01/06/2016 1:01PM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Liam's Map

Debbie Roma

That gray comet streaking across the racing sky in 2015 was Liam’s Map, the colt of ridiculous speed and sneaky stamina who was beaten only once in four memorable sightings.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Vincent and Teresa Viola, Liam’s Map was campaigned in deference to tender suspensories that plagued him throughout his career. But when Pletcher was able to produce the son of Unbridled’s Song, there was never a misfire. In a career of eight races, Liam’s Map won six and was second twice. Bred in Kentucky by Albaugh Family Stable, Liam’s Map was bought for $800,000 as a yearling at the 2012 Keeneland September sale.

His four-race campaign as a 4-year-old commenced in June with an allowance win at Belmont Park that was over when the gates opened. Off that race, Liam’s Map was thrown into the deep end of the pool against Honor Code, Tonalist, and Lea in the historic Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, with its purse of $1.25 million.

:: 2015 Eclipse Awards: Finalist profiles

Liam’s Map led by more than four lengths inside the eighth pole that day, while Honor Code gave chase from far back. Then, in a great rush at the end, Honor Code got up to edge Liam’s Map by a neck.

One month later, Liam’s Map reappeared in the Woodward Stakes, without Honor Code in the field, and won wire-to-wire by nearly five lengths. The race triggered a clamor to see Liam’s Map run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic against American Pharoah because, went the thinking, he was the only horse who could keep the Triple Crown winner honest on the lead.

Instead, Liam’s Map was trained for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, to be run the day before the Classic. And while it was supposed to be the far easier spot, Liam’s Map did everything in his power to make it look like a challenge.

Breaking from post No. 3, Liam’s Map dawdled briefly when the gates opened and then had to take up or clip heels. That was enough to stuff Liam’s Map in behind the pacesetters, an unfamiliar sight. Down the backstretch, Javier Castellano was forced to check Liam’s Map again, and by then, it was apparent that every other rider in the race was ready to take his shot at the favorite.

Jose Lezcano, aboard Lea, looked back several times to clock Castellano’s progress. On the turn for home, with the first of Keeneland’s two finish lines in play, Lezcano made his move and opened a lead, but in the process, Liam’s Map was sprung free. Traveling hellbent on his left lead, Liam’s Map caught Lea with barely a sixteenth of a mile to run, then switched leads and drew away to win comfortably by 2 1/2 lengths.

It was a great way to end a brief and brilliant career. With his history of layoffs and light campaigns, it was no surprise to learn that Liam’s Map was retired and would stand at Lane’s End Farm.