Knicks Go Takes Down Horse of Year Honors

Knicks Go

Knicks Go was named Horse of the Year. (Photo credit: Jessica Morgan/Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM).

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced this evening that Knicks Go, who captured both the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), was voted the 2021 Horse of the Year at the conclusion of 51st Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by 1/ST Racing and FanDuel Racing Group, at Santa Anita Park.

The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, are voted on by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, Daily Racing Form (DRF), and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

Owned by Korea Racing Authority and trained by Brad Cox, Knicks Go received 228 votes out of a possible 235 first-place votes for Horse of the Year. Knicks Go, a Maryland-bred gray son of Paynter, was also voted Champion Older Dirt Male. Racing as a 5-year-old in 2021, Knicks Go won five races in seven starts, which also included victories in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3), the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, and the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. He culminated his season with a front-running 2 ¾-length victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar in November.

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Knicks Go was joined by stablemate Essential Quality, the Champion 3-Year-Old Male, and Letruska, the Champion Older Female, as the finalists for Horse of the Year, Knicks Go led all North American horses in total earnings last year with $7,324,140. He was retired to stud following a second-place finish in this year’s Pegasus World Cup. Cox was honored for the second consecutive year with the Outstanding Trainer Eclipse, and Joel Rosario, who rode Knicks Go in all of his races last year, won the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse Award.

Knicks Go Wins Breeders’ Cup Classic

Cox, a Louisville, Kentucky native, established a North American earnings record for trainers last year with $31,001,731 in total earnings. He won 269 races, including 30 graded stakes. In addition to Knicks Go, the Cox-trained Essential Quality had a big season leading the 3-Year-Old Males. Owned and bred by Godolphin, which swept the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Eclipse Awards, Essential Quality won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the Belmont Stakes (G2) and the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) last year. Essential Quality also won last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male trophy, and becomes just the sixth horse to win both honors since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971.

Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat, a winner of three Grade 1 stakes races, was voted Champion 3-Year-Old Filly. Owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, Malathaat captured the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, the Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

St. George Stable’s Letruska dominated the Older Female Dirt division under trainer Fausto Gutierrez, who campaigned the 5-year-old mare to six graded stakes wins. Of those victories, three were Grade 1 scores in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park and the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.

Corniche & Echo Zulu Top Juvies

A pair of undefeated juveniles captured the Two-Year-Old Male and Two-Year-Old Filly Eclipse Awards. Speedway Stables’ Corniche won the Two-Year-Old Male Championship, going 3-for-3, including the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) for trainer Bob Baffert.  L & N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds’  Echo Zulu, trained by Steve Asmussen,  won all four of her starts in runaway fashion, culminating with a  5 ¼-length victory in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to secure the Championship Two-Year-Old Filly title.

Asmussen also trained Kirk and Judy Robison’s Male Sprint Champion Jackie’s Warrior. During his 3-year-old season, Jackie’s Warrior displayed lightning quickness in winning four stakes races, including the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga.

Bo Hirsch’s Ce Ce won the Female Sprinter Eclipse Award. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Ce Ce, won four of six starts, including the Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream Park and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, where she defeated last year’s Female Sprint champion Gamine.

International stars captured the two Eclipse Awards for turf runners. DMM Dream Club’s Loves Only You (JPN), who gave Japan its first win in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships when she captured the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar, was voted Champion Female Turf horse.  Godolphin’s Yibir (GB) was named Champion Male Turf horse. Trained by Charlie Appleby, the 3-year-old son of Dubawi (IRE), won The Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf  (G1) at Del Mar.

Loves Only You Wins Filly & Mare Turf

The Mean Queen (IRE), owned by Buttonwood Farm, was voted Champion Steeplechase Horse. At age 5, the chestnut mare, trained by Keri Brion, became the second female to win the Steeplechase Horse Eclipse Award, and the first since Life’s Illusion in 1975. The Mean Queen won all six of her starts in the U.S. last year, featuring Grade 1 wins in the Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga, the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park, and culminating the season with a half-length triumph in the Grand National at Far Hills.

In the four two other human categories, Godolphin swept both the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeders Eclipse Awards. This is the fifth time that Godolphin, led by Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has won the Outstanding Owner Eclipse Award and the second Eclipse Trophy it has won for Outstanding Breeder. Godolphin led all owners with a single season earnings mark of more than $17 million, highlighted by 84 wins from such stars as Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, and Breeders’ Cup winners Modern Games (IRE), Space Blues (IRE) and Yibir (GB). Godolphin also finished No. 1 on the breeders earnings list in North America with more than $18.4 million.

Rosario won his first Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey, Last year, Rosario led all North American riders with total earnings with $32,994,478. He also led all riders with 49 graded stakes victories, including top performances aboard Champions Knicks Go, Echo Zulu and Jackie’s Warrior.

Jessica Pyfer, 23, has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice. Riding on the Southern California circuit, Pyfer led all North American apprentice riders in earnings with more than $2.7 million and finished second in apprentice wins with 56. Pyfer also becomes the third female to win the apprentice jockey Eclipse Award, joining Rosemary Homeister, Jr.,  and Emma-Jayne Wilson.

(Horse ages in parentheses where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation)

  • Two-Year-Old Male: Corniche
  • Two-Year-Old Filly: Echo Zulu
  • Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality
  • Three-Year-Old Filly: Malathaat
  • Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go  (5)
  • Older Dirt Female: Letruska (5)
  • Male Sprinter: Jackie’s Warrior (3)
  • Female Sprinter: Ce Ce (5)
  • Male Turf Horse: Yibir (GB) (3)
  • Female Turf Horse: Loves Only You (JPN) (5)
  • Steeplechase Horse: The Mean Queen (IRE) (5)
  • Owner: Godolphin LLC
  • Breeder: Godolphin LLC
  • Jockey: Joel Rosario
  • Apprentice Jockey: Jessica Pyfer
  • Trainer: Brad Cox
  • Horse of the Year: Knicks Go (5)

NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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