THE Shark Hanlon/Hewick bandwagon continues to roll on as the seven-year-old gelding, bought for €850, was voted the Champion Steeplechase Horse in America at the prestigious Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by John Deere, Keeneland, and The Jockey Club at The Breakers Palm Beach.
Owned by T.J. McDonald, Hewick also scooped the bet365 Gold Cup and the Galway Plate before coming to the US and dominating the Grade 1 Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills, New Jersey, by more than 11 lengths last October. Hewick received 113 of the 246 votes available with runner-up Snap Decision gaining 88.
There were no surprises in the Horse of the Year category in a season where Flightline dazzled in just three runs. He received 239 out of a possible 246 first-place votes for Horse of the Year.
As a four-year-old, the son of Tapit, won three Grade 1s, the Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar by an astounding 19 and a quarter lengths, and capped off his career by winning the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in November by a stakes record eight and a quarter lengths. Flightline, who won all six of his career starts, was also voted Champion Older Dirt Male.
There was another Irish-bred winner on the evening when Godolphin’s Modern Games won the Male Turf Eclipse Award off Grade 1 victories in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile in Canada and the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland. Rebel’s Romance (50) was runner-up.
Godolphin took the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Awards for the second year in a row. Godolphin topped all North American owners in earnings with $16,343,067.
Malathaat, owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Champion Older Dirt Female Eclipse Award by a huge margin, taking 241 votes of the 246.
Also winner of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland, she earned her second Eclipse Award, having been crowned lasyear’s champion three-year-old filly.
Her trainer Todd Pletcher won an unprecedented eighth Outstanding Trainer Eclipse Award, having previously won the honour from 2004-2007, 2010, and 2013-2014.
He won 223 races and saddled three champions. In addition to Malathaat, Pletcher also trained Champion Two-Year-Old Male, Forte, and Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, Nest, who took the award with 238 votes to just four for next best Tuesday.
The vote for Champion Three-Year-Old Male was expected to be one of the tightest. It went to Epicenter, second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and winner of his next two starts at Saratoga, capturing the Jim Dandy and the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes. Epicenter took 155 of the votes to Taiba’s 66.
The Breeders’ Cup winners took the two juvenile awards. Wonder Wheel, trained by Mark Casse, won the Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Eclipse Award (240 votes) and Forte (243 votes) took the colts’ award.
Irad Ortiz Jr won the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse Award for the fourth time in the last five years. Last year, Ortiz established new marks for total earnings by a jockey with $37,075,772.
Two of Ortiz’s Breeders’ Cup winners, Elite Power and Goodnight Olive, took the Male Sprint and Female Sprint Eclipse Awards, respectively.
Chad Brown trained Peter Brant’s Regal Glory to take the Champion Female Turf Award. Regal Glory won three Grade 1 stakes races, including the First Lady at Keeneland, the Just A Game at Belmont, and closed out the year by taking the Matriarch at Del Mar.
The Eclipse Awards, honouring excellence in North American thoroughbred racing, are voted on by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, Daily Racing Form (DRF), and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Full list of award winners: