Zayat Stables, Baffert, Castellano & Gaffalione win Eclipse Awards
Javier Castellano stopped a clean sweep for American Pharoah connections, receiving his third straight Eclipse for leading jockey after a record-setting 2015 season. The 38-year-old journeyman defeated Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah’s jockey, by a 184-70 margin.
South Florida-based Tyler Gaffalione received the Eclipse Award for leading apprentice jockey.
Zayat Stables is the nom de course of Egyptian-born businessman Ahmed Zayat, who entered Thoroughbred racing in 2005 and quickly built a powerhouse racing stable and breeding program. Zayat received his first Eclipse Awards for leading owner and breeder in 2015.
Zayat Stables led all owners by earnings with $10,000,226 in 2015. The leading owner by earnings as well in 2008, Zayat Stables has been ranked in the top 10 seven times in the last decade.
American Pharoah was a big part of the success, pocketing $8,288,800 while capturing seven stakes races in 2015, and Zayat Stables also counted multiple Grade 3 winner El Kabeir among its top performers.
Justin Zayat serves as the Zayat Racing and Stallion Manager. Along with Baffert, Zayat Stables also has horses with trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Rudy Rodriguez, Michael de Kock and John Terranova II.
Zayat Stables defeated Ken & Sarah Ramsey, the leading owners three of the last four years, by a 220-26 margin.
American Pharoah, the first American Triple Crown winner in 37 years, was a homebred son of Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile, who proved instrumental for the breeder Eclipse Award. Eskendreya is another up-and-coming stallion campaigned by Zayat.
Zayat Stables finished ahead of Ken & Sarah Ramsey, the leading breeders of 2013-14, by a 190-39 vote total.
Baffert, who was also named leading trainer from 1997-99, easily surpassed seven-time winner Todd Pletcher by a 200-44 tally. The king of the Triple Crown, the 63-year-old native of Arizona notched his fourth Kentucky Derby (G1) victory, moving into a three-way tie for second all-time. Baffert also notched a record sixth Preakness (G1) win and a second Belmont Stakes (G1) title while becoming the first conditioner to saddle a Triple Crown winner since 1978.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, Baffert notably brought American Pharoah back from a foot injury that sidelined the colt in the fall of 2014. He not only kept his charge healthy and happy throughout a long season, but orchestrated a tremendous turnaround following American Pharoah’s loss in the Travers (G1), freshening him nine weeks before a scintillating 6 ½-length Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) tour-de-force.
Along with American Pharoah, Baffert also trained graded stakes winner Callback, Dortmund, Gimme Da Lute, Mor Spirit, Pretty N Cool, Sky Kingdom, Toews on Ice and Whiskey Trail in 2015.
Castellano, a native of Venezuela, broke his own single-season earnings record in 2015, with his mounts bankrolling $28,120,767. He led all North American jockeys with 344 wins, and captured riding titles at Belmont Park and Gulfstream Park.
Winner of a pair of Breeders’ Cup races at Keeneland during the fall, Castellano was also the only jockey to beat American Pharoah in 2015, snapping an eight-race win streak aboard Keen Ice in the Travers. Castellano’s mounts also included champion older male Honor Code.
Gallione established himself as one of the sport’s brightest young stars in 2015, winning 217 races from 1,419 starts (15% win), and earned the Eclipse Award for leading apprentice by a 149-63 margin over Eric Cancel.
The son of retired jockey Steve Gafflione, Gafflione easily captured his first riding title during the Gulfstream spring/summer meet, piloting 81 winners, 27 more than runner-up Eddie Castro, and the 21-year-old native of Florida also recorded five wins at Gulfstream on September 20.
Photo of Zayat and Baffert courtesy of Benoit Photo
Zayat Family photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Javier Castellano photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography