The 48th Eclipse Awards begin at 8 p.m. ET Thursday from Gulfstream Park, and preceding the anticipated reveal between Accelerate and Justify for the top honor, a number of other equine and human categories are to be announced.
Horse of the Year: Justify
In 2018, Justify became only the second Triple Crown winner in the century-old grouping of the three races who accomplished that sweep undefeated. He undid the “Curse of Apollo,” becoming the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) without the benefit of racing at 2. He ran the fastest early fractions of any Derby winner in history and did so in just his fourth lifetime start. He won the Triple Crown 3 1/2 months after his first race. Seattle Slew, the Triple Crown winner on the next-most-condensed schedule, accomplished his 1977 Belmont Stakes (G1) victory nearly nine months after his first race.
Older Dirt Male: Accelerate
Also a Horse of the Year finalist, he became the first horse to sweep all of California’s Grade 1 races for older horses and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same season. Running for Hronis Racing, he’s trained by John Sadler.
Other finalists: City of Light, Gun Runner.
Older Dirt Female: Unique Bella
A champion a year ago as a sprinter, she topped another division in 2018 despite having to retire in the summer due to a minor injury. It’s on to a career as a broodmare after three graded stakes wins in four starts last year.
Other finalists: Abel Tasman, Marley’s Freedom.
Male Turf Horse: Stormy Liberal
In a division devoid of a clear leader in 2018, Stormy Liberal became the first grass sprinter to prevail here. The back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint hero finished his season with four consecutive wins. Trained by Peter Miller, he runs for Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen.
Other finalists: Expert Eye, Glorious Empire.
Female Turf Horse: Sistercharlie
The Chad Brown trainee won four of five starts — all those victories were in Grade 1 company — and finished strong in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Leading Peter Brant’s reemergence in the sport, she beat out Enable for this honor.
Other finalists: A Raving Beauty, Enable.
Three-Year-Old Male: Justify
This one deserved to be unanimous. The 13th Triple Crown winner won all six of his starts, going from maiden to allowance to a Grade I Santa Anita Derby win before the Kentucky Derby. While the chestnut retired after the Belmont Stakes, he did so as a deserving champ.
Other finalists: Catholic Boy, McKinzie.
Three-Year-Old Filly: Monomoy Girl
She wasn’t beaten across the wire in seven starts at age 3, with the only defeat a stewards’ decision in the Cotillion Stakes (GI) at Parx. The Kentucky Oaks winner rebounding to beat older in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to cap a historic campaign.
Other finalists: Midnight Bisou, Rushing Fall.
Breeder: John D. Gunther
The breeder of Triple Crown winner Justify actually had two horses in the Derby, including Vino Rosso. Of course, the former won Gunther the Eclipse. He runs Kentucky’s Glennwood Farm alongside his daughter, Tanya.
Other finalists: Mike Abraham, WinStar Farm.
Male Sprinter: Roy H
Also the 2017 champion, his back-to-back scores in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint led to this repeat for the Peter Miller-trained son of More Than Ready. After consecutive mid-season defeats, he got good again at the right time, prepping with a Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) score.
Other finalists: Imperial Hint, Stormy Liberal.
Female Sprinter: Shamrock Rose
Trainer Mark Casse spotted the late developing 3-year-old in some difficult spots to end the season, and she responded with victories in Keeneland’s Raven Run (GII) before an upset in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint secured the Eclipse for the Conrad Farms runner.
Other finalists: Finley’sluckycharm, Marley’s Freedom.
Two-Year-Old Female: Jaywalk
After a defeat on debut, this daughter of Cross Traffic won her next four races in succession, capping the campaign with a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies score. The John Servis trainee is owned by D. J. Stable and Cash Is King LLC.
Other finalists: Bellafina, Newspaperofrecord.
Two-Year-Old Male: Game Winner
This Candy Ride colt won all four of his starts in 2018, the last three of those all in Grade I company. The early Kentucky Derby favorite earned that title with a commanding Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win last out. Bob Baffert trains for Gary and Mary West.
Other finalists: Improbable, Knicks Go.
Outstanding Trainer for 2018: Chad Brown
He sent out the winners of 224 races from 839 starts for total earnings of $27,546,057. On par with last year’s tally, he again notched 47 graded stakes victories, an impressive 36 of which were won on turf. Brown once again led all trainers on the turf in 2018 with 140 wins from 500 starts on the grass and $17,260,362 in total earnings.
Outstanding Owner: Hronis Racing
Hronis Racing leads or is near the top of the owners at every Southern California race meeting. In 2018, the stable led the nation by earnings with $7,344,810.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
From 1,616 mounts, he compiled a 346-277-252 record and a personal-best $27,727,039 in purses to lead the nation in both wins and earnings.
Apprentice Jockey: Weston Hamilton
Weston Hamilton, 20, ended the season with highest number of wins, 120 (13%) from 920 starts and was second by money earned to fellow Eclipse finalist Edgar Morales. Hamilton earned $3,512,264, to Morales’ total of $3,680,281.