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Racing’s 20 to 1: Top 20 Racing Moments (from an Australian perspective) in 2011

December 28, 2011

My second list is the top 20 racing moments, from my perspective, in 2011.

I don’t expect everyone to agree but these were the moments that stood out in my mind.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin to look to 2012, but for now, enjoy the list!

20. The Warrnambool May Carnival

Personally, I found Warrnambool to be a highlight rather than a lowlight. While the antics of Banna Strand were unfortunate in the feature Grand Annual Steeplechase, the victory of Al Garhood was courageous, stunning and well deserved. Warrnambool Cup second Niwot went on to become the first Australian horse home in the Melbourne Cup, while seeing Brenton Primmer overcome horrific injuries sustained in a race fall to co-train a winner brought tears to every racegoer.

19. Kiwi form stacks up

This is more of a personal moment, but I felt gratified to see the Kiwi form stand up throughout the spring. Whether this be through the deeds of King Mufhasa, Jimmy Choux, Lion Tamer or King’s Rose. After a number of years of drought it was great to see them fire this spring.

18. Sincero’s Stradbroke

Another moment that was personally a favourite of mine. I had the privilege of standing in the mounting yard, and I just so happened to be standing next to the owners of Sincero. They had accepted defeat 300m from home, but as Jason Taylor squeezed the son of Umatilla through a narrow opening, the cheers got louder and louder. When he crossed the line, the celebrations were heartwarming. It was great to see the smaller owners get a victory here. Definite highlight.

17. Typhoon Tracy bows out a winner

It is hard to believe that it was only this year that Typhoon Tracy bowed out from racing. She was victorious in the Orr Stakes, leading to predictions she would be hard to beat throughout the autumn. But the following Monday, Peter Moody announced her retirement from racing, saying she had earnt the chance to be a broodmare.

16. Shamrocker wins the Guineas/Derby double

No matter your thoughts on Shamrocker, the fact she could win the Australian Guineas/Australian Derby double is an extraordinary achievement. In the process she became the first filly since Research in 1989 to win Australia’s best three year old staying race. Unfortunately, she lost all semblance of form in the spring, with trainer Danny O’Brien attributing it to a degenerative condition. Nevertheless, her feats of the autumn deserve to be remembered.

15. Karuta Queen – the dream from Queanbeyan

Trainer Neville Layt had a dream run with speedy filly Karuta Queen. The filly won the Magic Millions Classic in impressive fashion before a failed attempt at the Golden Slipper. She came back stronger, recording a number of victories, as well as finishing second to the mighty Black Caviar in the Schillaci Stakes. Pretty good for a cheap filly!

14. Littorio wins upon his return – before retirement

It had been a long haul to get Turnbull Stakes and BMW winner Littorio back to the races. A series of injuries had meant trainer Nigel Blackiston had to nurse him along slowly. It became a sentimental return in the Makybe Diva Stakes after his breeder died after a battle with cancer. He was unfancied in the ring, but came with an incredible burst down the centre of the track to grab Glass Harmonium in the shadows of the post. Much was expected from the gelding, but another injury saw his retirement the following week.

13. Black and Bent’s jumps victories

The jumps industry needed a headline horse to survive the mounting pressure from outside the community. It got one in the form of Black and Bent. The galloper was freakish in some of his victories, including the Grand National Hurdle, which led connections to consider a Melbourne Cup tilt. This was quickly abandoned, and all eyes are on the galloper as he aims to emulate the likes of Crisp and Karasi on the global stage.

12. Danedream brilliant in the Arc

The Arc is the world’s best race. It is not my favourite race – my favourite race is the Melbourne Cup, closely followed by the Cox Plate. You can’t take the Australian out of me. But the Arc features the world’s best horses over the classic distance of 2400m. Any horse that wins has to be incredibly good. If they can win like Danedream did…well, they are a champion. She won by 5L in very good time, with horses like So You Think, Snow Fairy and Workforce trailing well behind. Couldn’t carry that form over to Japan, but it will be interesting to see where she goes in 2012.

11. Social media revolution hits racing industry

Social media, in particular Twitter, has revolutionised the industry. While a few users were onboard prior to 2011, the explosion in 2011 has been quite extraordinary. It is now a hub for all industry news, debate and information. Trainers, jockeys, administrators and media personalities are now easily contactable by the average punter, and it has become a new meeting place for those in the industry. The fining of Lee Freedman after his tweet regarding the late scratching of one of his horses demonstrated the new-found place of Twitter in the industry.

10. Mosheen wins the Oaks in a canter

It doesn’t matter who she beat, who was missing or what the circumstances were. The win of Mosheen in the Oaks was special. Just as tight finishes are attractive to the once a year racegoers, massive victories are also applauded. In this instance, the win of Mosheen was a great advertisement for racing during the one week of the year where the industry gets all the attention – Melbourne Cup week. For that alone, this win must be respected.

