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Gun Runner wins Horse of the Year at Eclipse Awards

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) Gun Runner got one last win over rival Arrogate.

The soon-to-be-retired 5-year-old was a convincing pick as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night, the official capper to a year where he won four Grade 1 races including the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and made it look easy every time.

Arrogate, Gun Runner’s top rival for much of 2017 as well as the leading money-winner in North American thoroughbred racing history, and World Approval were the other Horse of the Year finalists.

“He stepped up when called upon and just met the challenge and, you know, how do you say, got it done,” trainer Steve Asmussen said when asked to sum up Gun Runner’s 2017 achievements. “He’s truly a special horse mentally and physically. And we’ve, you know, been on a tremendous run with him.”

The run ends Saturday, when Gun Runner races for the final time. He’ll be the favorite in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

“Just to be in his presence, to be around him, to have the privilege to train him as well as run him, you know, it’s a dream come true,” Asmussen said.

Gun Runner also picked up the Eclipse as the top Older Dirt Horse in 2017.

Chad Brown won the Eclipse Award as being the sport’s top trainer for the second consecutive year, and became the ninth trainer ever to go back-to-back in that category. Jose Ortiz – the leading purse winner in the sport last year – won his first Eclipse in the jockey category, ending the four-year run of Javier Castellano as the best rider.

Brown paid tribute to the other finalists, Asmussen and Bob Baffert.

“I’m always learning from people,” Brown said. “Those are two guys I’m always learning from.”

Juddmonte Farms was picked as top owner for the fourth time, and Clearsky Farms got its first Eclipse as top breeder.

The closest race was in 2-year-old male division, where Good Magic – who broke his maiden by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – edged Bolt d’Oro by a mere 18 votes out of 250 cast. Other close votes were in the steeplechase division, where Scorpiancer got the nod over All the Way Jose, and in the Female Sprinter class where Unique Bella prevailed over Paulassilverlining.

Most of the other votes were one-sided. Caledonia Road (top juvenile filly), West Coast (3-year-old male), Abel Tasman (3-year-old female), Forever Unbridled (older dirt female), Roy H (male sprinter), World Approval (male turf horse), Lady Eli (female turf horse) and Evin Roman (top apprentice) were all convincing winners.

3 jockeys, 3 trainers and 4 thoroughbreds finalists for HOF

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Jockeys Robby Albarado, Corey Nakataki and Craig Perret are among 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame ballot.

Also on the ballot released Thursday were thoroughbreds Blind Luck, Gio Ponti, Havre de Grace and Heavenly Prize, and trainers Mark Casse, John Shirreffs and David Whiteley.

Votes from two-thirds of the nominating committee were necessary to qualify as finalists and the rule capping the number of inductees at four has been eliminated.

Hall of Fame ballots will be mailed to the voting panel on March 1. Results of the voting on the contemporary candidates will be announced April 16. Those who receive a majority of the votes will be elected.

The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Aug. 3.

Texts reveal extent of doping scandal in Aussie horse racing

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MELBOURNE, Australia — A newspaper has revealed text messages between a leading trainer and stable staff involved in a doping scandal that resulted in eight persons being charged and may have included the 2015 Melbourne Cup, Australia’s richest and most prestigious horse race.

The Herald Sun in Melbourne said Wednesday the texts, uncovered by integrity investigators, detailed conversations over the alleged administration of illegal doses of performance-enhancing sodium bicarbonate in a practice known as “tubing” just before a race.

The newspaper said the most explosive text came on the eve of the 2015 Melbourne Cup where a trainer and stable hand discussed using “top-ups,” allegedly a reference to a mix of prohibited substances often administered within minutes of competition.

The stable hand responds that he’ll need a “wheelbarrow” to carry them all after the trainer requests the top-up. He then adds: “I’ll be walking funny, got two Cup horses as well.”

The eight persons charged last month face 271 offenses since 2010.

“The Integrity Services Department and our stewards have worked swiftly to fully investigate these matters resulting in the laying of charges,” Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said when the charges were announced in January.