Let's see if this story sounds familiar...an international turf star, sired by Mill Reef's son Doyoun, makes one start in the United States and wins the Eclipse Award as top turf horse. If it doesn't ring a bell, then flip back the calendar just one year to when Daylami turned the trick. In 2000, it was Kalanisi's turn.
While Daylami had previously run in the United States and dominated his rivals in Europe during his championship year, Kalanisi did neither. However, his manhandling performance in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) and his hammer-and-tong ba ttles with Europe's Horse of the Year Giant's Causeway give him more than the required credentials to earn his nomination. If nothing else, Kalanisi is versatile, having run over eight different turf courses in his nine career starts.
With an Eclipse Award in tow, Kalanisi joins the likes of Arazi and Miesque as North American prize winners with only one U.S. start to their résumés in their championship seasons.
Bred in Ireland by the Aga Khan, Kalanisi was the first foal from his dam, who was winless in five starts in France. Kalanisi, unraced at two, had a solid year in 1999 as a 3-year-old, winning all three of his starts, working his way from a maiden score at Folkestone to a conditioned allowance win at Newmarket to a listed stakes victory at Kempton--all before the end of May. He would get his true test at four in the new millennium and pass with nearly flying colors for trainer Michael Stoute.
After dropping his first decision in another listed stakes at Windsor, he proved his mettle in his first group attempt, the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-II), run during the Royal Ascot meeting. Runner-up that afternoon was Dansili, who had previously won a group II event in France and would go on to place in a pair of group I events before making his own waves in the Breeders' Cup with a close third-place finish in the Mile (gr. IT).
Kalanisi's next two starts would show true spirit. He took Giant's Causeway--the "Iron Horse"--to consecutive photo finishes, dropping head decisions in the Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I) and Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) during the summer. Giant's Causeway's effort in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) after Kalanisi's win in the Turf showed just how gallant these two horses were in 2000.
After a breather in September, Kalanisi was teamed with rider Johnny Murtagh for the first time and the tandem responded with a rousing win in the Dubai Champion Stakes (Eng-I) over top rival Montjeu.
Respect for Kalanisi grew as he headed to Churchill Downs and was a solid third choice in the Turf. Despite a grueling stretch run while coming with a wide move, Kalanisi flew past horses, moving from seventh place to a trip to the winner's circle in the last half-mile. In his wake was fellow Eclipse Award nominee John's Call.
While it may prove difficult to craft a championship out of one start, Kalanisi's "body of work" for the year clearly was good enough for him to win the crown.