Ricky Hendriks trains two of the three finalists for steeplechasings Eclipse Award, Optimus Prime and Zanjabeel, both G1 winners.
The third finalist is Jury Duty, owned by Sideways Syndicate and trained by top Irish horseman Gordon Elliott.
But Jury Duty only raced once in this country, winning the G1 $450,000 Grand National at Far Hills, America’s richest steeplechase race, by 3 1/4 lengths, and then was shipped back across the pond.
Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, won two G1 races in 2018, the Calvin Houghland at the Iroquois meet in May and the Lonesome Glory Handicap at Belmont Park in September as well as finishing second in the G1 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup and the G2 Temple Gwathmey Handicap last spring.
OPTIMUS PRIME, owned by Rosbrian Farm, won the G1 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga in his first race in this country and won the G2 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial at the International Gold Cup in October and also finished third in the G1 Lonesome Glory.
Jury Duty will receive the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Award as the year’s leading earner, but his $270,000 earnings were only $4,500 more than Zanjabeel, who missed the Grand National because of injury.
"Zanjabeel is the only one to win two grade one races," said Hendriks. "Neither of my horses ran against Jury Duty."
Zanjabeel missed the Grand National due to an injury, but Hendriks said he is doing well now and will be aimed for the Grand National at Far Hills next fall.
"Optimus Prime is very talented," said Hendriks. "He probably will run next spring, but the goal is to run him at Saratoga."
"We have quite a few in training for the spring," said Hendriks. "We've gotten a few new horses and some new clients."
The top three were selected in balloting by NTRA racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form editorial employees, and members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
The Eclipse Award winners, including Horse of the Year, will be announced on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
TWO PA-BRED mares are Eclipse Award Finalists, Shamrock Rose and Unique Bella.
Shamrock Rose, now a 4-year-old, is a bay filly by First Dude out of Slew’s Quality, by Elusive Quality and was bred by Best A Luck Farm LLC.
A winner of four straight stakes to complete her 3-year-old campaign, Shamrock Rose made the most of her final start when she
got up to win one of the most exciting renewals of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, winning in a four-horse
Competing only in stakes competition in 2018, she earned $848,076 with four wins and two second-place finishes in seven starts.
Owned by Conrad Farms, who purchased the bay as a 2-year-old at Ocala in the spring of 2017 for $120,000, and trained by Mark Casse, Shamrock Rose also won the G2 Raven Run at Keeneland, the La Lorgnette at Woodbine, and Presque Isle Downs’ Malvern Rose, the latter by more than 10 lengths.
Shamrock Rose is a finalist for Female Sprinter along with Finley’sluckycharm and Marley’s Freedom.
All told, Shamrock Rose has won five of 10 starts and earned $917,687 in her career.
UNIQUE BELLA, now a 5-year-old, is a grey/roan mare by Tapit out of Unrivaled Belle, by Unbridled’s Song, and she was bred by Brushwood Stable.
She is a finalist in the Eclipse Award for Older Dirt Female.
Unique Bella was the 2017 Eclipse Award-winning champion female sprinter as a 3-year-old, and she returned in 2018 with a campaign geared at longer distances and more prestige.
In four starts, all graded stakes as odds-on favorite, Unique Bella won three times, taking G1 victories in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar and the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, as well as Santa Anita’s G2 Santa Maria in her 4-year-old debut by nine lengths.
She also finished second in Oaklawn Park’s G1 Apple Blossom Handicap while giving seven pounds to winner Unbridled Mo.
While preparing for a fall campaign, the filly owned by Don Alberto Stable and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer fractured a sesamoid during a Saturday morning workout at Del Mar in August, which forced her retirement.