Affirmed has been named the Horse of the Year for the second straight season.
The 4-year-old, who was retired to stud last month with record earnings of $2.39 million, was the overwhelming choice in balloting by members of the National Turf Writers Association, the Daily Racing Form and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.
That result had been made a virtual certainly when Affirmed defeated Spectucular Bid, his chief rival for the title, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Nor did any of the other Eclipse Award selections announced last night provide any major surprises.
Rockhill Native was named the best 2-year-old colt and Smart Angle the best 2-year-old filly.
Spectacular Bid was the champion 3-year-old cotl, Davona Dale the top filly. She earned the title narrowly over It's In The Air, who had beaten her twice late in the season.
Affirmed was the top older male, of course. Waya was voted the champion older female.
Bowl Game and Trillion, the one-two finishers in the Washington, D.C. International, were voted the top male and female turf horses, respectively. Trillion, who made a habit of finishing second in tough male company, was the first thoroughbred to win an Eclipse Award without winning a race.
Maryland-based Star De Naskra was voted the champion sprinter.
Martie's Anger was named the best steeplechaser.
The Eclipse Awards, which were created in 1971, have more than ceremonial significance. Official designation as a champion increases a horse's value at stud, and so this year's voting was accompanied by advertising compaigns for two contenders. The lobbying efforts batted .500.
The breeding farm that will stand Star De Naskra at stud next year took a series of full-page ads in the Daily Racing Form that recited the colt's numeorus virtues. This was just a precautionary measure because Star De Naskra deserved the sprinting campionship, anyway.
The owner of The Carpenter, a West Coast 2-year-old, lobbied voters by mail, arguing the merits of his colt over Rockhill Native. Although this campaign failed, The Carpenter did finish second in the balloting, higher than he probably deserved.
Affirmed became the third repeat winner of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. Secretariat won 1974 to 1976.
Last year Affirmed won the honor on the strength of his sweep of the Triple Crown. This year he competed mostly in handicap races and won seven of his nine starts, with earnings of $1.14 million.
"He was an unusual champion," owner Patrice Jacobs said. "He did it on both coasts, knocking off horses from California to New York. He was the best fighter even known on a race track."
"He's the best horse I've ever had," his jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. said. "If you had to pick the five greatest thoroughbreds in history he'd have to be one of them."