Any time a horse is honored with the title Horse of the Year, he or she joins elite company. But California Chrome’s second Horse of the Year honor for 2016 — which was awarded to his connections Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park — uniquely situates the chestnut in the history of the game.
Plenty of previous horses have earned multiple Horse of the Year awards — 11 (since 1936, when awards became official), to be exact — but only two before California Chrome won in non-consecutive years. The fleeting nature of the sport, which often sees youthful horses retire before full maturity, does not lend itself to horses finding top form in non-consecutive years.
But the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit who has captured so many hearts is now in the company of Hall of Famers Native Dancer (1952 and 1954) and John Henry (1981 and 1984) as those who have sustained excellence enough to be considered the best horse in the country at significantly different stages of their careers.
In his 2014 Horse of the Year season, California Chrome took horse racing by storm, but as impressive as he was during his 3-year-old season, the physical specimen that returned to trainer Art Sherman’s barn at Los Alamitos Race Course late in 2015 after a disappointing spring and summer was a different horse in mental maturity and physical stature.
“He’s significantly larger than he was when he was a 3-year-old,” Sherman said upon California Chrome’s arrival in November of 2015, after an extended turn out at Taylor Made Farm. “He looks great. ... It’s going to be a challenge to get him back to his peak, but there’s a chance he could be a better horse. You just don’t know. If he’s better, he’s going to be an awesome horse next year.”
The veteran conditioner’s comment was prescient. For much of the year, “awesome” was an apt description. Back under the care of Sherman and his son, Alan, California Chrome began his 2016 campaign with a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, his first start in more than nine months.
Then came his trip to Dubai. California Chrome easily won his handicap prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Then came the main event. With the richest purse in the world on the line, the fully developed 5-year-old was wide throughout, and even though his saddle slipped nearing the finish line, still humbled the field en route to a clear victory.
Back at home in Southern California, he got a stiff challenge in another big-race prep. In the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, California Chrome shadowed the hulking Dortmund in the backstretch and inched ahead in the final turn. The duo battled to the wire in a stretch run to remember, but it was the smaller chestnut who came up a half-length on top.
In the big race at Del Mar, however, there would be no challengers. In one of the most anticipated matchups in Pacific Classic history, California Chrome set the pace under regular jockey Victor Espinoza and defeated fellow champion Beholder, as well as Dortmund, in an absolute rout. The winning margin was five lengths, but it might as well have been 10 ahead one of the best racemares in recent history, who had similarly romped in the Pacific Classic a year before.
In California Chrome’s next start, the Awesome Again Stakes, Dortmund served as runner-up. However, another Bob Baffert stablemate played spoiler in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Upstart 3-year-old Arrogate, who in his previous start ran the fastest Travers Stakes in history, wore down the front-running California Chrome in the stretch to snatch away the Classic and the seven-time grade/group I winner’s undefeated season.
Arrogate, the 3-year-old male champion of 2016, was also a finalist for Horse of the Year. He may have defeated California Chrome, but his rival’s full résumé ultimately won out.
“You’re around a lot of good horses—like Kelso and all of them—that stood up at an older age and you wonder, could he be like that?” Sherman pondered one morning, after watching California Chrome work at Los Alamitos. “I think, to me, he’s outstanding. But could he be an all-time great? Like Secretariat, or John Henry—could you put him in the same category?”
The horse who won the last stakes race at Hollywood Park as a 2-year-old in 2013 had more in store for Sherman, but on that morning the question hung in the crisp winter air. There was no answer, and there is truly no clear answer when comparing the all-time greats. What is clear is that California Chrome provided a rare occurrence in horse racing—a first act of brilliance and a second act where he came back even better. California Chrome also was named champion older male to bring his total to four career Eclipse Awards.—Jeremy Balan
Champion 2-year-old Male: Classic Empire
The talent was always there. The behavior finally caught up with it.
