Zenyatta, team honored with Eclipse

Storied Claiborne Farm, those associated with the storybook horse Zenyatta, and Marylou Whitney, for decades one of racing's shining beacons both on and off the track, were announced on Wednesday as Eclipse Award winners, according to the awards' three sponsoring organizations.

Claiborne Farm and Whitney will each receive the Eclipse Award of Merit, given for meritorious service to the sport. Team Zenyatta will receive a Special Eclipse Award, in large part due to the way her connections embraced her popularity and shared her with the public in 2010. All three awards were determined by a committee made up of representatives from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.

They will receive their awards on Jan. 17 at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in Florida.

Blame and Zenyatta will be the focal points of that black-tie dinner. Both horses are heavy favorites to win Eclipse Awards in their respective division -- Blame as champion older male, Zenyatta champion older female -- and they are acknowledged as the two front-runners for Horse of the Year.

Voting for divisional honors, both human and equine, and Horse of the Year closed Tuesday. Three finalists in each division -- with the exception of Horse of the Year -- were to be announced on Thursday. All winners will be announced at the dinner.

Claiborne Farm, owned by the Hancock family, celebrated its 100th anniversary this past year. Based in Paris, Ky., Claiborne for decades has been one of the top breeding farms in the world. It has been under the direction of Seth Hancock since the 1972 death of his father, Bull. Claiborne was the home of Secretariat during his breeding career. The farm also bred and raced Swale, the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner.

Blame, bred by Claiborne along with longtime client Adele Dilschneider, has a chance to be the first Horse of the Year to have raced for and then retired to stud at Claiborne.

Whitney has had great success with homebreds such as Birdstone, the winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004. She for years hosted a lavish party every summer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and always has been prominent on the social side of the sport.

The Special Eclipse Award for Team Zenyatta cites the unfailing generosity of her connections -- owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs; jockey Mike Smith, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, exercise rider Steve Willard, groom Mario Espinoza, hotwalker Carmen Zamona, and assistant trainer Michelle Jensen -- for making Zenyatta so accessible to the public.

No matter where Zenyatta went -- to Oaklawn Park, Del Mar, Churchill Downs, or her base at Hollywood Park -- there was a caravan of visitors marching to see her every day.