By DRF.com (edited)
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2017) — Arrogate and California Chrome battled it out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and are the leading contenders for Horse of the Year after they were named as two of the three finalists for the year’s top honor – along with the 3-year-old filly Songbird – when the three finalists in each of 11 equine and six human Eclipse Award categories were announced on Thursday.
All three finalists for Horse of the Year are heavy favorites to win divisional titles, with Arrogate the leading prospect to be crowned champion 3-year-old male, California Chrome champion older dirt male, and Songbird champion 3-year-old filly.
Songbird is a decided outsider for Horse of the Year, but the choice between Arrogate and California Chrome basically boils down to this – does an overall body of work supersede a lone meeting? That is what the voters – representing Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and racing secretaries and Equibase employees who vote under the banner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association – had to ask themselves. Of the 264 eligible voters, 248 returned ballots.
California Chrome won his first six starts of the year, including such prestigious races as the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic, before being caught by Arrogate in the final strides of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That race culminated a meteoric rise for Arrogate, whose only prior stakes start was a track-record performance against fellow 3-year-olds in the Travers.
California Chrome was Horse of the Year in 2014. If he prevails for 2016, he will become the seventh horse to earn multiple Horse of the Year titles since the Eclipse Awards were founded in 1971, joining two-time winners Secretariat, Affirmed, John Henry, Cigar, Curlin, and Wise Dan, and three-time winner Forego. But he would be only the second horse, following John Henry in 1981 and 1984, to be named Horse of the Year in non-consecutive years, and the first entire horse so honored, as John Henry was a gelding.
If the award goes to Arrogate, he will join Tiznow, in 2000, as the only horse to win titles the same year as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year without competing in a Triple Crown race.
Voting closed on Tuesday. Voters were asked to select the top three in each division to determine the finalists. The 248 voters are pooled, and the person or horse who received the most first-place votes in their respective division will be declared the champion.
The winners will be announced at the 46th annual Eclipse Awards dinner the evening of Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park
California Chrome, who in 2014 was Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male, looks to add the title of champion male dirt runner for 2016. The other finalists in that category are Frosted, the Met Mile winner, and Lord Nelson, who is also a finalist for champion male sprinter.