Holy Bull and Wayne Lukas were the big winners Thursday in the 1994 Eclipse Awards, with the gray colt taking a giant step toward the horse-of-the-year title and the graying trainer regaining a foothold on an honors program that he dominated during the 1980s.
In results of all voting except for horse of the year, Holy Bull won easily in the 3-year-old male division and Lukas won a fourth training title. It was his first since winning three in a row from 1985-87. The late Laz Barrera, who won consecutive titles from 1976-79, is the only other trainer to win four Eclipse Awards since the sponsoring groups--the Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers Assn. and the Thoroughbred Racing Assns.--began the program in 1971.
During a nine-year period that started in 1982, Lukas trained 13 champion horses, but his spigot of titles, which was turned off after 1990, began flowing again in 1994, when both of his star 2-year-olds, the colt Timber Country and the filly Flanders, earned Eclipse Awards. Lukas' principal client, William T. Young, who races Flanders and owns Timber Country in a three-way partnership, won the 1994 award for outstanding breeder.
Holy Bull didn't get all 247 votes cast in his division, as Flanders did in hers, but owner-trainer Jimmy Croll's colt received 240, an indication that he'll also win horse-of-the-year honors when that title is announced two weeks from tonight at a dinner in Washington.
The other finalists are Flanders, Heavenly Prize and Paradise Creek. Normally a popular filly such as Flanders might win horse of the year, but, traditionally, voters have chosen older horses when candidates with exceptional records are on the ballot. Holy Bull won eight of 10 starts, earned $2 million and twice stepped out of his division to beat older horses. His only losses came on off tracks, at Gulfstream Park and in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Asked Thursday about horse of the year, Croll said: "The media is giving me a lot of encouragement (about winning). The horse did everything we asked him to do, with two exceptions, and those races were unexplainable."
Tabasco Cat, trained by Lukas and owned by Young in another partnership, received three votes that Holy Bull missed.
"It says a lot about Holy Bull that he did what he did in a year when there was an exceptional crop of 3-year-olds," Lukas said. "It took a real good horse to top this bunch."
The other four votes for best 3-year-old went to Concern, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic in November when Croll chose to rest Holy Bull for his 4-year-old season.
Lukas, whose stable earned $9.2 million for his 11th national money title in 12 years, was rejoined late in the year by Jeff Lukas, his son and No. 1 assistant, who suffered near-fatal head injuries when Tabasco Cat ran over him in December 1993 after getting loose from handlers in the barn area at Santa Anita.
"It was a roller-coaster year," Wayne Lukas said. "But it was gratifying the way it turned out. In January, you couldn't have predicted what would have happened. In light of all that happened, this was our best year overall. To get to the top after a year's absence, this amounted to my personal best."
Jeff Lukas returned to training in July.
"By this spring," Wayne Lukas said, "he should be able to do what he did in the past. We'll be able to turn over a large part of the operation to him like we used to."
The closest divisional voting resulted in The Wicked North outpointing Colonial Affair and Devil His Due for best older male on dirt. Needing a plurality from two of the three voting groups to win, The Wicked North was first among the Racing Form electorate, finished second to Colonial Affair in the tally of the TRA racing secretaries and polled 37 votes while Colonial Affair and Devil His Due landed 35 apiece in the turf writers' vote. The Wicked North's edge was 71-65 over Colonial Affair in total votes.
Because of an injury, the Wicked North didn't run after July 2, but he had already won the San Antonio and Oaklawn handicaps and the California, besides finishing first in the Santa Anita Handicap before being disqualified for interference. Colonial Affair won the Whitney Handicap and the Jockey Club Gold Cup before being injured while training for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Devil His Due had three victories and six seconds in 12 races but hurt himself in the voting with an 11th-place finish in the Classic.
Repeat winners were John Franks, who became the first owner to win four Eclipses, and Mike Smith, who was also best jockey in 1993. Franks' previous titles came in 1983, '84 and '93. In 1994, Smith set records with $15.9 million in purses and 67 stakes winners. Warm Spell was a posthumous winner. The 6-year-old gelding died after suffering a broken shoulder in the Colonial Cup in November.
Horse Racing Notes
Because of a muddy track, Timber Country won't run Saturday in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows. . . . Wayne Lukas said that the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18 and the $150,000 San Rafael at Santa Anita are among the options. . . . Holy Bull, after running at Gulfstream in the $50,000 Olympic Handicap a week from Sunday and the $300,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 11, is expected to run in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 11. "If he runs well in the next two races, California is where we'll be going," Jimmy Croll said Thursday. "There's no reason why we wouldn't. I would like to go." . . . William T. Young indicated that Flanders, injured while winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, has recovered well from surgery, but will probably be retired from racing. "There are still more X-rays to be taken," Young said, "but we wouldn't want to keep racing her unless we could bring her back with a full head of steam."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
The results of all voting except for horse of the year were announced Thursday. Horse of the year will be announced Jan. 27 in Washington.
Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Wayne Lukas
Owner: John Franks
Breeder: William T. Young
2-year-old: Timber Country
3-year-old: Holy Bull
2-year-old filly: Flanders
3-year-old filly: Heavenly Prize
Older male: The Wicked North
Older filly or mare: Sky Beauty
Male on grass: Paradise Creek
Female on grass: Hatoof
Sprinter: Cherokee Run
Steeplechaser: Warm Spell
Apprentice Jockey: Dale Beckner