championship title next year for his new connections.
Tepin, who easily won the Eclipse for top female turf horse over fellow Breeders’ Cup winners Found and Stephanie’s Kitten. Tepin, owned by Robert E. Masterson, was victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Tyler Gaffalione, who won for top apprentice jockey. Others in the category included Eric Cancel and Angel Cruz.