Skip Away, the "horse pet" of Carolyn and Sonny Hine, won the Eclipse Award on Tuesday night as Horse of the Year for 1998.
Skippy, as he was called by owner Carolyn and her husband-trainer Sonny, was a unanimous selection, getting the votes of the National Turf Writers Association, Daily Racing Form and racing secretaries of National Thoroughbred Racing Association tracks.
"There would have been a real sadness in my heart (if he had lost)," Carolyn Hine said. "I guess I would have been numb."
Skip Away finished second in Horse of the Year voting to 2-year-old champion Favorite Trick in 1997.
The big gray horse, winner of his first seven starts, which stretched his victory streak to nine, beat Awesome Again, who won all six starts and beat Skip Away in the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 7.
The awards were announced at the NTRA's Eclipse Awards dinner at Miami Beach, Fla.
Skip Away, who was 5, also beat Awesome Again, who was 4, as best older horse or gelding. Frank Stronach, Awesome Again's owner, was voted the top owner of the year.
Skip Away, 3-year-old champion in 1996 and best older horse and gelding in 1997, obviously won racing's top honor on the strength of his schedule. Of his seven straight wins, five of them were Grade I stakes, one of them was a Grade II and the other was a Grade III. He finished third in the Grade I Woodward, then sixth in Grade I BC Classic, finishing with $2.74 million for the year and $9,612,360 for his career, second only to Cigar ($9,999,815).
Awesome Again won two Grade I stakes -- the Whitney Handicap and the BC Classic.
"I think they couldn't give it to anyone else when his major competition won only two Grade ones," Sonny Hine said. "He deserves all of his accolades."
Another big winner was Bob Baffert. He got an Eclipse Award as trainer of the year and two of his charges won divisional championships -- Real Quiet, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, 3-year-old, and unbeaten Silverbulletday, 2-year-old filly.
Mike Pegram owns both Real Quiet and Silverbulletday, but the Eclipse Award for top owner went to Frank Stronach, owner of Awesome Again, whose big stable had a big year. Pegram said the victories of Real Quiet, Baffert and Gary Stevens were honor enough for him.
Stevens, Real Quiet's rider, was voted the top jockey. It was the first Eclipse Award for the Hall of Fame jockey, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times.
"I am humbled to finally win it," he said.
Every winner was a unanimous first-place selection of each of the three voting organizations. The outstanding breeder award, given to Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee, was selected by a special committee.
Other equine winners were Answer Lively, 2-year-old colt or gelding; Banshee Breeze, 3-year-old filly; Escena, older filly or mare; Reraise, sprinter; Buck's Boy, male turf horse; Fiji, female turf horse; Flat Top, steeplechaser.
Shaun Bridgmohan was honored as top apprentice jockey.