To the surprise of no one in the Gulfstream Theater in Hallandale, Fla. or those watching on the TVG cablecast, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner was named Horse of the Year for 2017 at ceremonies on Jan. 25.
The now 5-year-old also collected the statuette for best older male horse racing on dirt.
With Florent Geroux in the saddle for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in all of his starts, the flashy son of the Argentine stallion Candy Ride from the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant was five for six during the year while amassing $6.9 million in purses.
After tuning up for his 2017 campaign with a 5-3/4-length win in Oaklawn's Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, he suffered his only defeat of the year when he finished 2-1/4 lengths astern of the 2016 Horse of the Year — the now retired Arrogate — in the Dubai World Cup at Meydon.
From there on, it was Grade 1 wins in Churchill's Steven Foster, Saratoga's Whitney and Woodward (by 10-1/4) and Del Mar's Breeders' Cup Classic.
After running as the odds-on favorite for the final time in the $16 million Pegasus at Gulfstream on Jan. 27, Gun Runner will head to Three Chimneys to start his next life as sire.
Bronze statuettes went back to New York in the hands of trainer Chad Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz.
Brown won his second consecutive Eclipse Award as the nation's top trainer. The Mechanicsville, N.Y. native topped the earnings list with $25.8 million in purse earnings, 16 Grade 1 races won and was the top winner of all graded races with 46.
Jose Ortiz, a 25-year-old native of Puerto Rico who is the grandson of jockeys, moved his tack to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga in 2012. The younger brother of champion rider Irad Ortiz, tied Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith with 13 Grade 1 wins each in 2017.
Smith, a 2003 inductee to the Hall, and Javier Castellano, who was inducted last summer, were the other finalists in the riders' category.
The evening's first statuette awarded cast its shadow from Florida north to Pennsylvania when the Don Alberto Stables' Unique Bella was named Female Sprint Champion.
The 3-year-old filly was bred in the Keystone State by Mrs. Malcolm Moran's Brushwood Stable when she bred her Unbridled Song mare Unbridled Belle to the red hot stallion Tapit.
Under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella was ridden to victory four times in four graded stakes by Mike Smith on her way to the championship.
The grey filly went to Santa Anita's winners' circle four times in 2017 in the Grade 3 LA Woman Stakes, the Grade 3 Santa Ysabella, the Grade 2 Las Virgines and the Grade 2 Santa Ynez.
Her only disappointment was an off the board finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar.
Here are the division winners, equine and human in the order in which they were presented.
How did they get to be the winners? 269 representatives of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Assn. and the Daily Racing Form cast 250 ballots to select the champions in 17 categories, 12 equine and five human.
Here are the winners in the order in which they presented on the TVG national cablecast.
Female Sprinters: Don Alberto Stables' Unique Bella, a grey/roan 3-year-old filly by Tapit from Unrivaled Belle. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Bred in Pennsylvania by Mrs. Malcolm Moran's Brushwood Stables.
Male Sprinters: Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen's bay 5-year-old gelding Roy H by More Than Ready from Elusive Diva. Trained by Peter Miller. Bred in Kentucky by Ramona S. Bass.
Breeders: Clearsky Farm, Lexington, Ky., $10.9 million in purse earnings.
Steeplechase: Bruton Street-US' bay 8-year-old gelding Scorpiancer by Scorpion from Janebailey. Trained by Jack Fisher. Bred in Ireland by Mrs. Mary O'Connor.
Owners: Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm. $10.7 million in purse earnings.
Female Turf: Sheep Pond Partners' 5-year-old dark bay or brown mare Lady Eli by Divine Park from Sacre Coeur. Trained by Chad Brown. Bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby W. Clay.
Male Turf: Live Oak Plantation and Charlotte Weber's 5-year-old grey or roan gelding World Approval by Northern Afleet from With Apporoval. Trained by Mark Casse. Bred in Florida by Live Oak Stud:
Apprentice Jockey: Evan Roman, 166 winners and over $5 million in purses.
Journeyman Jockey: Irad Ortiz, 300+ wins and over $27 million in purse earnings.
Trainer: Chad Brown, over 200 wins (including 16 Grade 1) and over $25 million in purse earnings.
Older Dirt Female: Charles E. Fipke's homebred 5-year-old Kentucky bred bay mare by Unbridled Song from Lemons Forever. Trainer Dallas Stewart.
Older Dirt Male: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's 4-year-old colt Gun Runner by Candy Ride from Quiet Giant. Trained by Steve Asmussen.
3-Year-Old Filly: China Horse Club International's Kentucky-bred bay filly Abel Tasman by Quality Road from Vargas Girl. Bred by Clearsky Farm. Trained by Bob Baffert.
3-Year-Old Male: Gary and Mary West's bay colt by Flatter from Caressing. Bred in Kentucky by CFP Thoroughbreds. Trained by Bob Baffert.
2-Year-Old Fillies: Zoom and Fish Stables' bay filly Caledonia Road by Quality Road from Come a Callin. Bred in Florida by Vegas Racing Stable. Trained by Ralph Nicks.
2-Year-Old Male: e Five Racing Thoroughbreds' chestnut colt Good Magic by Curlin from Glinda the Good. Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet. Trained by Chad Brown.
Horse of the Year: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's 4-year-old colt Gun Runner by Candy Ride from Quiet Giant. Trained by Steve Asmussen.
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