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Greatest racing moments of 2012 – What did you choose?

December 30, 2012

http://www.justhorseracing.com.au/news/australian-racing/greatest-racing-moments-of-2012-what-did-you-choose/181464

Tomorrow marks the end of 2012, which – it is safe to say – has been one of the more dramatic racing years on record.

There have been some remarkable highs and some incredible lows, some fantastic feel-good stories mixed in with more than a whiff of controversy.

We wanted to focus on the positive aspects of racing in 2012, those moments which most excited racing fans. People who completed our survey were given 28 options, with the proviso they had to choose their top 10 from the list.

Almost 200 people responded to the online survey, with this list a collation of the results.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

Those moments that almost made the list include Shoot Out’s return to Group 1 form, Dunaden’s Caulfield Cup win under 58kg and the spring campaign of Alcopop, which saw him win the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) before running third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

On a personal level, I’d throw in my filly Virgin Islands winning by seven lengths at Rotorua, as well as the victory of Neptune Collonges in the Grand National at Aintree.

Here are the top 10 moments as decided by you:

10. MORE JOYOUS WINS THE DONCASTER MILE

Through ups and downs, More Joyous has remained the darling of Sydney’s racetracks. However, she was beginning to gain a reputation for not winning her grand finals. Last year, she finished 11th to Sacred Choice in the Doncaster Mile, on ground which can be generously described as “muddy”. And after a disappointing spring last year, she was looking to return to the glory of her previous campaigns. Wins in the Group 2 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) and the Group 1 Queen of the Turf (1500m) ensured she started favourite, and she didn’t disappoint, defeating Shoot Out and Yosei in a top-notch edition of the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m). A week later, she would win the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), her only win at the distance.

9. MANIGHAR BECOMES THE FIRST HORSE TO WIN THE AUSTRALIAN CUP-RANVET STAKES-THE BMW TREBLE

Manighar joined Peter Moody’s stable with a reputation for being a non-winner. His last win prior to 2012 was in October 2009 in France, after which he’d joined Luca Cumani’s stable. Sure, he’d run well in races like the Melbourne Cup (7th and 5th), Caulfield Cup (5th and 4th), Prix Kergorlay (2nd and 4th), Ascot Gold Cup (4th) and Yorkshire Cup (3rd) for Cumani, but he hadn’t managed to win. But the change of environment seemed to work wonders. A first up win in the Group 3 Carlyon Cup (1600m) at Caulfield was followed by a third to Lucas Cranach in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m). But it was his subsequent three starts which would cement his position in this list, for the ghostly grey managed to win the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m), the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) – the first horse to win all three races in a season.

8. ALL TOO HARD BEATS PIERRO IN THE CAULFIELD GUINEAS

Before the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m), it had been a tale of two campaigns. Pierro, the unbeaten colt from Sydney, had won the Group 2 Run to the Rose (1200m) in Sydney before an impressive win in the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m). All Too Hard, the half brother to Black Caviar, had failed to match the hype, finishing 3rd in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1000m), 5th in the Run to the Rose and 4th in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m). When they lined up in the Caulfield Guineas, Pierro was expected to continue his unbeaten run, but a tough run early told in the straight as he was defeated for the first time by All Too Hard. Patinack’s colt would subsequently prove in the Cox Plate, when he ran Ocean Park to a neck, that it was no fluke, with the explanation for his previous disappointments that he was a far superior horse the Melbourne way of going.

7. ORTENSIA WINS THE AL QUOZ SPRINT IN DUBAI BEFORE WINNING THE NUNTHORPE STAKES IN ENGLAND

Ortensia, who had won a Group 1 in Sydney before it was stripped off her, had lost all form in the autumn of 2011. It looked as though her chance to gain Group 1 status once more had passed her by. However, a change of trainer prior to the 2011 spring reaped rewards. Paul Messara took over from Tony Noonan with instant results, as the mare won at Listed level during the Melbourne Cup Carnival before winning the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) in Perth. It was with those results under her belt that she travelled to Dubai for the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1000m). She was last early, but flew late to defeat Britain’s Sole Power and Hong Kong’s Joy and Fun. She then campaigned in England, where she ran below par in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot and the Group 1 July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket before returning to winning form in a Group 2 race at Goodwood. She went to the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes (1000m) at York, where she produced a blistering turn of foot to win in the last couple of strides. All in all, it was an incredible effort to get Group 1 wins in Australia, Dubai and England, particularly after the horror autumn of 2011.

6. SO YOU THINK ENDS HIS CAREER WITH A WIN IN THE PRINCE OF WALES’S STAKES AT ROYAL ASCOT

So You Think still had a large fan base in Australia although he had not been on Australian soil for more than 18 months. He started the year with a fourth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2000m), where he looked to struggle on the Tapeta surface, before returning to winning form in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (1m 2f 110y) at The Curragh. He was due to have two more starts – in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (1m 2f) at Royal Ascot and the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes (1m 2f) at Sandown. In the first of those, at Royal Ascot, he started favourite and managed to comfortably defeat The Queen’s horse Carlton House and Godolphin’s Farhh. In a week when many Australians and New Zealanders were already at the Berkshire racecourse to see Black Caviar, it was the ultimate subplot. Unfortunately, injury ruled him out of the Eclipse Stakes, meaning Royal Ascot was the final hurrah for one of the best horses from the southern hemisphere in recent years.

