Horse of the Year titles come in all sizes, from a year's worth of heroics to a single moment of glory. In 2000, it came in the size of Tiznow's neck. That's all it took to turn the name of Tiznow from a faint whisper before the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) to a deafening roar after it. But it wasn't just the colt's neck victory in the Classic that earned him racing's most coveted honor, it was his courage and tenacity, which kept that neck reaching for the finish line and not surrendering to the relentless pressure from another champion, Giant's Causeway.
The perfect ending of this Cinderella story came in the Horse of the Year voting, as Tiznow, owned by Michael Cooper and the late Cecilia Straub-Rubens, converted that neck margin into a landslide victory, running away with all three voting organizations--the Daily Racing Form, National Turf Writers Association, and National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
To demonstrate just how wide-open a year 2000 was before the Breeders' Cup Classic, each organization had a different runner-up. In the DRF voting, Tiznow received 42 votes, with his closest pursuer, Riboletta, getting only three. The NTWA voting was just as lopsided, as Tiznow received 82.5 votes, easily defeating Lemon Drop Kid with nine and Giant's Causeway with seven. In the NTRA voting, Tiznow topped the list with 33 votes. Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Kona Gold was next with six.
With the exception of male turf horse, the other equine categories also were unanimous, with Macho Uno named champion 2-year-old male; Caressing, 2-year-old filly; Tiznow, 3-year-old male; Surfside, 3-year-old filly; Lemon Drop Kid, older male; Riboletta, older female; Kona Gold, sprinter; Perfect Sting, female turf horse; and All Gong, steeplechase horse. In the only split vote, Kalanisi defeated War Chant 25 points to 20 for male turf honors, which actually came down to a one-vote margin in the NTWA voting.
In the leading owner and breeder categories, it was all Frank Stronach. Winner of two Breeders' Cup races with champions Macho Uno and Perfect Sting and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Red Bullet, Stronach Stables ran away with the voting in all three groups, just as his Adena Springs Farm did in the breeder category. In the trainer category, Bobby Frankel just eked out a victory in a three-trainer blanket finish with Scott Lake and Joe Orseno. Frankel, whose year was highlighted by three million-dollar stakes victories in a one-month period, tied with Orseno in the DRF, with Lake one vote back; beat Orseno by three votes in the NTWA; and lost decisively to Lake in the NTRA.
The jockey category was a no-brainer with Jerry Bailey easily winning all three blocks, while Tyler Baze won a split vote over Norberto Arroyo Jr. in the apprentice jockey category.
Macho Uno, as is the case in most years in the 2-year-old category, won his Eclipse Award based solely on a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). The son of Holy Bull's only other stakes score came in the Grey Breeders' Cup (Can-I) at Woodbine. Point Given, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), and beaten a nose in the Juvenile, finished second in all three voting blocks, and no doubt was that nose away from being voted champion. Macho Uno defeated Point Given 37 to nine in the DRF, 92 to 20 in the NTWA, and 42 to 10 in the NTRA.
The 2-year-old filly category was no different, as Caressing, boasting only a victory in the Bassinet Stakes at River Downs and a second in the Arlington-Washington Lassie (gr. III) before winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), was a unanimous winner. But unlike the colt division, this was close in all three blocks. In fact, Caressing only defeated runner-up Raging Fever by a total of 11 votes, winning 27 to 20 in the DRF, 54 to 52 in the NTWA, and 27 to 25 in the NTRA.
In the 3-year-old male category, Tiznow, as he did in the Horse of the Year category, dominated the voting. In the end, all the heroics by Fusaichi Pegasus earlier in the year meant little, as the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner was soundly defeated in all three groups. Of the 49 Daily Racing Form votes, Tiznow received 46. In the NTWA, Tiznow defeated Fusaichi Pegasus 98.5 to 12.5, and the NTRA voters went with Tiznow 43 to six. Giant's Causeway was third in the voting, receiving six votes by the NTWA and four by the NTRA.
Many expected the 3-year-old filly division to be close between Jostle, winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I); Surfside, who dominated Southern California in the winter before returning from a layoff to finish second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) and defeating colts in the Clark Handicap (gr. II); and Surfside's stablemate Spain, winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff and Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II). But when the votes were counted, it was Surfside capturing all three blocks fairly decisively. Jostle was a clear-cut second in the DRF and NTRA polls, but Spain took the NTWA vote by a half of one point.
The older male category saw one of the most lopsided votes in Eclipse Awards history, as Lemon Drop Kid, with an impressive string of victories in the summer and early fall, captured 216 of the 218 total votes. The son of Kingmambo received all 49 votes by the DRF, all 116 votes by the NTWA, and 51 of the 53 NTRA votes. General Challenge and Kona Gold each received one vote. Lemon Drop Kid's victories came in the Brooklyn (gr. II), Suburban (gr. II), and Whitney (gr. I) Handicaps, and Woodward Stakes (gr. I).
If you thought Lemon Drop Kid's victory was lopsided, it amazingly was not even the biggest runaway victory of the year's voting. That honor went to Kona Gold, who did Lemon Drop Kid one better by receiving 219 of 220 votes in the sprint category, with Caller One's vote in the NTRA preventing a clean sweep. When Kona Gold captured the Breeders' Cup Sprint over a fast closing Honest Lady, it virtually eliminated any semblance of competition for the Eclipse Award, especially considering the 6-year-old gelding had finished second and third in the last two Sprints.
The older female division also was a runaway, as Riboletta swept the DRF vote, received 109 of the 117 NTWA votes, and 52 of the 53 NTRA votes. Of the nine votes she did not receive, seven went to Heritage of Gold and two to defending champ Beautiful Pleasure. Riboletta brought a six-race winning streak into the Breeders' Cup Distaff, including spectacular scores in the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) and Beldame Stakes (gr. I). But a career-ending injury in the Distaff cost her any chance at Horse of the Year.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the male turf voting was a real humdinger, as Americans once again demonstrated their adoration for European shippers. Just as they did with Daylami in 1999, they gave the award to Kalanisi, although the English-trained son of Doyoun made only one start in America. Kalanisi, who fell victim to Giant's Causeway twice last year, defeated 41-1 shot Quiet Resolve in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) by a half-length, and that was enough to earn him the Eclipse Award...barely. Kalanisi lost the DRF vote 20 to 17 to War Chant, and defeated the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner 28 to 15 in the NTRA vote. But in the NTWA vote, it was Kalanisi by a single vote, 39.5 to 38.5. John's Call, right behind with 32 votes, was third in all three groups.
The female turf category was another runaway, as Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winner Perfect Sting was nearly perfect in the Eclipse voting as well, defeating Tout Charmant 47 to two in the DRF vote, Gaviola 52 to one in the NTRA, and sweeping all 118 votes in the NTWA.
The steeplechase award also was a sweep, with All Gong, winner of the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) and Atlanta Cup Hurdle (NSA-I), easily defeating his closest pursuers, Yellowroad and Pompeyo.