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Road through New York led to Eclipse honors for many

By Jenny Kellner | 01/19/2014 01:12 PM ET
Wise Dan
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

In capturing his second consecutive Horse of the Year title, Wise Dan led a parade of equine and human Eclipse Award winners whose achievements on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit were prominent on their 2013 resumes. 

The 6-year-old Wise Dan, who also won Older Male and Male Turf honors for the second straight year at the 43rd annual award ceremonies on Saturday evening in Hallandale, Fla., ran his winning streak to eight with a repeat victory in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap in August at Saratoga Race Course. Following his 1 ¼-length triumph over King Kreesa, to whom he was conceding 12 pounds, Wise Dan won the Woodbine Mile, finished second on Polytrack in the Shadwell Turf Mile and took the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park for the second straight year. 

Saratoga, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013, also served as a fitting stage for Three-Year-Old Male Champion Will Take Charge, winner of the Grade 1 Travers; Older Female Champion Royal Delta, victorious in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap, and three of the top human award winners:Champion Jockey Javier Castellano, who won his first-ever Eclipse Award; Champion Trainer Todd Pletcher, who took home a record sixth Eclipse, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who won as both Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder. 

The 25th Eclipse winner trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who himself received an Eclipse Award of Merit, Will Take Charge first served notice he would be a factor in the division when he finished second to Belmont Stakes hero Palace Malice in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at the Spa. In a thrilling edition of the "Mid-Summer Derby" a month later, Will Take Charge rallied from fifth to nose out Moreno in the 145th Travers, and went on to take the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, finish second to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and close out his sophomore campaign with a victory in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap against older horses. 

Royal Delta, last year's top Older Female, scored her second Grade 1 win of 2013 with her 4 ½-length triumph over Authenticity in the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign, and then finished second in the Beldame at Belmont Park en route to her third Eclipse Award, having won in 2011 as Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. 

Castellano, 36, set a record for purse earnings in 2013 with more than $26.3 million and also led the nation in victories with 362. Among them were 24 graded stakes, including Grade 1 wins at the Spa aboard Princess of Sylmar in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. Castellano, who was the leading rider on the NYRA circuit in 2013, topped the jockey standings at Saratoga for the first time last year and also won titles at Belmont Park for the spring/summer and fall meets and at Aqueduct Racetrack's fall meet. 

Pletcher, who previously was voted the nation's top trainer from 2004-07 and again in 2010, was North America's leading conditioner in earnings in 2013 with more than $25.2 million. His 224 winners included 13 Grade 1s, highlighted by his second training triumph in the Belmont Stakes, won by Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, and victories in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (Cross Traffic) and Foxwoods King's Bishop (Capo Bastone) at Saratoga. Pletcher, who took the Saratoga training title for the 10th time, also scored Grade 1 wins at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial (Verrazano), and at Belmont Park in the Beldame (Princess of Sylmar) and Foxwoods Champagne (Havana). 

Ken and Sarah Ramsey set a record for victories by an owner at the Spa with 22 winners, among them homebred Big Blue Kitten's score in the Sword Dancer Invitational, one of three Grade 1 wins on the day for the Ramseys. Also on August 17, Admiral Kitten won the Secretariat Stakes and Real Solution was awarded first in the Arlington Million via disqualification. All three winners are by the Ramsey's stallion, Kitten's Joy.

Female Sprinter titlist Groupie Doll made another highly anticipated appearance in New York in November, finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap versus the boys at Aqueduct, while Steeplechase Eclipse Winner Divine Fortune ran three times in New York, with his best finish a third in the Grade 1 A. P. Smithwick at Saratoga.