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.