The envelope, please.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Nine Oaklawn-raced horses, including Horse of the Year candidate Knicks Go, and three in human categories with ties to Hot Springs have been named 2021 Eclipse Awards finalists. Winners in 17 horse and human categories will be revealed during the 51st annual Eclipse Awards ceremony Thursday night at Santa Anita in suburban Los Angeles.
Knicks Go was a powerful allowance winner in 2020 at Oaklawn, which marked his first start for trainer Brad Cox. Knicks Go secured older dirt male championship honors in 2021 with a victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Cox was honored with an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer of 2020 and is among three finalists in 2021 after setting a single-season North American record for purse earnings ($31,832,345), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer in 2021, setting single-season personal bests in Hot Springs for victories (29), stakes victories (seven) and purse earnings ($3,544,259).
Cox’s victories included the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) last February with Essential Quality and the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) last March with Shedaresthedevil. Essential Quality and Shedaresthedevil are finalists for champion 3-year-old male and champion older dirt female, respectively, of 2021.
“To run as well as we did in the Kentucky Derby and, obviously, the success of Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Mandaloun, Shedaresthedevil, the success that those horses had (last) year at various tracks throughout the country, it’s been our best year, for sure,” Cox said.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who captured his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title at the 2021 meeting, also is a finalist for outstanding trainer. The Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior, third behind Essential Quality in the Southwest, is a finalist for champion male sprinter.
Other Oaklawn-raced finalists are Mystic Guide (older dirt male), Letruksa (older dirt female), Aloha West (male sprinter), Ce Ce (female sprinter) and Gamine (female sprinter).
Mystic Guide won the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G1) last February. Letruska was runner-up to Shedaresthedevil in the Azeri before winning the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) last April. Aloha West was a career debut winner last February at Oaklawn and captured the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar. Ce Ce (Apple Blossom) and Gamine (allowance) were winners at the 2020 Oaklawn meeting. They ran 1-3, respectively, in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
John Hiraldo is among three finalists for champion apprentice jockey. He rode five winners in December at Oaklawn.
Three-Year-Old Male: Essential Quality, Life Is Good, Medina Spirit
Older Dirt Male: Knicks Go, Maxfield, Mystic Guide
Older Dirt Female: Letruska, Marche Lorraine (JPN), Shedaresthedevil
Male Sprinter: Aloha West, Flightline, Jackie’s Warrior
Female Sprinter: Bella Sofia, Ce Ce, Gamine
Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Brad Cox
Apprentice Jockey: John Hiraldo, Charlie Marquez, Jessica Pyfer
NOTE Bold indicates Oaklawn-raced horses and trainers and jockeys who competed regularly at the 2021 and 2021-2022 meets.
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates/Edited
Photo of Essential Quality by Coady Photography