A Special Night at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The votes are in and the 2010 Eclipse Award finalists have been named.  The 2010 Eclipse Awards ceremony is now set for January 17 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla.  The list of finalists contains few surprises but sets up some real contests to see who comes out on top.   First and foremost is the race for Horse of the Year (HOY) which once again pits Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Blame, against the phenomenal race mare, Zenyatta.  The anticipation is heightened by the fact that both Blame and Zenyatta have a legitimate shot at taking home the gold trophy.  I can’t wait to see whose name appears when I open that envelope to announce 2010’s HOY at the end of the evening.  

Kudos are in order for Eclipse Award voters who participated in record fashion.   A record 238 of the 251 ballots we mailed in December were submitted to an independent accounting firm prior to Tuesday’s deadline.  That’s an unprecedented 94.8% participation rate (though I must confess a certain disdain for the 13 people who were offered the much-coveted privilege of voting and yet for whatever reason failed to return the ballot).  In any event, finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections using a 10-5-1 point system, with winners being determined solely by first place votes.  

There is little doubt that the close race for Horse of the Year between Blame and Zenyatta led to the strong showing by voters.  It is always good for racing to have full, competitive fields – whether it’s on the racetrack or at the Eclipse Awards ballot box.  Some in our business bemoan the contentiousness of the Horse of the Year debate between Blame and Zenyatta supporters.  At the NTRA, we welcome it (so long as it is reasonably civil).  

In today’s highly competitive sports entertainment environment, it takes heated rivalries like the one between Blame and Zenyatta to break through the clutter in the mainstream media.  It is undeniable that conflict and competition are at the heart of what makes Thoroughbred racing so exhilarating.   Think about it this way - if there are no differences of opinion, we have no  business.  

Also announced this week were two Eclipse Awards of Merit and one Special Eclipse Award.  

At the Eclipse Award ceremony, one of two Eclipse Awards of Merit will be awarded to Claiborne Farm in recognition of 100 years of excellence in the Thoroughbred breeding and racing business. The Award of Merit is given in honor of a lifetime of outstanding achievement and in this case, we are celebrating the outstanding achievement of an entire family.   The list of horses associated with Claiborne Farm  – stallions like Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Mr. Prospector, Danzig and Seeking the Gold and great racehorses like Secretariat, Swale,  Lure and, of course, Blame- say it all.   The Hancock family members have for three generations maintained a hugely successful breeding and racing operation while at the same time serving in a wide variety of industry leadership positions, always with utmost character and dignity.  Congratulations to Seth, Dell and Clay Hancock and to the rest of the Claiborne family.   

A second Eclipse Award of Merit will be given that night to Marylou Whitney for her extraordinary service as an owner and breeder, and for her incredible generosity and support of philanthropic causes.   It’s been interesting for me to observe the reaction of people around the country to this decision.  I don’t know Ms. Whitney very well, so I was not prepared for the outpouring of praise for her efforts from so many in the industry.  Her skill as a breeder and owner alone might warrant her inclusion in the elite ranks of Award of Merit recipients, but it’s her generosity and philanthropic energy that truly sets her apart.  I am looking forward to the presentation of her award at the Eclipse Award dinner because it will be chance for many in the industry to learn just what a force for good that she has been over the years.
Finally, a Special Eclipse Award will be awarded at the Eclipse Awards dinner to Team Zenyatta.  The Special Eclipse Award is awarded for extraordinary service, individual achievements in, or contributions to the sport of Thoroughbred racing.   No group of people has done more to promote Thoroughbred racing in recent memory than Jerry and Ann Moss and the excellent team they have built in support of their racing stable, .  Zenyatta is a once-in-a-lifetime horse but the Mosses and their team thoughtfully and in many ways lovingly presented Zenyatta to an adoring public in ways never before witnessed in Thoroughbred racing.   Some will no doubt try to characterize this award as a consolation prize, especially if Zenyatta fails to win HOY honors.  That would be a mistake; not only because the decision to give this Special Eclipse Award came long before HOY voting ended and from a committee that has no idea who will be HOY, but also because it would trivialize and in some ways diminish the very real and important contributions that the people who make up Team Zenyatta have made to racing over the last year.  Whatever the outcome of HOY voting, 2010 was a very special year in Thoroughbred racing because of Zenyatta and the team of humans that surrounded her.  Team Zenyatta moved the needle in numerous measurable ways. That indisputable fact validates the special recognition that only a Special Eclipse Award can bestow.  

