The Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go became the first Maryland-bred to be voted Horse of the Year since two-time champion Cigar (1995-’96) during the 51st annual Eclipse Awards held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., on Thursday evening.
The Brad Cox-trained son of Paynter, bred in Maryland by Angie Moore, was an overwhelming choice (228 first-place votes from 235 ballots) to receive racing’s top honor for the 2021 season off victories in a trio of Grade 1 events: the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Whitney Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Overall, Knicks Go won five of seven starts in 2021. Knicks Go also received the Eclipse Award for outstanding older dirt male.
He attempted a repeat of his Pegasus victory last month but finished second to Life Is Good in his final career start. Knicks Go has been retired to stud in Kentucky, where he will stand for $30,000 live foal.
Knicks Go was joined by stablemate Essential Quality, the champion 3-year-old male, and Letruska, the champion older dirt female, as finalists for Horse of the Year
History was made earlier in the evening when the Japanese-bred and -raced Loves Only You became that country’s first North American champion. The Deep Impact mare was voted an Eclipse Award as outstanding turf female after winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. That win was bookended by a pair of G1 victories in Hong Kong and a G2 win in her native Japan.
Owned by DMM Dream Club Co. and trained by Yoshito Yahagi, Loves Only You was recently retired, wearing her Breeders’ Cup garland of purple and gold flowers during a retirement ceremony in Japan.
There were no unanimous choices among the 11 equine divisional Eclipse Award winners or in the five human categories. Echo Zulu, the outstanding 2-year-old female, came the closest, earning 233 first-place votes of the 235 ballots cast.
The closest vote came in the 3-year-old male category, where Essential Quality received 131 first-place votes to 84 for Medina Spirit, a margin of 47 votes. That came despite Medina Spirit finishing ahead of Essential Quality in their only two meetings: the G1 Kentucky Derby in which Essential Quality finished fourth behind Medina Spirit; and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Medina Spirit was second and Essential Quality third. Essential Quality, like Knicks Go trained by Cox, is a son of Tapit who won five of seven starts in 2021, including the G1 Belmont and G1 Travers.
Medina Spirit, four-of-nine overall, also won two G1 races, the Derby and Awesome Again Stakes, but the Derby victory is in jeopardy as the Bob Baffert-trained colt failed a post-race drug test and a hearing has yet to be conducted on the matter. It reportedly will be held on Feb. 14. Medina Spirit died suddenly on the track while training at Santa Anita in December.
Another contentious division was male sprinters, where Jackie’s Warrior received 110 first-place votes, less than half of the votes cast. Four other horses reached double-digit votes in the male sprint division: Aloha West (50), Flightline (33), Golden Pal (19) and Dr. Schivel (18).
Godolphin won its fourth Eclipse Award and second in a row as outstanding owner. Godolphin, the global bloodstock operation of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed, won its first Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder. Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley previously won both an outstanding owner and outstanding breeder award. Godolphin was represented by two homebred champions at this year’s Eclipse Awards, Essential Quality and older turf male champion Yibir.
Brad Cox earned his second consecutive Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer and Joel Rosario won his first Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey. California-based Jessica Pyfer became the first female jockey since Emma-Jayne Wilson in 2005 to be voted an Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice rider.
Eclipse Awards winners for 2021:
(Horse ages in parentheses where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation)
- Two-Year-Old Male: Corniche
- Two-Year-Old Filly: Echo Zulu
- Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality
- Three-Year-Old Filly: Malathaat
- Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go (5)
- Older Dirt Female: Letruska (5)
- Male Sprinter: Jackie’s Warrior (3)
- Female Sprinter: Ce Ce (5)
- Male Turf Horse: Yibir (GB) (3)
- Female Turf Horse: Loves Only You (JPN) (5)
- Steeplechase Horse: The Mean Queen (IRE) (5)
- Owner: Godolphin LLC
- Breeder: Godolphin LLC
- Jockey: Joel Rosario
- Apprentice Jockey: Jessica Pyfer
- Trainer: Brad Cox
Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon the Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective divisions. The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-Century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.
In voting that concluded Jan. 10, 2022, Eclipse Awards voters cast their ballots to rank the top three horses and individuals in each Championship division on a 10-5-1 point system.
This voting established the top three finalists in each division, whose names were released on Jan. 15, 2022.
The tallies below represent only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.
Voter participation rate: 235/245= 95.9%
Horse of the Year (Name, First-Place Votes)– Knicks Go, 228; Letruska, 2; Loves Only You (JPN), 2; Essential Quality, 1; Lil Latigo, 1; Medina Spirit, 1.
Two-Year-Old Male – Corniche, 214; Jack Christopher, 12; Modern Games (IRE), 2; Tiz the Bomb, 2; Frosty Storm, 1; Gunite, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.
Two-Year-Old Filly – Echo Zulu, 233; Baytown Valleygirl, 1; Twilight Gleaming (IRE), 1.
