Gun Runner slams Arrogate for America's Horse of the Year crown
Gun Runner may have been overlooked at this week's World's Best Racehorse ceremony but the Pegasus World Cup favourite gained an overwhelming victory at Thursday night's Eclipse Awards when he was named America's Horse of the Year.
The 47th Eclipse Awards, the senior accolade in US racing, took place at a gala ceremony hosted by top British broadcaster Nick Luck at Gulfstream Park, where Gun Runner will on Saturday start as favourite for the Pegasus World Cup.
Gun Runner won five of his six starts last year, his sole defeat coming behind Arrogate at the Dubai World Cup. However, he gained his revenge with an accomplished victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and was duly handed a massive victory over the same horse by Eclipse voters after a ballot in which he received all but two of the 250 votes cast.
For trainer Steve Asmussen, it was the fourth time in the last 11 years that he had trained the American champion following Curlin (2007 and 2008) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).
"He stepped up when called upon and just met the challenge and got it done,” said Asmussen. "He's truly a special horse mentally and physically and we’ve been on a tremendous run with him. Just to be in his presence, to be around him, to have the privilege to train him as well as run him, it’s a dream come true."
Gun Runner, who won four Grade 1s last year, was also named champion older dirt male, once again beating Arrogate, who was top of last week's world rankings.
The Eclipse Awards determined the champions of North American racing. They are voted on by members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Daily Racing Form.
The only hint of European success came in the owners' category, where Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms came out on top for the second year in a row and the fourth time overall. They have also won five awards as outstanding breeder but lost out this time to Clearsky Farms, breeders of Arrogate and champion three-year-old filly Abel Tasman.
Breeders' Cup winners Wuheida and Talismanic, finalists in their respective turf categories, were beaten by US stars Lady Eli and Breeders' Cup Mile victor World Approval.
A significant shift in power in the training ranks was confirmed as Chad Brown won the title for the second year in a row. Notable successes among 13 Grade 1 winners for Brown in 2017 included a pair of Breeders' Cup successes with Good Magic and Rushing Fall, plus Preakness scorer Cloud Computing.
Jose Ortiz became champion jockey for the first time; both Brown and Ortiz were also leading money earners for 2017.
There were also special awards for representatives of the San Luis Rey Downs training center and Camarero racetrack in Puerto Rico for their response to recent tragedies.
Eclipse Award winners for 2017
Horse of the year Gun Runner
Older male Gun Runner
Older female Forever Unbridled
3yo male West Coast
3yo female Abel Tasman
2yo male Good Magic
2yo female Caledonia Road
Turf male World Approval
Turf female Lady Eli
Sprint male Roy H
Sprint female Unique Bella
Steeplechase horse Scorpiancer
Trainer Chad Brown
Jockey Jose Ortiz
Apprentice Evin Roman
Breeder Clearsky Farms
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