2016; a good year for International racing? Well, there wasn’t a Triple Crown in either the UK or the US, but there were some superb performances and plenty to reflect on around the racing globe, write's GG.CO.UK International writer Laura King...
The international circuit begins in Dubai in March, with the World Cup meeting. The 2016 edition was a good day for America; with working class hero California Chrome lifting the [then] richest prize in racing; his jockey Victor Espinoza clinging onto the remains of a badly slipping saddle. It was also a decent payday for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni, who’s Postponed lifted the Dubai Sheema Classic, and for Australian trainer Robert Heathcote, who sent out Buffering to land Al Quoz Sprint honours.
Then it was onto Hong Kong in April, when the mighty Maurice reminded us all just how good the Japanese are – not that we’d forgotten – and raced away to a Champions Mile success. The Aussies, too, were at it again; Chautauqua proving much too good for his Chairman’s Sprint rivals. Plenty feared global domination henceforth from the grey; only for him to vanish until September, when he was beaten; twice.
Top hats, cream teas and lots of rules: it doesn’t get much more British than Royal Ascot, but at least Wesley Ward and the stunning My Miss Aurelia were there to American it up, as were Mark Casse and the ultra-tough Tepin. Then, all-conquering Jean-Claude Rouget arrived from France to claim another Coronation Stakes with Qemah.
Speaking of the big JC, he was one of the stars of the season. Not content with mopping up Group Is at home with Qemah and Jemayel, he also took the Champion Stakes off both Ireland and England with the brilliant Almanzor. He couldn’t win the Arc, though, that went to another genius; Aidan O'Brienai collecting an unprecedented 1-2- 3 in Europe’s richest race thanks to Found, Highland Reel and Order Of St George. Vive la Ballydoyle.
California Chrome lost his Classic Crown
No Triple Crown this year – well, that would have made it look too easy – but still a vintage season stateside. California Chrome and Frosted carried all before them early on, but ultimately came up short where it really mattered. Enter: Arrogate; brilliant three-year- old, record-breaking Travers winner and Chrome’s conqueror in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race for Eclipse Horse Of The Year is going to be some battle. Oh, and speaking of battles, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff clash between Songbird and Beholder was one for the ages.
Winx now stands alongside Gai Waterhouse as the first lady of American racing; thanks to her brilliant Cox Plate win – her 13th success in a row. Will she ever be tested abroad? Quite possibly, but that’s for next year’s review. Winx was too Australian to run in the Melbourne Cup, which went, once again, to a former European; the German-bred Almandin. At least jockey Kerrin McEvoy, trainer Robert Hickmott and owner Lloyd Williams are Australian, though. Also not Australian is Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby. He didn’t win the Cup, either, but did plunder plenty of big prizes Down Under, thanks to Qewy, Francis Of Assisi and friends.
Japan ended the year well, internationally, with Maurice’s stunning win in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin – sadly the horse’s last run as he now retires to stud. Domestically, the country also provided Frankel with his first Group I winner when Soul Stirring took the Juvenile Fillies’ Championship at Hanshin in December. It wasn’t all good news, though, Japan’s wait for an Arc winner must go on after their Derby winner, Makahiki, only beat two home.
And last but no least… Korea, Morocco and Barbados!!
Not places we thought we’d be mentioning, sure you’ll agree, but South Korea embarked on its first international meeting in September, which was well-received, particularly by the connections of Japan’s Chrysolite and Hong Kong’s Super Jockey who carried off the valuable prizes. Morocco? Well, watch this space. They opened their doors for a tentative international meeting in November and have big plans.
So does Barbados. More famous as a holiday destination than a pillar of the sporting worldwide community, perhaps, but the Carribean island has a proud racing history. Their only track, Garrison Savannah, recently hosted the fourth edition of its jockeys challenge, attracting some big names. There may well be more to come.