Edited Release — The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced Thursday evening that Authentic, who captured both the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), was voted the 2020 Horse of the Year, at the conclusion of the virtual ceremony of the 50th Annual Eclipse Awards, presented by Spendthrift Farm.
The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, are voted on by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, Daily Racing Form (DRF), and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Owned by Spendthrift Farm LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, and Starlight Racing, and trained by Bob Baffert, Authentic received 224 out of a possible 238 first-place votes for Horse of the Year. Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, LLC, The Elkstone Group, LLC, and Bethlehem Stables’ Monomoy Girl, who won the Champion Older Dirt Female Eclipse Award, received seven votes. Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver, who defeated Authentic in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and won the Champion Three-Year-Old Filly title, finished in third place with six votes. R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), placed fourth, receiving one vote.
Authentic, a bay son of Into Mischief, was also voted Champion Three-Year-Old Male. In 2020, Authentic won five of seven starts, which included victories in the Sham Stakes (G3) and the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park and the TVG Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. Authentic led the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 from start to finish, prevailing by 1 ¼ lengths over odds-on favorite Tiz the Law. Authentic finished second by a neck to Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3, but came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., by 2 ¼ lengths over stablemate Improbable, who won the Older Dirt Male Eclipse Award. John Velazquez rode Authentic to victory in both the Derby and the Classic.
“On behalf of everyone at Spendthrift Farm, I want to extend my thanks to the voters at the NTRA, the Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters,” said Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes. “We are so honored and thankful to win Horse of the Year. This is a major milestone for Spendthrift and for our great partners at MyRacehorse, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing.”
Authentic becomes the fourth Horse of the Year trained by Baffert, who also saddled Point Given (2001), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018) to earn the coveted gold trophy.
Authentic, who earned $7,170,000 in 2020, was retired to stud at Spendthrift Farm shortly after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“The raw talent he showed us early in his career, that’s the thing about the great ones,” Baffert said of Authentic the day the colt arrived at Spendthrift Farm. “That raw talent, they expose it immediately and it was my job to funnel it in and make him great. He has this raw speed and athleticism. And he’s one of these horses where he never had a bad day. Never got sick, never had anything. Never had an issue.”
Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenny McPeek, became just the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes, prevailing over Authentic in a dramatic stretch drive. Her final time of 1:53.28 was the second fastest Preakness ever, behind Secretariat’s 1:53.00 in 1973. A chestnut daughter of Daredevil, Swiss Skydiver won five races in 2020, including the Alabama Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2)
Improbable, owned by WinStar Farm, LLC, CHC Inc., and SF Racing LLC, and trained by Baffert, won three Grade 1 races last year as a 4-year-old en route to the Older Dirt Male title. The chestnut son of City Zip captured the Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park, the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, and the Awesome Again Stakes back at Santa Anita in the fall.
Monomoy Girl, trained by Brad Cox, earned her second Eclipse Award in taking the Older Dirt Female title after being voted the 2018 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. A chestnut daughter of Tapizar, Monomoy Girl missed her 2019 campaign due to injury and health issues, but returned for her 5-year-old season in sparkling fashion, winning all four of her starts, culminating with a victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Cox, a Louisville native, earned his first Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer after being a finalist in 2019. In 2020, Cox finished second in overall trainer earnings with more than $18.9 million. He won 30 graded stakes, and tied the record for most wins at one Breeders’ Cup by a trainer with four at last year’s World Championships. In addition to saddling Monomoy Girl to victory in the Distaff, the Cox-trained Aunt Pearl (IRE) won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), Essential Quality prevailed in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1), and Knicks Go captured the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Cox also saddled Shedaresthedevil to victory in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Godolphin’s undefeated Essential Quality, a colt by Tapit, was voted Champion Two-Year-Old Male off the strength of his victories in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, both at Keeneland.
In the champion Two-Year-Old Filly division, Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, and Swilcan Stable, LLC’s Vequist took top honors. A dark bay daughter of champion Vequist notched Grade 1 scores in the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland.
