California Chrome Wins Second Horse of the Year Title
California Chrome won his second Eclipse Award Saturday for Horse of the Year, defeating Arrogate and Songbird, who were each honored as the top 3-year-olds of 2016.
The hugely popular California-bred — who won his first Horse of the Year title for a sensational 3-year-old campaign in 2014 — had an even better season in 2016, with seven wins in eight starts, including the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic.
California Chrome was edged out of a perfect season last year with a half-length loss to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
But California Chrome finished in front of his Breeders’ Cup rival for the prestigious award, receiving 202 first-place votes over 40 for Arrogate and five for Songbird.
“We’ve had such a great time with Chrome,” trainer Art Sherman said at the ceremony at Gulfstream Park in Florida. “It’s getting near the finale. It’s been (a) once in a lifetime horse and I’ll tell you it’s been a hell of a ride. I watched him work today and I said, `Give me one more year, please.'”
California Chrome is set to retire to stud after an expected rematch Jan. 28 with Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
California Chrome was the unanimous winner in the separate category of older dirt male horse. Met Mile winner Frosted and sprinter Lord Nelson, who went four-for-four in 2016, were the other finalists.
California Chrome also won the fan-voted “Moment of the Year” for his Dubai World Cup victory, despite jockey Victor Espinoza’s saddle slipping.
Frank Taylor of Taylor Made — which bought into California Chrome’s ownership — said the horse has changed their lives.
Taylor — who’s been around horses nearly all of his life — said he’s never been around one before like California Chrome.
“I love this horse … He’s so smart I think he could read,” he said.
The horse’s co-owner, Perry Martin, quipped, “Chrome couldn’t be here tonight. He had a scheduling conflict with his chiropractor.”
In other categories:
— Beholder won her fourth Eclipse Award — this one for top older dirt female — with 246 first-place votes. Her rival Stellar Wind — who raced against her four times in 2016 — received two votes.
Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella, was reluctant to let her out of his barn so she could be retired to Spendthrift Farm as a broodmare, and said he put it off for a few weeks until she was taken from his barn “in the middle of the night.”
Mandella put it simply how he feels about his longtime trainee.
“I can say that my life will never be the same without her,” he said.
— Arrogate easily won honors for top 3-year-old male with 243 first-place votes. Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness victor Exaggerator each got two votes and Clark winner Gun Runner getting one vote.
— Songbird unanimously won her second consecutive Eclipse — this one for top 3-year-old filly. Her owner, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms, called his filly’s lone career defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff a “world-class battle.”
“If I had to lose to anyone, I couldn’t have picked a better trio — perhaps the classiest trio in racing — (Beholder’s owner) B. Wayne Hughes, Dick Mandella and Beholder,” he said.
Songbird’s owner said his filly — who is set for a 4-year-old campaign — “truly is almost a perfect horse.”
— Drefong won the Eclipse Award for male sprinter following an undefeated 2016 campaign that included stakes wins in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the King’s Bishop.
Drefong’s owner, Susan Chu, said the horse is “part of our family.” She quipped that the family’s horses are bilingual because the family speaks to them in English and Mandarin.
— Hours after winning the Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Finest City won the Eclipse Award for top female sprinter. She won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last year.
— Tepin — who had a magnificent 2016 campaign that included six wins in eight starts — was named the outstanding female turf horse for the second year in a row.
Her owner, Robert Masterson, said the mare who’s been dubbed the “Queen of the Turf” doesn’t demand much. “She’s been outstanding … The only thing she ever wants in return is a peppermint. So when you guys come by the barn, please bring a peppermint,” he said.
— Flintshire — who retired to stud as Juddmonte Farms’ all-time leading earner with more than $9.5 million in earnings — won the Eclipse for top male turf horse after victories in races including the Grade 1 Sword Dancer and Manhattan in what was one of the closest votes for an Eclipse Award this year. He got 137 first-place votes, with Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel getting 76 and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist getting 32.
— Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire unanimously won the 2-year-old male title.
— Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Champagne Room easily won the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old filly, with 202 first-place votes. New Money Honey, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, and Lady Aurelia were the other finalists.
–Juddmonte Farms — which campaigned Arrogate and Flintshire — won the Eclipse Award for top owner.
“Deep down, this was the award that I most hoped that we could win tonight,” O’Rourke said of the ownership award.
–WinStar Farm won its first Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder.
— Javier Castellano won his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey. He brought his family on stage with him, recalling when he arrived in the United States from Venezuela at age 18 with “little money” but “a dream.” He said he feels fortunate and blessed to have come so far.
— Luis Ocasio won the Eclipse Award for top apprentice jockey.