Triple Crown conqueror Justify is the Eclipse Award-winning Horse of the Year for 2018.
The announcement was made at the annual awards dinner Thursday night at the Eclipse Awards Banquet at Gulfstream Park near Miami. honoring the now-retired, chestnut son of Scat Daddy.
Just as he had often done on the track, Justify was an open lengths winner over Accelerate by a 191-54 voting margin. Accelerate makes his final start Saturday in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup. He’ll be lining up against 11 other top older horses at one mile and one eighth on the Gulfstream dirt oval.
There had been a persistent undercurrent that the voting would be closer. However, that was not the case for the victorious Justify, the 13th Triple Crown winner –Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Justify, trained by California-based conditioner Bob Baffert, is also the first ever Triple Crown winner not racing as a two-year-old. And, not even starting a race until February. Then, reeling off six straight wins in just over a hundred days, culminating in his Triple Crown heroics in May and June.
Accelerate’s 2018 resume is impressive. It includes six wins in seven starts facing the best older horses in North America. His remarkable season is highlighted by a dominating win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That was in November at Churchill Downs.
As expected, Eclipse voters named Accelerate as the top older male horse and Justify the Eclipse Award-winning three-year-old male, the only unanimous winner of the evening.
Monomoy Girl, the Eclipse Award winning three-year-old female, got two Horse of the Year votes.
Kenny Troutt, WinStar Farm owner and spokesman for the ownership group, told Eclipse Award banquet attendees, “I want to thank Bob Baffert for being the trainer, he’s starting to get this Triple Crown down.” He added, “I also want to thank [jockey] Mike Smith for all the things he did for us, running through the dirt and the mud and everything.”
Baffert, in 2016, conditioned American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert: “I wanted to see his name up there with the greats”
After Justify won the Triple Crown in June, Baffert said, “It was a privilege to train a horse like this. He is a magnificent animal, and I wanted to see his name up there with the greats. He showed so much raw talent early on and had such a great mind to go along with it. On top of all that, he’s one of the most beautiful horses ever.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. was awarded the Eclipse for top jockey and Maryland-based Westin Hamilton was named top apprentice jockey.