Growing up, I wore out enough books about great thoroughbred race horses to know that winning the “Horse of the Year” award was the pinnacle for these equine athletes. What I didn’t know about Secretariat winning Horse of the Year in 1972 and 1973 was that he was just the second (and third) horse to win the official Eclipse Awards.
If you didn’t tune in to Horses In the Morning yesterday, hop over and take a listen to their fun version of announcing the Eclipse Awards winners that were released on Monday night. Glenn, Jamie, and our good friend Frankie Lovato - an Eclipse award-winning jockey and founder of Jockey World – shared their picks for each of the Eclipse Awards, and then Jennifer played a sound file of the official announcement for each award.
But just what is the big deal about the annual Eclipse Awards anyways?
History of the Eclipse Awards
Prior to 1971, the Daily Racing Form and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association each had their own yearly awards. “Horse of the Year” awarded to well-known greats like War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Citation, and Bold Ruler was given by the Daily Racing Form. In 1950, the Thoroughbred Racing Association got in on the action and starting offering awards of their own – but picking all the same winners.
So in 1971, these two organizations along with National Turf Writer’s Association decided to team up and sponsor one set of awards. That year the official Eclipse Awards for thoroughbred racing were born, named after the great racehorse and sire Eclipse. In the mid-18th century Eclipse began racing as a 5-year-old, had 18 undefeated starts, and his foals won 344 races.
Eclipse Awards Categories
The Eclipse Awards recognize horses and people in all facets of thoroughbred racing – from the horses (of course!) to the jockey, trainers, and even the sports writers. While the “Horse of the Year” category is of course the most prestigious, horses can also earn recognition in each of these categories as well:
- 2-year-old male
- 2-year-old filly
- 3-year-old male
- 3-year-old female
- older male
- older female
- male sprinter
- female sprinter
- male turf horse
- female turf horse
- steeplechase horse
The humans involved can win:
- outstanding owner
- outstanding breeder
- outstanding trainer
- outstanding jockey
- outstanding apprentice jockey (Frankie won this one!)
- special award (to honor outstanding achievements in TB racing)
There’s also a whole section of “Media Eclipse Awards” for photography, writing, television, and audio/multi-media/internet.
How are Eclipse Award Winners Selected?
Eclipse Award members are selected by a majority vote by members of the three sponsoring organizations (Daily Racing Form, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers Association). The only criteria is the horse had to have one start on American soil. Other than that – it’s fair game.
Here’s an interesting (read:funny) article on Forbes by one of the voters on selecting Eclipse Awards winners.
The award winners are announced in a big ceremony (which was streamed live online this year) in the middle of January.
Follow the Eclipse Awards
Additionally, you can easily follow potential Eclipse award winners throughout the year through various channels online. Most major racetracks post their races on YouTube and have blog and article coverage, or you can check out the many sportsbook review websites out there (even if you’re not into gambling, they do tend to have very good coverage of the races and top horses).