Classic Empire, a rangy, good-looking son of Pioneerof the Nile, came to hand under the tutelage of Mark and Norm Casse, and then left the rest of the juvenile division in arrears as he claimed the Eclipse Award for 2016’s top 2-year-old male.
Despite his first three running lines reading “slow early,” “ducked in start,” and “wheeled start, lost rider,” Classic Empire managed to win four of his five starts on the season. When the Casses gave Classic Empire extra schooling and work in the starting gate, and added blinkers for his efforts in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (both Grade 1 races), Classic Empire really strutted his stuff and headed into his sophomore campaign with $1,485,920 in the bank.
That bank belongs to John Oxley, who parted with $475,000 to land Classic Empire, out of the Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classica, during the third session of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. Just two weeks before Classic Empire took the Juvenile, Oxley and his wife, Debby, learned of the death of their 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. The Oxleys endured lean years after their Derby triumph, but their teaming with Casse has rejuvenated both owner and trainer, and Classic Empire, with continuing maturity, could well return them to glory under the Twin Spires.
“It was like being in orbit again,” Oxley said. “Classic Empire took me back to that level. I’ve never had a 2-year-old that did this well. It was really a special year watching him.”—Lenny Shulman
Champion 2-year-old Filly: Champagne Room
Some might say that winning the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies alone was enough to win the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly, but Champagne Room might not have earned that honor—which was bestowed on her connections Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park—without a promising summer at Del Mar.
Well supported in her debut for trainer Peter Eurton, who is not known for first-out success, Champagne Room ran second after breaking from the oft-dooming rail post at Del Mar in July. That encouraged Eurton to run her back, just three weeks later, in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes.
That decision was deft, and bettors this time were on board. Off as the 6-5 favorite in the first of the Southern California graded stakes for juvenile fillies, Champagne Room defeated future stakes winner Miss Southern Miss by 1 1/4 lengths.
That moment of promise, however, was followed by a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes and a troubled fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita Park, but the Juvenile Fillies upstaged them all.
While the Chandelier might have given bettors pause in the Juvenile Fillies, it didn’t faze Eurton.
“The trouble she got in—she was inside and wanted to go,” Eurton said of the Chandelier, a race where regular rider Mario Gutierrez was replaced by Mike Smith. “[Smith] was in a fight with her for five-eighths and only got beat by four [lengths].”
With Gutierrez—who had ridden her in her first three starts—back aboard, it all clicked again for the filly in the Juvenile Fillies. Champagne Room, unencumbered with an outside trip, opened a clear lead at the top of the stretch and just held off a late drive from impressive maiden winner Valadorna to win by three-quarters of a length.—Jeremy Balan
Champion 3-year-old Male: Arrogate
Nobody saw it coming, this gray or roan express train that was dismissed at odds of 11-1 on a hot, late-summer day at Saratoga Race Course.
With both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winners in the field for the Travers Stakes, and with trainer Bob Baffert unable to win the previous edition of the race with a Triple Crown champion, what credence could be given to an optional-claiming allowance winner shipping cross-country to contest the mid-summer Derby?
In the space of 1:59.36, the entire scope of racing for 2016 changed radically. Sure, Arrogate went out to the Travers lead, but his :46.84 half-mile fraction was surely too rapid for the 1 ¼-mile test, wasn’t it? Allowance winners weren’t supposed to open up on a field of graded winners and they’re not supposed to lengthen their lead to 13 1/2 lengths at the finish line and smash a track record that had stood for 36 years.
Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate was no one-hit wonder, either. Kept out of competition for 10 weeks between the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he fought every step of the way and passed the seemingly invincible California Chrome late to win the Classic and cement his place as champion 3-year-old male of 2016.
That Arrogate only broke his maiden a week before the running of the Belmont shows how quick his ascension was. And combined with the dissipating fortunes of classic winners Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Creator, Arrogate was the dominant 3-year-old left standing at year’s end.
