NEW YORK (AP) -- The paper chase for horse racing's 2-year-old championship was a runaway for unbeaten Favorite Trick -- even easier than his eight victories on the track.
In Eclipse Awards balloting released Thursday, Favorite Trick got all but one of the 301 votes cast by Thoroughbred Racing Associations racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form employees and members of the National Turf Writers Association.
One ballot-box Derby remains, the Horse of the Year. And it will be a two-horse race between Favorite Trick and Skip Away, the champion older horse. The winner will be announced Feb. 10 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
"I'd definitely be satisfied with the 2-year-old championship for Favorite Trick," Patrick Byrne, who trained the colt and also juvenile filly champion Countess Diana. "Skip Away (3-year-old champion in 1996) is a wonderful racehorse. He's been good for racing the last two years."
Byrne finished second to Bob Baffert, trainer of champion 3-year-old Silver Charm, for outstanding trainer. Byrne will not train Favorite Trick or Countess Diana in 1998 because he has agreed to train exclusively for Frank Stronach of Canada.
Principal owner Joseph LaCombe has chosen Bill Mott of Cigar fame to train Favorite Trick. No new trainer has been named for Richard Kaster's Countess Diana, who received all but three of the votes.
"I'm a believer, and I believe my horse is a champion," said Caroline Hine, owner of Skip Away, who won the 3-year-old championship in 1996.
As for Skip Away becoming Horse of the Year, trainer Sonny Hine, Caroline's husband, said: "We're grateful for what we got. We're just grateful to have the horse."
He noted that two of Skip Away's four victories in 11 starts, all graded stakes, were very fast wins at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Caroline Hine, who supplemented Skip Away to the $4.4 million in the Breeders' Cup Classic for a fee of $480,000, was voted outstanding owner by a 2-1 margin over Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of Silver Charm, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before being narrowly beaten by Touch Gold in the Belmont Stakes.
All of the 10 equine Eclipse Awards winners received first-place votes of from each of the three groups, worth a total of 30 points.
Other champions are Ajina, trained by Mott, 3-year-old filly; Hidden Lake, older filly or mare; Chief Bearhart, male turf; Ryafan, female turf; Smoke Glacken, sprinter; and Lonesome Glory, steeplechase.
Jerry Bailey, a unanimous choice, became the first jockey to win three consecutive Eclipse Awards. Roberto Rosado and Philip Teator are co-winners of the award for apprentice jockey.
A special committee honored Mr. and Mrs. John Mabee as outstanding breeder.
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