Authentic was the genuine star of the 50th annual Eclipse Awards on Thursday, sweeping 2020 Horse of the Year and the 3-Year-Old Male championship.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Authentic defeated stablemate Improbable by 2 1/4 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7 and was 1 1/4 lengths better than Tiz the Law in winning the rescheduled Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.
Authentic was beaten in just two of his seven starts in 2020, second to Honor A. P. in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on June 6 and second by a neck to the filly Swiss Skydiver in the Oct. 3 Preakness.
Improbable and Monomoy Girl were the other Horse of the Year finalists, and Tiz the Law and Nadal were the other finalist for 3-Year-Old Male.
“That raw talent, they expose it immediately and it was my job to funnel it in and make him great,” Baffert said of Authentic the day the colt arrived at Spendthrift Farm, where he stands as a stallion now. “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.”
The Eclipse Awards are typically held at Gulfstream Park in Florida, but the 50th annual Eclipse Awards for the 2020 championships were conducted in a virtual ceremony from a variety of sites and used remote interviews of the winners.
Swiss Skydiver won the Eclipse for 3-Year-old Female with a 10-race resume that included beating males in the Preakness. She won four other graded stakes, including the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.
“It’s been an amazing year,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “She took us, north, south, east, west. Such a special filly.”
Monomoy Girl, the 2018 3-Year-Old Filly champion who did not race in 2019 because of a variety of physical issues, came back to go 4-for-4 in 2020, capped by a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, to earn the 2020 Eclipse for Older Dirt Female.
Co-owner Sol Kumin congratulated trainer Brad Cox on Monomoy Girl’s 2020 season after the long layoff: “Brad, I know much this filly has meant to you personally and to your career. Your first Grade I winner. You said to me last year that if you can win a Grade I with this horse after 18 months off and everything she’d been through, it would be the best training jobs of your career. You did it.”
Monomoy Girl was one of several horses who boosted Cox to his first-ever Eclipse as outstanding trainer, over Baffert and Steve Asmussen.
Besides Monomoy Girl, Cox saddled champion Essential Quality to the 2-Year-Old Male championship.
Those two were among four winners for Cox on Breeders’ Cup weekend, along with Knicks Go in the BC Dirt Mile and Aunt Pearl in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown won the trainer Eclipse the last four years, but was not among the finalists for 2020.
Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse for outstanding jockey for the third year in a row. Among his accomplishments was leading rider at the Saratoga Race Course meet, by one victory over his brother Jose.
Joel Rosario and John Velazquez were the other finalists.
Finalists in 17 equine and human categories were selected by 249 voters representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
The three finalists in each division were determined by voters’ top three using a 10-5-1 point basis, but the actual championships are determined solely by the number of first-place votes.
The voter participation rate was 238 of 249 eligible (95.58%).
Tiz the Law, owned by Saratoga Springs-based Sackatoga Stable, garnered two first-place votes for 3-Year-Old Male, and Authentic received the other 236.
Authentic was also nearly unanimous for Horse of the Year, with 224 first-place votes to seven for Monomoy Girl, six for Swiss Skydiver and one for Vekoma, who was a finalist for top Male Sprinter but was beaten in that category by Whitmore.
Cox drew 106 first-place votes, to 69 for Baffert and 44 for Asmussen. Eight other trainers got votes for first, with four abstentions.
Ortiz won the jockey Eclipse based on 162 first-place votes to 54 for Rosario.
2020 Eclipse Award winners
Horse of the Year — Authentic
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
Older Dirt Female — Monomoy Girl
Male Sprinter — Whitmore
Female Sprinter — Gamine
Male Turf Horse — Channel Maker
Female Turf Horse — Rushing Fall
Steeplechase Horse — Moscato
Owner — Godolphin
Breeder — WinStar Farm
Trainer — Brad Cox
Jockey — Irad Ortiz Jr.
Apprentice Jockey — Alexander Crispin