It’s going to be a night to remember, Monday, January 17, in Miami.  Join us at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach if you can.  Dinner is at 6:00 p.m. with the Awards Ceremony getting underway at 7:00 p.m. in the Fleur de Lis Ballroom.  As always, there will be a great after party immediately following the Awards Ceremony (LIV Nightclub).  Tickets are still available by calling Michele Ravencraft at the NTRA’s Lexington office, (800) 792-6872, or you can e-mail her at mravencraft@ntra.com.   If you can’t make it in person, be sure to tune in to TVG starting at 6 p.m. (ET) for all the fun.  

Will you be there in person?  Watching on TVG?  Let me hear from you.


Leave a Comment:


I'll be watching on TVG. I'm almost afraid to watch though because I have a feeling Zenyatta is still not going to get her due.  That will be disappointing beyond words to me!  I cannot comprehend how a horse being called the greatest female racehorse of all time and horse of the decade, is not worthy of Horse of the Year. She will almost certainly be in the Hall of Fame, but didn't deserve a single HOTY...? I really doubt Blame will ever make the Hall of Fame.  What a travesty if she does not win!  On another note, I am glad that Team Zenyatta is receiving an award but I admit when I first heard it I thought we are all already being prepared for their loss.  Then I read Claiborne Farm is getting an award to, so then it's even and does not have as much the appearance of a "consolation prize". Glad to hear it was decided on before the votes were tallied and by those who don't know the results.  That helps, thanks!

07 Jan 2011 9:23 PM
Yvonne and Maurice Kirby

Zenyatta surely deserves the Horse of the Year Award, Horse of the Century, Horse of all Time.  Last year, it was the Breeders Cup Classic and she won it, this year it is the body of work and she won that, also fractions in the Classic - she should have beat Blame by 5 lengths.  You all know she should get the award and it would be a shame if she did not.  It would cast a dark shadow on the integrity of many of the voters.  I believe that if Zenyatta had won 20 straight, many would still have not voted for her or her team.  It is just unimaginable that she should not be voted Horse of the Year by a landslide.  If she does not get Horse of the Year honors, I will lose all respect for those who are able to vote and chose to waste their vote to go against her once again.

07 Jan 2011 10:22 PM

I am afraid that we need to prepare ourselves for Zenyatta not to get Horse of the Year.  I certainly believe she deserves it but the bar keeps being raised higher and higher where Zenyatta is concerned.  If she had raced one more race against males on dirt maybe she would be more highly regarded but I wonder if she could ever do enough to measure up in some people's eyes.  It is just a shame that some cannot recognize greatness when they see it.

08 Jan 2011 12:09 AM
Victoria's mum

What a huge, positive influence Zenyatta and team have had on my 7-year-old daughter!  I'm sure her many achievements at school and otherwise are to blame (no pun intended) in large part, on them. Zenyatta's career has been such an inspiration.  

08 Jan 2011 12:58 AM

Alex, one more thing I am wondering....who makes the rules for the Eclipse voting?  I really feel they need to be changed.  The one start in this country rule is ridiculous and needs to be removed.  No horse that races once here should be able to win! Also there needs to be some objective measurement of the campaigns, like a point system.  I still can't believe Goldikova is nominated for HOTY!  That means her one race was better than all of Zenyatta's combined?  I don't think so.  Actually she is getting credit for having won a record 3 Breeder's Cups, BUT as everyone keeps saying about Zenyatta - all years before 2010 do NOT count. I have even read where a few people said Blame should win because Claiborne deserves it due to their 100 year history in the sport!  So for Zenyatta it's only this year that counts but for Goldi it's the last 3 years and for Blame it's the past 100 years...? The double standards and hypocrisy in the voting both last year and this year is seriously calling into question the integrity of the awards in my opinion.

08 Jan 2011 8:10 AM

I am sorry to see that the author seems to mdismiss Goldikove from HOY completely..she is already European HOY and the award Tuesday is for North American HOY only. Too bad there isn't a true worldwide HOY award...anyway, here is a vote for Goldikova followed by Zenyatta with Blame trailing badly.

08 Jan 2011 8:34 AM
Zen's Auntie

Perhaps the two special awards are to lessen the sting for both sets of American connections when  Goldikova gets it.  

As much as both special award winners deserve the props - when I first heard it that's what it made me think.

