Making a Case: Favorite Jockeys, Trainers, and Racehorses at the Fan Choice Awards

Pop Culture
Irad Ortiz Jr., Mark Casse, and Bricks and Mortar are among Fan Choice Awards finalists. (Eclipse Sportswire)

America’s Best Racing’s inaugural Fan Choice Awards are currently underway, and fans of Thoroughbred racing have until Nov. 20 to get their votes in for a variety of categories, including several focusing on personalities of the sport.

Which jockey has performed at the highest level this year? Which trainer has risen above all others when it comes to getting horses ready for the sport’s biggest stages? Which analyst does the best job breaking down the sport for fans and horseplayers? What’s the best radio show or podcast?

Most important of all: Which racehorse has accomplished the most in 2019 from a fan’s perspective and is thus worthy of receiving the Secretariat Vox Populi Award? Make your voice heard and vote here!

Here’s a breakdown of each category:

Best Jockey of 2019

Eclipse Sportswire

Javier Castellano

Hall of Famer and four-time Eclipse Award winner Castellano ranks third in earnings among all jockeys in North America as of Nov. 13. He won two Breeders’ Cup races earlier this month, and also captured the Pegasus World Cup Invitational back in January aboard City of Light.


Eclipse Sportswire

Irad Ortiz Jr.

The reigning Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Jockey is on track to secure another one for 2019, as he currently leads all North America-based jockeys in earnings (as of Nov. 13) with over $31.7 million, and is second with 274 wins. He won an impressive four Breeders’ Cup races earlier this month, headlined by Vino Rosso’s score in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and Bricks and Mortar’s win in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.


Eclipse Sportswire

Jose Ortiz

After winning the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey for 2017, Jose Ortiz has continued building his résumé as one of the best in the business, currently ranking second in earnings among all jockeys in North America (as of Nov. 13) and third in wins. He won one 2019 Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita, and also took the Longines Kentucky Oaks last spring with Serengeti Empress.


Eclipse Sportswire

Flavien Prat

Prat’s breakthrough 2019 is topped by Country House’s win in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve in terms of prestige, but the California-based rider has routinely excelled in marquee races from coast to coast and ranks fifth in earnings among all North America-based jockeys as of Nov. 13. He won the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard longshot Storm the Court earlier this month and also took the TVG Pacific Classic on Higher Power.


Eclipse Sportswire

Joel Rosario

Rosario, who ranks fourth in earnings among North America-based jockeys as of Nov. 13, won the Belmont Stakes aboard Sir Winston back in June and reached peak performance during the second half of 2019, taking two Breeders’ Cup races earlier this month at Santa Anita.


Eclipse Sportswire

Mike Smith

“Big Money Mike” further embellished his Hall of Fame career in 2019 with multiple Grade 1 wins aboard Midnight Bisou (three) and Omaha Beach (two). Despite racing selectively and therefore making far fewer starts than his competitors in this category, the two-time Eclipse Award winner still ranks 14th among all jockeys in North America in earnings as of Nov. 13.


Eclipse Sportswire

John Velazquez

Sustained excellence and class mark Hall of Famer Velazquez’s career, with highlights in 2019 coming aboard Code of Honor in the Runhappy Travers Stakes and Sistercharlie in three Grade 1 events. The two-time Eclipse Award winner ranks sixth in earnings among all North America-based jockeys as of Nov. 13.


Best Trainer of 2019

Eclipse Sportswire

Steve Asmussen

Asmussen’s 2019 was highlighted by incredible campaigns from both Mitole (six wins in seven starts, four Grade 1 stakes including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint) and Midnight Bisou (seven wins in eight starts, three Grade 1 stakes). The Hall of Famer and two-time Eclipse Award winner ranks second in both earnings and wins among all trainers in North America as of Nov. 13.


Eclipse Sportswire

Bob Baffert

He didn’t win a Triple Crown in 2019 like the year before, but Baffert continued to grab headlines, winning the Whitney Stakes and running second in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic with McKinzie and unveiling a typically strong group of 2-year-olds in recent months. The four-time Eclipse Award winner and Hall of Famer currently ranks eighth among North America-based trainers in earnings as of Nov. 13.


Eclipse Sportswire

Mark Casse

Taking two-thirds of the Triple Crown is enough to make any trainer’s year, and Casse did just that with War of Will (Preakness Stakes) and Sir Winston (Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets). The 11-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s outstanding trainer ranks fifth in earnings and seventh in wins among conditioners based in North America as of Nov. 13.


Eclipse Sportswire

Chad Brown

Three-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Brown is the favorite to win a fourth statuette in January, as he leads all North America-based trainers in earnings as of Nov. 13 with over $29.8 million and ranks fifth in wins. Recognized as the best turf trainer in the country, Brown was represented by five-time Grade 1 winner Bricks and Mortar and many other grass sensations this year. He tallied three Breeders’ Cup wins two weeks ago, led by Bricks and Mortar’s score in the Longines Turf. 


Eclipse Sportswire

Shug McGaughey

A leading trainer since the 1980s, Hall of Famer McGaughey enjoyed a stellar 2019 managing top 3-year-old Code of Honor’s campaign. The colt ran second in the Kentucky Derby and won the Runhappy Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup to establish himself as an Eclipse Award candidate in his division.


Eclipse Sportswire

Bill Mott

Like McGaughey, Hall of Famer Mott added to his decades of excellence as a trainer in 2019, winning his first Kentucky Derby when Country House was elevated to first. The three-time Eclipse Award winner ranks sixth in earnings among all North America-based trainers as of Nov. 13.


2019 Secretariat Vox Populi Award

Eclipse Sportswire

Belvoir Bay

Belvoir Bay’s very existence is one of the most inspirational stories of 2019 as she is a survivor of the San Luis Rey Downs fire from two years ago. The 6-year-old mare took the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 2 to cap off a year in which she won three of six starts with two seconds and earned over $1.1 million.


Eclipse Sportswire

Bricks and Mortar

Six stakes wins at six different tracks. Five of them Grade 1s. A rousing win in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 2 to cap off an unbeaten 2019 campaign. These credentials make this son of Giant’s Causeway the current favorite for Horse of the Year at January’s Eclipse Awards. He’s arguably the best U.S.-based turf runner since Wise Dan five years ago.


Eclipse Sportswire

Maximum Security

Take away the controversial Kentucky Derby disqualification and Maximum Security is right there in conversation with Bricks and Mortar and Mitole for Horse of the Year. His wins in the Xpressbet Florida Derby and TVG.com Haskell Invitational (and his performance in the Kentucky Derby minus the veering out) were among the most visually impressive races of 2019.


Eclipse Sportswire

Midnight Bisou

This star filly won seven of eight starts in 2019, including three Grade 1 stakes, and brought her A-game to the racetrack every time, including her runner-up finish in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. And plans are for her to race in 2020, too.


Eclipse Sportswire

Mitole

Mitole won six of seven races this year including four Grade 1 stakes. He is clearly one of the best sprinters of the decade, able to excel at both the six-furlong textbook sprint distance (such as in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint two weeks ago) and also at a more taxing mile (witness his rousing win in the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap back in June).


Eclipse Sportswire

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach is a fan favorite for both what he accomplished and for what might have been this year. He broke onto the Kentucky Derby scene with two dazzling wins at Oaklawn Park but then had to miss all of the Triple Crown races due to a throat issue. But he came back to post a thrilling win in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship and then a good runner-up effort in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, finishing up 2019 with four wins and two seconds in six starts.

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