Capping a dominant undefeated season that culminated in a gate-to-wire victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall, 4-year-old colt Ghostzapper was named 2004 Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards ceremony last night in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Trained by Bobby Frankel, Ghostzapper earned 174 votes, 79 more than Smarty Jones, in ballots cast by members of the National Turf Writers Association, Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Ghostzapper raced just four times in 2004, but each win -- unaccompanied by the broad fanfare and adulation heaped on Smarty Jones -- electrified the racing world. His Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap victory at Monmouth Park in August earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure (128) since the Daily Racing Form began publishing the statistic in 1992.
The storybook Smarty Jones, who won six of seven starts during the year, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, was voted 3-year-old male champion. He lost his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Birdstone passed him in the final yards of the Belmont Stakes.
Smarty Jones didn't race again, retired last August by his owners, Roy and Pat Chapman of Philadelphia, with earnings of $7.6 million .
Undefeated Declan's Moon, bred by Brice Ridgely at Spring Meadow Farm in Cooksville, Md., earned the Eclipse for best 2-year-old colt. Trainer Ron Ellis kept the son of former Maryland sire Malibu Moon out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to prepare for the Hollywood Futurity, which the horse won by beating Juvenile winner Wilko.
Other equine Eclipse Awards went to: Sweet Catomine, 2-year-old filly; Ashado, 3-year-old female; Ghostzapper, older male; Azeri, older female; Speightstown, sprinter; Kitten's Joy, male turf horse, Ouija Board, female turf horse; Hirapour, steeplechase horse.
Todd Pletcher, who captured 43 graded stakes races last year, and whose runners earned $17.3 million on the track, was named outstanding trainer over Steve Asmussen, who set an all-time record with 525 wins in a single season.
Adena Springs, the Florida farm owned by Magna Entertainment Chairman Frank Stronach, was named outstanding breeder. Among other top horses, Adena bred Ghostzapper.
New York-based John Velazquez was a near unanimous selection for outstanding jockey. Brian Hernandez Jr. was named outstanding apprentice rider. Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey beat out Michael Gill for outstanding owner.
-- John Scheinman