“I thought it would be a long time before I got a horse of American Pharoah’s caliber again,” Baffert said. “Then Arrogate comes along.”—Lenny Shulman
Champion 3-year-old Filly: Songbird
Once in a great while the exceptional horse comes along.
Fans of Thoroughbred racing should thank their lucky stars to have witnessed such a horse in 2016 in the form of 3-year-old filly Songbird. Fox Hill Farms’ unbeaten 2-year-old of 2015 carried through her sophomore campaign in much the same way, with seven consecutive victories, earning her the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Not until her final outing of the year did she feel the sting of defeat for the first time.
The loss, to champion Beholder in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff by the slimmest of noses, in no way diminishes the perception of the dark bay or brown filly. If anything, her loss shows an even higher level of her class, much like Seattle Slew’s defeat to Exceller in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup or Zenyatta’s narrow loss to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Odds-on in her first seven starts of the year and the 11-10 favorite against Beholder in her seasonal finale, Songbird dealt out wins that were exceptional. Always racing on or near the front end, her opening quarter-mile and half-mile fractions were never blistering, but she remained in control at all times while seemingly galloping along under regular rider Mike Smith.
If there was a moment that looked as if it might not be her day, it was fleeting, as she always had an open-length lead coming out of the far turn and was never challenged by any of her generation inside the eighth pole for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Bloodstock agent Tom McGreevy, who has picked out many stars for Fox Hill owner Rick Porter, including 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, paid $400,000 for the John Antonelli-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale.
“She’s the best horse I’ve bought, in a rout,” he told BloodHorse last summer. “You just run out of words to use for her. It really brings a tear to your eye. I don’t know what else you can say.”—Evan Hammonds
Champion Older Dirt Female: Beholder
The only thing Spendthrift Farm’s Beholder had left to chase last year was her own legacy.
Already a multiple Breeders’ Cup winner, Eclipse Award champion, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer, the daughter of Henny Hughes was sent on a 6-year-old campaign solely because she refused to give any indication she had lost her sustained brilliance.
Facing some of her toughest challengers ever — as well as questions over whether she had lost a step — “Queen B” wrapped up her racing days in a manner as fantastical as her 26-race career, delivering one more master-class performance and earning a fourth Eclipse Award, this one for champion older dirt female of 2016.
Beholder was previously honored as champion older female in 2015 and earned divisional hardware at ages 2 and 3 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
In her final year in training, the bay mare went through a wringer that ultimately allowed her to showcase as much mettle as she had ever put forth. After winning her seasonal bow in May, Beholder became the first horse in North American history to win Grade 1 contests at ages 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 when she captured the June 4 Vanity Mile Stakes over fellow champion Stellar Wind.
What followed was the first “downturn” of Beholder’s career, when she suffered consecutive losses for the first time. Stellar Wind narrowly bettered her in both the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and Zenyatta Stakes. Sandwiched between those defeats was a runner-up effort to champion California Chrome in the Aug. 20 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar.
Heading into the Nov. 4 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Beholder not only was no longer the undisputed ruler of the older distaff ranks but had an heir threatening her mantle in the then-unbeaten 3-year-old filly Songbird. When Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens asked his mount one last time for her best in the Distaff, Beholder responded by going eyeball to eyeball with Songbird down the Santa Anita Park stretch, refusing to give way and give up her crown as she got her nose down at the finish line to earn her third career Breeders’ Cup victory.
“I think in the immediate aftermath we were just thinking of how unique her career has been,” said Ned Toffey, manager of B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm. “You think about other sports and think about people in the Hall of Fame, and very often they have careers where they were good over a long period of time or brilliant over a shorter period of time. She did both. She was brilliant over a long period of time.”—Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Champion Male Sprinter: Drefong
With his Eclipse Award for male sprinter awarded Jan. 21, Drefong joins Lost in the Fog (2005), Trinniberg (2012), and Runhappy (2015) as the only 3-year-olds who earned the honor this century.