Three-Year-Old Male – Essential Quality, 131; Medina Spirit, 84; Life Is Good, 18; Hurricane Nation, 1; Hot Rod Charlie, 1.
Three-Year-Old Filly – Malathaat, 227; Going Global (IRE), 3; Shantisara (IRE), 2, Bella Sofia, 1; Eida’s Storm, 1; Santa Barbara (IRE), 1.
Older Dirt Male – Knicks Go, 232; Maxfield, 2; Lil Latigo, 1.
Older Dirt Female – Letruska, 221; Marche Lorraine (JPN), 11; Damisela, 1; Gamine, 1; Monomoy Girl, 1.
Male Sprinter – Jackie’s Warrior, 110; Aloha West, 50; Flightline, 33; Golden Pal, 19; Dr. Schivel, 18; Extravagant Kid, 1; Life Is Good, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.
Female Sprinter – Ce Ce, 136; Gamine, 97; Bella Sofia, 1; Voter Abstention, 1.
Male Turf Horse – Yibir (GB), 135; Domestic Spending (GB), 33; Space Blues (IRE), 33; Golden Pal, 14; Colonel Liam; 11; Smooth Like Strait, 6; Town Cruise, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.
Female Turf Horse – Loves Only You (JPN), 136; War Like Goddess, 70; Santa Barbara (IRE), 10; Going Global (IRE) 6; Althiqa (GB), 5; Shantisara (IRE), 2; Con Lima, 1; My Sister Nat (FR), 1; Regal Glory, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.
Steeplechase Horse – The Mean Queen (IRE), 210; Snap Decision, 2; Voter Abstentions, 23.
Owner – Godolphin LLC, 216; Klaravich Stables LLC, 7; End Zone Athletics Inc, 2; Korea Racing Authority, 2; Gary Barber, 1; Calumet Farm, 1; LNJ Foxwoods, 1; St. George Stable LLC, 1; Voter Abstentions, 4.
Breeder – Godolphin LLC, 205; Calumet Farm, 8; Angie Moore, 7; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, 6; Gail Rice, 3; Nick Alexander, 1; Fred W. Hertrich III and John Fielding, 1; Spendthrift Farm LLC, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.
Trainer – Brad Cox, 189; Steve Asmussen, 33; Charlie Appleby, 3; Bob Baffert, 2; Chad Brown, 2; Karl Broberg, 1; Michael McCarthy, 1; Todd Pletcher, 1. Voter Abstentions, 3.
Jockey – Joel Rosario, 213; Irad Ortiz Jr., 17; Paco Lopez, 1; Flavien Prat, 1; Luis Saez, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.
Apprentice Jockey – Jessica Pyfer, 156; John Hiraldo, 46; Charlie Marquez, 12; Voter Abstentions, 21.
Award of Merit – Ambassador Earle I. Mack received the Eclipse Award of Merit for lifetime achievement
Horseplayer of the Year – Justin Mustari was presented an Eclipse Award as the 2021 Horseplayer of the Year.
Media Eclipse Awards – Media Eclipse Awards also are given in the categories of photography, audio and multi-media Internet, news/enterprise writing, feature/commentary writing, television–feature, and television–live racing programming to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. The 2021 Media Eclipse Awards winners, determined by a judges’ panel for each category and previously announced, are:
Feature/Commentary Writing – Sandra McKee, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, “A Jockey’s Life. Baltimore’s Adams Set Riding Record in 1930,” June 2021.
News/Enterprise Writing – Eric Mitchell, Bloodhorse.com, “Tracks Join Rallying Cry to End Cargo Shipping,” Aug. 24, 2021.
Television – Live Racing Programming – NBC Sports, “The Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” Nov. 6, 2021 on NBC; Billy Matthews and Lindsay Schanzer, Producers.
Television – Features – NBC Sports, “Hot Rod Charlie,” April 30, 2021 on NBCSN; Sam Flood, Executive Producer; Rob Hyland, Coordinating Producer; Jack Felling, Coordinating Producer; David Picker, Senior Feature Producer, and Annie Koeblitz, Producer.
Audio/Multi-Media Internet – Attheraces.com, “Breeders’ Cup Magical Moments,” Oct. 25, 2021; Matthew Taylor, Director of New Media and Innovation; Peter Fornatale, writer and interviewer, and Naomi Tukker, interviewer.
Photography – Jeff Faughender, courier-journal.com (Louisville Courier-Journal); “Between the Shadows,” May 1, 2021.
Past Eclipse Awards winners
The Eclipse Awards, honoring Thoroughbred racing’s champions of 2021, are sponsored by Roberts Communications, Four Roses Bourbon, Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup, FanDuel Racing, The Stronach Group and 1/ST Racing, Santa Anita Park, TVG, Dean Dorton, Stonestreet Farm, Keeneland, NTRA Advantage Equine Discounts, Racetrack Television Network, Jackson Family Wines, EquinEdge, Spendthrift Farm, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Hallway Feeds, WinStar Farm and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.