Havre de Grace, a 4-year-old filly, won five of her seven starts in 2011, including a victory over males in the Woodward Stakes in September. Three of the wins came in Grade I events.
In an effort to nail down the Horse of the Year title, her owner, Fox Hill Farms, and trainer Larry Jones entered Havre de Grace in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic in her final race of the year, rather than the Ladies' Classic. Running against males for the second time, she finished fourth.
In a year when no horse seemed to be a sure thing for the top Eclipse Award, Havre de Grace proved an easy winner anyway, garnering 166 votes. Acclamation finished second with 26 votes and Game on Dude was third with 10.
Havre de Grace is a daughter of Saint Liam, bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman. She was sold at the 2008 Keeneland sale for $300,000 and has earned just short of $2 million in three years of racing.
Last year's winner was Zenyatta. The 2009 Horse of the Year was Rachel Alexandra.
The Eclipse Awards are voted by members of the Thoroughbred Racing Association and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters and employees of Daily Racing Form.
The other winners, announced at a black tie affair at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel:
Older male: Acclamation
Older female: Havre de Gras
Male turf: Cape Blanco
Female turf: Stacelita
Female sprinter: Musical Romance
Male sprinter: Amazombie
3-year-old male: Animal Kingdom
3-year-old female: Royal Delta
2-year-old male: Hansen
2-year-old female: My Miss Aurelia
Steeplechase: Black Jack Blues
Trainer: Bill Mott
Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
Breeder: Adena Springs
Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Apprentice jockey: Kyle Frey
In Martin Luther King Day racing action:
King and Crusader, back just three days after winning a 1-mile allowance race, came three-wide around the leaders into the stretch run of the $75,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds and ran on well to win again -- by 1 length over Reserved Quality. Deliburnsky was third. King and Crusader, a Maryland-bred Lion Heart colt, got the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.72 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
"For three days rest, he won easily," Velasquez said. "I like him. He's a nice horse."
Junebugred rated off the pace in the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds, found a way inside the leaders at the top of the lane and went on to win by a neck over the late-running Reckless Jerry. The favorite, the filly On Fire Baby, was 1 length farther back in third. Junebugred, a Kentucky-bred Corinthian colt, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.45 with Joe Bravo riding.
"He's not a big strapping colt, and he is so young," said winning trainer Steve Hobby. "He's still got quite a ways until his third birthday, so we will be thinking of that as we pick out a spot."
Junebugred, named for a fishing lure, is now 2-for-3, with a maiden win coming in a 1-turn mile at Aqueduct in November.
Norvsky took advantage of a tough trip by the favorite, Jeranimo, to win the $150,000, Grade II San Gabriel Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Jeranimo bobbled slightly at the start, forged his way to the lead and was under pressure, then finally yielded to Norvsky inside the sixteenth pole. The final margin was 1 1/2 lengths with The Usual Q.T. in third. Norvsky, a 6-year-old, California-bred Vronsky gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.03 with Rafael Bejarano up.
"I was as surprised as anybody," said winning trainer Don Warren. "I'm surprised that this horse could beat horses like Jeranimo and The Usual Q.T. It's impressive."