In most cases the top male sprinter of the year has a “body of work” for the year that elevates him to the top honor. However, in the case of Drefong, it was brilliance in two career-defining efforts at the end of the year that landed him the Eclipse statue.
On May 30 and July 4, Drefong imposed his will on optional-claiming allowance runners at Santa Anita Park, winning both sprints by open-length margins and earning top-line Equibase Speed Figures.
Shipped to Saratoga Race Course, along with stablemate Arrogate, Drefong wound up being the 3-1 favorite for the Aug. 27 Ketel One King’s Bishop Stakes. Taking the field wire to wire going seven furlongs, he extended his advantage in the lane to two lengths at the eighth pole and 31/4 at the wire under Mike Smith in 1:21.25.
Drefong, after being off 10 weeks, won the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint by 1 1/4 lengths over a small but select field.
Bred by Frederick Allor, Michael Barnett, and Anthony Warrender, Drefong was sold by Barnett’s Blackburn Farm for $200,000 as a weanling and purchased by Susan Chu’s Tanma Corp. as a $450,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2014. Thirty-six yearlings from the first crop of three-time champion Gio Ponti were sold at Keeneland that year and Drefong was the highest-priced.
“(Bloodstock agent) Donato Lanni and I work together,” trainer Bob Baffert said after the Breeders’ Cup. “We don’t do anything without each other’s OK. This horse was so beautiful. He was a perfect specimen.”—Evan Hammonds
Champion Female Sprinter: Finest City
Finest City not only proved the best distaff sprinter of 2016, but acquitted herself around two turns on dirt and turf as well. It illustrated the mare’s versatility, though in the end, she demonstrated her keen sprinting ability by beating the best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint to clinch the Eclipse Award as top female sprinter.
Two father-and-son combinations contributed to Finest City’s championship. Wayne and Tyler Seltzer race her in the name of their Seltzer Thoroughbreds, while Eric and Ian Kruljac have collaborated on her training. Finest City was the first horse the 28-year-old Ian trained under his own name.
Eric Kruljac selected Finest City for the Seltzers during the seventh session of the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale for $85,000. Henry R. “Hank” Nothhaft bred the daughter of City Zip—Be Envied, by Lemon Drop Kid, in Pennsylvania because Northhaft bought Be Envied to breed to Silver Train in that state.
Though the elder Kruljac trained Finest City for her initial outing, Ian was involved from the beginning. She gave Ian a victory the first time he ever saddled a horse in his name, at Del Mar Aug. 23, 2015.
“I’ve spent a lot of time, especially at Del Mar, in the mornings with Ian,” Tyler Seltzer said. “I trust him. I know him. I like him. I feel like he’s cut from the same cloth as his dad.”—Tracy Gantz
Champion Turf Male: Flintshire
Flintshire’s star shone brightest last summer.
Already a winner of Grade/Group 1 events in three different countries for Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms — and after successful raiding trips to North America in 2014 and 2015 under the care of trainer Andre Fabre — the globetrotting homebred was shipped from France to Chad Brown’s New York stable for the stateside 6-year-old campaign that resulted in his champion turf male title.
Arriving in the United States again in 2016, the dark bay or brown son of Dansili possessed a worn passport and had tangled with some of the sport’s greatest stars — such as Golden Horn and Treve in back-to-back Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe seconds — but his first start under Brown’s care showed he was ready to take center stage again.
Able to display his devastating turn of foot despite a six-month layoff, Flintshire announced his presence June 11 at Belmont Park with a 1 3/4-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes. At Saratoga Race Course he next uncoiled that brilliant burst on command, taking the July 30 Bowling Green Stakes with a last-to-first showing while in hand after sweeping wide due to traffic troubles. The Aug. 27 Longines Sword Dancer Stakes was a repeat of his 2015 score.
“His summer performances were exceptional,” said Juddmonte manager Garrett O’Rourke. “I think he is very much deserving [of the champion turf male title]. He put up brilliant performances and showed up at all of the dances.”
