The winners of horse racing’s 2012 Eclipse Awards will be announced Saturday night at Gulfstream Park, where fans will be able to watch on Jumbotrons and other TVs and watch interview sessions with trainers and jockeys live.
Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another and Wise Dan are the three finalists for Horse of the Year. Wise Dan, who won five Grade 1 stakes last year, is widely considered to be the favorite.
Royal Delta, owned by Benjamin Leon Jr. of Miami, is the heavy favorite to win the Older Female award.
The results could be close for the awards for which South Florida stars Little Mike and Trinniberg are finalists.
Carlo and Priscilla Vaccarezza own Little Mike, one of three finalists in the turf category where Wise Dan is his biggest rival.
Shivananda Parbhoo and his family, who live in Davie, own Trinniberg. The horse is a finalist for the Sprinter award.
Voting was completed early this month by racing industry officials and racing writers. Sponsors then released the names of the three top vote-getters, or finalists.
There are 17 Eclipse Awards for horses, owners, trainers and breeders.
All tickets have been sold for the dinner and awards ceremony that will be from 6 p.m. until about 10:30 p.m. in the Sport of Kings Theater on the second floor of Gulfstream’s racing building.
The Eclipse Awards program will begin shortly after the 11th and final race, at 5:35 p.m. on Gulfstream’s annual Florida Sunshine Millions day with six stakes races that are restricted to Florida breds.
“I think what Gulfstream is doing for the Eclipse is great,” said Dale Romans, a finalist for the Trainer award. “Racing needs this kind of interaction for the fans.”
Romans trains Little Mike and Shackleford, a finalist for the Sprinter award.
Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert are the other Trainer finalists.
• Horse of the Year: Wise Dan had four 2012 wins on turf, including the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and one win on a synthetic surface.
His only loss was a second-place finish in a dirt stakes
I’ll Have Another, the winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is probably the most widely known of the finalists.
He missed the Belmont Stakes because of a knee injury and was later retired.
Fort Larned won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.
• South Florida contenders: One of the biggest pre-Eclipse Awards debates has been whether turf specialist Little Mike or the versatile Wise Dan should win the Turf award.
Last year, Little Mike won three Grade 1 turf stakes — the Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Million at Arlington Park and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
“A lot of people consider those to be the three biggest turf stakes in the country,” Carlo Vaccarezza said.
“This is the Turf Eclipse,” he said. “I feel that Little Mike deserves to win. But I’m not expecting it because of all the talk about Wise Dan.”
Trinniberg won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.
“I think we should win [the Eclipse Award], and we will win it,” Parbhoo said.
Royal Delta won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and three other graded stakes last year. She races for Besilu Stables, which Leon owns in Ocala.
Leon is the founder and chairman of Leon Medical Centers, which owns six hospitals in Miami-Dade County.