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The Five Races That Made 2014

2014 was quite the year for horse racing. The superstar horses proved they could actually show up Рwho knew? The three biggest superstars in training РBayern, California  Chrom,e and Shared Belief combined for a total of 25 starts. So, which races were the most meaningful and which ones were the most enjoyable?

I’ll start off with this; I did not choose any of Main Sequences races because he frankly doesn’t capture the imagination of the general racing public. I’m actually starting to think that the general racing public doesn’t even consider him to be an American horse, but I digress.

The five races chosen all had starpower, and with the excpetion of the one in the fifth spot, lived up to the hype.

5. Breeder’s¬† Cup Classic:

This race did not fail to disappoint thanks to Martin Garcia channeling his inner Angel Cordero Jr. One has to respect the grittiness of Bayern to hold off two of the best horses in the country. However, one has to wonder how the race would’ve been affected had Moreno been able to put more pressure on Bayern. I will not fault Martin for his Cordero impersonation; after all, look how well it worked out for Angel Cordero Jr. However, it did sour what could have been the most exciting Breeder’s Cup Classic of the last ten years. It also rendered Horse of the Year voting irrelevant in my opinion, because we still cannot definitively say that Shared Belief, Chrome, or Toast of New York are worse than Bayern at 10 furlongs. Maybe Bayern is better, but maybe Martin Garcia is just a better more aggressive jockey than his counterparts, we really don’t know for sure.

4. San Felipe Stakes:

Most east coast racing fans will disagree, but California Chrome tends to run in some deceptively difficult races. He isn’t really comfortable in the lead, and he definitely isn’t comfortable inside of horses. He had to do both of these things to win the San Felipe, and he made them both look easy. This race could have ended badly for California Chrome, but the modestly bred horse showed us that while he isn’t the second coming of Sunday Silence, he can handle some adversity.

3. Frontrunner Stakes:

Maybe I’m just seeing things that aren’t there, but American Pharoah and Texas Red are seriously talented racehorses. In the Frontrunner, American Pharoah showed that if he’s given reasonable fractions he is simply the best juvenile in America. AP’s performance in the race was flattered by Texas Red demoliting the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile field. If American Pharoah and Texas Red can stay healthy and fire on all cylinders at the Derby (a very big if) the 2015 derby will be one for the ages.

2. Awesome Again Stakes:

In one of the oddest incidents all year, Victor Espinoza carried Shared Belief wide around both turns. Now, I do think that Shared Belief fans greatly exaggerted the heroics displayed by their beloved equine hero in overcoming his rough trip, but the race really underscored just how dogged Shared Belief actually is. This race also gave Shared Belief a whole new dimension as he learned what it’s like to have to work inside the eight-pole. Shared Belief started his transformation in this race and 2015 will be an interesting year because of this.

1. Kentucky Derby:

There is no horse that gets racing fans more riled up than California Chrome. If the wagering for the Derby was only open to residents of California, Chrome would have gone off at 3/5. Let’s just say that east coast bettors were a little less sure about Chrome’s chances. The racing establishment spent all week looking for “wiseguy” picks only to be proven wrong. I have to admit that I picked him for third as I didn’t feel he had enough staying power to hold off Wicked Strong or Chitu; boy was I wrong. I am not for Chrome, nor am I against him. All I am saying is that he is the most divisive horse in America right now, bar none, so the race in which he silenced his haters has to be the most important race of 2014.

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