Horse racing newsletter: Authentic named Horse of the Year

The starting gate at Santa Anita.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we remind you that Santa Anita and Los Alamitos have cancelled racing today and will resume tomorrow.

The Eclipse Awards were announced Thursday and there were very few surprises but there was one big slight. We’ll get to that in a moment. Authentic won Horse of the Year and top 3-Year-Old Male and there were two other locally based Eclipse Award winners. Improbable was the top Older Dirt Male and Gamine was top Female Sprinter.

What do they have in common? Well, they were all trained by Bob Baffert, trainer of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Baffert won 16 Grade 1 races, more than anyone else. Comparatively, he’s not a high-volume trainer but those he does send to the track usually do well. He’s won the top trainer award four times and Authentic’s win as Horse of the Year was the fourth time he has trained the winner. He was snubbed a few years ago when he led Justify to the Triple Crown.

No doubt the East-Coast voting bias and the fact he had some medication violations played a factor in him not getting the award. But that’s just a guess. I thought he should have won, which I why I voted for him. The winner was Brad Cox.

Rather than me giving you a blow-by-blow of all the winners and runners up with the first-place votes right next to the names, I’ll just give you the list. (In case you wonder, Voter Abstention is not a horse.)

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Horse of the Year: Authentic 224; Monomoy Girl 7; Swiss Skydiver 6; Vekoma 1.

2-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality 231; Jackie’s Warrior 6; Fire At Will 1.

2-Year-Old Filly: Vequist 212; Aunt Pearl 24; Malathaat 1; Voter Abstention 1.

3-Year-Old Male: Authentic 236; Tiz the Law 2.

3-Year-Old Filly: Swiss Skydiver 218; Gamine 20.

Older Dirt Male: Improbable 218; Knicks Go 8, Vekoma 5; Maximum Security 4; Global Campaign 1; Tom’s d’Etat 1; Whitmore 1.

Older Dirt Female: Monomoy Girl 234; Midnight Bisou 4.

Male Sprinter: Whitmore 132; Vekoma 83; Volatile 16; Charlatan 4; C Z Rocket 3.

Female Sprinter: Gamine 219; Serengeti Empress 13; Frank’s Rockette 4; Guarana 1; Voter Abstention 1.

Male Turf Horse: Channel Maker 180; Zulu Alpha 17; Order of Australia 15; Factor This 7; United 7; Gufo 4; Domestic Spending 3; Arklow 2; War of Will 1; Voter Abstentions 2.

Female Turf Horse: Rushing Fall 115; Tarnawa 106; Magical 8; Audarya 5; Starship Jubilee 2; Newspaperofrecord 1; Sharing 1.

Steeplechase Horse: Moscato 155; Snap Decision 28; Rashaan 21; Iranistan 2; Voter Abstentions 32.

Owner: Godolphin, LLC 78; Spendthrift Farm, LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, and Starlight Racing, 56; Klaravich Stables Inc. 47; Gary Barber 23; Sackatoga Stables 7; End Zone Athletics Inc. 6; Peter Callahan 4; Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, LLC, The Elkstone Group LLC, and Bethlehem Stables 3; Calumet Farm 1; Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners 1; M and M Racing 1; Maggi Moss 1; Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey 1; Gary and Mary West 1; Voter Abstentions 8.

Breeder: WinStar Farm, LLC 128; Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC 52; Calumet Farm 45; Godolphin 6; Charles Fipke 1; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC 1; Voter Abstentions 5.

Trainer: Brad Cox 106; Bob Baffert 69; Steve Asmussen 44; Chad Brown 8; Christophe Clement 1; Michael Maker 1; Peter Miller 1; Ron Moquett 1; Bill Mott 1; Barclay Tagg 1; Wesley Ward 1; Voter Abstentions 4.


Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr. 162; Joel Rosario 54; John Velazquez 14; Florent Geroux 3; Tyler Gaffalione 2; Flavien Prat 1; Luis Saez 1; Voter Abstention 1.

Apprentice Jockey: Alexander Crispin 79; Yarmarie Correa 74; Luis Cardenas 38; Charlie Marquez 15; Cristian Torres 3; Sunday Diaz, Jr. 1; Voter Abstentions, 28

As a final thought, and not to take any material away from our TV critic Mike Tierney, but I thought the TV show did well considering the obstacles. Most missing was the spontaneity of the winners, as they were clearly taped early since, well, the sun was out.

The telecast did bring some unintentionally hilarious moments. At the opening when two of the extremely capable co-hosts were on opposites sides of the frame with a bottle of bourbon in the middle. And, at the end when the people in the background of the Horse of the Year presentation, were all cradling a bottle of, we presume, bourbon. If they ever do a “Best in Show” movie about horse racing, they should recreate those shots because they are too ridiculous to be real.

Of course, it proves, once again, that horse racing will compromise just about anything for money. But, we’ll talk about the Saudi Cup later.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings


Jon White is back with his Triple Crown rankings. Jon is one of the foremost historians on horse racing as well as being the morning-line maker at Santa Anita and Del Mar. He even has done stints as a steward. He does it all. So, let’s get right to it with his Kentucky Derby rankings and previewing the weekend points races, brought courtesy of

“The rematch between Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior is on.

“In the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, Jackie’s Warrior was sent off as the 9-10 favorite. Essential Quality was the 7-2 second choice. Essential Quality rallied from eighth in the field of 14 to win by three-quarters of a length. Jackie’s Warrior, close to a hot early pace, weakened in the stretch and finished fourth, 3 1/4 lengths behind Essential Warrior.

