Voters brought out the heavyweights for the 2013 Outstanding Trainer category, with finalists Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Bill Mott combining for 11 previous Eclipse Awards.
Pletcher, who accounts for five of those statuettes—the most recent in 2010—is the favorite over his Hall of Fame counterparts after running away with the purse earnings title in 2013. His total, exceeding $25.2 million, was nearly $10 million more than what runner-up Baffert accumulated. It was the eighth time Pletcher led North American trainers in earnings, and the third occasion in which he topped the $25 million mark.
The 46-year-old Dallas native led everyone with 48 graded stakes victories, 13 in grade I events. Though blanked in the Breeders' Cup World Championships, he had a fabulous year with 3-year-old Eclipse Award finalist Princess of Sylmar (Beldame, Alabama, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Kentucky Oaks) and Palace Malice (Belmont Stakes) leading the way. Other stable stars were Verrazano (Haskell, Wood Memorial), Cross Traffic (Whitney Handicap), Graydar (Donn Handicap), and Havana (Champagne).
Baffert is the only finalist in the trainer category to win a Breeders' Cup race this year; he took the Juvenile for the third time with New Year's Day and collected his fourth Sprint title with Secret Circle.
Winners in the 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The ceremony will air live on HRTV.
The three-time Eclipse winner (1997-99) totaled $15.3 million in purse earnings in 2013, and was second nationally in graded wins as well with 28.
Overall, Baffert had 570 starters compared to Pletcher's 946.
Baffert, who turns 61 Jan. 13, closed out the year in fine style, winning the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) with Streaming and the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) with Shakin It Up, both surprises. His best work in 2013 was with Game On Dude, who he campaigned through a fourth successful season by sweeping all three major Southern California handicap events: the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic (all gr. I).
Mott, 60, a three-time Eclipse winner, was once again among the training leaders in earnings with $11.7 million (fifth), and graded stakes winners with 28 (third), and he tied Baffert for second with nine grade I victories.
His Royal Delta, favored to garner an Eclipse Award for the third time as a finalist in the older female category, provided wins this year in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) and Delaware Handicap (gr. I). Other grade I winners included Emollient (Ashland, American Oaks, Spinster), Close Hatches (Mother Goose, Cotillion), Ron the Greek (Jockey Club Gold Cup), and Flat Out (Cigar Mile).