The 2014 thoroughbred racing season saw California Chrome dominate the horse racing news as he attempted to become just the 12th winner of all three American Triple Crown events – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes – an accomplishment last achieved in 1978 by Affirmed.
California Chrome’s success in winning the first two jewels of the crown created a target for all three-year old thoroughbred racers to chase. This culminated with the infamous loss at the Belmont Stakes, in which California Chrome was cut early and the owner Steve Coburn raged against other owners after the loss.
While the chase for the first winner of all three Triple Crown races in 36 years was evidently newsworthy, the hoopla did overshadow amazing performances by a variety of thoroughbreds during the 2014 season. Two-time horse of the year Wise Dan continued his dominance, Bayern ripped through the competition and Tonalist denied California Chrome of an historic glory. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was Take Charge Brandi, who ascended from practically nowhere to take home a Breeders’ Cup event against significant odds, establishing herself as a favorite for 2014 juvenile filly of the year.
15. Palace Malice – $1,195,000
Winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes and participant in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Palace Malice enjoyed another great racing year after finishing 11th in overall earnings in 2013. This four-year old colt won four consecutive graded races to begin the year, including the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and Gulfstream Park Handicap as well as the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes.
14. Vicar’s in Trouble – $1,199,392
The three-year old colt had a great 2014, qualifying to participate in the Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile and the Kentucky Derby. Despite finishing a disappointing 19th in the first jewel of the American Triple Crown for thoroughbreds, Vicar’s in Trouble earned seven top-three finishes in a variety of graded stakes. These included first place finishes in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and the Super Derby races.
13. Tapiture – $1,247,222
With the exception of a 15th place finish at the Kentucky Derby, Tapiture is another three-year old colt that made a lot of noise in 2014. Despite six top two finishes, including first place at the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby and the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes and Matt Winn Stakes, perhaps his most impressive run was finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Tapiture finished a length and a quarter behind Golden Cents, nearly upsetting the strong favorite to win the million-dollar race.
12. Wise Dan – $1,259,310
One of the most successful horses this decade has been Wise Dan, who won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, Champion Grass Horse and Champion Older Horse in 2012 and 2013, becoming the first horse to win the same three categories in consecutive years. This seven-year old gelding earned his status by repeating as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. After finishing 4th in earnings for 2012 and 3rd in 2013, Wise Dan remained among the top earners by winning all four graded stakes he entered during 2014.
11. Imperative – $1,265,700
Imperative had a busy year, starting in ten races, finishing top six in six events while winning the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic Stakes, which earned him $1,000,000 in prize money. He also qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing ninth. The four-year old gelding also participated in the Champions Cup in Japan, finishing 15th.
10. Close Hatches – $1,340,000
This four-year old filly started the year on a tear, winning four straight graded races, including the Apple Blossom Handicap, the Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Personal Ensign Stakes – all Grade 1 races. She rose to 10th on the earnings list in 2014 after finishing 13th in 2013. Close Hatches has participated in the Kentucky Oaks and twice in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, finishing second in the prestigious race in 2013.
9. Wicked Strong – $1,361,610
Wicked Strong nearly earned top three in the 2014 editions of the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, finishing fourth in both events against the strongest three-year old thoroughbreds in the sport. The colt won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes and nearly took home the Grade 1 Travers Stakes as well, establishing himself as a consistent threat.
8. Shared Belief – $1,401,000
The 2013 winner of the Eclipse Award for Champion two-year-old colt, Shared Belief continued his success in 2014 by winning four of the five races he entered, including the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes and Pacific Classic Stakes, as well as the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby. In fact, the first loss of Shared Belief’s career took place at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished a respectable fourth among strong competition.
7. Dayatthespa – $1,450,000
The big win for this five-year old mare took place at the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, beating the favored Stephanie’s Kitten by a length and a quarter, resulting in a $1,100,000 payday. Dayatthespa also won the First Lady Stakes and the Yaddo Stakes, with her only loss taking place at the De La Roe Stakes, where she finished second. She first participated in a Breeders’ Cup race in 2011, finishing ninth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf event.
6. Take Charge Brandi – $1,620,126
Take Charge Brandi finished first in four of eight races she ran this year, including the Starlet Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies event, both of which are Grade 1 thoroughbred events. This two-year old thoroughbred stunned the racing world with her Breeders’ Cup win, which was one of the biggest upset wins at odds of 62 to 1. This was the first of three major wins in six weeks to finish off the 2014 racing year.
5. Tonalist – $1,948,250
One of three thoroughbreds to beat California Chrome in a Triple Crown race this year was Tonalist, who won the Belmont Stakes ahead of second-place Commissioner and third-place Medal Count. Tonalist also won the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes and the Grade 1 Gold Cup Stakes on the way to qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished fifth.
4. Main Sequence – $2,610,000
Main Sequence enjoyed a flawless 2014 racing season, winning all races in which he competed. Even more impressive is the fact that all four events were Grade 1 races, which feature the biggest purses and best competition. Main Sequence’s biggest 2014 win was at the Breeders’ Cup Turf, collecting $1,650,000 for the victory, beating the favoured Flintshire by a half a length.
3. Untapable – $2,808,600
As the highest-earning filly in 2014, Untapale won all but one race, including first place in the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, two of the biggest events in the thoroughbred calendar. Her only loss of the year was due to a brief collision at the gates during the William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes, which resulted in a fifth place finish. Over her career, Untapable has earned an amazing eight wins in eleven starts.
2. California Chrome – $4,007,800
The biggest media sensation of the 2014 thoroughbred racing season was California Chrome, who went on a tear, pulling off five straight wins including the first two jewels of the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He was denied the crown by finishing fourth at the Belmont Stakes, potentially due to a cut caused by a minor collision at the start. California Chrome also finished a solid third at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, cementing a fantastic year for the three-year old colt.
1. Bayern – $4,389,680
Bayern had a monstrous year, winning six races and finishing top three in eight of ten events. His largest win was the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he held off California Chrome and Toast of New York for an upset victory, earning $2,750,000 in the process. This decisive win boosted him to the top of the earnings list for the 2014 thoroughbred racing season.