5. PIERRO WINS SYDNEY’S JUVENILE TRIPLE CROWN

Sydney’s juvenile triple crown is the ultimate test for a two year old, for they need to have the speed to win the dash that is the Golden Slipper as well as the stamina to win over 1600m. Only five horses had won the juvenile triple crown before 2012 – Baguette, Luskin Star, Tierce, Burst and Dance Hero. Pierro earnt his spot among that group with his wins in the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m), the Group 1 ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) and the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m). Pierro went into the Golden Slipper unbeaten, having won the Listed Breeders’ Plate (1000m) in the autumn before wins in the Group 2 Silver Slipper (1100m) and the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) before the first leg. A clear second favourite for the Golden Slipper, he proved too good for Snitzerland and Samaready. Incredibly, he didn’t start favourite for the ATC Sires Produce Stakes, with All Too Hard the popular elect, but he won easily. In the Champagne Stakes, Pierro outclassed Dear Demi and Tatra, thus joining an elite group.

4. HAY LIST WINS THE NEWMARKET HANDICAP

For so long the bridesmaid to one of the best sprinters Australia has ever produced, Hay List was finally able to have his moment in the sun when he won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) carrying the topweight of 58kg. He had won at Group 1 level before, in the 2010 Manikato Stakes and the 2011 All Aged Stakes, so it was not a matter of breaking his Group 1 duck. But Hay List was a horse who had overcome injuries and problems and still managed to get back to the top every time. He’d had the misfortune of his career clashing with Black Caviar, who is not out of place when mentioned alongside sprinters like Vain and Manikato – she is a once in a generation sprinter, and Hay List is probably as good as many other top sprinters of recent years: the likes of Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Gold Edition. The Newmarket Handicap was his crowning glory.

3. BLACK CAVIAR WINS THE ORR STAKES AND LIGHTNING STAKES WITHIN SEVEN DAYS

Black Caviar’s return in the autumn saw her win the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley against moderate opposition. Her next test was in the Group 1 C. F. Orr Stakes (1400m), her first go beyond 1200m. Her opposition, while classy, consisted mainly of horses that were better over further – horses like Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed and Kingston Town Classic winner Playing God, as well as the imports Illo and Midas Touch. She won it as easily as any race in the past, although it wasn’t a solid test of stamina. An even more remarkable win came a week later, when she backed up to win the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) from Hay List and Buffering. She met two Group 1 class sprinters, both who were targeting the Lightning Stakes, and she still won with ease.

2. FRANKEL WINS THE QUEEN ANNE STAKES AT ROYAL ASCOT 

“He’s moving like a tremendous machine” was the cry of racecaller Chic Anderson as Secretariat moved ahead of his rivals in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. His demolition job by a widening 31 lengths was sensational. That description could very well have been applied to Frankel as he made a mess of his rivals in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m), the opening race of Royal Ascot. He may have won by only (ONLY!) 11 lengths, but it is this victory which will be his defining triumph in years to come. This writer stood on the fence at the winning post that day in order to get a close-up view of the champion, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve never seen a horse with such a powerful stride, nor a horse look so effortless in winning so easily. The crowd went wild, a taste for what would be seen at Ascot when Black Caviar appeared four days later. He was retired in October, having won all fourteen starts.

1. BLACK CAVIAR WINS THE DIAMOND JUBILEE STAKES AT ROYAL ASCOT

Every once in a while, there is a moment which transcends racing, which exposes racing to the public at large. While it happens to some extent every year come Melbourne Cup time, there are moments which are bigger than a single race and manage to captivate the public on an unimaginable scale. These moments are few and far between – the most recent would be Makybe Diva’s attempt at her third Melbourne Cup. We were lucky enough to experience one of these moments in 2012, when Black Caviar took on the English at Royal Ascot. Her preparation was headline news for days leading up to the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) in June, while the day of the race saw crowds gather en masse at Federation Square in Melbourne in the middle of the night to watch her bid for glory. On track, the atmosphere was electric – it was as though Ascot Racecourse was the seventh state of Australia that Saturday. Australians turned up in droves, while the locals looked on with a mix of bemusement and wonder. Everyone was expecting Black Caviar to win in the manner which had endeared her to fans worldwide. About two furlongs from home, it became clear that she wasn’t going to win easily as she struggled to pass Soul, while she looked in trouble in the final furlong, particularly when Luke Nolen eased up on her. Incredibly, she still had a narrow advantage at the line. The mood post-race was almost funereal, but it emerged subsequently she had injured herself. In time, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is likely to be seen as one of her greatest wins given the circumstances.

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