In 2017 patience paid off for the connections of West Coast, who missed the Triple Crown races but thrived in the summer and fall to secure the 3-year-old male championship.
While Gary and Mary West’s West Coast didn’t compete in the classics, he announced his arrival Belmont Stakes (G1) day with a 3 3⁄4-length victory in the Easy Goer Stakes, having overcome a troubled start. The impressive performance had trainer Bob Baffert wondering a bit whether he should have started the son of Flatter in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, but West Coast soon provided plenty of top-level thrills.
West Coast followed the Easy Goer with his first graded stakes victory, the Los Alamitos Derby (G3), then was shipped back to New York where he delivered a front-running victory in the Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1)—drawing off in the stretch for a 3 1⁄4-length score. He followed with a 7 1⁄4-length romp in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) then closed the year with the top placing of any other 3-year-old in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), finishing third in his debut against older horses.
Gary West said it was exciting to see West Coast—the first Eclipse winner for the Wests—put it all together last season after not racing as a juvenile. In terms of missing the classics, he has no regrets about how the year played out.
“We knew when we bought West Coast he probably would not be a Triple Crown horse because of his late (May 14) foaling date. Had we rushed him to make those races, we would have ruined him, and he’d never have been nominated for an Eclipse Award,” West said. “We have learned that patience is vitally important in the development of a top racehorse and that if you rush them, you usually ruin them. People who have been around the racing game as long as I have know that the horse tells you when they are ready to run; you don’t tell the horse. And, great trainers such as Bob Baffert know when a horse is ready to run.”
It’s not an unfamiliar path for Baffert, who has enjoyed plenty of classic success but also has shown the ability to work with later-developing 3-year-olds. It’s the third straight 3-year-old male champion for Baffert after 2016 Eclipse Award winner Arrogate had a similar campaign—earning his maiden win in June, first stakes win in the Travers, and following it with a Breeders’ Cup Classic score.
Baffert’s run of three straight champion 3-year-old males started with 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah . Overall, the Hall of Fame trainer has conditioned a record eight 3-year-old male Eclipse winners.
Bred in Kentucky by Carl Pollard’s CFP Thoroughbreds, West Coast is out of 2000 champion 2-year-old filly Caressing. The Wests purchased West Coast for $425,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.