01/08/2014 12:00AM

2013 Eclipse Awards: New Year's Day

photo by: Tom Keyser

In the week leading up to the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a lot of the attention regarding trainer Bob Baffert’s two runners focused on Tap It Rich, who just three weeks earlier had overcome a slow start and a wide trip to win his career debut  by 4 1/4 lengths.

Baffert cautioned not to get too excited. While Tap It Rich had immense raw talent, Baffert said, he may not be mentally prepared to handle the jump into the Juvenile. Baffert also cautioned not to forget about his other horse, New Year’s Day, who had won a maiden race at Del Mar in his second start, but who hadn’t raced in two months.

“He’s good,” Baffert said after the colt’s final workout. “He’s ready to roll.”

Indeed, New Year’s Day, at odds of 10-1 and ridden by Martin Garcia, rolled by Grade 1 winners We Miss Artie, Strong Mandate, and finally Havana in the final eighth of a mile of the Santa Anita stretch to win the $2 million Juvenile by 1 1/4 lengths. That victory propelled him to become a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old male. Twenty-three of the previous 29 winners of the Juvenile have been voted champion.

While Tap It Rich – who by the way finished fifth in the Juvenile – was running back just three weeks after his debut, New Year’s Day was making his first start in nine weeks, or since winning a one-mile maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 31. The horse he beat that day, Bond Holder, came back to win the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita in his next start on Sept. 28.

New Year’s Day, owned by Gary and Mary West, was being pointed to the FrontRunner but developed a fever and Baffert opted to skip it, believing he could get him ready for the Juvenile off workouts.

“I could have easily run him in the [FrontRunner] but I told them let’s pass this, I can get him ready,” Baffert said. “Gary has been really behind me. He said, ‘If you think you can get him ready, get him ready.’ ”

West called New Year’s Day’s victory in the Juvenile his and his wife Mary’s “greatest achievement in horse racing.”

The Wests bought New Year’s Day, a son of Street Cry and the first foal out of the Grade 2 stakes-winning mare Justwhistledixie, for $425,000 out of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling auction. New Year’s Day debuted at Del Mar on Aug. 17, finishing third in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race before coming back two weeks later to win.

Baffert said that jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode New Year’s Day in his first two starts, told him after the colt’s first race that “when the light goes on he’s really going to be a good horse.”

Baffert said as he watched New Year’s Day finish the Juvenile, he couldn’t help but think about the Kentucky Derby, a race Baffert has won three times.

Unfortunately, New Year’s Day was retired in late December due to a non-displaced chip atop the sesamoid in his left hind leg sustained during a routine gallop at Santa Anita.

Baffert told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that having to retire New Year’s Day was “gut-wrenching for me.”

New Year’s Day will stand at stud at Hill ‘n Dale Farm in Kentucky.