Authentic rarely won his big races by big margins. But, he won his final “race” – the Eclipse Award for 2020 Horse of the Year – by a Secretariat at the Belmont-esque 31 lengths on the track.

Authentic-JV Horse of Year
Authentic carried jockey John Velazquez to a Kentucky Derby title in September and his connections to an Eclipse Award as 2020 Horse of the Year. (Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty)

The Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic champion garnered 224 out of a possible 238 first-place votes (94.1%) to capture horseracing’s most prestigious off-track honor. Monomoy Girl, who captured the Older Dirt Female Eclipse Award, received seven votes. Six votes went to Swiss Skydiver, one of only two horses to beat Authentic on the track. The final vote went to Met Mile and Carter Handicap-winning sprinter Vekoma.

The annual Eclipse Awards honor excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing. Members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Equibase field personnel, and the Daily Racing Form comprise your voting bloc. This year’s event was virtual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was nothing “virtual” about who would run away with the big prize as 2020 Horse of the Year. Authentic won five of his seven races in 2020: three Grade 1s (Derby, Classic, and Haskell), the Grade 2 San Felipe, and the Grade 3 Sham.

Authentic Beat the Best of the Best

He beat North America’s best route runners, starting with 3-year-old rivals Tiz the Law and Honor A.P., segueing into stablemates Improbable and Maximum Security, and extending to elder-stakes winners like By My Standards, Global Crossing, and Tom’s d’Etat.

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Into Mischief racked up $7,170,000 in earnings. He retired to stud duty at Spendthrift Farm after his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory.

“The raw talent he showed us early in his career, that’s the thing about the great ones,” Baffert said the November day Authentic arrived at Spendthrift. “That raw talent, they expose it immediately and it was my job to funnel it in and make him great. He has this raw speed and athleticism. And he’s one of those horses where he never had a bad day. Never got sick, never had anything. Never had an issue.”

No 2020 Trainer Eclipse, Yet Baffert Had Quite a Night

As for Baffert, Authentic became his fourth trainee to win Horse of the Year. He followed Point Given (2001) and Baffert’s two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Baffert didn’t win Trainer of the Year. That went to Brad Cox, who earned his first Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer after winning 30 graded stakes, including a record-tying four Breeders’ Cups. Cox finished second in trainer earnings with more than $18.9 million.

2020 Eclipse Award Winners

Horse of the Year Authentic
Two-Year-Old Male Essential Quality
Two-Year-Old Filly Vequist
Three-Year-Old Male Authentic
Three-Year-Old Filly Swiss Skydiver
Older Dirt Male Improbable
Older Dirt Female Monomoy Girl
Male Sprinter Whitmore
Female Sprinter Gamine
Male Turf Horse Channel Maker
Female Turf Horse Rushing Fall
Steeplechase Horse Moscato
Trainer of the Year Brad Cox
Jockey of the Year Irad Ortiz Jr.
Owner of the Year Godolphin LLC
Breeder of the Year WinStar Farm LLC
Apprentice Jockey of the Year Alexander Crispin
Horseplayer of the Year Thomas Goldsmith

Authentic, who also was voted Champion Three-Year-Old Male with 236 out of 238 votes — was one of three Baffert-trained horses to capture an Eclipse Award. Improbable won the Older Dirt Male Eclipse after seizing three Grade 1s at the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Whitney, and the Awesome Again.

2020 Eclipse Solidifies Cox’s Spot in the Training Elite

Gamine was the third Baffert charge trotting away with an Eclipse. She won Champion Female Sprinter after running to victories in the Acorn Stakes, the Test Stakes, and a record win in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Cox trained two Eclipse winners. There was Monomoy Girl for Older Dirt Female and Essential Quality, who was voted Champion Two-Year-Old Male after winning the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Swiss Skydiver, who became only the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes when she nipped Authentic down the stretch, didn’t go away empty-handed. She was named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly after winning five races in 10 starts on both coasts. Those included two Grade 1s: the Preakness – where she recorded the second-fastest time (1:53.28) in event history – and the Alabama Stakes.

Two-time Grade 1 winner Vequist took home the Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Eclipse after winning the Spinaway Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Whitmore Came Out of Nowhere for His Eclipse

In a milder upset than his 18/1 win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Whitmore took home Champion Male Sprinter. The 7-year-old gelding won three races in 2020, none more memorable than his frantic stretch drive to a 3-¼-length victory in that Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The turf awards featured no such surprises. Favored Rushing Fall won the Turf Female Eclipse after winning three of her four starts, including two Grade 1s, the Jenny Wiley and the Diana Stakes. Her only loss was a second to Audarya in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Channel Maker took home Champion Turf Male honors after winning two Grade 1s over the second half of the season. He captured the Sword Dancer Stakes and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Once Again, Every Jockey Chases Irad Ortiz Jr.

While Cox took home his first Eclipse in his second try, Irad Ortiz Jr. extended his hammerlock on the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse. He took home the award for the third consecutive season after leading all North American jockeys in wins (300) and total purses ($21,050,726).

Ortiz won six Grade 1 races, including that Breeders’ Cup Sprint aboard Whitmore, the Whitney aboard Improbable, and the Pegasus aboard Mucho Gusto. He won 24% of his races and finished in the money 56% of the time.

WinStar Farm LLC, the Versailles, Kentucky-based farm that produced 13 graded stakes winners, took home the Outstanding Breeder Eclipse for the second time. Swiss Skydiver and Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil were among the WinStar products finding graded stakes winner’s circles.

Godolphin Wins Third Owner’s Eclipse

The Outstanding Owner Eclipse went to industry titan Godolphin, the Dubai-based monolith run by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Led by the considerable likes of Essential Quality and Fair Maiden, Godolphin’s horses won 80 races, including eight graded stakes and $5.7 million in total earnings.

Mid-Atlantic-based apprentice jockey Alexander Crispin captured the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey Eclipse. The Puerto Rico native finished second in both apprentice wins (103) and purses ($2,194,030).

British horse Moscato, a 9-year-old, earned the Champion Steeplechase Eclipse. He won the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey in Virginia.