Live Oak Plantation’s World Approval, the 2017 Ricoh Woodbine Mile winner trained by Mark Casse, was named Champion Male Turf Horse at the 47th Annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida on Thursday evening while Gun Runner took home Horse of the Year honours.
The Eclipse Awards, honouring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, presented by The Stronach Group, Daily Racing Form and the Breeders’ Cup, are voted on by the NTRA, Daily Racing Form (DRF) and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB).
Owned and bred in Ocala, Florida by Live Oak’s Charlotte Weber, World Approval closed out a $2 million season in 2017 with three consecutive victories in Grade 1 stakes, including the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, the Ricoh Woodbine Mile at Woodbine and Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar — the latter two with jockey John Velazquez aboard. World Approval also earned back-to-back stakes wins in the EG Vodka Turf Classic at Tampa Bay and Grade 2 Longines Dixie Stakes at Pimlico early in his six-race, five-year-old campaign. The striking Northern Afleet-Win Approval gelding is a half-brother to Live Oak’s Miesque’s Approval, who was named Champion Grass Horse in 2006.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm and trained by Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner received 248 out of a possible 250 first-place votes for Horse of the Year. Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate, who was last year’s Champion Three-Year-Old, received two first-place votes.
Gun Runner, who was also named the Champion Older Dirt Male earlier in the evening, was a winner of four Grade 1 races culminating with the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. He won five of six starts during his four-year-old season, including dominant victories in the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April, the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June, the Whitney and Woodward at Saratoga in August, and then finished the year with a front-running 2 1/4-length victory in the Classic at Del Mar. Gun Runner’s only defeat last year came in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, when he finished second to Arrogate. Gun Runner later turned the tables on Arrogate, who dead-heated for fifth in the Classic. Gun Runner, ridden in all of his races last year by Florent Geroux, finished the year with earnings of $6,950,700.
A chestnut son of Candy Ride (ARG) out of Quiet Giant by Giant’s Causeway, Gun Runner was bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables. Gun Runner is scheduled to make his final career start in Saturday’s $16 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, and then will be retired to stud duty at Three Chimneys Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.
With the crowning of Gun Runner, Asmussen becomes the first trainer since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971 to train the Horse of the Year winner on four occasions. In addition to Gun Runner, Asmussen, a member of Thoroughbred Racing’s Hall of Fame, trained Curlin to Horse of the Year titles in 2007 and 2008 and the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
In other awards tonight, two horses from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert captured the three-year-old male and three-year-old filly titles. Gary and Mary West’s West Coast, winner of the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby, was named Champion Three-Year-Old Male, and China Horse Club’s Abel Tasman, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and the Coaching Club American Oaks, was named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.
The Champion Two-Year-Old Male title went to Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic, who is trained by Chad Brown, who was also named Outstanding Trainer for the second consecutive year.
Juddmonte Farms, which campaigned Arrogate to victories in the both the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups, was named Champion Owner, and Clearksy Farms, breeders of Arrogate and Abel Tasman, was named the Outstanding Breeder. Jose Ortiz, who led all riders with more than $27 million in earnings, was named Champion Jockey.
The complete list of 2017 Eclipse Awards winners:
(Horse ages in parentheses where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation)
Two-Year-Old Male: Good Magic
Two-Year-Old Filly: Caledonia Road
Three-Year-Old Male: West Coast
Three-Year-Old Filly: Abel Tasman
Older Dirt Male: Gun Runner
Older Dirt Female: Forever Unbridled
Male Sprinter: Roy H
Female Sprinter: Unique Bella
Male Turf Horse: World Approval
Female Turf Horse: Lady Eli
Steeplechase Horse: Scorpiancer (IRE)
Owner: Juddmonte Farms, Inc.
Breeder: Clearsky Farms
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Apprentice Jockey: Evin Roman
Trainer: Chad Brown
Horse of the Year: Gun Runner