Flintshire’s body of work made him the best grass horse in North America in 2016, and two runner-up finishes in Grade 1 races at the end of his three-race win streak did nothing to soil his reputation.
Flintshire was retired to stud at Hill ’n Dale Farms after the Breeders’ Cup with an eight wins and 12 seconds from 24 starts and earnings of $9,589,910, having won a Group/Grade 1 event every year he ran.
“Flintshire did everything and more of what we hoped he would do when we brought him over here,” O’Rourke said. “We had a lot of fun with him, and I think he’s given a lot to Prince Khalid.”—Claire Novak
Champion Turf Female: Tepin
As good as Tepin was in 2015, trainer Mark Casse and owner Robert Masterson figured they owed it to the daughter of Bernstein to show her off during her 5-year-old campaign. In a whirlwind tour that saw her win at five different tracks in three different countries, Tepin managed to maintain her superiority over one of the best divisions in racing in 2016.
Though she ended her season with runner-up finishes in the First Lady Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Mile, what came before was strong enough for Tepin to earn her second straight Eclipse Award as champion turf female.
The mere presence of Tepin was enough to strengthen the credentials of the filly who would become her biggest competition for year-end hardware. Three-time Grade 1 winner Miss Temple City earned two of her top-level triumphs as a result of running against males in an effort to dodge the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine.
Through her first six outings in 2016, tangling with Tepin was futile.
The Florida crowd got the first taste of the fully mature bay mare when she began her season with a pair of graded stakes wins at Tampa Bay Downs, before rolling to a five-length win in the Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in April. In what would be her final stateside victory of the year, Tepin captured the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes for a second consecutive season and then set off across the Atlantic to make a little history.
The notion that American turf runners were lesser on international ground was dispelled June 14, when Tepin bested a global assemblage of male rivals to become the first North American-based horse to win the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. A deserved three-month freshening followed, after which the Machmer Hall-bred mare further drove home her superiority when she toppled males once more in the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes on Sept. 17.
“I think if you look at it, there are a lot of great trainers who have won a lot of Breeders’ Cups [and] a lot of great trainers have won the Kentucky Derby,” Casse said. “But for her to win a [Group] 1 going a mile against older colts [at Royal Ascot]—it’s something that we’ve been able to achieve that very few have. I said all along it was right up there with the Breeders’ Cup. But after much reflection, I would say it’s our No. 1 accomplishment.
“When you have a turf horse like Tepin, she’s not just dealing with the best horses in North America—it’s the world. They’ve shipped many good ones, and she usually sends them packing.”—Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Champion Steeplechaser: Rawnaq
A player in his native Ireland over jumps in minor stakes races, Irvin Naylor’s Rawnaq came into his own in 2016 with a well-managed season by trainer Cyril Murphy. Three wins in four attempts, including a pair of top-level wins, vaulted the then 9-year-old son of Azamour to the Eclipse Award as top steeplechaser.
Rawnaq opened the season with a 15-length score in Middleburg’s Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap in Virginia and came back three weeks later to edge Shaneshill by a neck after the three miles of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes outside Nashville, Tenn., both considered Grade 1 races by the National Steeplechase Association.
The front-running horse had the summer off and returned Oct. 15 in North America’s top steeplechase race, Far Hills’ Grand National Hurdle Stakes. In the 2 5/8-mile Grand National, Rawnaq held off fellow Eclipse nominee Scorpiancer by three-quarters of a length.—Evan Hammonds
Outstanding Trainer: Chad Brown
Chad Brown left nothing to chance in 2016 — not statistical categories, not intangible achievements, not even his tried-and-true reputation of primarily enjoying success with turf runners.
No matter the measure used, there was no arguing Brown’s barn was operating at a rarified level last season. The only thing left to add to a season that saw Brown lead the nation in earnings ($23,135,084) and graded stakes wins (42), earn his first Saratoga Race Course training title, and even saddle a couple of Grade 1 winners on dirt, was the emotion of taking home his first Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer.
