BAL HARBOUR, Fla. -- One week after launching his breeding career at a stud farm in Kentucky, Skip Away was named Horse of the Year for 1998 at the annual Eclipse Awards dinner last night at a posh beach resort just north of Miami Beach.
Skip Away was the unanimous choice of the three voting groups despite losing his last two races. His first seven races last year clinched the coveted award. Skip Away won all seven, five of which were Grade I.
Owned by Carolyn Hine, a native of Highlandtown, and trained by her husband Sonny, who labored for nearly three decades at Maryland tracks, Skip Away retired in November with earnings of $9,616,360, second only to Cigar's $9,999,815.
The Hines also accepted an Eclipse Award, a horse statuette, when the 6-year-old Skip Away was named outstanding older colt, horse or gelding. The two awards raised Skip Away's total to four. He won as outstanding older male in 1997 and outstanding 3-year-old male in 1996.
Asked whether she thought Skip Away would win, Carolyn Hine said: "I didn't know. I felt in my heart he deserved it, but I'm not eligible to vote. My mother always taught us to respect quality and he's quality. He was the magnet that drew me."
After his retirement last fall, Skip Away went to a breeding farm in Kentucky and neither of the Hines has seen him since the day they let him off the van.
Asked how she has been doing in Skip Away's absence, Carolyn said: "It's been very hard. I really don't have any desire to go to the barn anymore. I keep wanting to see that gray head sticking out of the stall and looking at me."
Although Carolyn and Sonny thought Skip Away should have been Horse of the Year in 1997, neither harbored any bitterness last night.
Carolyn said: "I can't live in the past. Life is based on hopes and dreams. I was blessed. I lived my dream."
When asked about last year, Sonny Hine said: "Everybody's complimenting us, so I guess it's OK. Everybody's crying. The help are crying. The vet's crying. He was just a fantastic horse. He tried hard every time he went out there. He's one of the all-time great horses. I think that's how he'll go down in history."
Skip Away was the only winner with Maryland connections. Gary Stevens was voted outstanding jockey over finalists Jerry Bailey and the Maryland-based Edgar Prado. Prado led all North American jockeys in wins in 1997 and 1998.
"I was honored to be nominated for this award," Prado said. "I think just to be nominated for this award is to be a winner already."
Bob Baffert was named outstanding trainer, depriving finalists Patrick Byrne and Michael Dickinson of the award. Dickinson trains at his Tapeta Farm in North East in Cecil County. He was nominated for his work with Da Hoss, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile for the second time with just one race in two years, and Cetewayo, a former claimer transformed into a Grade I winner.
Da Hoss finished second in the voting for top male turf horse behind Buck's Boy, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf and two other Grade I races.
Real Quiet was the unanimous winner as outstanding 3-year-old colt or gelding. He won only two races in 1998, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. After losing the Belmont by a nose, he was sidelined for the year with an injury.
Coronado's Quest finished second behind Real Quiet. Owned by Stuart S. Janney III of Butler, Coronado's Quest won five of 11 races during his 3-year-old season, including the Haskell Invitational Handicap and Travers Stakes.
"I thought it was a tight race," Janney said. "We weren't the favorite going in. I was very pleased that the horse was part of this in a very strong year."
In the voting for top steeplechase horse, Flat Top was the unanimous winner over Saluter and Hokan. Jack Fisher, who lives in Monkton, is rider and trainer of Saluter.
Despite owning two of last night's winners, Real Quiet and Silverbulletday, the champion 2-year-old filly, Mike Pegram lost owner of the year to Frank Stronach. Stronach, a Canadian industrialist who purchased Santa Anita Park, owns Awesome Again.
Eclipse Award voting
Voters represented the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers Association. In the regular equine categories, each group's first choice counted 10 points, second choice five points, third choice one point. In Horse of the Year and the human categories, each group's choice counted as one vote. Each category is followed by top finishers with votes: 2-year-old filly: Silverbulletday 30, Excellent Meeting 5 2-year-old colt or gelding: Answer Lively 30, Exploit 15, Worldly Manner 1.5, Aly's Alley 0.5 3-year-old filly: Banshee Breeze 30, Jersey Girl 15
3-year-old colt or gelding: Real Quiet 30, Coronado's Quest 15, Victory Gallop 3
Older filly or mare: Escena 30, Sharp Cat 15, Mossflower 1, Tomisue's Delight 0.5, Fiji 0.5
Older colt, horse or gelding: Skip Away 30, Awesome Again 15, Silver Charm 3
Sprinter: Reraise 30, Kelly Kip 15, Affirmed Success 3
Female turf horse: Fiji 30, Memories of Silver 5, Maxzene 1
Male turf horse: Buck's Boy 30, Da Hoss 15, Royal Anthem 1, Daylami 1, Joyeux Danseur 0.5, Labeeb 0.5
Steeplechase horse: Flat Top 30, Saluter 15, Hokan 1
Horse of the Year: Skip Away 3
Outstanding owner: Frank Stronach 3
Outstanding trainer: Bob Baffert 3
Outstanding jockey: Gary Stevens 3
Outstanding apprentice jockey: Shaun Bridgmohan 3
The following was selected by a six-person panel; each person's first choice counted 10 points, second choice five points, third choice one point:
Outstanding breeder: Betty and John C. Mabee 60, John Franks 22, Overbrook Farm 11, Allen E. Paulson 1, William S. Farish and partners 1, Harry T. Mangurian 1
Pub Date: 2/17/99