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GREAT RACE PLACE HOME TO NINE ECLIPSE HOPEFULS; ACCLAMATION, GAME ON DUDE VIE FOR HORSE OF YEAR, SANTA ANITA-BASED BAFFERT SEEKS TRAINER ECLIPSE
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 6, 2012)—Horse of the Year candidates Acclamation and Game on Dude head an impressive list of nine Santa Anita-based finalists covering seven categories for the 2011 Eclipse Awards, which will be announced at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills on Jan. 16, while Santa Anita-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert seeks Eclipse hardware as America’s champion trainer.
Finalists for the 41st annual Eclipse Awards were announced Jan. 5 by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Acclamation, a 6-year-old California-bred horse by Unusual Heat, capped an incredible 2011 by winning the Grade II Clement Hirsch at 1 ¼ miles on turf at Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet on Oct. 2. Acclamation won five graded stakes throughout the year, which included three Grade I tallies: The Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 11, the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on July 23 and the Pacific Classic on Aug. 28 at Del Mar.
Acclamation, who was bred by the Johnston family’s Old English Rancho and is owned by Peter and Mary Hilvers and Johnston, is a finalist for both Male Turf Horse of the Year and Horse of the Year. Out of the Silveyville mare Winning in Style, Acclamation is trained by Donald Warren.
Game on Dude, a 5-year-old gelding who was bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, finished 2011 by running a hard-fought second in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Game on Dude won the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, enabling Chantal Sutherland to become the first female jockey to ever win the Big ’Cap. Owned by Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride Stable and the Lanni Family Trust, Game on Dude won the Grade I Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1 en route to his second-place finish in the Classic.
Creative Cause, a Santa Anita-based colt by Giant’s Causeway, is one of three finalists for 2-year-old Male Horse of the Year. He was a resounding winner of Santa Anita’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 1 en route to an impressive third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Mike Harrington and owned by Heinz Steinmann, Creative Cause also won the Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar and was third in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity.
Baffert’s Plum Pretty, who began her year by running a pair of thirds at Santa Anita in the Grade II Santa Ynez on Jan. 15 and in the Grade I Las Virgenes on Feb. 5, is a finalist in the 3-year-old Filly division. Owned by Peachtree Stable, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro went on to win the Grade I Kentucky Oaks on May 6.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is represented in the Older Female category by iron lady Blind Luck, whose 2011 graded stakes resume included second-place finishes in Santa Anita’s Grade II El Encino on Jan. 16 and La Canada on Feb. 13.
In the Male Sprinter category, California-bred Amazombie would appear to be a standout. Owned by Tom Sanford and Bill Spawr and trained by Spawr, the 6-year-old gelding by Northern Afleet was a rousing winner of the Grade I Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 8 en route to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Regally Ready, who is scheduled to run in Sunday’s Grade III Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita, joins Amazombie as a finalist for Male Sprinter of the Year. He won three consecutive races down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course last year for trainer Steve Asmussen, including the Joe Hernandez Stakes and the Grade III San Simeon Handicap. A winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 5, the 5-year-old More Than Ready gelding is again scheduled to base in Arcadia for the entire winter/spring meeting.
Trainer Simon Callaghan’s consistent Dubawi Heights, a winner of Santa Anita’s Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes on Oct. 1, is a strong contender in the Female Turf Horse of the Year category. A Santa Anita allowance winner on April 1, the 5-year-old English-bred mare went on to win the Grade III Wilshire Handicap and Grade I Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park last spring. She was most recently sixth, beaten 2 ½ lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 4.
Baffert, the most recognizable figure in American racing, won his record ninth Santa Anita training title in 2011 and is seeking his fourth Eclipse Award as the nation’s top trainer. Baffert was Eclipse Champion trainer in 1997, ’98 and ’99.