The award originated in 1936 when the Daily Racing Form (DRF) began naming an annual champion. Starting in 1950, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA) began naming its own champion. The following list provides the name of the horses chosen by both of these organizations. Whenever there were different champions named, the horses are listed side-by-side with the one chosen as champion by the Daily Racing Form noted with the letter (D) and the one chosen by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations by the letter (T).
The Daily Racing Form, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and the National Turf Writers Association all joined forces in 1971 to create the Eclipse Award.