Eclipse accolade for Cape Blanco

CAPE BLANCO was named America’s champion turf performer for the 2011 season at the prestigious Eclipse Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Monday night.

Top filly Havre De Grace was named Horse of the Year, while other major award winners included Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, narrow victor in the champion three-year-old male category, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners Hansen and My Miss Aurelia, who were named leading two-year-old male and filly respectively.

Cape Blanco joins a select list of Ballydoyle-trained horses to have won Eclipse Awards following Johannesburg, champion two-year-old in 2001, and High Chaparral, top turf performer in 2002-03.

Among the horses Cape Blanco defeated in voting for the Eclipse was his stablemate St Nicholas Abbey, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf. By that time, Cape Blanco had been retired after sustaining an injury in a hard-fought victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park in October.

That race was the final leg of a memorable Grade 1 hat-trick in the States for Cape Blanco during his four-year-old season aftersuccesses in the Man o’War Stakes, also at Belmont, and the Arlington Million.

Ridden by Jamie Spencer on all three occasions for owner Jim and Firti Hay and the Coolmore team, Cape Blanco twice beat dual turf champ Gio Ponti into second as he went unbeaten in America before a slab knee fracture ended his career.

Eclipse Awards are determined by votes from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.

Cape Blanco received 172, while second-placed Acclamation getting 55 and St Nicholas Abbey 16.

Accepting the award, Coolmore spokesman Dermot Ryan said: “Cape Blanco is a very special horse by a very special sire in Galileo. He made more transatlantic flights in 2011 than many people make in a lifetime. And every time he came here, he got the job done, twice defeating a great champion himself in Gio Ponti.”

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