“Essential Quality is No. 1 in this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby rankings. Jackie’s Warrior is No. 10.

“Brad Cox trains Essential Quality. On Thursday it was announced that Essential Quality had been voted the 2020 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Earlier in the week, in a Daily Racing Form story written by Marcus Hersh, Cox said the decision has been made for the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt to make his 2021 debut in Oaklawn Park’s 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes on Feb. 15.

“Essential Quality worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on a wet track rated good last Sunday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The following day on that same track, which had dried out and was listed as fast, Jackie’s Warrior worked five furlongs in 1:01.80.

“Meanwhile, a pair of 1 1/16-mile races offering Kentucky Derby points will be contested Saturday, the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park. In each race, 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points will go to the first four finishers.


“Prime Factor, who is No. 5 in this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby rankings, faces eight foes in the Holy Bull. In his lone start to date, the Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt won a six-furlong maiden race by 8 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream on Dec. 12 for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Pletcher also is running Amount in the Holy Bull. A Kentucky-bred Curlin colt, Amount won a seven-furlong maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths when unveiled Dec. 26 at Gulfstream.

“Another Holy Bull contender is Greatest Honour. After losing his first three career starts, the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream on Dec. 26 for trainer Shug McGaughey. Greatest Honour’s dam, Tiffany’s Honour, is a half-sister to a pair of Belmont Stakes winners in Jazil and Rags to Riches.

“Sittin On Go goes into the Holy Bull off losses in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (finished ninth) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill (sixth). Prior to those two races, the Kentucky-bred Brody’s Cause colt won Churchill’s Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 5 for trainer Dale Romans.

“Greatest Honour is the Holy Bull favorite on the morning line at 5-2. Prime Factor is 3-1. Sittin On Go is 5-1. Amount is 6-1.

“Hot Rod Charlie, No. 6 in this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby rankings, and Medina Spirit, who is No. 8, are contenders in the Lewis, which has attracted a field of eight. Another entrant to be taken seriously is Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg.

“Medina Spirit finished second, only three-quarters of a length behind Life Is Good, in Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes on Jan. 2. Bob Baffert trains the Florida-bred Protonico colt. Baffert also conditions Spielberg.

“Hot Rod Charlie makes his first start since finishing second at odds of 94-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Doug O’Neill trains the Kentucky-bred Oxbow colt. Hot Rod Charlie is a half-brother to Mitole, a 2019 Eclipse Award winner as champion male sprinter.


“O’Neill also will be represented in the Lewis by Wipe the Slate, who is coming off a 3 1/4-length win in a seven-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. Wipe the Slate is a Kentucky-bred Nyquist colt. O’Neill won the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Nyquist after having sent out I’ll Have Another to capture the 2012 Run for the Roses.

““In terms of the morning line for the Lewis, I have installed Medina Spirit as the 5-2 favorite. Hot Rod Charlie is 3-1. Spielberg is 7-2. Wipe the Slate is 4-1.

“Life Is Good, who is No. 2 in this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby rankings, was the shortest price among the 23 individual horses in Churchill Downs’ most recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Essential Quality was 8-1.

“On Wednesday, Life Is Good had a workout at Santa Anita for Baffert, four furlongs in :49.60. Equibase listed this workout as breezing rather than handily. At Southern California tracks, a breezing characterization is rarely used by the official clockers. They basically do so to describe a workout in which a horse is never asked for any run at any point. Of the 226 workouts on Santa Anita’s main track Wednesday, Life Is Good’s was one of just two listed as breezing.

“It was important that Life Is Good returned to the work tab Wednesday. That’s because he had gone 15 days without a published workout. ‘There was a little bug, a little virus, going through the barn,’ Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman quoted Baffert as saying. ‘He never really got sick. But since he wasn’t going to run until March, we took it easy with him.’

“Baffert unleashed Life Is Good at the Del Mar fall meet when the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt won a maiden race by 9 1/2 lengths. That was followed by his victory in the Sham.


“Life Is Good is scheduled to make his next start in Santa Anita’s 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 6 while continuing to emulate the early part of Authentic’s career. Authentic won his debut at the Del Mar fall meet, then won the Sham, then won the San Felipe. Authentic would go on to win the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic en route to being voted Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old male and horse of the year.

“Caddo River makes quite a splash in this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings by debuting all the way up at No. 3 in the wake of his stellar 10 1/4-length triumph in last Friday’s one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He’s now won two of four career starts. Caddo River went into the Smarty Jones off a 9 1/2-length win in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill on Nov. 15 for Cox.

“The plan is for Caddo River to make his next start in Oaklawn’s 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes on March 13, then the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby at that track on April 10. Caddo River is owned by John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable.

“When Arkansas resident Anthony raced as Loblolly Stable, he won the Arkansas Derby with Temperence Hill in 1980, Demons Begone in 1987 and Pine Bluff in 1992. Temperence Hill went on to win the Belmont Stakes. Pine Bluff subsequently won the Preakness Stakes.

“Here are this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Essential Quality (1)

2. Life Is Good (2)

3. Caddo River (NR)

4. Concert Tour (3)

5. Prime Factor (4)

6. Hot Rod Charlie (5)

7. Keepmeinmind (6)

8. Medina Spirit (7)

9. Senor Buscador (8)

10. Jackie’s Warrior (9)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

A final thought

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