When Brown won a record 40 races during the Saratoga meet to end Todd Pletcher’s longstanding dominance at the Spa, it was a microcosm of the depth of Brown’s aptitude. In addition to conditioning Juddmonte Farms’ Flintshire to multiple Grade 1 wins and guiding Lady Eli back to top-level glory after her battle with laminitis, Brown also had an Eclipse Award finalist for champion 2-year-old male in multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke.
“He’s taken the pressure of those top horses and proved he can win Grade 1 races on a regular basis with them,” said Garrett O’Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms. “He has delivered [and] everyone has noticed.”—Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Outstanding Jockey: Javier Castellano
It’s getting to be a habit — a very pleasant one — for Javier Castellano, who collected his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding jockey.
Since 2013, the Venezuelan native has led the continent in purse earnings each season, and that total reached $26,826,241 for 2016, his 20th year riding in the United States. That total was nearly $3.4 million more than his closest pursuer.
Castellano rode an even 300 winners on the season for a 21% strike rate. He won an astounding seven races in 2016 that carried purses of $1 million or more: the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (Gunnevera), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (New Money Honey), Pennsylvania Derby (Connect), Longines Sword Dancer Stakes (Flintshire), Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (Flintshire), Longines Kentucky Oaks (Cathryn Sophia) and Charles Town Classic Stakes (Stanford).
He won additional Grade 1 events with Annals of Time in the Hollywood Derby, Connect in the Cigar Mile Handicap, Shaman Ghost in the Woodward Stakes, Sweet Loretta in the Spinaway Stakes and Cavorting in the Personal Ensign Stakes.
Castellano, who moved his tack from Florida to New York in 2001, benefits from his association with that circuit’s two top trainers, as he rides extensively for Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown.—Lenny Shulman
Outstanding Owner: Juddmonte Farms
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms enjoyed an excellent 2016 North American season, earning the boutique stable outstanding owner honors for the year. Despite Juddmonte’s runners making just 100 starts on the continent, the stable ranked a close second in total earnings with $7,336,758 and won four Grade 1 stakes, including the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Long known as one of the premier owners of turf horses worldwide, Juddmonte has redoubled its efforts to make its mark on American dirt racing as well. To that end, it has enlisted trainer Bob Baffert to buy and condition main track talent, and that paid off large in 2016 when 3-year-old Arrogate exploded on the scene to win the Travers Stakes and the Classic, banking $4,084,600 for the year.
Juddmonte furthered its laurels on the grass when its homebred Flintshire dominated the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes and Longines Sword Dancer Stakes, both Grade 1 races. Second in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, Flintshire, at age 6, added $2 million to the Juddmonte coffers for the season.
The other Juddmonte-owned North American black-type winner on the year was Suffused, who took the Glens Falls Stakes and the Belmont Coronation Invitational Stakes. The 4-year-old homebred also finished second in the E. P. Taylor Stakes Presented by HPIBet and earned $366,350 on the year. —Lenny Shulman
Outstanding Breeder: WinStar Farm
WinStar Farm’s efforts to expand the quality and scope of its stallion roster and broodmare band starting six years ago paid big dividends in 2016, with the operation’s first Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder.
Kenny Troutt’s 2,400-acre farm near Versailles, Ky., topped the breeders’ standings in several categories: by earnings with $10,516,427; by number of graded stakes wins with 15; and by number of overall wins with 239. The farm had a 17% win rate and had its farm-bred runners finish in the money in 43% of their starts.
WinStar has regularly ranked among the top 10 North American breeders since 2010 and been among the top five every year since 2012. The farm’s highest end-of-the-year ranking prior to 2016 was third in 2014 with $6,897,879 in earnings.
Though earnings drive the standings, WinStar has been represented by a deep bench of quality runners. WinStar bred 17 black-type stakes winners for the year.
Tourist is the leader among the Grade 1 winners. The son of Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Mile for co-owners WinStar, Gary Barber, and Wachtel Stable. Tourist entered stud this year at WinStar.
