Santa Anita-based Flightline wins Eclipse’s Horse of the Year

Flightline, whose brief two-year, six-race career has drawn comparisons to Secretariat, earned horse racing’s top annual honor on Thursday when he received the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He was also named the best senior dirt male among the 17 horses and humans announced at a ceremony in Palm Beach, Florida.

Flightline ended his career on November 5th with a record-breaking 8¼ length win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Keeneland. He was stationed in Santa Anita and coached by John Sadler.

Flightline was undefeated in six races, winning by a total of 71 lengths. The owners of Flightline, part of a sport in dire need of stars, did what is normally done and retired him the day after the Classic. The horse can earn more money in the breeding stable than in racing.

Flightline received 239 of the 242 ballots cast for Horse of the Year.

“Obviously, Flightline is a generational horse,” Sadler said. “And in the words of [race caller] Trevor Denman: “We may not see that again.” He is a fabulous horse and I feel so blessed to have trained him.”

Flightline was the only representative of Southern California racing to receive an award, a sharp drop from recent years. At the Eclipse Awards, which recognized horse racing in 2018, including Triple Crown winner Justify, there were eight winners from horses typically based in Santa Anita and Del Mar.

The category with the biggest question mark didn’t prove to be much of a contest, as Epicenter, with 155 votes to 66 for Bob Baffert/Tim Yakteen’s Apprentice, easily finished ahead of Taiba for the 3-Year-Old Male Award. Taiba was the only three-year-old to win three Grade 1 races.

The closest race for an Eclipse Award was for Coaches, where Todd Pletcher defeated Chad Brown 108-95 in the first pick. Brown had slightly more earnings, wins, and tiered stakes wins than Pletcher, but Pletcher coached three Eclipse Award winners in Forte, Malathaat, and Nest.

Brown had a controversial off-track year when he was arrested in August for allegedly choking a former girlfriend. In November he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of harassment, which did not carry a prison sentence.

The only other category in which a Santa Anita horse was named a finalist was the 2-year-old male, where Forte beat Baffert-trained Cave Rock 243-2. Forte defeated favorite Cave Rock in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Irad Ortiz Jr. reacts while driving Known Agenda.

Irad Ortiz Jr. was named Jockey of the Year.

(Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Other horse winners were: Wonder Wheel (2-year-old filly), Nest (3-year-old filly), Malathaat (older dirt bitch), Elite Power (male sprinter), Goodnight Olive (female sprinter), Modern Games (male turf horse) , Royal Glory (Female Turf Classic) and Hewick (Steeplechase).

Other human winners included: Irad Ortiz Jr. (jockey), Jose Antonio Gomez (apprentice jockey), and Godolphin LLC (owner and breeder). Godolphin is the racing stable of the ruling royal family of Dubai.

A special Eclipse Award was presented to Jay Privman, who recently retired from Daily Racing Form. He has been a staple of race coverage both nationally and in the Southern California market for more than four decades. He began his career as a lawn writer in 1980 with the LA Daily News.

The awards were presented by members of the Daily Racing Form, the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. (The Times is a member of the NTWAB.) There were 246 voters for the awards. Not every category was chosen by all members. In the steeplechase, which is rarely held in the USA, there were 29 abstentions and the apprentice jockey had 19 abstentions. Santa Anita-based Flightline wins Eclipse’s Horse of the Year

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