Nominations for the 2020 Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer come down to three accomplished individuals, two of them multiple previous winners and a newcomer.  Bob Baffert won this award in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2015.  Steve Asmussen won in 2008 and 2009.  Up-and-coming Brad Cox is the other candidate. 

Todd Pletcher remains the all-time leader in Eclipse trainer awards with seven, followed by the late Bobby Frankel with five.  Chad Brown has four awards, encompassing 2016-2019, and D. Wayne Lukas and the late Laz Barrera also have four.

Voters for the Eclipse Award for best trainer are basically left to establish their own criteria for making the selection, as there are no specifics to go by. As a result, some voters may, for example, believe that either Baffert or Asmusssen deserves the award, but still opt to vote for Cox on the basis that he is much younger and has never won.  Other voters may feel that the most deserving trainer should be recognized irrespective of whether he has won in the past.

Certainly, all three candidates had meritorious records in 2020 or they would not have been nominated.  Thus a voter could make a strong case for any of them.  With that said, my personal opinion is that Bob Baffert should receive the nod for his work with Authentic in winning the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, plus narrowly losing the Preakness.

Moreover, the “Authentic effect” should net John Velazquez the award for outstanding jockey and Authentic Horse of the Year.  It took a highly skilled veteran like Velazquez to win 1 ¼ races like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic with a colt that was best suited to slightly shorter distances, especially with front-running tactics.

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