BigDaddy News

Horse Racing News

An Emotional Eclipse Awards Night to Remember

For the second straight year, nearly 500 Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry luminaries congregated at The Breakers Palm Beach, the esteemed resort and part of Princess Diana lore, for the 53rd Annual Eclipse Awards.

Sheltered from the haze of the South Florida humidity in the elegant Ponce de Leon ballroom, those in attendance witnessed a night to remember, complete with excitement, tears, and a fair share of comedic relief.

The ceremony began sharing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s moment of the year, truly giving meaning to co-master of ceremony Britney Eurton’s opening monologue that there was “light amidst the darkness” in 2023. Cody’s Wish  ‘s repeat victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park, the namesake of Cody Dorman who was cheering on his “best friend” from the sidelines, was voted moment of the year. In a tragic twist of fate, Dorman, who suffered from the rare genetic disorder Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, would die the very next day.

Dorman’s father, Kelly Dorman, reflecting on the memory of his son, gave a heartfelt speech, reminding the crowd of the adage that people do not often remember what you said or did for them, but that “people remember how you made them feel.” And Cody’s Wish certainly provided his son and family with the thrill of a lifetime.

Other highlights of 2023 were worthy recipients of their respective categories. Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott captured his first Eclipse title as outstanding trainer since 2011 on the back of an unprecedented year in which the conditioner’s Cody’s Wish, Elite Power  , and Just F Y I  were named year-end champions.

Sign up for

Jena Antonucci, another glittering star of 2023, became a role model for women in the industry everywhere when she became the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race. Arcangelo   made Antonucci a household name with his special and momentous triumph in the 2023 Belmont Stakes (G1). Arcangelo, crowned champion 3-year-old male, catapulted to the top of his division after scoring another decisive grade 1 win in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course. The big gray/roan ridgling was favored to defeat his elders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita before being forced to scratch on the eve of the race.  

2023 Eclipse Awards<br>
Three-Year-Old Male Winner: Arcangelo Accepted by Jena Antonucci (Trainer) and Jon Ebbert (Owner)
Photo: NTRA/Sara Kauss Photography

he Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male went to Arcangelo and was accepted by trainer Jena Antonucci and owner Jon Ebbert, center

“We may not be able to claim best horse in the world but we can claim champion 3-year-old,” owner Jon Ebbert said of Arcangelo.

There were four defending titleholders of the night that took home repeat accolades in their respective categories: Godolphin for leading owner and breeder, Irad Ortiz Jr. as outstanding jockey, Elite Power for champion male sprinter, and Goodnight Olive  for champion female sprinter.

Ortiz garnered his fifth Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey, joining the elite company of Jerry Bailey and Laffit Pincay Jr. as the only three jockeys to accomplish the feat. The Puerto Rican native racked up $39,192,585 in prize money, setting a single-season earnings record for mount earnings, and was the regular pilot of Eclipse Award winners Up to the Mark  , Elite Power, and Goodnight Olive.

Elite Power continued his reign as the country’s top sprinter in 2023 winning four of his five outings, capped by a career-best performance in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The Juddmonte operation, the owner of Elite Power, was also responsible as owner/breeder for Idiomatic , the champion older dirt female. Idiomatic, a mare best known for her front-running speed and towering 17.2 hands stature, was a near-perfect 8-for-9 in 2023. Like Elite Power, she polished off her season with a Breeders’ Cup trophy with a decisive score in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).  

Goodnight Olive, the recent co-sale topper at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale after dropping the hammer for $6 million to racing newcomer John Stewart, repeated as champion female sprinter. Twenty-eight people squeezed onto the stage to accept the mare’s award, forming quite an impressive sight under the lights.

The Godolphin blue wave, however, was the most dominant beneficiary of the evening. Godolphin landed its sixth Eclipse Award as outstanding owner and its fourth award for outstanding breeder. The global outfit led all owners ($17,270,223)  and breeders ($20,911,250) in earnings. All seven of their North American grade 1 winners were homebred horses.

“One of the greatest joys I get in my role is being part of the team to see firsthand the passion, commitment, and love of the horse that are there with the people that work with (these animals) every day,” said Godolphin’s chief operating officer Dan Pride. “This one is for the team.”

The most intriguing (but not really surprising) Eclipse Award of the night went to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) heroine Inspiral . The daughter of Frankel  , the sole foreign-bred horse to take home an Eclipse, narrowly defeated fellow European Mawj  and dual 2023 grade 1 winner In Italian  to be champion turf mare.

2023 Eclipse Awards<br>
Turf Female Winner: Inspiral Accepted by Patricia and Richard Thompson, Chevely Park Stud
Photo: NTRA/Sara Kauss Photography

Patricia and Richard Thompson of Chevely Park Stud accept the Eclipse Award for Inspiral as champion Turf Female

Richard Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud enthused that “exhilarating is the only way to describe her win that day” when remarking on the filly’s thrilling come-from-behind triumph. He told the crowd that Inspiral, already a two-time champion in Europe as a 2- and 3-year-old, would remain in training as a 5-year-old with an eye on defending her Breeders’ Cup World Championships title in 2024.

The night ended in a euphoric symphony of emotion when National Thoroughbred Racing Association president Tom Rooney called up young Kylie Dorman to the stage to announce the winner of Horse of the Year. Upon Kylie’s uttering “Cody’s Wish,” the ballroom room exploded into a chorus of cheers and applause.

Cody’s Wish only added to his fairytale story in 2023, victorious in four of five starts and three top-level scores against the best in the country. The son of Curlin   culminated his stellar campaign, and racing career, with his unforgettable game victory over 2023 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner National Treasure  in the Dirt Mile.

Kelly Dorman again took the stage, and his words left the entire crowd not only in tears but with a sense of community that the racing world greatly needed as it faces a rash of challenges in the wake of the new year.

“You’ll never hear Tom Hanks say there’s no crying in horse racing,” Dorman said. “I never would have dreamed that five years ago, when all this happened, that we would ever be standing here with the wonderful people we’ve met. I want to thank Cody’s Wish for everything he’s done, and for everyone here. You guys just blow me away because I know you put your heart into these horses day in and day out. It’s your life.

“And I know a lot of times those horses put their heart into you. That horse put his heart into us. …This horse gave (Cody) life.”

Godolphin had secured its fifth Eclipse Award of the night; the operation had also netted the champion 3-year-old filly title with Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Pretty Mischievous  and the champion older dirt male award with Cody’s Wish.

The awards are determined by 250 eligible members of the NTRA (consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel), the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, and Daily Racing Form. Finalists were determined by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. The Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first-place votes.

Leave feedback about this

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Service


Add Field


Add Field
Choose Image
Choose Video

Want To Earn From Skills ?

Bonus On New ID