The Eclipse Awards are of course the cream of the Thoroughbred recognition crop. Prior to that envelope opening, let’s unveil the Hillbilly Horse Awards for what was a super 2016. Now what does a hillbilly know more about… horse racing or moon shine makin’ …read before you judge.

THE JUICE HARP- Twangy and unique, this instrument is an important of a hillbilly band, just like the feel-good winner is a big part of the Thoroughbred racing world. Sometimes people forget about the harp til they here it…then they realize again how cool it is. Beholder finished things up in her career with a little pickin’ and grinnin’. After losing three consecutive races for the first time in her magnificent career, the six-year old daughter of Henny Hughes was thought to be finished. In her final start however, she proved at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup she could still strike up some sweet music. Facing the unbeaten Songbird in the Distaff, this Richard Mandella trained mare called upon every ounce of her greatness as she outdueled a filly half her age in perhaps the greatest stretch battle ever. Congratulations Beholder!

CORN IN A JAR- Sometimes a sports hero can be just as intoxicating as that sweet mountain elixir. We drink from the jar and yes sir! California Chrome has been a horse for the people throughout his career. From humble beginnings, Chrome has been an athlete most can relate to. His 2016 campaign saw this son of Lucky Pulpit become the all-time leading money winner among North American Thoroughbreds while winning six of seven starts. And that gate to wire romp in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar…straight off the still! Providing his many fans with a dose of “the mountain dew” on many occasions, Chrome was the “Shine” of 2016.

THE SOUTHERN BELLE-Is there anything quite as nice a pretty girl from the South? Smelling like a magnolia blossom, sun-tanned, and sweet as a glass of iced tea, it don’t get much better. Songbird was as pretty as they come in 2016. Full of run, this three-year old filly was a real “looker” as she romped home in her first seven starts of the year. Four of those wins came in grade 1 events and this daughter of Medaglio D’Oro did it at three different tracks.Beaten by a flaring nostril in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in the only loss of her career, even in defeat this Jerry Hollendorfer trained beauty was a sight to see. Songbird get’s the wolf call whistle here!

THE WOODSHED-Momma told us not to fight in the house. You took it outside behind the woodshed and that was where somebody took a whoopin’. Arrogate gave out the biggest butt kicking of 2016 for sure. Coming into the Traver’s Stakes as a lightly raced 11 to 1 afterthought, this sizeable son of Unbridled’s Song administered a beating of historic proportion. Winning by an incredible 12 lengths, the Bob Baffert trained three-year old kicked’em in the teeth with a track record too (1:59.36). Now to prove he was way more than a one-punch wonder, Arrogate followed up his jaw dropper at Saratoga with a win over California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Under a masterful ride from Mike Smith, the uniquely marked Baffert trainee was as brilliant as they come in the Cup. Arrogate’s monstrous finish to get up in the final strides was better than cousin Bubba’s body slam!