A third Baffert-trained runner to capture an Eclipse Award was Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine, who was voted Champion Female Sprinter. Making her debut at age 3, Gamine, a bay daughter of Into Mischief, won the Longines Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont, the Longines Test at Saratoga (G1) and set a track record by capturing the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
Champion Male Sprinter honors went to the Robert LaPenta, Ron Moquett and Head of Plains Partners LLC’s 7-year-old gelding Whitmore. Trained by Moquett, Whitmore, a chestnut son of Pleasantly Perfect, won three races in 2020, capping off the season with a bold rush in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to win by 3 ¼ lengths.
Whitmore was ridden in the Breeders’ Cup by Irad Ortiz, Jr., who continued his dominance of the Outstanding Jockey category, taking the honor for the third straight year. Riding on the New York circuit, Ortiz led all North American jockeys in wins with 300 and in total purses with $21,050,726. In addition to Whitmore, Ortiz won six other Grade 1 races, which included Mucho Gusto in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and Improbable in the Whitney.
Another venerable campaigner, the 6-year-old Channel Maker, earned Champion Turf Male honors for owners Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. Coming on strong late in the second half of the season under trainer Bill Mott, the chestnut son of champion English Channel won consecutive Grade 1 races, taking the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont, before finishing third in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
The ever-consistent Rushing Fall captured the Turf Female Eclipse Award for e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and trainer Chad Brown by a nine-vote margin over Tarnawa (IRE). During her 5-year-old season, Rushing Fall, a bay daughter of More Than Ready, won three of four starts, including Grade 1 scores in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and the Diana Stakes at Saratoga. She finished second by a neck to Audarya (FR) in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Moscato (GB), owned by Bruton Street-US, was voted Champion Steeplechase Horse. At age 9, Moscato, a gray/roan son of Hernando, trained by Jack Fisher, won the Temple Gwathmey (G3) at 2 ½ miles at Middleburg, Va., in June, and followed that with a victory in the A.P. Smithwick (G1) at Saratoga in July.
Led by Grade 1 winners Essential Quality and Fair Maiden, and more than $5.7 million in total earnings, Godolphin earned the Outstanding Owner Eclipse Award. Based in Dubai under the direction of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Godolphin tied for first with eight graded stakes last year among its 80 wins in North America. Godolphin previously won for Outstanding Owner in 2009 and 2012 and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable banner tied for top honors in 2006.
WinStar Farm LLC was voted the Outstanding Breeder Eclipse Award. Based in Versailles, Ky., WinStar led all breeders in 2020 with 13 graded stakes wins, which included Shedaresthedevil capturing the Kentucky Oaks and Swiss Skydiver taking the Alabama and Preakness Stakes. This is the second Outstanding Breeder honor for WinStar, having previously won the award in 2016.
Alexander Crispin was named the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey by a five-vote margin over Yarmarie Correa. A native of Puerto Rico, Crispin won 103 races in 2020 on the Mid Atlantic circuit, ranking second in that category and second in purses won with $2,194,030.
Thomas Goldsmith, winner of the 2020 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship, was honored Thursday as the 2020 Horseplayer of Year.
The 2020 Eclipse Awards voting was tabulated and certified by Strothman and Company.
The complete list of 2020 Eclipse Awards winners and vote totals appears below.
(Horse ages in parenthesis where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation).
- Two-Year-Old Male:Essential Quality
- Two-Year-Old Filly: Vequist
- Three-Year-Old Male: Authentic
- Three-Year-Old Filly: Swiss Skydiver
- Older Dirt Male: Improbable (4)
- Older Dirt Female: Monomoy Girl (5)
- Male Sprinter: Whitmore (7)
- Female Sprinter: Gamine (3)
- Male Turf Horse: Channel Maker (6)
- Female Turf Horse: Rushing Fall (5)
- Steeplechase Horse: Moscato (GB) (9)
- Horse of the Year: Authentic (3)
- Owner: Godolphin LLC
- Breeder: WinStar Farm LLC
- Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
- Apprentice Jockey: Alexander Crispin
- Trainer: Brad Cox
- Horseplayer of the Year: Thomas Goldsmith