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Nov 07, 2014

Up the Backstretch: 2014 Horse of the Year prospects

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - The recently completed 2014 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita did nothing to clear up the identity of the 2014 Horse of the Year.

In fact, the World Championships broadened the scope of contenders for the top honor in thoroughbred racing. Where the main horses being mentioned before the Breeders' Cup were Shared Belief, California Chrome, Close Hatches and Untapable the names of Main Sequence, Bayern and Goldencents are now part of the discussion.

"Bayern showed what he can really do on a big day," said trainer Bob Baffert about his 3-year-old Breeders' Cup Classic winner. "He put it together. Shared Belief didn't break. He broke a stutter-step slow (the chart says he bobbled) and Bayern was gone. I thought the nine (Toast of New York) swooped down on Shared Belief."

The third-place finish, a neck behind Bayern, by California Chrome in the Classic may actually have helped the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in Horse of the Year voting. The colt had two poor races coming into Saturday's start, but showed tremendous heart in his effort against a stellar field.

"It was a great race for him, and a game race to get beat by a neck," said trainer Art Sherman.

Main Sequence, trained by Graham Motion, won the Breeders' Cup Turf to post a perfect mark in his four starts this year. Motion, however, acknowledges there may be a prejudice against turf runners when it comes to Horse of the Year balloting.

"He has won four Group Is. No other horse has done what he's done," Motion said. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. He certainly deserves consideration. I'm sure there'll be a lot of split opinions because of the dirt and turf. I get that. It's America, we race on dirt."

Goldencents completed his racing career with a second straight victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Friday. The 4-year-old colt, currently trained by Leandro Mora, had a light 2014 season, but deserves thoughtful consideration for Horse of the Year.

"Hopefully he will do as well in his next career as he did on the track. He's going to make a lot of champions," Mora said.

The horse that was most adversely affected by the Classic outcome was 5-2 favorite and previously undefeated 3-year-old gelding Shared Belief. Co-owned and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief was roughed up at the start of the race by Bayern and finished fourth in the 14-horse field.

"He came out OK," said Hollendorfer of Shared Belief.

Shared Belief, also partly owned by Jim Rome, would have secured Horse of the Year with a victory or at least a well run second in the 1 1/4-mile Classic. The gelding, 2013 champion 2-year-old male, should get respect for getting fourth after the horrible start he got.

"All the 3-year-olds ran good," Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward said of the unprecedented 1-2-3-4-5-6 finish by the group in the race.

The two fillies in the discussion, Close Hatches and Untapable, met for the first time in Friday's Distaff which Untapable won and Close Hatches finished last.

"Untapable performed excellently and ran a huge race," said the 3-year-old's trainer Steve Asmussen.

Although Untapable lost to Bayern in the Haskell, she won all her starts against fillies and mares and locked up the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. In my opinion, Untapable was the Horse of the Year for 2014.

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