01/05/2018 2:06PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Beach Patrol


“Oh yeah, Beach Patrol. Nice horse. Really nice horse! Can’t win the big one, though.”

So a racing conversation might have gone as recently as this past Aug. 11, at which point Beach Patrol was, perhaps, testing his connections’ patience. Like, c’mon already, horse – go ahead and win a race.

Beach Patrol had eked out a narrow victory in the Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 13, 2016. He then strung together four straight second-place finishes, three in Grade 1 competition, and three by less than one length. Things got worse before they got better. Beach Patrol finished a close fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June and a close third in the Grade 1 United Nations this past July.

About that United Nations run: Beach Patrol got into a wicked, prolonged front-end battle in a race ultimately dominated by closers, and he did very well to hang in for third. And then, finally, the colt broke through. He won the Grade 1 Arlington Million on Aug. 11 by a half-length, his first victory in a year, and then routed 10 rivals in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, winning by five lengths in one of the strongest North American turf performances in 2017.

Beach Patrol was back to being second best in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, but by then he had altered his narrative. This wasn’t just another near -miss, but a performance that cemented Beach Patrol’s position as a truly elite grass performer during the season, making him a finalist to become champion turf male of 2017.

Trained by Chad Brown for James Covello, Head of Plains Partners, Sheep Pond Partners et al, Beach Patrol, a 4-year-old during 2017, was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Shuford. Beach Patrol, who is by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Quiet American mare Bashful Bertie, was sold early, fetching $250,000 as a weanling at Keeneland’s November sale in 2013, but the pedigree accurately suggested he might mature later in his career.

Beach Patrol raced just twice at age 2, and the Secretariat the following year was his first stakes win. Always a galloping-type turf horse with a strong pace, he was on the lead in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap to start his 2017 campaign, a race in which he was run down by stablemate Almanaar and then disqualified from second to fourth. He led again over a sodden Churchill Downs course in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, where Churchill-loving Divisidero ran him down in the final furlong.

Probably it was no accident that, after the United Nations loss – as well as a jockey switch to Joel Rosario – Beach Patrol was held off the early lead in the Million and the Joe Hirsch. The Hirsch marked Beach Patrol’s first start beyond 1 1/4 miles and showed not only could he stay 1 1/2 miles, but that he could finish off such a race with zeal.

Beach Patrol tried the distance for the second time in the BC Turf, and after sitting second again, he took the lead in upper stretch and held a half-length advantage at the stretch call. Talismanic had pulled a perfect trip and came at Beach Patrol in the final furlong, but even during his losing streak, Beach Patrol always ran hard to the wire. He did so again at Del Mar, and though it wasn’t quite enough to win, it was plenty to cement his position as one of the best North American grass horses of the year.