California Chrome brought home the hardware last night earning Horse of the Year honors for the second time in three years at the 46th annual Eclipse Awards in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Chrome captured 202 of the 248 votes cast by members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association (including yours truly), and select participants from the Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
He also won the Top Older Dirt Male award earlier in the evening by an unanimous vote. Other unanimous winners included Songbird (3-year-old female division) and Classic Empire (2-year-old male)
Other big winners included Arrogate (3-year-old male) who garnered 243 of 248 first-place votes and Beholder (Older Dirt Female) with 246 of 248 first-place votes, winning her fourth career Eclipse Award.
Chrome and Arrogate are set to face off in next Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in a nationally-televised rematch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November.
Owned by California Chrome, LLC, a partnership between Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farms, Chrome won 7-of-8 races in 2016 including the $10 million Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. His lone defeat of 2016 came at the hands of Arrogate in the final 20 yards at Santa Anita in the Classic.
He joined John Henry (1981 and 1984) as the only horses to win Horse of the Year honors in non-consecutive years.
In a bizarre turn of events at the ceremony, streamed live by several racing outlets, owner Martin, a former resident of Yuba City, Calif. used the platform to deliver a six-minute tongue-lashing of turf writers over the way he's been covered over the past three years.
Unfortunately, Martin never mentioned the horse, trainer or jockey in his rant, all significant factors in Chrome’s performances during the past year. Eventually, music played six minutes into his speech, and a deserving hook from those in charge ended his diatribe.
Co-owner Frank Taylor did his best to recover from Martin’s bluster, but the damage was already done.
As expected, horse racing Twitter blew up most feeds and had some fun at the expense of Martin. Most reminding him that said turf writers actually voted his horse to Horse of the Year honors. Here’s a sample of some of the reactions and the 9-minute video:
— TVG (@TVG) January 22, 2017
When the Emcee of the event tweets during the ceremony, you know it’s gone haywire….
— Jeannine Edwards (@jeanninee12) January 22, 2017
Drum roll, please…..
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) January 22, 2017
Turf writers voted for your horse to win all these awards, bruh. Repeatedly. You're welcome. #EclipseAwards
— Joe Nevills (@DRFNevills) January 22, 2017
Tweet of the Night..
— Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) January 22, 2017
Even the fake accounts were getting into the act….
— T.A. Pegasus (@NotTheToddster) January 22, 2017
There's a cool way to accept Horse of the Year, and there's this.
— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) January 22, 2017
Cut off right in the middle of an interesting story...
I wanted to hear how that story ended. #freeperry
— Pullthepocket (@Pullthepocket) January 22, 2017
The Art of War…
I could deal with Donald Trump at war with the media, but I don't know if I can handle Perry Martin at war against turf writers.
— Jeremy Balan (@BH_JBalan) January 22, 2017
Perry Martin has a bright future on the Pace Advantage message board.
— o_crunk (@o_crunk) January 22, 2017
So we move on to the Pegasus World Cup where The News will be on-site on Friday covering the world’s richest race with coverage over the weekend. It will be California Chrome’s last start of his brilliant career.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.