Anamoe Horse of the Year a fait accompli – or should it be?

Anamoe, barring unlikely and imaginative thinking, will almost certainly, but somewhat curiously, be crowned Australia’s 2022-23 Horse of the Year. 

His body of work, six Group 1 wins for the racing season, is way beyond that of any other candidate even if that tally includes a Winx Stakes which is about a legitimate Group 1 as the Wellington Boot (and that’s what it should be given). 

However, the logical argument is that the title should sit with Dubai Honour who was unbeaten in two Australian runs and had the better of Anamoe by two and a half lengths at their only meeting. 

Simple? Yes, but not so much in the overall assessment of these two horses. I’m disinclined to demean either which seems to be the popular default and the easy option given you can pick holes in the form. After all, four of Anamoe’s wins came at the immediate expense of the mares Hinged and Fangirl, neither of whom won a race in the season.  

Likewise, some will see Dubai Honour’s third to Romantic Warrior and Prognosis in Hong Kong as a rating decline but I’d say it was more than sound with the ground and tempo against and Tom Marquand riding his horse and not the race which rarely works in Hong Kong (and that race, incidentally, is not a consideration in Horse of the Year voting in any case). 

I disagree with the widely held view that neither would be competitive at 2000 metres in Europe. That’s illogical given the Anamoe’s form-line through State Of Rest, who later defeated subsequent Champion Stakes winner Bay Bridge in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. 

While I concede that even the Dubai Honour team questions where the horse would sit in Europe’s middle distance rankings, that conservative view ignores the real possibility he is much improved in 2023 or has recaptured his three-year-old Group 1 form on his preferred soft ground. I’ll be fascinated to see how he performs at home; how Romantic Warrior fares should he be taken to Japan and to see Prognosis on his return. 

Anamoe, of course, has been retired and does so every inch a highclass horse which he signalled with a stunning ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes win at two and confirmed at three and four….even if I do advocate that Dubai Honour should deny him the Horse of the Year title. 

As an unashamed fan of seeing our horses racing aboard, it’s disappointing Anamoe will not be heading to Royal Ascot but I suspect there may be a resurgence in overseas travel now life is largely back to normal and given the depth in our sprint and mile ranks. 

Giga Kick further underlined that sprinting depth and staked his claim, if any, for Horse of the Year honours when – last Saturday – he added the Doomben 10,000 to The Everest and All Aged Stakes on his season’s resume. 

However, his colours were lowered by I Wish I Win in their one meeting in the TJ Smith and thus it would be illogical to rate him above that horse whom many might argue is the best horse in Australia right now. I’d be among them.

Australia’s sprinting stocks are very strong once more with those two at the top of the rankings, even as Nature Strip and Eduardo come to the end of their notable careers. 

It’s pleasing to see Artorius, Coolangatta, Cannonball and The Astrologist will take their chance at Royal Ascot next month while there are any number of other local sprinters who could be competitive internationally – Mazu, In Secret, Lofty Strike, Private Eye, Overpass, Uncommon James and Buenos Noches.

The temptation must surely be there for a return to Hong Kong given recent prizemoney increases announced for the HKJC for December’s HKIR races which mean you can run for c. $1 million for second and $500,000 for third and, as it stands, Lucky Sweynesse is the only local to be feared.

Similarly the Hong Kong Mile must look more attractive given the prize increase and the fact that Laws Of Indices and, with respect, even Aegon have been competitive in the past two international Group 1 mile races run there. 

The Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m), reprogrammed to November 18 his year, might provide a new path to Hong Kong with horses aimed at either the 1200-metre Sprint or 1600-metre Mile in Hong Kong, 

Mr Brightside has been mooted as a possible Hong Kong International Mile contender later this year and we can rest assured that Annabel Neasham will continue to lead any resurgence in the number of Australiantrained horses going to Hong Kong. 

Asked if the motivation for travelling horses was the prizemoney on offer or the opportunity for business branding, Neasham told ANZ Bloodstock News: “It’s a bit of both. The prizemoney is very appealing on the world stage and it is a global industry, an international industry and the fact that the Hong Kong Jockey Club makes it so easy and are so welcoming it makes sense to go there. It may not be every year we have a horse good enough to come so when we do we’ll endeavour to make the most of it.

“It’s certainly something I want to focus on, travelling horses internationally. It was a bit tricky through Covid but now things have opened. We’re still quite new to training so the more we can get out and about, the more it does for our profile. And it’s a great experience for owners.

“With travel, we’re always a bit restricted with quarantine protocols but we see lots of horses go to Hong Kong and they go to Ascot all the time so you can work it out. Certainly, Dubai is another destination we’d look at and I’d love nothing more than to win a race in the UK but they’re tough to beat over there so it’s probably more a case of trying to find a sprinter and I haven’t got one good enough yet but who knows in the future, I’d love to go over there.”

In the meantime, we’ll await Royal Ascot where Coolangatta – who did beat I Wish I Win in the Lightning Stakes – could advance her claims, again if any, with victory in the King’s Stand Stakes. 

The Horse of the Year awards take into account all performances on Australian tracks as well as international performances by Australian-trained horses from the start of August last year to the end of July this year.

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