Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Curlin, Big Brown the best in a long time.

Dubai World Cup winner Curlin and Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown are among the Eclipse Award winners announced Monday, January 26.

Curlin was chosen as Horse of the Year for the second consecutive time as well as top Older Male race horse. Big Brown was the top 3-year-old Male race horse.

Before being retired at age 4, Curlin set a North American record with career earnings of $10.5 million. Curlin’s 2008 victories include: the Stephen Foster Handicap, the Woodward Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

“I’ve always believed he’s a true champion,” said Curlin’s co-owner, Jess Jackson. “He’s now one of the greats of the industry.”

Curlin concluded the year with a fourth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Santa Anita’s synthetic surface.

Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Zenyatta was selected as top Older Female race horse. Zenyatta was also a runner-up for the Horse of the Year honors.

2008 was a big year for Big Brown. He was the first race horse to win the Kentucky Derby from post position 20 and the fourth undefeated horse in horse racing history to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. However, Big Brown’s bid for the Triple Crown ended at Belmont Park with a last place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

“Unfortunately, many will remember Big Brown for the only race he didn’t win,” said Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, co-owners of Big Brown. “But he was a pleasure to be around, and he was the biggest dream any owner could ever have.”

Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell was chosen as the top 3-year-old Filly over Kentucky Derby runner-up filly Eight Belles.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman, like 19 other of his predecessors in the 25-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, was chosen as the top 2-year-old Male race horse. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Stardom Bound was the top 2-year-old Filly.

Undefeated in 4 starts in 2008, Benny the Bull won the Eclipse Award for top Male Sprinter over Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Midnight Lute. Champion 2-year-old filly in 2007 Indian Blessing was named top Female Sprinter in the Eclipse Awards 2008.

Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Conduit is the champion Male Turf race horse. After switching from dirt to turf and ending 2008 with 3 grade-I victories, Forever Together is crowned the top Female Turf race horse.

Good Night Shirt is the champion Steeplechase Horse, his second consecutive Eclipse Award taking it in the same runaway fashion he used to win 5 grade I stakes during his 2008 horse racing season.

For the second time in his career, Frank Stronach earned an Eclipse Award as both outstanding breeder and top owner in the same year. In 2008, his Adena Springs was named best breeder, and his Stronach Stables was chosen top owner.

Curlin’s trainer Steve Asmussen, who has a single-season record of 622 victories, is the 2008 Eclipse Award winner for leading trainer.

Jockey Garrett Gomez is the top jockey for the second consecutive year while jockey Pascacio Lopez won the apprentice jockey honors.

The Eclipse Award winners were voted on by NTRA/Equibase, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers Association.

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