Flightline named Horse of the Year

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced this evening that Flightline, who captivated Thoroughbred racing fans with three dominating performances in New York, California, and Kentucky last year, was named the 2022 Horse of the Year at the conclusion of the 52nd Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by John Deere, Keeneland, and The Jockey Club, at The Breakers Palm Beach.

The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in North American Thoroughbred racing, are voted on by the NTRA, consisting of member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, Daily Racing Form (DRF), and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

Owned by Hronis Racing LLC, Siena Farm LLC, Summer Wind Equine LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds, and Woodford Racing, LLC, and trained by John Sadler, Flightline received 239 out of a possible 246 first-place votes for Horse of the Year. As a 4-year-old, Flightline, a son of Tapit out of Feathered by Indian Charlie, won the Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park, the TVG Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar by an astounding 19 ¼ lengths, and capped off his career by winning the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in November by a stakes record 8 ¼ lengths. Flightline, who won all six of his career starts, was also voted Champion Older Dirt Male.  

[Flightline’s retired, and I’m not feeling too good myself]

Flightline was joined by Malathaat, as one of the three finalists for Horse of the Year. Owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, Malathaat won the Champion Older Dirt Female Eclipse Award capped off by her victory in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland. Malathaat earned her second Eclipse Award, having been crowned last year’s Champion 3-year-old Filly.

Pletcher, with training operations in Florida, Kentucky, and New York, won an unprecedented eighth Outstanding Trainer Eclipse Award, having previously won the honor from 2004-2007, 2010, and 2013-2014. In 2022, Pletcher finished second among all trainers in total earnings with more than $30.4 million. He won 223 races and saddled three champions. In addition to Malathaat, Pletcher also trained Champion Two-Year-Old Male, Forte, winner of the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, Nest, who won three Grade 1 stakes races and finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Flightline romped home in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Photo by Tim Sudduth/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup.

Winchell Thoroughbred’s Epicenter was voted Champion Three-Year-Old Male. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Epicenter finished second in both the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and the Preakness Stakes (G1), but won his next starts at Saratoga, capturing the Jim Dandy (G2) and the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1). 

D.J. Stable’s Wonder Wheel won the Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Eclipse Award. Trained by Mark Casse, Wonder Wheel clinched the trophy with back-to-back Grade 1 victories at Keeneland, taking the Darley Alcibiades and the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

New York-based rider Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse Award for the fourth time in the last five years, sweeping the honor from 2018-2020. Last year, Ortiz established new marks for total earnings by a jockey with $37,075,772. He also set a North American record with 80 stakes wins. Ortiz won three Breeders’ Cup races and also rode Mo Donegal to victory in the Belmont Stakes. 

Two of Ortiz’s Breeders’ Cup winners ― Elite Power and Goodnight Olive ― swept the Male Sprint and Female Sprint Eclipse Awards, respectively. Juddmonte’s Elite Power, trained by Bill Mott, came on strong late in the year, taking the Vosburgh Stakes (G2) and the Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). First Row Partners and Team Hanley’s Goodnight Olive won the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) to secure the Champion Female Sprinter award for trainer Chad Brown. 

Brown also trained Peter Brant’s Regal Glory, who captured the Champion Female Turf Eclipse Award. During her 6-year-old campaign, Regal Glory won three Grade 1 stakes races, including the First Lady at Keeneland, the Just A Game at Belmont, and closed out the year by taking the Matriarch at Del Mar. 

Godolphin’s Modern Games (IRE) won the Male Turf Eclipse Award off victories in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) in Canada and the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Keeneland. Godolphin displayed its international prowess in North America by winning both the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Eclipse Awards for the second year in a row. Godolphin topped all North American owners in earnings with $16,343,067, led by such Grade 1 winning stars as Cody’s Wish and Rebel’s Romance, in addition to Modern Games. Godolphin-bred runners earned more than $18 million in North America last year and accounted for 12 Grade 1 wins. 

Completing the human awards, Jose Antonio Gomez was voted Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. Riding on the New York circuit, the Michigan native, Gomez led all North American apprentice riders with earnings of $7,635,366. Gomez also won 152 races from 1,312 starts. Laurel Park-based apprentice Jeiron Barbosa finished third in the voting.

[With maturity, confidence, Barbosa an Eclipse finalist]

Hewick (IRE), owned by T.J. McDonald, and trained by John Hanlon, was voted Champion Steeplechase Horse. At age 7, Hewick won two races in Europe before coming to the U.S. and dominating the Grand National Hurdle (G1) at Far Hills, N.J. by more than 11 lengths last October.

The complete list of 2022 Eclipse Awards winners and vote totals appears below: 

(Horse ages in parentheses where applicable; Country codes indicate a foreign breeding designation) 

  • Two-Year-Old Male: Forte
  • Two-Year-Old Filly: Wonder Wheel 
  • Three-Year-Old Male: Epicenter
  • Three-Year-Old Filly: Nest
  • Older Dirt Male: Flightline (4)
  • Older Dirt Female: Malathaat (4)
  • Male Sprinter: Elite Power (4)
  • Female Sprinter: Goodnight Olive (4) 
  • Male Turf Horse: Modern Games (IRE) (3) 
  • Female Turf Horse: Regal Glory (6)
  • Steeplechase Horse: Hewick (IRE) (7)
  • Owner: Godolphin LLC
  • Breeder: Godolphin LLC  
  • Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
  • Apprentice Jockey: Jose Antonio Gomez
  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher 
  • Horse of the Year: Flightline (4)