History making Triple Crown and grand slam winner American Pharoah swept the 45th annual Eclipse Awards on Saturday evening, Jan. 16, 2016 in Florida, winning five out the six categories the horse and those associated him were nominated for during the three-hour ceremony. American Pharoah unanimously won the Horse of the Year category, with its own Zayat Stables and trainer Bob Baffert winners. The awards’ only shutout was in the jockey category where American Pharoah’s jockey Victor Espinoza came in second.
The Eclipse Award voters unanimously voted American Pharoah Horse of the Year and Three-Year-Old Male securing all 261 votes. American Phoaroah is the first horse since John Henry in 1981 to win the honor unanimously. The voters for the Eclipse Awards are hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and consist of “local racing media and administrators.” American Phoaroah became only the second Kentucky Derby winner after California Chrome to win Horse of the Year since 1999 when Charismatic won.
American Pharoah’s owner Ahmed Zayat expressed while picking up the Horse of the Year award, “So, here it is: American Pharoah’s crowned Horse of the Year. For me, he is a horse of a lifetime — once in a lifetime…It’s the dream. We lived the dream. Thank you so much, American Pharoah.” Wife Joanne Zayat also said, “This horse has given us all a tremendous amount of love… I look at American Pharoah as America’s horse; he’s really the people’s horse and he was the horse of hope for the Triple Crown.”
The Horse of the Year award was not just presented to owner Zayat a video played showing the award being presented at another time to the honoree himself, American Pharoah at his new home in Kentucky. Alex Waldrop, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s president and CEO presented the award to American Pharoah, who was quite excited over his win, biting the edge of his golden horse trophy. Walthrop commented, “There’s just a personality about that horse that’s amazing.”
American Pharoah’s trainer Bob Baffert won the Outstanding Trainer Award, his fourth award in that category, and expressed in his acceptance speech, “We had a phenomenal year… every trainer in this room, we dream of a horse like American Pharoah. He was a gift from God.” Zayat took home four awards two for his horse, and two for his Zayat Stables including the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder awards.
For all the awards and praise heaped on the history-making horse and his team there was one blatant snub, for the person that is just as responsible for American Pharoah’s wins as the horse himself, his jockey Victor Espinoza who rode him through his Triple Crown wins until his retirement after winning the Breeders’ Cup. Instead, Javier Castellano won the Jockey award and Espinoza coming in a distant second 184 to 70 votes.
American Pharoah did the impossible, the three-year-old colt became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown becoming only the 12th horse to accomplish that honor, reviving excitement and hope into the sport. American Pharoah won the Eclipse Award in 2014 American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse.
His major graded stakes wins include the Del Mar Futurity Front and Runner Stakes in 2014 during his two-year-old season and then in his three-year-old season he won the Rebel Stakes and impressively winning by eight lengths the Arkansas Derby.
American Pharoah won by just a head over rivals Firing Line and Dortmund in the final stretch At the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). At the Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (gr. I) American Pharoah was the only horse that previously ran on a wet track, and he won by seven lengths during a rainstorm.
American Pharoah continued on to Belmont Stakes Presented by DraftKings (gr. I) aiming to do what had by now been considered the impossible win the Belmont and Triple Crown. American Pharoah did not disappoint, he won by five and a half lengths over the competition.
Egyptian Jew Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables owns American Pharoah, a 3-year-old bay colt. Zayat’s Pioneer of The Nile sire to American Phaorah finished second behind Mine that Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Zayat owned two other horses that finished second Nehro in 2011 at the Kentucky Derby and Bodemeister in 2012 at the Belmont Stakes.
The Triple Crown winner is trained by Eclipse Award winning and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has been working 18 years to win a Triple Crown. Three other of Baffert’s horses went on to first to two legs, the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes but floundered at the end at the Belmont Stakes. There was Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. American Pharoah has broken that curse.
In July, American Phaorah proved himself once again by winning the William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I). The Triple Crown winner has won nine of his 11 career starts with a historic one-year record purse of $8,650,300. American Pharoah had the fourth largest purse of any North American horse in history.
American Pharoah only lost two races in his career, his first race at Delmar and the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at the Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 29. The loss prompted Zayat to consider retiring him then. American Pharoah’s management wanted him to end on top, so in September, they announced that American Pharoah would start training for what would be his last race, the Breeder’s Cup Classic.
Then Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won a grand slam by winning the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in front of a crowd of 50,155. The Breeders’ Cup was American Pharoah’s final race and the crowning glory, doing what no other horse has ever done win the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup.
Since then American Pharoah has been retired as a stallion in the Kentucky bluegrass at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud near Versailles. There he is often on display meeting the public, and taking photos posing with fans young and old.
Full List of Eclipse Awards Winners
Horse of the Year: American Pharoah
Older Dirt Male: Honor Code
Older Dirt Female: Beholder
Three-Year-Old Male: American Pharoah
Three-Year-Old Filly: Stellar Wind
Two-Year-Old Male: Nyquist
Two-Year-Old Filly: Songbird
Male Turf Horse: Big Blue Kitten
Female Turf Horse: Tepin
Male Sprinter: Runhappy
Female Sprinter: La Verdad
Steeplechase Horse: Dawalan
Breeder: Zayat Stables
Owner: Zayat Stables
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Jockey: Apprentice Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione