HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (Friday, January 16, 2015) – Based on an online vote by nearly 2,000 racing fans, California Chrome’s authoritative win in the 140th Kentucky Derby was named the 2014 National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Moment of the Year. The results of the poll were announced this morning at the third annual ThoroFan Awards Breakfast at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
California Chrome went off as the 5-2 Derby favorite coming off wins in four straight starts, including the $1 million Santa Anita Derby, all in his home state of California. Regular rider Victor Espinoza gave the modestly bred son of Lucky Pulpit a perfect ride, sitting just off the early pace in the third position before moving to the lead at the quarter pole. From there California Chrome opened up a five length lead in the stretch and easily held off the late closers to win by 1 3/4 lengths. It marks the second Derby victory for Espinoza and first for Art Sherman, who became the oldest Derby-winning trainer at 77, while propelling co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin to national stardom.
Moment of the Year balloting was conducted at the NTRA Web site, ntra.com, and offered voters 10 different images illustrating a range of human emotions as well as outstanding displays of equine athleticism. Finishing second was Wise Dan’s triumphant return from surgery to win the Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga Race Course.
The 2014 images and events that fans chose from (listed chronologically, with percentage of votes received, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percentage point):
- Seven-year-old gelding Game On Dude wins the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap by 1¾ lengths, becoming the first three-time winner in the Big ’Cap’s rich 77-year history. (9.62%)
- With his victory aboard We Miss Artie in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez becomes the first North American rider to surpass $300 million in career earnings. (0.47%)
- California Chrome wins the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in front of a crowd of 164,906, second-largest in Derby history. He becomes the first horse bred in the Golden State to wear the garland of roses since Decidedly in 1962. It is the second Derby victory for jockey Victor Espinoza and first for Art Sherman, who became the oldest Derby-winning trainer at 77. (30.5%)
- California Chrome’s quest to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 36 years falls short as the heavy favorite dead-heats for fourth behind winner Tonalist in the 146th Belmont Stakes. The third-largest crowd in Belmont history, 102,199, watches the drama unfold, while another 20.6 million viewers, the second-highest Belmont viewership on record, tune in on NBC. In the aftermath co-owner Steve Coburn tells NBC’s Kenny Rice that the result is “a coward’s way out,” a sound bite that is replayed countless times in mainstream media. (5.69%)
- Trainer Jimmy Jerkens saddles the top two finishers in the $1 million Travers, with V.E. Day besting stablemate Wicked Strong in the Mid-Summer Derby at Saratoga Race Course. (0.94%)
- Two-time defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan returns after more than two months of recovery from emergency colic surgery to win the Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga Race Course with John Velazquez up. (20.07%)
- Track announcer Tom Durkin calls the final race of his illustrious 43-year career at Saratoga Race Course. Following the featured Spinaway Stakes – in which “Condo Commando was splash-tastic!” – Durkin is treated to a long standing ovation and an emotional retirement ceremony in the winner’s circle, coverage of which makes the front page of The New York Times. (17.49%)
- Two-time Horse of the Year Cigar dies at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital from complications following surgery for severe osteoarthritis in his neck. The popular member of racing’s Hall of Fame, who once won 16 consecutive races, had resided at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions since his retirement in 1999. (4.99%)
- Jockey Rosie Napravnik announces her retirement and pregnancy live on NBC Sports after winning the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff aboard Untapable. (6.22%)
- Bayern survives a tense inquiry into bumping at the start to win a controversial running of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the first Classic win for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, owner Kaleem Shah and jockey Martin Garcia. (3.99%)
“California Chrome’s win in the Kentucky Derby was the signature effort by one of the most popular racehorses of this decade,” said Keith Chamblin, NTRA Senior Vice President of Marketing. “This year was arguably the deepest pool of moments we’ve ever had but in the end the fans reminded us that nothing trumps an awesome performance by a legendary horse.”
The first-ever “NTRA Moment of the Year” was the touching scene between Charismatic and jockey Chris Antley following the 1999 Belmont Stakes. The next year’s winner was the stretch run of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which saw Tiznow hold on for a dramatic victory against Giant’s Causeway. Tiznow won again the following year as fans selected his stirring repeat victory in the Classic over Sakhee. In 2002, fans cited the passing of the last living Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew. In 2003, the popular Kentucky Derby win by Funny Cide was selected. Birdstone’s upset win in the Belmont Stakes over Smarty Jones took down top honors for 2004. In 2005, fans selected Afleet Alex’s spectacular victory in the 2005 Preakness Stakes.
Voters in 2006 chose Barbaro’s gallant struggle to recover from his Preakness injury while at the New Bolton Center. The 2007 Moment of the Year was a historic victory by filly Rags to Riches over Curlin in the Belmont Stakes. In 2008, it was Zenyatta’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Zenyatta “repeated” in 2009 as fans selected her triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In 2010, fans selected Blame’s narrow Breeders’ Cup Classic victory over Zenyatta. Drosselmeyer’s hard-fought win over Game on Dude in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the public’s choice for 2011. For 2012, the recovery of Paynter from near-deadly battles with laminitis and colitis captured the hearts of voters like no other story. Last year, fans recognized Mucho Macho Man’s nose victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic for his popular connections.
About the NTRA
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 horse racing interests and thousands of individual stakeholders consisting of horseplayers, racetrack operators, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity, welfare and integrity of Thoroughbred racing through consensus-based leadership, legislative advocacy, safety and integrity initiatives, fan engagement and corporate partner development. The NTRA owns and manages the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, NTRA.com, the Eclipse Awards, the National Handicapping Championship, NTRA Advantage, a corporate partner sales and sponsorship program, and HORSE PAC, a federal political action committee. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and New York City. NTRA press releases appear on NTRA.com, Twitter (@ntra) and Facebook (facebook.com/1NTRA).