01/06/2015 1:39PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Texas Red

Debbie Roma

Even 14 months after the fact, Keith Desormeaux still couldn’t believe he left the 2013 Keeneland September yearling auction with a son of Afleet Alex for whom he paid a paltry $17,000.

“I still don’t realize how we got him for such a price because he was a physical masterpiece even then,” Desormeaux said. “Very correct, very confident, very intelligent looking – all of the things that we look for as horsemen in trying to acquire a good animal. Maybe it’s because Afleet Alex was a little bit on the cold side. But it shouldn’t matter.”

Desormeaux made those comments shortly after Texas Red ran a masterful race in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, rallying from last to win by a dominating 6 1/2 lengths over the previously undefeated Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem.

That victory against many of the best 2-year-olds in training helped Texas Red become a finalist for the Eclipse Award as North America’s top 2-year-old male. Twenty-three of the previous 30 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners have been named champion 2-year-old.

Texas Red also gave Desormeaux his first Grade 1 win as a trainer. And it came with his brother, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, in the irons. Just five weeks earlier, Kent Desormeaux had been seriously injured when he was kicked by a horse in the paddock.

“It’s obviously something special,” Keith Desormeaux said. “It makes the success all the more enjoyable when you have that success with your family.”

Desormeaux is part-owner of the colt along with Erich Brehm, Wayne Detmar, Lee Michaels, and Gene Voss.

Many times, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is won by a precocious horse who fails to reproduce that race in the spring classics as a 3-year-old. Based on the way Texas Red was built and how he acted, Desormeaux always felt that the horse would get better as he got older.

“He’s not precocious. He’s not small and speed. He’s big and growing into himself every day,” Desormeaux said. “What you’re seeing is the culmination of semi-maturity. He’s going to get better.”

From a speed-figure standpoint, Texas Red got better with each of his five races in 2014. He debuted at Arlington Park in a five-furlong race on Polytrack, losing by a neck. He finished fourth in another sprint race at Del Mar before winning a maiden race going a two-turn mile Aug. 20.

From that maiden win, Texas Red ran in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita – his first start on dirt – where he finished a respectable third behind fellow Eclipse finalist American Pharoah in a race that American Pharoah dictated on the front end.

In the Juvenile, there was plenty of pace, and Texas Red took full advantage, making a bold five-wide move on a track that up to that point had appeared to be speed-favoring.

On Dec. 20, Texas Red had his first official workout since the Breeders’ Cup, going an easy half-mile in 51.40 seconds. After a small ankle issue flared up, Texas Red returned to the work tab Jan. 3, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.40.

Texas Red is expected to begin his 3-year-old campaign in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita going seven furlongs Feb. 1.