Up the Backstretch: What was all the hubbub about?

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The voting for 2014 Horse of the Year
and champion male 3-year-old was expected to be among the closest in recent

Heading into Saturday’s Eclipse Awards ceremony, there was heated debate as to
which thoroughbred among California Chrome, Bayern and Main Sequence would be
Horse of the Year and California Chrome, Bayern and Shared Belief for top
3-year-old colt and gelding.

Personally, I thought there would be much closer voting than was revealed.

California Chrome received substantially more votes as Horse of the Year and
3-year-old than I could possibly have expected. The chestnut colt, owned by
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, and trained by Art Sherman, won Horse of the
Year by 90 votes over Main Sequence’s 53 and clobbered Breeders’ Cup Classic
Bayern by 137 votes for the 3-year-old honor.

“There were no surprises (in the Eclipse results),” said Hall of Fame trainer
Bob Baffert, who conditions Bayern. “It was entertaining to watch. The social
media last year really followed California Chrome. Bayern never really had
that following ,,, but at the end of the day, they gave it to the right horse.
He deserved it. I don’t have any problem with it.”

The unfortunate outcome was Bayern’s lack of an award at the end of the
evening. Main Sequence, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, was voted champion
Older Male Horse over Palace Malice, 127 votes to 103. He easily garnered the
Eclipse Award as champion Male Turf Horse with 243 votes from the 265 cast.

Jockey Victor Espinoza had to watch the Eclipse Awards announcement on
television at Santa Anita. He’s the regular rider of California Chrome but was
not a finalist for champion jockey of 2014. In fact, he finished sixth in
the voting, receiving just four first-place votes and 102 points.

However, Espinoza watched as three of his mounts picked up four honors,
California Chrome, Take Charge Brandi and American Pharaoh.

“I was watching the show on HRTV last night,” Espinoza said Sunday morning at
Santa Anita. “First they announced the filly had won, then later American
Pharoah, then California Chrome as 3-year-old.

“I was more excited than I was after winning all the big races last year. I
was thrilled that those young horses were champions. Then at the end it was
California Chrome, Horse of the Year. Wow!

“I was very proud, and really proud of myself to be able to say that I rode
those three champions. I never thought in a million years that would happen,
in one year to have three great horses and be able to say I rode all three.

“We all hope everyone stays healthy for the new year. That’s the main thing.
So far, it looks like all three are going to run in 2015. As a jockey, it’s
amazing to say I rode all three. For me, it’s an honor to say that.”

Immediately after the Breeders’ Cup last November, I stated I thought
Untapable should be 2014 Horse of the Year. She was the lone unanimous
selection in the Eclipse Award voting receiving all 265 first-place votes as
champion 3-year-old filly. However, in the Horse of the Year balloting
Untapable was fourth with 11 top votes and 269 points.