WinStar’s other Grade 1 winners are New Money Honey, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; and Constellation, who won the La Brea Stakes.—Eric Mitchell
Outstanding Apprentice: Luis Ocasio
Luis Ocasio received the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey, as he closed out 2016 with 110 trips to the winner’s circle and more than $2.8 million in earnings.
Ocasio, a native of Puerto Rico, is a graduate of Escuela Vocacional Hípica, a Puerto Rican jockey school that also counts leading riders John Velazquez, Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz among its distinguished alumni. The 19-year-old Ocasio got his start riding at the Camarero Race Track before coming to the United States in March.
He won his first race in his new home March 20 aboard Alice Roadtrain in a dominating 9 3/4-length victory in a $7,500 claiming race at Parx Racing. His career was on the rise in the spring, as he picked up three more wins in April and won eight in May, all at Parx.
Mainly riding at Parx and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Ocasio had an 18% win rate from 606 mounts in 2016. He came in first for apprentice jockeys by earnings and by wins, and out of all North American jockeys he ranked 93rd by earnings.
Although he’s yet to win a stakes race, he was among the leading riders at Parx last year, finishing second by wins and fifth by earnings.—Erin Shea
Voter participation rate: 248/264= 93.94%
Two-Year-Old Male (Name, First-Place Votes)
Classic Empire, 248.
Champagne Room, 202; New Money Honey, 21; Lady Aurelia, 11; Pretty City Dancer, 5; Shane’s Girlfriend, 3; Abel Tasman, 2; Miss Sky Warrior, 2; Victory to Victory, 1; Voter Abstentions, 1.
Arrogate, 243; Exaggerator, 2; Nyquist, 2; Gun Runner, 1.
Older Dirt Male
California Chrome, 248.
Older Dirt Female
Beholder, 246; Stellar Wind, 2.
Drefong, 199; Lord Nelson, 29; A.P. Indian, 20.
Finest City, 185; Haveyougoneaway, 20; Paulassilverlining, 13; Taris, 12; Carina Mia, 11; Constellation, 2; Lightstream, 1; Songbird, 1. Voter Abstentions, 3.
Male Turf Horse
Flintshire (GB), 137; Highland Reel (IRE), 76; Tourist, 32; Da Big Hoss, 1. Voter Abstentions, 2.
Female Turf Horse
Tepin, 225; Found (IRE), 11; Queen’s Trust (GB), 7; Lady Eli, 2; Miss Temple City, 2; Catch a Glimpse, 1.
Rawnaq (IRE), 171; Top Striker, 31; Special Skills, 2; Bob Le Beau (IRE), 1; Portrade (IRE), 1. Voter Abstentions, 42.
Juddmonte Farms, Inc., 134; Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, 45; Klaravich Stables, Inc., and William Lawrence, 17; Spendthrift Farm, LLC, 17; California Chrome, LLC, 16; Reddam Racing LLC, 4; Fox Hill Farms, Inc. 3; John Oxley, 3; WinStar Farm, 2; End Zone Athletics, 1; Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., 1. Voter Abstentions, 5.
WinStar Farm, LLC; 164; Clearsky Farms, 62; Juddmonte Farms, Ltd., 4; Darley, 3; Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, 3; Adena Springs, 2; Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, 1; Machmer Hall, 1. Voter Abstentions, 8.
Chad Brown, 208; Bob Baffert, 21; Mark Casse, 11; Art Sherman, 3; Steve Asmussen, 2; Karl Broberg, 1; Todd Pletcher, 1. Voter Abstention, 1.
Javier Castellano, 146; Mike Smith, 44; Jose Ortiz, 41; Florent Geroux,12; Irad Ortiz, Jr., 2; Julien Leparoux, 1. Voter Abstentions, 2.
Luis Ocasio, 182; Lane Luzzi, 34; Eric Cancel, 1; Ashley Castrenze, 1. Voter Abstentions, 30.