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Chasings top three earners finalists for Eclipse Award
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ZANJABEEL RAN IN FOUR Grade I jump races in 2018, winning two with a second and a third while earning $265,500 for those starts over fences. - photo by Photo courtesy NYRA

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced on Saturday the three Eclipse Award finalists in each racing division, and the top trio over fences are, in alphabetical order, Jury Duty, Optimus Prime, and Zanjabeel.

The top three were selected in balloting by NTRA racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form editorial employees, and members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. The Eclipse Award winners, including Horse of the Year, will be announced on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

That announcement comes one week after the steeplechase champions will be honored at the annual awards dinners and dance at the Maryland Club in Baltimore. The dinner is sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.

The three top steeplechase finalists were not unexpected. Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, won two Grade 1 races in 2018, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois in May and Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap in September. He also finished second in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) in the spring.

Rosbrian’s Optimus Prime won a Grade 1 race, Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup, in his American debut, finished third in the Lonesome Glory, and then ran away with the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at the International Gold Cup in October. Ricky Hendriks trained both Zanjabeel and Optimus Prime.

Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, trained by top Irish horseman Gordon Elliott, shipped to the United States for a 3 1/4-length victory in Far Hills’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), America’s richest steeplechase race.

Jury Duty will receive the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Award as the year’s leading earner. His $270,000 earnings were $4,500 more than Zanjabeel, who missed the Grand National because of injury.

Triple Crown winner among Horse of Year finalists: Led by Horse of the Year candidates Accelerate, Triple Crown winner Justify, and Monomoy Girl, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced the finalists for the 2018 Eclipse Awards, recognizing excellence in Thoroughbred racing. 

Winners in 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 48th annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Thursday, January 24, at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Of the 271 eligible voters representing the NTRA, the NTWAB and Daily Racing Form, 249 (91.88%) took part in this year’s voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first-place votes.

The 2018 Eclipse Award finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Horse of the Year: Accelerate, Justify, Monomoy Girl

Two-Year-Old Male: Game Winner, Improbable, Knicks Go

Two-Year-Old Filly: Bellafina, Jaywalk, Newspaperofrecord (IRE)

Three-Year-Old Male: Catholic Boy, Justify, McKinzie

Three-Year-Old Filly: Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl, Rushing Fall

Older Dirt Male: Accelerate, City of Light, Gun Runner

Older Dirt Female: Abel Tasman, Marley’s Freedom, Unique Bella

Male Sprinter: Imperial Hint, Roy H, Stormy Liberal

Female Sprinter: Finley’sluckycharm, Marley’s Freedom, Shamrock Rose

Male Turf Horse: Expert Eye (GB); Glorious Empire (IRE), Stormy Liberal

Female Turf Horse: A Raving Beauty (GER), Enable (GB), Sistercharlie (IRE)

Steeplechase Horse: Jury Duty (IRE), Optimus Prime (FR), Zanjabeel (GB)

Owner: Peter Brant; Hronis Racing LLC; WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners

Breeder: Mike Abraham, John D. Gunther, WinStar Farm, LLC

Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Chad Brown

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz, Mike Smith

Apprentice Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez, Weston Hamilton, Edgar Morales

The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies. The Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories.

Eclipse Awards voting is conducted by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Daily Racing Form.