The good, the bad & the bizarre - 2014 in horse racing
RACING PERSON OF THE YEAR
This was the year top British Flat jockey Ryan Moore went global.
A total of 19 wins at racing's highest level in eight different countries over the 12 months to mid-November made the Brighton-born 31-year-old the outstanding international rider. Most significant were two successes in Australia, notably in the Melbourne Cup on Protectionist.
|Ryan Moore: Champion jockey|
|Ryan Moore has been crowned Flat racing's champion jockey three times, in 2006, 2008 and 2009.|
A quiet, private professional, renowned for his serious countenance, Moore beamed with pleasure in Melbourne. However, if anything, the pleasure seemed even greater at jump racing's Cheltenham Festival when his father, trainer Gary and brother, jump jockey Jamie landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Sire De Grugy.
ALSO AT THE FESTIVAL...
Irish trainer Jim Culloty became only the fifth person to win the Gold Cup both as a jockey - he rode three-time winner Best Mate - and as a trainer, with Lord Windermere after a whirlwind finish of changing fortunes.
ON THE FLAT...
A colt named Australia, bred by the Earl of Derby won the Epsom Classic named after the Earl's ancestor, but the outstanding horse was Kingman, guided through a prolific season in mile races by trainer John Gosden. Kingman is now off to be a stallion alongside Frankel at their owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's stud.
In France, the filly Treve owned by a member of the Al Thani family, rulers of Qatar, an ever-growing force in European racing, won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for the second year running. In a surprise move, Treve's trainer insisted that Thierry Jarnet and not Frankie Dettori, the owner's salaried jockey, rode.
AWAY FROM THE TRACK...
The Queen's best horse Estimate failed a dope test for morphine after finishing second when going for back-to-back wins in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Feed, innocently contaminated before arriving at Estimate's stable was blamed, but the horse, who later lifted the Doncaster Cup, was disqualified. In Ireland, there was a three-year ban for trainer Philip Fenton after being convicted in the courts of possessing banned anabolic steroids.
In a year packed with bizarre incidents, the 'victory' of The Young Master at Wincanton was as odd as it got. Having romped home, the horse was found to be ineligible to take part and thrown out, but his future weight in handicaps was still re-assessed as though the result stood. However, there was a happy ending when The Young Master won his next race fair and square.
TOO MANY GONE...
Racing mourned the passing of a number of favourites, including star equine names Lochsong and See More Business. One-time jockeys Terry Biddlecombe, Michael Scudamore and Dessie Hughes also died, as did trainers Toby Balding, John Hills and Lady Herries and journalist Julian Wilson.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS...
Racing took place on the sport's traditional Good Friday day-off for the first time, with the opening race at Lingfield won by a horse ridden by apprentice Cam Hardie, a name for the future. And managers at Towcester racecourse, in rural Northamptonshire, sold nearly half of their fixtures, and so they have started to stage greyhound racing.
SO TO 2015...
A new head of the British Horseracing Authority, Nick Rust, formerly of Ladbrokes, starts in January. Some believe his betting background means that the sport will now be run by the bookies even more than it is already, but someone with the knowledge to potentially forge stronger links between the two 'sides' should surely be welcomed.
We get a new racecourse, Chelmsford City - formerly Great Leighs - in Essex, and the one-time North of England jumps bastion at Wetherby will also stage Flat racing, though the demand for that is perhaps debateable.
Chelmsford City will stage 56 meetings next year, according to the track's managing director Philip Siers. The course will host racing for the first time since it was closed in 2009 after going into administration.
Look out for former champion Flat jockey Jamie Spencer who, in August, announced he was retiring only to do an about-turn just before Christmas. Formerly part of the Qatar Racing operation, he will be freelance.
AS FOR RACE PREDICTIONS...
It would be no surprise to see Qatar's Elm Park, trained by Andrew Balding, win a Derby, whether that will be at Epsom or in France we shall see.
Let's hope one-time chasing star Sprinter Sacre does return to action after his heart problem, a scenario that seems likelier than ever.
The most hotly-anticipated race at the Cheltenham Festival might well be the Champion Hurdle, with the line-up set to include defending champion Jezki, popular veteran ex-champion Hurricane Fly and would-be champions Faugheen and The New One. If 'the Fly' were to do it, track officials may have to forget their new development and find a new roof for the current facilities.
Happy New Year.