01/08/2014 1:04PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Sahara Sky

photo by: Tom Keyser

At the midway point of the 2013 season, Sahara Sky was the undisputed leader of the nation's sprint division. And although he was out of sight and pretty much out of mind during the second half of the year, Sahara Sky had accomplished enough during the winter and spring to be among the three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the year's top sprinter.

Sahara Sky is a Florida-bred son of Pleasant Tap out of the Storm Cat mare Seeking the Sky owned in partnership by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and Kim Lloyd.

Sahara Sky had a fairly undistinguished career through his 2012 campaign, which was halted prematurely following a troubled fourth-place allowance finish in June, before returning as a 5-year-old in 2013 with four huge performances in graded stakes, two on each coast.

Sahara Sky came back from a seven-month vacation to open the year with a surprising, come-from-behind, one-length victory in Santa Anita's Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes. Sahara Sky earned the first of four consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures for that effort while becoming a graded stakes winner for the first time at odds of 21-1.

Sahara Sky proved that his performance in the Palos Verdes was no fluke when again rallying from near the rear of the pack to a three-quarter-length triumph the following month in the Grade 2 San Carlos. He paired up 102 Beyers after covering seven furlongs that afternoon in a swift 1:21.28 at Santa Anita.

But the best was yet to come.

Hollendorfer decided to showcase his vastly improving sprinter on the big stage in New York not once but twice during the spring. He shipped him across the country to finish a hard-luck second behind Swagger Jack in the Grade 1 Carter before taking the Big Apple by storm six weeks later with a last-to-first nose decision over Cross Traffic and a stellar field going a mile in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, for which he received a career-best 110 Beyer.

"One of our goals was to win the Metropolitan Handicap," Hollendorfer said. "I'd never won it, both Kim and I wanted a chance to win it, and we had a little added confidence because we thought with a little better trip, [Sahara Sky] might have also won the [Carter]."

Unfortunately, Sahara Sky would not race again in 2013. Hollendorfer sent Sahara Sky to the farm in mid-August for a rest, with the slim hope of bringing him back in time to make the Breeders' Cup. But by late September, Hollendorfer tossed in the towel for the year.

"He got body-sore over the summer," Hollendorfer said at that time. "And we won't mind missing the Breeders' Cup since this horse has already been so good to me and my partner this year."

Sahara Sky concluded his brief but successful 2013 campaign with three wins and a second in four starts for earnings of $740,000.