Thursday, December 26, 2013

Year in Review: My Favorite Races of 2013

As we are nearing the end of the year, I'm reminded of so many breathtakingly wonderful racing moments we were privileged to witness this season. From the rise of superstars to the retirement of champions, we were treated to a bevy of moments that we will not soon forget. 

Below, is a review of this past year of racing, which is highlighted by my personal favorite race from each month of the year. I hope you have as much fun as I did reliving all of these fantastic runs and, as always, let me know some of your favorite races from 2013 either in the comments below or via Twitter (@chare889). 


January: Smarty Jones Stakes-- Will Take Charge
One of the many "forgotten" stakes, the Smarty Jones stakes, which has only been in existence since 2008, hadn't had a winner who went on to be a top-class horse. That was the case, until this year, when a little known horse, who prior to running only had a maiden special weight win to his name, introduced himself to the nation...or at least, to all of Arkansas.





February: Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap-- Point of Entry
It was billed as the showdown between multiple Grade 1 winner Point of Entry and 2011 Champion Three-Year-Old Colt Animal Kingdom and boy, did it live up to the hype. Coming off the far turn, it was just the two of them dueling side-by-side. Despite a game effort from the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, he was out battled by the son of Dynaformer on this occasion.





March: Dubai Sheema Classic-- St. Nicholas Abbey
In this race last year, St. Nicholas Abbey finished just a neck behind fellow European raider Cirrus Des Aigles and this year's task didn't appear to be any easier with Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna in the field. The son of the late Montjeu was more than up to task, however, and he pulled clear of the Japanese filly down the straight. Little did we know that would be one of the last times we would see St. Nicholas Abbey, but we hope that he continues to fight on and has a successful recovery. 




April: T J Smith Stakes-- Black Caviar
As is the case any year, a few of our favorites retire, but this month saw the end of a glittering career from one of the best we'll ever see: Black Caviar. The daughter of Bel Esprit retired with an undefeated twenty-five race career, but her final race was one of the most special of them all. It not only broke the Australian record for most Group 1 wins, but it further solidified her status in horse racing history. 



May: Qipco 1000 Guineas-- Sky Lantern
It was here that the beautiful grey filly Sky Lantern showed exactly what she is capable of when at her best, as she showed a superb turn of foot when running down her rivals to win by a half-length and hand Richard Hughes his first UK Classic win.



June: Firecracker Handicap-- Wise Dan
Few American horses' runs are more anticipated than those of 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who was riding a six-race winning streak entering this one, which was to be contested under the lights at Churchill Downs. While there didn't appear to be any threats to Wise Dan in the field on paper, this turned out to be a fantastic race in which the six-year-old son of Wiseman's Ferry showed us that even a hedge can't stop him from reaching the wire first.



July: Coral-Eclipse-- Al Kazeem
Few horses in the world had a better start to the year than Al Kazeem, who won four straight to start his 2013 campaign. This, his final of those four wins, was about as beautiful as they come, as he simply found another gear when dueling with frontrunner Mukhadram in what was a strong field that also included the likes of Declaration of War and The Fugue. 




August: Maiden Special Weight-- Honor Code
I'm not sure any race this season had more of an impact on Twitter than Honor Code's maiden victory. On a sealed sloppy track at Saratoga, the son of A.P. Indy, who's pedigree is about as blue-blooded as it gets, was sent off as the second favorite in his debut, but his backers had to have thought it was all over by the half-mile pole, where he trailed the field by over twenty-two lengths. What happened after that can't even be fully described in words. 





September: Beldame Invitational-- Princess of Sylmar
It was the Princess versus the Queen in this showdown that pitted 2012 Champion Older Mare and two-time defending Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta against the Kentucky Oaks winner and rising star Princess of Sylmar, who entered this contest having won three-straight Grade 1 races. It turned out to be a crowing moment for the Princess, who won what was her first start versus elders with relative ease. 




October: Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-- Treve
After impressively winning the Prix Vermeille, three-year-old filly Treve stamped herself as one of the favorites heading into the Arc at Longchamp. Despite a wide post and a new jockey aboard, Treve remained unbeaten in five starts after demolishing what many hailed as one of the strongest Arc fields in recent memory. 




November: Weatherbys Novices' Hurdle-- Mountain Tunes
Under normal circumstances, perhaps this wouldn't be a well-regarded race, but this was not your average day at the track. When it comes to racing, we tend to say it is all about the horse and often the jockey is an afterthought, but this one was all about AP McCoy and the quest for his 4,000th National Hunt win. It was only fitting that this monumental victory came as the result of another masterful ride from the Champ. 




December: Arima Kinen-- Orfevre
After finishing second in the the Arc yet again, the Japanese hero Orfevre was pointed to the Arima Kinen for what would be the final race of his career. Although some of the usual suspects had opted not to run here, defending champion Gold Ship still loomed a large threat. Orfevre was much the best on this day, however, and he ended his racing career with style. 










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