The Eclipse Award is an American thoroughbred horse racing award named after the 18th century British racehorse and sire, Eclipse. The Eclipse Awards were created by three independent bodies in 1971 to honor the champions of the sport. Although widely viewed as a national standard, they are not an official national award as Thoroughbred racing in the United States has no sport governing body. Rather, the Eclipse Awards are sponsored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers Association who select all finalists at the end of the year. Those same voters then vote any of the three finalists in each category. Winners are announced in January of the next year. J. B. Faulconer, the first full-time publicity director at Keeneland, is credited with starting the Eclipse Award program. The Lexington, Kentucky artist and sculptor Adalin Wichman designed the Eclipse Award, each of which is individually cast in the traditional lost wax method and is hand finished.
Prior to creation of the Eclipse Awards, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of America and the Daily Racing Form each published their own opinion of annual champions. For more than a century, annual champions have been chosen by various bodies and these have been compiled and condensed with Eclipse Award winners by the The Blood-Horse magazine. As well, Thoroughbred Heritage has their own list of "Champions of the Turf" with many from much earlier years based on a retrospective assessment by their own experts.
The Eclipse Award of Merit is the industry's highest honor. The most prestigious Eclipse Award for horses is the Horse of the Year title.
An Eclipse Award Trophy is presented to the winner in each division that is made by a few small selected American foundries with expertise in studio bronze casting. It is then mounted on the hand-crafted native Kentucky walnut base to comprise the Eclipse Award on which a brass plate recites the award winner.
The Eclipse Award categories:
- American Horse of the Year
- American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse
- American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
- American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse
- American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
- American Champion Older Dirt Male Horse
- American Champion Older Dirt Female Horse
- American Champion Sprint Horse
- American Champion Female Sprint Horse
- American Champion Male Turf Horse
- American Champion Female Turf Horse
- Outstanding Steeplechase horse
- Outstanding Owner
- Outstanding Breeder
- Outstanding Trainer
- Outstanding Jockey
- Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
- Eclipse Special Award
- Eclipse Award Of Merit
- National Thoroughbred Racing Association Moment of the Year