I have resloved not to be disppointed, upset or shocked  about any Eclipse award choices - I'm just looking forward to other good horses doing thier thing.

08 Jan 2011 12:33 PM

ya know what?  I don't care anymore.  Horse of the Year lost it's validity for me last year.  Zen did everything she was supposed to, including the Classic.  But she didn't get the top spot.  This year Blame will probably get it because he did.  If she does get it, and she should, it's kind of like getting an Oscar for life time achievement instead of for one hell of a blockbuster year ... 2009.

08 Jan 2011 1:20 PM

I shall be there in person as I was for most of her races  to honor the Great Mare and her extraordinary Team Zenyatta.  Should she be passed over once again for HOY honors, I echo the sentiments of the first two respondents above.

08 Jan 2011 2:07 PM

There is no question who is HOY, decade or century!!  It is ZENYATTA!  She has never been beaten by more than a short head, while Blame was beaten by multiple lenghts by Haynesfield, who ZENYATTA beat by multiple lengths.

Zenyatta is 2 time Breeder's Cup winner with a second by a short head in the 2010 Classic. Blame was retired after only one try at Breeder's Cup races.  I agree with the previous posts racing will take many steps backward if the voters do not make ZENYATTA  HOY.

08 Jan 2011 3:00 PM
susan barry

TWO POINTS: Zenyatta's US horseracing history-making 19th victory was achieved in 2010, no other year, and was a zenith event towering over all nationally run horses since US horseracing stats began. Earned this year, it should be definitely counted in consideration of the 2010 HOY.

A rarely-mentioned IRONY of 2008 vs 2010 HOY media coverage and comparison: I recall how quickly writers excused and overlooked/"wrote off" Curlin's 2008 poor BCC performance because it was a different surface and his first time to run at Santa Anita's track. Curlin, though, was handily defeated by a foreign horse who hadn't run there either, whereas the horse that was able to defeat Zenyatta--a novice to Churchill Down's dirt track---only by inches had numerous racing rehearsals at CD.

08 Jan 2011 4:39 PM
Rachel O

There is no award that is good enough for what Zenyatta  accomplished this year or in her career. So far as I'm concerned, and I've been around longer than most of you out there, she's the best race horse ever.

I'm not going to watch TV when the awards are given out. They are meaningless and, frankly, destructive. Racing continues to shoot itself in the foot with these awards.

08 Jan 2011 6:35 PM

Wish I could be there in person but will be watching on TVG ! A special thanks to TVG for broadcasting it so we can at least feel like we are there. I am looking forward to every minute of it.

08 Jan 2011 7:19 PM
Mike Relva


I agree with your comments.

08 Jan 2011 8:53 PM
Robin from Maryland

Congrats to Team Z and their award.  I'm afraid it's all they may receive.  Too Bad.  But as usual the West Coasters can never beat the Easterners.  Why the Queen continues to be overlooked is beyond me.  Frustrating as all get out.  I don't care what the voters say - Zenyatta is my Horse of the Year just as she was last year.  No one can knock her record.  She is one for the ages.  Waiting eagerly for her first foal, and the beginning of a new chapter in history.  Go Team Z Go.  You guys ROCK!!!  No pun intended.

08 Jan 2011 9:58 PM

I calculated HOY between Zenyatta and Blame using a point system. The criteria is listed below.

Grade 1 10 pt + # of horses

Grade 2 8 pt + # of horses

Grade 3 6 pt + # of horses

Upgraded stakes 4 pt + # of horses

2nd place in these races will earn half the number of points as first place. 3rd place will earn half of the second place points.

Points are only awarded for races won in the US.

An extra ten points will be awarded to a horse that does the following:

-Breaks a record

-Wins the Triple Crown

-Wins the Filly Triple Crown

-Breaks the earnings record for colts

-Breaks the earnings record for fillys


- G1 Santa Margarita        17

- G1 Apple Blossom        14

- G1 Vanity        15

- G1 Clement L Hirsch        15

- G1 Lady’s Secret 14

- G1 BCC       10.5

Total 85.5


- G1 Breeders Cup Classic 21

- G3 William Donald Schaefer    14

- G1 Stephen Foster 20

- G1 Whitney        15

- G1 JCC 7.5

Total 77.5

Zenyatta is the winner based on this point system. I did not calculate any other horses so I don't know if they have more points than Zenyatta.

08 Jan 2011 11:43 PM


09 Jan 2011 1:19 AM

Yvonne and Maurice,

I'm rooting for Zenyatta to win HOY too, because I think she earned it on merit just for what she did this year.  And because Blame threw in a well-beaten second place finish in a year when you couldn't afford a well beaten second.

But Zenyatta should have beaten Blame by five lengths?  If she had that much left in the tank, she should have galloped past him after the finish.  But she didn't, and in fact he strode away from her like he was fresh as a daisy, while she was spent.  Having a little more distance to work with would not have altered the outcome of the race in my opinion.

And Horse Of All Time?  Oh come on.  Zenyatta and Blame are two great horses who are roughly on a par.  Maybe if they raced ten times, she might win six or seven based on varying distances, surfaces, etc.  Or he might.  There's a slim margin between them ability-wise.  She certainly achieved far more than he did during her career, but that doesn't mean she's much more talented.  And when you say she's the Horse Of All Time, look at the other great horses in history like Secretariat, Citation, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Dr. Fager and any one of them and several more blow both Blame and Zenyatta off the track if they all raced on their best days.  It wouldn't even be close.

If you want to make the case that she deserves to be called the best of HER time, I'm with you there, but that's as far as I go.

09 Jan 2011 3:37 AM

I think that if Zenyatta is going to be cheated once again for HOTY, I'd rather see it go to Goldikova.

Zenyatta beat everything Blame beat and only came up a few inches short of beating him.  So, if the voters want to be shrubbing to Zenyatta, then be shrubbing to Blame as well, and give it to Goldikova.

09 Jan 2011 7:49 AM

If Zenyatta does not win HOY, it only shows the petty jealousies that illustrate the greed and illogical thinking that is ruining the sport.  Where is Rachel Alexandra today?  It was a disgrace to award that horse HOY, and it will be a bigger disgrace to give it to Blame.

09 Jan 2011 10:19 AM

quarterhossga,  Are you kidding ?  Zenyatta has ducked all year.  Blame is the winner at least 2-1.  You can take that to the bank !

10 Jan 2011 12:54 PM

I'll be watching for one reason and that is in hopes of seeing Zenyatta get Horse Of The Year. I am prepared for Blame to get it, but it belongs to Zenyatta in my opinion. I will be glad to see Team Zenyatta get their special award too. Will I watch again next year? Most likely not. I watched for the first time last year (because of Zenyatta) and I thought it made for pretty dull television watching (and I follow horse racing). Glad it's there if I want to watch it, though. Good luck to Zenyatta. I think she's going to need it. She's my Horse Of The Year (Decade, Lifetime, whatever!) anyway.

10 Jan 2011 2:10 PM

To Racingfan,

LOVE and agree with your comments on Jan. 8, 2011 @ 8:10 AM. I think Goldikova is one of the best horses around, but if she wins HOY, I will be livid....because of the exact points you made in your post.

10 Jan 2011 2:20 PM
My dream queen

Wow, it looks like the majority of the comments posted are for Zenyatta!I echo all their sentiments & would be terribly disappointed if the award did not go to her this time around. C'mon voters, do the right thing!!!

10 Jan 2011 6:40 PM

As I look forward to the Awards,I am also curious about the fact that 13 voters did not bother to vote. Unless there is a VERY good reason, then those people should have their privaleges revoked. If they are not passionate about the industry that they represent, then we don't want or need their imput.

And while I'm at it, how about a little transparency? Should we not be able to know how evey one voted and why? Yes, some people have declared, but what about all the others? I think the fans, other media and industry people are entitled to know just who these representatives are and what they are thinking.

If you have been around long enough in this business, it's an easy call. Zenyatta, flat out, is the better horse. Her campaign this year, with 5 Grade Ones, and  3 records broken, was 6 inches short of perfect. And a campaign like this we will never see again.

I hope the voters get it right Sunday night. Be prepared for a backlash, if they don't.

11 Jan 2011 11:18 AM

Give Z her credit due.  Blame is a great horse and Z is a greater horse.He beat her by a headbob. As far as Goldikova is concerned, she raced here once.  HOY should be an American horse.

14 Jan 2011 8:11 AM

I am so happy that Zenyatta was given her due as well as her connections! One thing that I noticed a few weeks back is that Sidney's Candy was not up for 3yr old colt? Why...could someone please explain this? In my very humble opinion, he was far more deserving of being a finalist than a couple other of the colts and should have been right up there with LAL. Just not having his name as a finalist just seemed unfair.  

17 Jan 2011 10:45 PM

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