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Essential Quality & Yibir take Champion honours at Eclipse Awards


Godolphin’s sensational 2021 received further recognition at the 51st Eclipse Awards on Thursday, 10 February, with four accolades including Essential Quality and Yibir being crowned divisional Champions.

Essential Quality joins an elite group of Champion 2-Year-Old Colts to graduate to Champion 3-Year-Old Colt honours following an exceptional season that included a first Triple Crown race success for the royal blue silks in the G1 Belmont Stakes.

Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality went on to capture the G2 Jim Dandy Stakes and G1 Travers Stakes before rounding off his career with a valiant third behind Horse of the Year Knicks Go in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The homebred son of Tapit retired to stand at Jonabell Farm at the end of the year having won eight of his 10 starts, with four of those victories coming at G1 level.

Michael Banahan, Director of Bloodstock for Godolphin USA, said: “This is a wonderful honour for me to accept the Champion 3-Year-Old Colt Award on behalf of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin.

“What a horse Essential Quality has been for the past two seasons. A back-to-back Champion, a second Classic winner for Sheikh Mohammed, and a first Classic winner for Brad Cox.

“He is a gorgeous, classy, classic individual who showed up every day and never disappointed anyone. From Churchill Downs to Keeneland, to Belmont, to Saratoga – all racetracks came the same to him.

He just wanted to please and to win. “Sheikh Mohammed has now bred and raced the winners of two of the Triple Crown races and we are going to continue to work as hard as we can to tick that last box.

“I would especially like to thank Brad Cox and his team for the wonderful guidance and steady hand with Essential Quality through two championship seasons. Also a big thank you to Luis Saez, who always had the utmost confidence in Essential Quality and rode him superbly every time he stepped onto the track.

“I’d like to dedicate this award to our recently retired racing manager Jimmy Bell. What a way to go out on top and what a horse to go out on top with.”

Yibir became the first European-based horse in 10 years to receive the Eclipse Award for Champion Male Turf Horse following exhilarating victories on both his US appearances.

After storming home to capture the Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park in September, Yibir formed part of a memorable treble for Charlie Appleby, William Buick and Dubawi at the Breeders’ Cup with another swooping win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Charlie Appleby said: “It’s a superb achievement by the whole team at Godolphin to pick up four Eclipse Awards, and fantastic for everyone at Moulton Paddocks to be part of it with Yibir.

“To have three homebred horses by Dubawi win on Breeders’ Cup night was very special and everyone should be very proud of what they have achieved. It is great for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and team Godolphin.”

Godolphin received both the Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder Awards following a record-breaking 2021 in North America that yielded 23 Graded Stakes wins, all by homebreds, and prizemoney in excess of $17.4 million.

Dan Pride, Godolphin USA Chief Operating Officer, said: “What a great night and what a tremendous honour on behalf of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed to accept this award for both owner and breeder.

“It’s actually 30 years ago this year that Godolphin was founded. The simple goal was to run and try and win the best races in the world. 2021 was the highlight – it has been a year for us globally that has been hard to match in our history.

“Sheikh Mohammed has built Godolphin on three things – it’s the horse, it’s the land and it’s the people. We are fortunate to be able to support all those areas. It is a team sport for us and we have a great group in central Kentucky, who are a big part of this, along with Newmarket in England, County Kildare in Ireland, and Dubai.

“It’s a wonderful night. We have had Mystic Guide win the Dubai World Cup, Essential Quality take us on a ride before becoming a stallion with us along with Maxfield. I can’t leave out Charlie Appleby. His year has been unbelievable and what he did at the Breeders’ Cup, with three winners all by Dubawi. It has been very special.”