The 2011 Eclipse Awards have crowned the respective champions in the various divisions. Congratulations to all the winners – and candidly congratulations to anyone who was nominated or had a horse that was nominated. The ceremony was filled with laughs, tears, and tension as the Horse of the Year announcement approached, how fitting that Big Drama was named the winner in the Male Sprinter division. It was great to see the absolute joy of people like Mike Repole with Uncle Mo and hear him in his New York accent delivering a message that would have made a Southern Baptist minister proud as he stirred the crowd; Marylou Whitney gave a speech for the ages and one of the best that I’ve heard in any venue. I was touched by the care and love that Ken Ramsey shows with the way he always is beside his ill wife, Sarah’s side, as he accepted their award. It was nice to see Harold Plumley on stage as the breeder of Dubai Majesty; Mr. Plumley and I both called Paris, TN our home for many years and as a kid I was always playing on or against a baseball or football team that his company sponsored. The moment that everyone was waiting for was announcement of Horse of the Year, which everyone knew was going to be close. Each side had compelling reasons for their horse – Blame and Zenyatta both had great years, they both won the award for their division; but in the end the horse that brought the fans to the track in droves, created national media attention the likes of which this sport hasn’t seen in years – that was the horse that won and that horse is Zenyatta.
With the debate over this vote starting the instant the Breeders’ Cup Classic was over, it was clear that for this year’s Eclipse Award the only fair way to honor both horses was to paint both of them for this event. I am very honored to be a repeat guest of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters at their events. To be there painting on both Blame and Zenyatta was a thrill, but I can also say that while so many people formed their opinions over the last couple months – I painted every day on these paintings for over a month and that same question kept going through my mind over and over again . . . and it seemed that whichever one I was painted on at any given moment that was where all my attention was. As it was my honor to work on these paintings at the Eclipse Awards, it is also my honor to share both of them with you here.