West Coast

With the exception of California Chrome, no other horse's name mentions the Golden State so directly. At least not in recent memory.

And thanks to his natural talent, West Coast earned himself a place in California racing history by becoming part of its long list of champions.

Sired by Flatter and trained by Bob Baffert, West Coast came from a family that housed several win-early types. He added to that tradition quickly, graduating in just his second career start for owners Gary and Mary West. He handled a very small field in doing so, but West Coast showed his class next time out with a larger group in the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Not only did he finish second in a graded event in his first try against winners, he successfully shipped out of state and actually came close to winning before getting passed late in the one and one-sixteenth mile contest. Despite the defeat, West Coast uncorked a terrific performance after getting a big class raise as well as traveling across the country in only his third start.

Looking back, the Lexington was really a foreshadowing of what was to come.

After returning to California, West Coast put together an impressive five-race winning streak that saw him victorious at the same number of tracks. After defeating allowance optional claiming company going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita, West Coast came from off the pace in Belmont Park's Easy Goer Stakes to win with a sweeping move turning into the stretch. A cross-country trip to the Golden State followed, with West Coast prevailing in the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby. That set him up for the Grade I Travers at Saratoga, where he led all the way in the ten furlong Mid-Summer Derby while defeating Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing. Next came the one and one-eighth mile Grade II Pennsylvania Derby, which resulted in a daylight triumph for the bay colt.

In addition to scoring multiple stakes victories, three of them graded, West Coast's winning streak highlighted his versatility as a racehorse. He proved he could handle multiple racetracks during that point of his career, and he also expanded his ability to navigate different distances, winning at three different routes of ground during that stretch. Furthermore, West Coast employed different running styles, demonstrating he could win after getting the early lead (Travers), with a stalking trip (Pennsylvania Derby), or coming from off the pace (Easy Goer). He also had no trouble racing wide in the stretch if that was what it took to win (Los Alamitos Derby).

And West Coast did all of this while looking relaxed. He just seemed to move on up with no trouble and take over the lead. But he could be game if needed, as evidenced by when he turned away Irap and Gunnevera in the stretch during the Travers. It was as if West Coast had that laid-back California persona, but it belied a toughness that could be unearthed when called upon.

West Coast's winning streak came to a halt in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar, but he accounted himself well by finishing third, highest among the three-year-olds in the field. That put the cap on a superb 2017 campaign, and West Coast's work earned him a well-deserved Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Male.

Brought back to the races as a four-year-old, West Coast got 2018 off to a fine start with a second in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup, losing only to recently named Horse of the Year Gun Runner (who also won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar). He produced another runner-up finish in the Dubai World Cup, and resurfaced in the fall to grab the place spot in the Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita. That set West Coast up for a return engagement in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it would not be his day at Churchill Downs. The final start of West Coast's career resulted in a seventh place finish, the only time he ever finished outside the top three.

But the Classic is really just a small part of West Coast's career. He should be celebrated for his focus, talent, and versatility. He is a truly unique horse, and he put together a truly comprehensive and memorable sophomore season.

When West Coast's progeny begins to race, it will be interesting to see what traits their sire handed down to them. Perhaps they will be just as effective going a mile or greater (throughout his career, West Coast never attempted sprinting). Maybe they will win at different tracks, and do so with the ability to rely upon different running styles.

Who knows? Maybe West Coast will be just as versatile a sire as he was a racehorse.

Entry added November 14, 2020. AF