Racing: Xcellent wins Horse of the Year again

Xcellent was last night named New Zealand Horse of the Year for the 2005-06 season, becoming just the fourth multiple winner of the award.

Xcellent, who also won the title the previous season, joins Sunline, Rough Habit and Show Gate in winning more than once. The award was established in the 1971-72 season.

Xcellent, from the transtasman stable of Mike Moroney, raced just four times last season and won twice.

His wins were both at group one level, taking out the Mudgway Stakes and New Zealand's richest race, the $1 million Kelt Capital Stakes, both at Hastings last spring.

At his next start he failed on a wet track in the Cox Plate but followed up with a third to Makybe Diva in the Melbourne Cup.

Xcellent has not raced since. He was being prepared for an autumn campaign this year when he injured tendons in both front legs and it will be next autumn before he races again.

The Pentire gelding, now aged five, was also named top stayer and top weight-for-age performer at last night's function, held at Ellerslie.

There was a surprise winner of the 3-year-old category, with the honour going to Darci Brahma.

Many might have expected Wahid, winner of the New Zealand Derby and the Levin Classic, to get the nod as top 3-year-old.

Wahid won six of nine races last season and was controversially relegated from first to third in the Wellington Stakes.

Darci Brahma won four of eight starts, of which two were group ones - the Two Thousand Guineas at Riccarton and the Otaki Weight-For-Age.

Awards are determined by a panel appointed by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing after taking into account the votes of racing media and racing administrators, the numbers of which are about 50 per cent of each.

Gee I Jane, winner of the Telegraph Handicap at Trentham and the Brisbane Turf Club Cup, took out sprinter-miler category.

Dual group one winner Jokers Wild was top two-year-old and last year's Great Northern Steeplechase winner Just The Man was top jumper.

Voting for the jumping award was an embarrassment to New Zealand racing, with Real Tonic not even named as a finalist.

Real Tonic, from the Taranaki stable of John Wheeler, won two of Australia's top steeplechases last season.

A special award of outstanding contribution to racing went to Waikato breeder Garry Chittick.

The head of Waikato Stud in Matamata was also named the top breeder with the stud producing the likes of Starcraft, Glamour Puss, Marju and Legs who were all to the fore last season.

Sunline won the Horse of the Year four times (1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01 and 2001-02).

Rough Habit and Show Gate were both dual winners, but neither scored in successive years.

Rough Habit won in 1991-92 and 1994-95 and Show Gate took out the title in 1974-75 and 1976-77.

Awards winners

Horse of the Year: Xcellent.

Stayer: Xcellent.

Weight-for-age: Xcellent.

Three-year-old: Darci Brahma.

Two-year-old: Jokers Wild.

Sprinter-miler: Gee I Jane.

Jumper: Just The Man.

Outstanding contribution: Garry Chittick (Waikato Stud).

Jockey: Lisa Cropp.

Apprentice rider: Kelly Myers.

Jumps jockey: Jonathan Riddell.

Broodmare: Flying Floozie (dam of Starcraft).

Trainer: Mark Walker.

Newcomer to training: Lance O'Sullivan.

Breeder: Garry Chittick.

Owner: Ann and the estate of Ken Browne.

Media: Dennis Ryan (Sunday News).

Dewar stallion (NZ and Australian figures combined): Zabeel.

Grosvenor stallion (New Zealand figures): Volksraad.

Three-year-old filly: Shikoba.

- NZPA

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