With 2016 drawing to a close, it is an appropriate time to look back on a racing year which was full of drama and suspense.
There were great races all over the world and here are just a few of the top horse-races run during 2016.
1 William Hill Cox Plate
Australian superstar Winx (Street Cry) confirmed her status as a true superstar when romping home to an eight length win in the 2016 Gr1 William Hill Cox Plate. In the process, Winx became just the eighth female to land the Cox Plate (Australia’s greatest Weight-For-Age race).
The great mare has now won her last 13 in a row- with her 13 race winning streak including nine Gr1 features. It had to be seen to be believed!
2 Arc de Triomphe
The 2016 Gr1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe did not attract the strongest field ever, but it did prove remarkable for both trainer Aidan O’Brien and sire Galileo –who were responsible for the first three home in the race –Found (Galileo), Highland Reel (Galileo) and Order Of St George (Galileo).
3 World Sports Betting Green Point Stakes
Few South African races were more anticipated this year than the Gr2 World Sports Betting Green Point Stakes, where reigning Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle (Greys Inn) met last season’s Equus Champion 3YO Marinaresco (Silvano). The Green Point Stakes lived up to expectations, where Legal Eagle (who appeared to get first run on his younger rival) dug down deep to withstand a late challenge from Marinaresco and win by 0.4 of a length. The pair, who seem on course to enjoy a noted rivalry, appear on course to clash in the 2017 Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and Gr1 Sun Met.
4 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Unbeaten in 2016, former US Horse Of The Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) was all the rage to land the 2016 Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic (he had been narrowly beaten in the same race two years ago). However, the charismatic chestnut found one too good in the form of once beaten 3yo Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song), who confirmed his brilliant 13.5 win in the Gr1 Travers Stakes with a half length defeat of the older champion.
5 Dubai World Cup
Beaten into second place one year earlier, US champion California Chrome made hacks of his 12 rivals to win the 2016 Gr1 Dubai World Cup by 3.75 lengths –despite his saddle slipping back during the running. The form of the Dubai World Cup was well and truly franked when beaten runners Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), Frosted (Tapit) and Vadamos (Monsun) all came out to win Gr1 races.
6 Vodacom Durban July
While the 2016 Vodacom Durban July field is unlikely to go down in history as the greatest ever, the race itself produced a ding-dong finish where less than three lengths separated the first three home.
Jockey Piere Strydom, who was winning the July for a fourth time, showed his brilliance in the saddle as he guided The Conglomerate (Lonhro) to a hard fought victory over what appeared to be a desperately unlucky Marinaresco (Silvano). Both the winner (draw 18) and runner up (draw 17) jumped from wide berths.
7 Mike And Carol Bass Champions Cup
Marinaresco rewarded his retiring trainer Mike Bass with a last Gr1 win in the last Gr1 race he saddled a runner with a remarkable feat when he fittingly won the Gr1 Mike And Carol Bass Champions Cup at Greyville on the very last day of the 2015-2016 racing calendar. An unlucky loser of the Gr1 Vodacom Durban July at his previous outing, Marinaresco was subsequently named Equus Champion 3YO Colt/Gelding following this victory.
8 SA Derby
Abashiri (Go Deputy) was another high profile 3yo last season to score an emotional win. The gelding had impressively won the first two legs of the South African Triple Crown (G2 Gauteng Guineas, G1 SA Classic) and was all the rage to win the Derby and make Triple Crown history. Abashiri duly did so –despite a less than stellar ride from jockey Karl Zechner –and duly collected a R2 000 000 bonus for landing the 2016 Triple Crown in front of a crowd who were largely dressed in the orange and black of Abashiri’s owners’ silks.
9 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Star 3yo filly Minding (Galileo) showed her brilliance, and versatility, when she outgamed male rivals to land the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Dropping back in trip (from 2000m), the 2016 Gr1 Qipco 1000 Guineas/Investec Oaks winner made it Gr1 win number seven with a half length win over Gr1 Prix Jacques le Marois hero Ribchester (Iffraaj).
Minding was named Cartier Horse Of The Year following her gritty season and she stays in training for 2017.
10 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Another hugely anticipated race was the 2016 Gr1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which saw older champions Beholder (Henny Hughest) and Stellar Wind (Curlin) take on the thus far undefeated champion Songbird (Medaglia D’Oro). While Stellar Wind could only finish fourth, Beholder and Songbird went head to head to fight out one of the best finishes of 2016, with the eventual verdict going to 6yo Beholder, who beat her 3yo rival by a nose.
A three time Breeders’ Cup winner, Beholder now retires to stud and will be mated to champion 2yo and red hot US sire Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) in 2017.