In one of the most highly anticipated announcements in Thoroughbred racing history, Rachel Alexandra was named 2009 Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards Jan. 18 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The announcement was made just before 10:30 p.m. EST by Alex Waldrop, head of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in front of a packed house at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and on live television on TVG and ESPN News. Before opening the envelope that held the winner, Waldrop asked for the audience to give them one last round of applause. The crowd gave both participants a standing ovation.
Rachel Alexandra was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and she was the first filly in history to beat males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). She won all eight of her starts, dominating her own division with victories in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and Mother Goose (gr. I). Against the boys, she added a victory in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) between the Preakness and Woodward.
By Medaglia d'Oro , Rachel Alexandra is out of the Roar mare Lotta Kim.
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, won all five of her starts, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in her season finale.
The final tally of first-place votes was 130 for Rachel Alexandra and 99 for Zenyatta. Voting was conducted by members of the National Turf Writers Association, the Daily Racing Form, and the NTRA.
Taking the stage to accept the award was Jess Jackson, owner of Stonestreet Stables, who purchased Rachel Alexandra along with Harold McCormick, from breeder/owner Dolphus Morrison following her win in the Kentucky Oaks.
She was trained after the Oaks by Steve Asmussen, who earned his second Eclipse Award as Outstanding Trainer earlier in the evening.
“This contest was so close and I don’t know the count, but I know that either horse deserved this award,” Jackson said. “It’s hard for me to accept it without sharing it with all the people that made this possible including (jockey) Calvin Borel.”
“Together Rachel and Zenyatta won nine grade I races; together they conquered four of the best groups of males who were running last year,” he continued. “If you think about their achievements, individually or collectively, there has never been a year like this one for fillies.
“I want to thank Jerry and Ann for being so gracious. We said congratulations to each other and I truly appreciate the grace and charm of the Zenyatta team, particularly Jerry and Ann Moss. It couldn’t be arranged that they could meet last year. We’re hoping that each horse, taking it’s course, may win their way to an ultimate match and maybe we can work toward that."
After the ceremony, Jerry Moss said, "Zenyatta’s never lost. She’s perfect. Nobody’s beaten her on the racetrack. So they beat her by proxy as far as I’m concerned. This doesn’t take away anything from the just enormous job done by [trainer] John [Shirreffs]. I congratulate Mr. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson. They have a great horse. Someday we’ll meet, and we’ll decide at that time who is the best.”
It was the first time in history that the two finalists for Horse of the Year were females. Earlier in the evening Rachel Alexandra was named champion 3-year-old female and Zenyatta was named champion older female. Both had spotless records in 2009 and both are slated to run in 2010.