The winners of the His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Horseracing Excellence Awards for horseracing excellence, established by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, were honoured on Thursday, March 29, 2018, two days prior to the 2018 renewal of the Dubai World Cup, the richest day in global horseracing.
The awards recognise the best performances throughout the year from the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners who competed on Dubai World Cup day 2017, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award and fan-voted People’s Choice Award. Held as part of the Dubai World Cup Welcome Reception, the HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Horeracing Excellence Awards are an extension of Sheikh Mohammed’s long-term vision for racing in Dubai, which began with the establishment of the Dubai World Cup in 1996.
The winners of Best Horse, Best Jockey, Best Trainer and Best Owner were based on a tally of statistical data compiled by the U.S. Jockey Club and analysed by a committee consisting of representatives from Nielsen Sports, the premier provider of analytics and insights within the sports industry, and KPMG, a professional firm providing audit, tax and advisory services. The committee reviewed performances in Group and Graded races from the period running from Dubai World Cup 2017 through Super Saturday, March 10th, 2018.
Best Horse has been awarded to Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner, who never lost after a game second in the Dubai World Cup to Arrogate. His five consecutive Grade 1 victories included the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
Best Jockey has been awarded to Christophe Soumillon, whose monumental 2017 season included setting the European record for wins in a calendar year, as well as victories in the UAE Derby on Godolphin’s Thunder Snow and Dubai Gold Cup on Aga Khan’s Vazirabad.
Best Trainer goes to Aidan O’Brien, whose record-breaking 2017 included 28 Group/Grade 1 victories around the world. The Ballydoyle-based Irish conditioner broke the record set by the great Bobby Frankel. He had nine runners on Dubai World Cup night in 2017, including Longines Dubai Sheema Classic runner-up Seventh Heaven.
Best Owner goes to Godolphin after a phenomenal 2017 season in which the operation won 18 Group/Grade 1 events throughout the world, including the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic with Jack Hobbs, Breeders’ Cup Turf with Talismanic, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with Wuheida and Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes with Ribchester. All four of those of those were with different trainers.
The Lifetime Achievement Award, decided by committee, goes to trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, whose retirement was announced earlier this year. An icon in global horseracing for decades, Head-Maarek conditioned more than 60 Group 1 winners, won three editions of Europe’s top race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, trained a record-tying seven winners of the French 1000 Guineas and blazed the trail for female trainers throughout the world with her talent, class and dedication to her craft.
The fan-voted People’s Choice Award, which recognises the most compelling 2017 moment or accomplishment in racing to have taken place in any country represented by a runner in the 2017 Dubai World Cup has been award to American mare Lady Eli and the team surrounding her. After recovering from life-threatening Laminitis, the Chad Brown-trained fan favourite did the impossible and returned an even better horse, winning Grade 1 races from coast-to-coast and ultimately becoming a champion for Sol Kumin’s Sheep Pond Partners.