9. Imports dominate

For the last 30 years the imported galloper has been another piece in the racing puzzle. They were rare enough to be an attraction. It was Colin Hayes who was the early beneficiary of the import, with the likes of Beldale Ball, At Talaq and Almaarad. David Hayes continued the tradition when he took over Lindsay Park with the likes of Jeune and Tawqeet. However, it was the decision by expat Kiwi trainer Chris Waller to go to the Tattersalls Horses in Training sale in England a number of years ago which led to the influx we are in the midst of now. Suddenly, it became the done thing to buy an experienced galloper from Europe and bring it to Australia. Incredibly, a lot have been successful. Melbourne Cup winner Americain is now an Australian, while our top ranks include the likes of imports My Kingdom of Fife, Glass Harmonium, Lucas Cranach and December Draw. Even the lowly graded imports are making a stand, with most notching at least one win. It is expected the trend will continue in 2012.

8. The spring of Craig Williams

Never has a jockey dominated the headlines in the spring like Craig Williams. It began with a brilliant ride on Southern Speed to win the Caulfield Cup, before he also won the Geelong Cup on Dunaden. He produced what was arguably the best winning ride in a Cox Plate to win aboard Pinker Pinker, hugging the rails and only coming around one horse all race. He was in the box seat to become the first jockey to win all three majors in a spring, when a minor race on Bendigo Cup Day saw him rubbed out for the Melbourne Cup. Numerous appeals failed and he was forced to sit on the sidelines as Christophe Lemaire won the Melbourne Cup on Dunaden. Was back aboard the galloper when he won the Hong Kong Vase earlier this month, while he has also ridden a Group 1 winner in Japan this month. Definitely a spring to remember for Craig Williams.

7. Helmet vs Manawanui

The two superstar three year old colts only clashed twice – and on one occasion, they didn’t even run the quinella. However, this rivalry has all the ingredients of a good match up. It pits Sheikh Mohammed against a group of small-time owners, Peter Snowden against former science teacher Rick Leemon, the colt with the good pedigree versus the colt with a not-so-good pedigree. In the Golden Rose, Manawanui prevailed over Smart Missile, with Helmet third. But it was their Caulfield Guineas clash which had tongues wagging. Both went out at an extraordinary pace, and both came clear of their rivals. On the line, Helmet was just in front of Manawanui. However, Manawanui lost no admirers in defeat. They are unlikely to meet again, but racegoers will always remember their titanic clash in the Caulfield Guineas of 2011.

6. Super Saturday

While it may not have been recognised at the time, Melbourne’s autumn Super Saturday was indeed a top day of racing at the time. In addition to Black Caviar’s historic Newmarket victory, Melbourne Cup winner Shocking was a game winner of the Australian Cup, the Blamey Stakes was taken out by Whobegotyou and Pinker Pinker made a late run to win the Matron Stakes. Other winners were Do Ra Mi, Panipique, Running Tall and Orbit Express. But it was the win of Black Caviar in the Newmarket which made it so special.

5. Snowden’s juvenile clean sweep

Sepoy. Helmet. Benfica. With these three juveniles, Peter Snowden was able to claim an improbable quintet. He trained the winners of all five Group 1 races for two year olds. Sepoy was victorious in the Blue Diamond Stakes and Golden Slipper, Helmet won the AJC Sires Produce Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, while Benfica emerged on top in the T J Smith Stakes. It was an amazing training feat from Snowden, who has only been at the helm at Crown Lodge for three years.

4. So You Think’s Eclipse win

Exciting for any nostalgic winner, the victory of So You Think in the time-honoured Eclipse Stakes was a triumph for our racing industry. The dual Cox Plate winner defeated last season’s Derby and Arc winner Workforce and Hong Kong Cup winner Snow Fairy. While he would win only once again this season, that win demonstrated the Australasian breeding and racing industries are capable of producing a horse who can match it with the best middle distance gallopers in the world.

3. The Melbourne Cup photo

The wait lingered longer than the race itself. Who had won the Melbourne Cup? Was it to be the French with Dunaden or the English with Red Cadeaux? No one in the stands was quite sure, and the replay helped to sow a seed of doubt in the minds of one and all. It had been a great Melbourne Cup visually, with runners coming from all across the track. At one stage it looked like Lost in the Moment would get up on the inside, then it looked like Lucas Cranach may kick. Americain made up a lot of ground on the outside. But it was Dunaden and Red Cadeaux who came clear to fight it out. After an incredible passage of time, the number 3 was semaphored, indicating Dunaden had won the 2011 Melbourne Cup. The photo was so close, it would have been called a dead heat a mere decade before.

2. Frankel’s 2000 Guineas romp

Any true racing fan would feel shivers up their spine when they see Frankel’s victory in the English classic, the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. An incredible test up the straight on the famous Rowley Mile course, there have not been many more incredible victories than that of Frankel. A pacemaker was employed for the hot favourite, but the pacemaker could not keep up with his stablemate, and after a furlong the son of Galileo was four lengths clear. By halfway, he was a dozen lengths in front. And at the finish, he had an eight length margin. It was an effort of sustained speed which saw him lauded by some as potentially the best they had seen.

1. Black Caviar wins the T J Smith

Personally, this was a massive highlight. I loved seeing Black Caviar come up to Sydney, and it was the first time – in my opinion, anyway – that she really had to dig deep. As they topped the rise, Hay List booted out and looked for a split second like he might have too much of a break for the mighty mare. But in the manner of a champion, she moved alongside Hay List in a matter of strides. In the end, it was contemptuous, and Randwick erupted. It was the most popular victory at the track in many a year.

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