01/05/2018 1:16PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: West Coast

Justin N. Lane
West Coast

For the second straight year, a colt who skipped the Triple Crown but had a brilliant second half of the year including a victory in the Travers Stakes could prevail as champion 3-year-old male, as West Coast looks to emulate Arrogate from a year ago.

Like Arrogate, West Coast is trained by Bob Baffert. Both never raced at age 2 but more than made up for lost time once they got to the track. West Coast won six times in nine starts in 2017, and never finished out of the money. He was aggressively campaigned, taking four trips from his California base to the East, which resulted in three stakes wins, including the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby, both Grade 1 races.

West Coast did not make his first start until Feb. 18, when he finished second to his Baffert-trained stablemate Bronze Age in a one-mile maiden race at Santa Anita. Three weeks later, facing just two rivals, he secured his maiden win as the 1-20 favorite and earned a berth in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

West Coast finished second in the Lexington, showing a bit of immaturity in deep stretch when getting nailed late by Senior Investment. He then returned to California and knocked out his first-level allowance condition when beating older rivals at Santa Anita.

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He went from strength to strength from that point forward. On the undercard of the Belmont Stakes, West Coast romped in the Easy Goer, giving every indication that in a year where a different horse would win all three Triple Crown races, he had the potential to make a late-season bid for the title.

West Coast returned to California and won the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby, overcoming a wide trip with a powerhouse move through the long stretch.

His ascension to the top of the division came in his next start, the Travers, where he left 11 rivals – including Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Belmont winner Tapwrit – well behind with a front-running 3 1/4-length victory.

Unlike Arrogate, who went straight from the Travers to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, West Coast sneaked in a start in the Pennsylvania Derby, again clobbering his rivals, this time by 7 1/4 lengths.

West Coast completed his year with a thoroughly respectable performance in the Classic. He did the best of the 3-year-olds in that race, finishing third to two outstanding older runners – Gun Runner, the heavy favorite to be named Horse of the Year, and Collected. He had come a long way from his maiden win less than eight months earlier.

West Coast, a colt by Flatter and out of the Honour and Glory mare Caressing – who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2000 – was purchased as a yearling for $425,000 at the Keeneland September sale by owners Gary and Mary West. He was bred by CFP Thoroughbreds. He will race as a 4-year-old, with his first start of 2018 scheduled to be the Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.