Steve rates the major happenings and horses (with a slight AUS/NZ bias) of 2017
1. WINX (Street Cry): Cruised to nine consecutive wins in the calendar year including, of course, a third straight Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m). Entitled to be rated world’s best ahead of Gun Runner (Candy Ride), Enable (Nathaniel), Redzel (Snitzel), Cracksman (Frankel) and Kitasan Black (Black Tide).
I’ve been foolish enough, previously, to question her opposition but I now accept it’s virtually irrelevant. It’s as meaningless and sacrilegious as looking for holes in Bradman’s batting average. Twenty-two straight wins (including 15 Group Ones) from 1300 metres to 2200 metres is incomparable.
As to the future, I’m not sure you should be packing your bags, just yet. My bet is that she won’t race anywhere other than Sydney and Melbourne. Pity The Everest (1200m) isn’t four weeks before the Cox Plate as she could win both.
- THE EVEREST: A modern day record crowd of 33,512 came to Royal Randwick to see Redzel win the inaugural running of the $10,000,000 race and the betting turnover was also monumental. Even a sceptical Victorian has to acknowledge it was an undoubted success as a raceday.
However I’m not convinced it will remain in its current form after the first three years and I wonder just how they’ll assemble a high–quality, full field in 2018 especially if Redzel maintains his dominance. Anyone who paid up for a three-year-old last year will be gun shy about doing same this year and they won’t be queueing up to come from overseas (certainly not from Hong Kong as the situation stands now).
- THE PEGASUS: The inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup (Gr 1, 9f) at Gulfstream Park was in January 2017 even though it seems so much further back than that. It was won by Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) who then went on to a stunning World Cup win but flopped three times later in the year (hence his admission from paragraph one). He’s retired to Juddmonte, Kentucky.
The future of the Pegasus hinges on a private enterprise decision not on that of a race club or a governing body. Gun Runner is expected to have his final start in the $16,000,000 race on 27 January, after which he will retire to stand the 2018 season at Three Chimneys. The race might be competitive with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr 1, 10f) placegetters Collected (City Zip) and West Coast (Flatter), both trained by Bob Baffert, likely to run along with Giant Expectations (Frost Giant) who upset Collected at Santa Anita on Boxing Day.
- HUGH BOWMAN: Fitting that he rounded off the year with victory in the Japan Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) after his great success in Australia and Hong Kong. Named world’s best jockey. Expecting more of the same in 2018.
- REDZEL: Finished the year with six consecutive victories including the Everest and Darley Classic (registered as VRC Stakes) (Gr 1, 1200m). It is now simply ‘no contest’ as to who is the best sprinter in Australia. Expecting more of the same in 2018.
- MARSHA (Acclamation): She became the highest-priced horse sold at a European auction, making a seemingly nonsensical 6,000,000 guineas (c. $11,000,000) at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale.
The Prix de l’Abbaye (Gr 1, 1000m) and Nunthorpe Stakes (Gr 1, 5f) winner, trained by Sir Mark Prescott, was bought by MV Magnier, son of Coolmore Stud’s John Magnier.
Well and truly eclipses the 2009 Australian record price of $3,850,000 paid for the multiple Group One winner Samantha Miss (Redoute’s Choice).
- AIDAN O’BRIEN: A record 28 Group One wins in a year is entitled to a mention.
- RUBY WALSH: Became the first jockey to ride four winners in a day at the Cheltenham Festival. He is the Festival’s most successful rider with 56 wins. In August 2015, Walsh won the Australian Grand National (4500m) on Bashboy (Perugino).
- CALIFORNIAN FIRES: More than 40 horses died and dozens more were badly injured when fire engulfed the San Luis Rey Downs training centre in California in December.
- MARKUS JOOSTE: The former head of Steinhoff International Holdings NV, who quit amid an accounting scandal, is reportedly being sued by three South African lenders after a racehorse company he was a director of failed to meet its financial commitments. The ramifications are immense.
- HENRY PLUMPTRE: The highly competent administrator left Godolphin after the failure to report an outbreak of strangles scandal. “The reputation and integrity of Godolphin is the most important aspect of what we do and this issue has impacted on that reputation,” he said explaining his resignation. A reputation that has taken a bit of a battering here and abroad in recent years.
- THE SALE OF CAMBRIDGE STUD: Where Plumptre will be chief executive… after the sale by Sir Patrick Hogan to Auckland couple Brendan and Jo Lindsay, former owners of Sistema Plastics.
- GODOLPHIN and MAGIC MILLIONS: Vin Cox takes the Godolphin job while Barry Bowditch takes over at Magic Millions.
- THE CLOSURE OF NEWMARKET SALES YARDS: The iconic sales venue will soon be apartments as Inglis exited the premises in its 150th year. Looking forward to the first sale (Classic) at Riverside Stables at Warwick Farm, commencing on 10 February.
- LLOYD WILLIAMS WINS SIXTH MELBOURNE CUP: With Rekindling (High Chaparral), whom he bought as a yearling, so ‘fair play’ to him as our English and Irish friends would say but even the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) fears that it will become the world’s most boring race if Williams keeps winning it.
- JOSEPH O’BRIEN SAVES THE DAY: O’Brien, just 24, provided the refreshing angle as he became the youngest trainer to win the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) and usurped his father, who trained the runner-up and who’s yet to win the race.
- HIGHLAND REEL (Galileo): Rounded off a great career with his win in the Hong Kong Vase (Gr 1, 2400m). Group One winner in three countries although no match for Wi nx in her first Cox Plate. After finishing five and half lengths behind the great mare in that 2015 Cox Plate, he then – next start – trounced the multiple Group One winner and two times Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) runner-up Flintshire (Dansili) in his first Hong Kong Vase win. Highland Reel subsequently went on to claim a further five Group/Grade One wins.
He is, of course, a son of the Australian–bred Danehill (Danzig) mare Hveger, the sister to Elvstroem and half–sister to Haradasun (Fusaichi Pegasus). She’s also produced dual Group Two winner Idaho (Galileo) and the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) runner-up Valdemoro (Encosta De Lago).
- DAWR RESTRICTIONS ON HORSE MOVEMENT: From Hong Kong to Australia. This meant that no Australian horses competed at December’s International race meeting at Sha Tin but the first ‘real’ impact may be felt as early as next week with the Hong Kong Jockey Club believed to be absent from the Magic Millions sales.
- ENABLE (Nathaniel): Underlined her class with a decisive win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, beating Cloth Of Stars (Sea The Stars) who was bred by Victorian Peter Anastasiou.
- KITASAN BLACK (Black Tide): Retires to Shadai Stallion Station after winning four Group Ones in 2017 including the Arima Kinen (Gr 1, 2500m) at his final appearance on Christmas Eve.
- GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride): The Breeders’ Cup Classic was his fourth straight Group One win achieved by an aggregate of 25 lengths.
- HONOURABLE MENTIONS to the following local racetrack performers (behind Winx and Redzel): – Merchant Navy (Fastnet Rock); Ace High (High Chaparral); She Will Reign (Manhattan Rain); Bonneval (Makfi); Shoals (Fastnet Rock); Tosen Stardom (Deep Impact); Egg Tart (Sebring); Happy Clapper (Teofilo) and Humidor (Teofilo).
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