Flightline was named 2022 North American Horse of the Year at the 52nd annual Eclipse Awards banquet in Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday night, and also won the Eclipse for Older Dirt Male.
Flightline, who has been retired to stud, raced just three times last year as a 4-year-old, but won the Grade I Met Mile, Grade I Pacific Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic by a combined 33 1/2 lengths.
Trained by John Sadler, Flightline capped his season and career with an 8 1/4-length victory over Olympiad in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5, a record for winning margin in that race.
“In the words of [track announcer] Trevor Denman, ‘We may never see the likes of this again,'” Sadler said during the Eclipse Awards livestream.
The other finalists for Older Dirt Male were Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Olympiad and Whitney winner Life Is Good, who was fifth in the BC Classic.
Malathaat, who finished her spectacular season with a victory in the BC Distaff in a three-way photo finish with Blue Stripe and Clairiere, won the Eclipse for Older Dirt Female. Her 2022 campaign included a victory in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.
She also won the 2021 Eclipse as the top 3-Year Old Filly during a season in which she won the Alabama at Saratoga.
In a tightly contested vote, Travers winner Epicenter was named most outstanding 3-Year-Old Male, over Taiba and Modern Games.
“Handicapping the 3-Year-Old Eclipse was a little like watching the [Kentucky] Derby,” Epicenter’s owner Ron Winchell said. “You couldn’t figure out who was going to win until the wire came up.” Epicenter led the Derby late on May 7 before being caught just before the finish line by 80-1 Rich Strike
Nest was an easy winner of the Eclipse for top Three-Year-Old Filly, after a season that included a sweep of the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga, and a second-place finish against males in the Belmont Stakes.
Forte and Wonder Wheel were the respective male and female Eclipse winners among 2-year-olds. Forte won the Hopeful at Saratoga and the BC Juvenile, and Wonder Wheel won the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Todd Pletcher won the Eclipse as most outstanding trainer for the eighth time. Chad Brown and Steve Asmussen were the other finalists. His stable included Malathaat, Life Is Good, Nest, Forte and Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal.
“This really is not an individual award, it’s a team award,” Pletcher said.
Irad Ortiz Jr., whose regular mounts included Life Is Good, Nest, Goodnight Olive and Forte, won his fourth Eclipse for Outstanding Jockey in the last five years.
“Wow. An amazing year for me,” he said.
Eclipse Awards voting is conducted by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB), the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), and Daily Racing Form.
2022 Eclipse Award winners
Horse of the Year: Flightline
Two-Year-Old Male: Forte
Two-Year-Old Filly: Wonder Wheel
Three-Year-Old Male: Epicenter
Three-Year-Old Filly: Nest
Older Dirt Male: Flightline
Older Dirt Female: Malathaat
Male Sprinter: Elite Power
Female Sprinter: Goodnight Olive
Male Turf Horse: Modern Games
Female Turf Horse: Regal Glory
Steeplechase Horse: Hewick
Owner: Godolphin LLC
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Apprentice Jockey: Jose Gomez
Contact Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: At The Track, Sports