Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic heads the list of finalists for the 2020 Eclipse Awards, the winners of which will be announced Jan. 28 in a virtual ceremony hosted by Spendthrift Farm.
Established in 1971, the Eclipse Awards determine North American championships for Thoroughbred racehorses and individuals as determined by votes cast by members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose voters include racing officials and Equibase representatives. Three finalists are chosen in each Eclipse classification.
Of the 249 eligible voters, 238 (95.58%) took part in the voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters' top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first-place votes.
Authentic, considered the favorite to land Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male honors, went 5-for-7 in 2020 while capturing two of the year’s top dirt events, along with a close runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes. Authentic won the 2020 Secretariat Vox Populi Award to honor the most popular racehorse of the year. He is joined in the Horse of the Year category by WinStar Farm and SF Racing’s Improbable, who won three Grade 1s in 2020, and by Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Monomoy Girl, who raced in 2020 for Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables. Improbable is also a contender for champion older dirt male honors, while Monomoy Girl is a finalist in the older dirt female category.
2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was the last horse to win both the Derby and Classic at age 3, and he was voted Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.
Authentic’s rivals in the champion 3-year-old male division are the Baffert-trained Nadal, who went undefeated in four starts in 2020 for George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman, and Mark Mathiesen but was retired due to injury after his victory in a division of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park; and by Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law, the New York-bred trained by Barclay Tagg whose three Grade 1 wins in 2020 included the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets.
The team associated with Authentic landed in multiple categories. The partnership of Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing — for whom Authentic raced during the second half of 2020 — is a finalist for outstanding owner in a division that includes Godolphin and Klaravich Stables; Hall of Famer Bob Baffert is a finalist for outstanding trainer; and Hall of Famer John Velazquez is a finalist for outstanding jockey after winning the 2020 Fan Choice Award as Favorite Jockey. Velazquez faces Irad Ortiz Jr., who took the Eclipse Award in 2018-’19, and Joel Rosario. Baffert is up against Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox.
Connections of Improbable and Monomoy Girl are also finalists; Improbable’s co-owner WinStar Farm joins Calumet Farm and Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds in the outstanding breeder category, while Monomoy Girl’s conditioner Cox is expected to take home his first Eclipse.
Cox enjoyed a strong season in 2020 as his runners collected earnings of nearly $19 million. The year was topped by a phenomenal two-day span at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, where four of his runners won races. Along with Monomoy Girl, Cox trained Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go, TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance winner Essential Quality, and undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Aunt Pearl. The latter two are Eclipse Award finalists in their respective divisions.
Cox also won the Longines Kentucky Oaks with Shedaresthedevil, a candidate in the champion 3-year-old filly division along with Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Gamine and Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver.
Joining Essential Quality in the 2-year-old male category are Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America winner Fire At Will and two-time Grade 1 winner Jackie's Warrior. Aunt Pearl is up against the 1-2 finishers from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies — dual Grade 1 winner Vequist and runner-up Dayoutoftheoffice, who also took the Frizette Stakes.
In the older dirt male division, Improbable faces off with multiple Grade 1 winner Maximum Security and with Grade 1-winning sprinter Vekoma. The latter also leads the male sprinter division, where he is joined by Grade 1 winner Volatile and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Whitmore.
Female sprint honors could go to Gamine, who won the Test and Acorn Stakes and was third in the Kentucky Oaks for Michael Lund Petersen and Baffert before capping her season with a Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint score against elders, to Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Glass Slippers, or to Ballerina Stakes winner Serengeti Empress. Gamine’s campaign was tarnished by two drug positives — a betamethasone overage in the Kentucky Oaks and a 3-hydroxylidocaine (local anesthetic lidocaine) positive for a May allowance victory at Oaklawn Park.
In the champion turf male category, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Sword Dancer Stakes winner Channel Maker, third in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf behind Tarnawa, joins FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by PDJF winner Order of Australia and Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes Presented by Runhappy winner Zulu Alpha.
The contenders for champion steeplechase horse are Moscato, Rashaan, and Snap Decision.
The outstanding apprentice jockey category is made up of Luis Cardenas, Yarmarie Correa, and Alexander Crispin.
In addition to honoring the 17 winners in the horse and human categories, Thomas Goldsmith will receive the Eclipse Award as the 2020 Horseplayer of the Year. Members of the media will be honored for outstanding coverage in six categories, the winners having been announced Jan. 6.
2020 Eclipse Awards Finalists (in Alphabetical Order):
Horse of the Year: Authentic, Improbable, Monomoy Girl
2-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality, Fire At Will, Jackie’s Warrior
2-Year-Old Filly: Aunt Pearl, Dayoutoftheoffice, Vequist
3-Year-Old Male: Authentic, Nadal, Tiz the Law
3-Year-Old Filly: Gamine, Shedaresthedevil, Swiss Skydiver
Older Dirt Male: Improbable, Maximum Security, Vekoma
Older Dirt Female: Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl, Serengeti Empress
Male Sprinter: Vekoma, Volatile, Whitmore
Female Sprinter: Gamine, Glass Slippers, Serengeti Empress
Male Turf Horse: Channel Maker, Order of Australia, Zulu Alpha
Female Turf Horse: Audarya, Rushing Fall, Tarnawa
Steeplechase Horse: Moscato, Rashaan, Snap Decision
Owner: Godolphin, Klaravich Stables, and the partnership of Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing
Breeder: Calumet Farm, Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm
Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Brad Cox
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr., Joel Rosario, John Velazquez
Apprentice Jockey: Luis Cardenas, Yarmarie Correa, Alexander Crispin