01/07/2015 12:58PM

California Chrome, Bayern, Main Sequence lead Eclipse Award finalists

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Nikki Sherman
Bayern (right) and California Chrome (left), the first and third finishers in the Breeders' Cup Classic, were announced Wednesday as finalists for the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, along with Main Sequence.

Bayern and California Chrome, two members of an outstanding class of 3-year-olds in 2014, and the top older turf runner Main Sequence are the three finalists for Horse of the Year, it was announced Wednesday.

The three finalists for all 17 Eclipse Award categories – both equine and human – were revealed on HRTV. The finalists were determined by votes cast by members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose bloc includes racing secretaries and members of Equibase. Of the 280 eligible voters, 265 returned ballots.

Voting closed last Sunday. Voters were asked to select the top three in each division to determine the finalists. The votes from all those organizations are pooled, and the person or horse receiving the most first-place votes in his respective division is declared the champion.

The winners will be announced at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards dinner Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park.

:: 2014 ECLIPSE AWARDS: Full list of finalists and profiles

Bayern, whose biggest win came in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and California Chrome, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, are two of the finalists for champion 3-year-old male, along with Shared Belief, who was the champion 2-year-old male of 2013. Not making the top three for champion 3-year-old male was Tonalist, the winner of the Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Main Sequence won all four of his starts last year, all in Grade 1 company on turf, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf. In addition to being up for Horse of the Year, Main Sequence is a finalist for a pair of division titles as champion male turf horse and champion older male.

His rivals for male turf horse are Karakontie, the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, and Wise Dan, who was Horse of the Year as well as champion older male and champion turf horse in both 2012 and 2013.

Main Sequence and Wise Dan are two of the finalists for champion older male, along with Palace Malice, the winner of the Metropolitan Handicap. Not making the top three in this division was Goldencents, who was second in the Met Mile and won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for the second straight year.

Goldencents is, however, a finalist for champion sprinter against Private Zone, who won the Vosburgh and the Cigar Mile, and Work All Week, who beat Private Zone in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Among those not making the top three were Palace, a two-time Grade 1 sprint winner, and Bobby’s Kitten, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

As with Main Sequence, Dayatthespa is a finalist in two divisions – champion female turf runner and champion older female.

Dayatthespa, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, is a strong favorite for the grass title against Crown Queen and Stephanie’s Kitten. Not making the cut was Euro Charline, like Crown Queen a 3-year-old, but unlike Crown Queen a Grade 1 winner against older runners in the Beverly D. Stakes, in which she defeated Stephanie’s Kitten.

In the older female category, Dayatthespa is up against Close Hatches, a winner of three Grade 1 dirt races, and Don’t Tell Sophia, the winner of the Spinster and second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Not making the cut was two-time Grade 1 winner Iotapa, third in the Distaff.

The Distaff winner, Untapable – who also won the Kentucky Oaks – is a cinch to be named champion 3-year-old filly. Her rival finalists are Stopchargingmaria and Sweet Reason.

Another slam dunk is Judy the Beauty, who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and is the overwhelming favorite to win the female sprint title against fellow finalists Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason, both vanquished by Judy the Beauty in the Breeders’ Cup.

American Pharoah, a two-time Grade 1 winner who missed the Breeders’ Cup, is a finalist for champion 2-year-old male against two Breeders’ Cup winners – Hootenanny, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and Texas Red, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Among those not making the top three were Carpe Diem, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up, and Dortmund, the undefeated winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity.

A pair of Breeders’ Cup winners – Lady Eli (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Take Charge Brandi (Juvenile Fillies) – are finalists for champion 2-year-old filly, along with Condo Commando.

Champion steeplechaser will be decided between Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, and Makari, all winners of major Grade 1 jump races.

The battle for champion jockey is between two prior winners – Javier Castellano and John Velazquez – and Joel Rosario. Not making the cut was Victor Espinoza, the rider of California Chrome, who tied with Castellano for third in Grade 1 wins (9) behind Velazquez (13) and Rosario (11).

Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, prior winners as champion trainer, are finalists again, along with Chad Brown, who won three Breeders’ Cup races. Baffert trains Bayern, but the trainers of the other finalists for Horse of the Year – Graham Motion (Main Sequence) and Art Sherman (California Chrome) – did not make the cut. Pletcher, Brown, and Baffert finished 1-2-3 in purse earnings last year and were the top three in Grade 1 wins.

Similarly, purse earnings seemed the overriding factor among voters for champion owner, as the top three – Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds, and Kaleem Shah – are the finalists. Shah owns Bayern, but neither the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings, which owns Main Sequence, nor Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, who own California Chrome, were among the three finalists.

Flaxman Holdings won five Grade 1 races, more than any other owner, and Coburn and Martin won four Grade 1 races, tying for second with Shah, the Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah, and Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds. Midwest Thoroughbreds, which owns Work All Week, led the nation in wins.

The Ramseys also are finalists for champion breeder, along with Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs and Winchell Thoroughbreds. Flaxman Holdings and Martin and Coburn are notable omissions here, too. Flaxman Holdings tied for the lead with Adena Springs and Pam and Marty Wygod for Grade 1 wins among breeders with five each, while Martin and Coburn were among those tied at four. Both Main Sequence and California Chrome are homebreds.

There was a startling omission among the finalists for champion apprentice jockey, where Drayden Van Dyke, who led his brethren in both wins and earnings, is the odds-on favorite against fellow finalists Angel Cruz and Taylor Rice. Not among the top three is Juan Saez, the talented young rider who was killed in an accident at Indiana Grand in October. At the time of his death, Saez was second among his peers in wins and third in earnings.