Gulfstream Park welcomed horse racing’s best for the 43rd Annual Eclipse Awards, the end-of-the-season award ceremony for thoroughbred racing.
Wise Dan became the seventh horse to win multiple Horse of the Year awards since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971, earning the honor for the second consecutive year. He is the first to accomplish the feat since Curlin in 2006 and 2007.
The 6-year-old won all six of his starts on the turf in 2013, including the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita. He won four Grade I races and two Grade II events with his only defeat coming in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland when it was moved to the dirt due to rain.
Wise Dan also won the award for Champion Older Male and Champion Male Turf for the second consecutive year.
Javier Castellano took home the award for outstanding jockey, beating out Gary Stevens and Joel Rosario. Castellano’s first Eclipse Award came on the heels of one of the best seasons a jockey has ever had. The 36-year-old set a new single-season earnings record with more than $26 million in winnings while leading the nation in victories and winning the riding titles at Gulfstream, Saratoga and Belmont Park.
Castellano took time to dedicate his award to Ramon Dominguez, whose earnings record he broke. Castellano had to retire last year due to injury.
“Ramon was not the only exceptional rider, but to me he is one of my closest friends,” Castellano said.
Castellano began his U.S. riding career at Calder in 1997 after starting in his native Venezuela. He won the riding title at Calder in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 before moving to New York full time. He holds the Gulfstream record for most wins in a meet, capturing 112 races at the 2011-12 meet.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for his career accomplishments. He has been named North America’s outstanding trainer four times and has trained 25 champion horses, including four being named Horse of the Year. He trained Oxbow to a win in the Preakness this year, the 78-year-old’s record-breaking 14th win in a Triple Crown race. He is also the trainer of Horse of the Year nominee Will Take Charge, who took home the prize as Champion 3-Year-Old Male.
“When it comes to Wayne Lukas there is no comparison,” said Todd Pletcher, a Lukas mentoree and winner of the Trainer of the Year for a record sixth time, when introducing the Hall of Famer. “He is the greatest of all-time.”
Ribo Bobo picked up right where he left off in 2013, winning the Sunshine Millions Sprint by nearly two lengths.
Jockey Paco Lopez changed up his riding style a bit, leaving Ribo Bobo off the pace for the first half of the race before letting him loose for the final two furlongs. Trainer Jason Servis said Lopez told him he thought the horse would have a lot more in reserve using this tactic.
• Pletcher made the right call with Sweet N Discreet, scratching her from the shorter Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint and instead letting her go in the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Millions Distaff. The 4-year-old won the race by a length and a half over Devil’s Cave after stalking the pace early on.
• Parranda took home the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf with an explosive closing kick under Jose Lezcano’s guidance. The 5-year-old was fourth after a half-mile but surged to take a three-length lead with a furlong remaining, an advantage she held onto over E.B. Ryder at the wire.
• Ullapool won her fourth race in a row with a triumph in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint. Lezcano took the 5-year-old out to the lead and never relinquished it, holding off My Pal Chrisy.
• In the Sunshine Millions Turf, Lezcano took home his third race in a row, this time aboard Star Channel. It was a tightly contested battle between Star Channel and Old Time Hockey, ridden by Stevens, with a head being the difference.