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GHOSTZAPPER CLAIMS TOP ECLIPSE AWARD.

Byline: Kevin Modesti Staff Writer

BEVERLY HILLS - In the year of Smarty Jones, it is Ghostzapper who will go in the books as the Horse of the Year.

Ghostzapper, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner in an undefeated 2004 season, was named thoroughbred racing's overall champion Monday night at the 34th Eclipse Awards ceremony after easily out-balloting near-Triple Crown winner Smarty Jones.

Representatives of the National Turf Writers Association, the Daily Racing Form and the NTRA cast 174 first-place votes for 4-year-old Ghostzapper, 95 for 3-year-old Smarty Jones, and one each for 3-year-old filly Ashado and 3-year-old turf specialist Kitten's Joy.

The majority was more impressed by Ghostzapper's 4-for-4 campaign in the second half of the season than by Smarty Jones' 6-for-7 record in a first half that included Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victories but a heartbreak loss to Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes.

``May Ghostzapper stay healthy and thrill the public with some great races,'' owner-breeder Frank Stronach said of the horse scheduled to return to competition in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in late May.

Smarty Jones trainer John Servis said: ``Ghostzapper's a very good horse, and he's done some great things, but if I was voting, I'd consider what a horse did for the sport. ... If Ghostzapper wins, it's going to be the front page of the racing publications. If Smarty Jones wins, it's going to be on the front page of every sports page in America.''

Ghostzapper ran away with the Eclipse Award as the outstanding male 4-year-old and up, while Smarty Jones was easily voted the top male 3-year-old.

Azeri (179 votes) beat out Sightseek (91) to be the top female 4-and-up for the third year in a row, the 2002 Horse of the Year sealing the first threepeat in any Eclipse category since Forego's 1974-77 older-male titles.

Ken Ramsey, who won the outstanding-owners trophy with his wife Sarah, read an apology for earning a $25,000 fine and seven-day suspension for offer money to another owner to scratch a horse from a December race in Kentucky.

``My recent actions have tarnished my good name, and by extension has tarnished my family's name and horse racing's name,'' Ramsey said.

Kevin Modesti, (818) 713-3616

heymodesti(at)aol.com

HORSE RACING'S BEST

Winners of the 2004 Eclipse Awards, voted by racing journalists and executives, were announced Monday night in Beverly Hills.

Horse of the Year: Ghostzapper

2-year-old male: Declan's Moon

2-year-old female: Sweet Catomine

3-year-old male: Smarty Jones

3-year-old female: Ashado

Older male: Ghostzapper

Older female: Azeri

Sprinter: Speightstown

Male turf horse: Kitten's Joy

Female turf horse: Ouija Board

Steeplechase horse: Hirapour

Jockey: John Velazquez

Apprentice jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Ken and Sarah Ramsey

Breeder: Adena Springs (Frank Stronach)

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HORSE RACING'S BEST (see text)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 25, 2005
Words:466
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