It's Not Complicated: California Chrome Was Horse of the Year
by Laura Pugh
Horse of the Year is exactly what it sounds like—an award that defines itself by its own name. It is Horse of the Year. Not Horse of Two Months, not Horse of Half the Year, but Horse of the Year.
Many voters overcomplicate their decision when, really, all that needs to be done is answer two questions.
- Who among the nominees ran from year start to year end against the strongest fields?
Main Sequence began his season in the beginning of July, giving him a late start. However, he did run all of his four starts in grade one company. The con here is that he wasn’t facing world beaters in any of his first three starts. While they were grade ones in status, his competition wasn’t grade one caliber until the Breeders Cup.
Bayern had a full year, starting in January and ending in November, running a grand total of 10 times. In that span of time he ran in eight graded stakes, winning four of those. Another thing he has going for him is he has wins over both of his main rivals, Shared Belief and California Chrome. However, his faults could be enough to outweigh that edge. His biggest win, the Breeders Cup Classic, was a tainted victory as many believe he greatly interfered with the, then, best candidate for Horse of the Year. Also his losses in grade one company are hard to ignore. His losses, in the three grade ones, were by a combine 46 ¼ lengths.
California Chrome, like Bayern had a full year, starting in January ending in late November. He ran nine times, competing in a total of eight graded stakes, six of them grade ones. During his season he ran in all three Triple Crown races, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, where he defeated Bayern. He also became the only horse, this season, to win a grade one on over the main track and the turf when he won the Hollywood Derby. His only blemishes were a fourth, by 1 ¾ lengths in the Belmont, a sixth place in the Pennsylvania Derby, at the hand of Bayern, and a third in the Breeders Cup Classic, by a neck, also to Bayern.
- Who accomplished the most throughout the year?
Main Sequence has four consecutive grade ones to his credit, along with the fact he ended his 2014 season unbeaten. However, the Breeders Cup turf is the only race he was tested by grade one caliber horses. His other three wins, while dominant, were won over a weak U.S. contingent.
Bayern has wins in the grade two Wood Stephens and the Pennsylvania Derby, and two grade one wins in the Haskell Invitational and Breeders Cup Classic. However, his largest win, in the Breeders Cup Classic has a large black mark on it, as many believe he ruined the race of several of key competitors with interference at the start.
California Chrome has five graded stakes win, four in graded one company, along with one other grade one placing. His wins came in the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Hollywood Derby. His placing came when running a close third, in the Breeders Cup Classic.
Based off the answers to those two questions, the answer is obvious. There is only one horse that had a full season, constantly ran in graded stakes company, while maintaining a consistent level of excellence:
He ran in the deepest division of 2014 and maintained his form from January to seasons end. He won Grade 1s on two different surfaces and danced every dance.
Horse of the Year belongs to only California Chrome.