The new year began as it always does for fans of thoroughbred horse racing with the 2019 Eclipse Awards. Created to recognize the champions of horse racing, this year’s event was held at Gulfstream park in Hallandale, Florida. It featured a collection of the sports biggest trainers, owners, jockeys, and even handicappers. They were all there to celebrate the thoroughbred horses which made the greatest impact on the sport in 2018.
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Justify Wins Horse of the Year
It should not come as a massive surprise to anyone that Justify was named Horse of the Year at the 2019 Eclipse Awards. Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in 2018 by sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Justify was trained by racing legend Bob Baffert, and the horse has now been retired to stud.
Justify received 191 out of 249 votes for Horse of the Year. Accelerate received 54 votes to finish second. Of all the candidates that could have earned votes for Horse of the Year, Justify and Accelerate were the only two whose performances made a strong case for the award. Some believe that Accelerate had a better year in 2018. His loss in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup should have had no bearing on the 2018 voting results.
Justify was also named Three-Year-Old Champion by taking all 249 votes that were available. He forever etched himself in the history books with his win of the Triple Crown. The past decade has seen two Triple Crown winners, a feat that was last accomplished in the 1970’s when a total of three horses claimed the title in a ten-year span.
Other horses honored at the 2019 Eclipse Awards included:
- Outstanding Trainer – Chad Brown claimed this award for the third year in a row.
- Champion Older Dirt Male – Accelerate just keeps getting better with age.
- Outstanding Owner – Hronis Racing LLC owns Accelerate.
- Champion Two-Year-Old Male – Game Winner, a horse that looks to be a candidate for the Triple Crown.
About the 2019 Eclipse Awards
The Eclipse Awards are now in their 48th year. They were named after the thoroughbred champion Eclipse and award honors in several categories. The Eclipse Awards are presented by the Stronach Group which owns Gulfstream Park and other race tracks throughout America, the Daily Racing Form, and the Breeders’ Cup.
Writers from the Daily Racing Form and other turf publications are chosen each year to vote on the categories that are honored at the Eclipse Awards. There are a total of 249 voting members. Each member is only allowed one vote per category.
The event is typically held at Gulfstream Park. This year the event was closely aligned with the Stronach Group’s Pegasus World Cup. This is somewhat convenient because many of the top trainers and jockeys were in town for the big race.
Why the Eclipse Awards Are So Important
Every major sport has a method to definitively determine its champion. Football has the Superbowl. Baseball has the World Series. Horse Racing has the Eclipse Awards. These awards serve the important purpose of naming and recognizing champions in the world of horse racing.
Horse racing champions are chosen by a consensus vote. It must be done this way because many of the most talented horses do not compete against each other in a given year. It is also done this way because horses of different ages may not have raced against one another, yet both animals might be talented enough to merit an Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
The voting system to determine the Eclipse Award champions is controversial to say the least. It is often called into question by those who believe it is an unfair system, more comparable to a popularity contest than anything else. In truth, the best horse does not always win. Still, these awards and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are the best way for horse racing to determine its champions.
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