Can you be an animal activist and still support horse racing? In short, yes.
The end of year look backs are starting, and I want to kick things off by asking, what was the best thoroughbred performance of the year?
All year: Winx
No surprises here! Winx dominated the year that was with nine more wins, including six at the highest level, to keep her incredible and fabulous unbeaten streak to 22 races in a row.
Her autumn wins, in the George Ryder and Queen Elizabeth, were dominant. In her return in the spring, her individual performances weren’t as impressive as we’re used to seeing until the Turnbull Stakes.
The start of her early spring campaign was a heart stopper, when she went frighteningly close to coming undone, with two incredibly close finishes.
First-up she took the Warwick Stakes by just over a head, right on the line, after jumping a mile last, when most reasonably thought it was beyond her.
She then gunned down Red Excitement in the Chemlsford Stakes, who was given a great ride by Josh Parr, in another thrilling finish.
But given that those races were against some inferior grades, you’d have to say her best performance of 2017 was in the Cox Plate, where she held off a sustained challenge from Humidor to put together her equal-record third victory in Australasia’s premier race.
She Will Reign – Moir Stakes
This Group 1 win under lights was fabulous – She Will Reign’s first race since taking out the Golden Slipper, flying through the field from the back, and widest on the turn, to grab the field and hold off a flying Viddora, who later franked the form with a good performance in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes, and winning the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot.
WHAT A WIN. WHAT A FILLY. SHE WILL REIGN. pic.twitter.com/kpYz4bGKTr
— Racing.com (@Racing) September 29, 2017
Golden Slipper winners don’t often graduate into open-class Group 1s but She Will Reign looked like jumping clearly into our top sprinters list. She went into the Everest as a top chance from that, but didn’t race well after being galloped on, and was coughing post-race before being spelled by trainer Gary Portelli. Let’s hope we see her again at her best.
Best: Chautauqua – TJ Smith
Undoubtedly the best win of 2017 – Chautauqua’s last to first victory to capture his third TJ Smith was simply thrilling. The people’s horse, the flashy grey, the impossible margin back, the difficult passage through the others, the afterburners, and a great call by Darren Flindell. People were talking excitedly about this win for weeks, months, and will be for years.
Honestly, watching again, you still don’t think he can get there. A brilliant win for a great sprinter.
Most bizarre: Run Rhino Run
Run Rhino Run’s incredibly odd win in South Africa was probably one of the most watched replays of the year.
Everything from the run itself, to the race call, to the hopeless efforts of the jockeys behind, to the exhausted jockey, to the post-race interviews… you couldn’t script it.
Poor Run Rhino Run – plenty of watchers kept an eye out for his next starts, but sadly his two subsequent runs have seen him beaten by 99 and 33 lengths, tailing right off after an early lead. As his trainer said after his crazy win, “Everyone knows this horse has rocks in his head.”
Looks like they haven’t quite got him on the straight and narrow just yet!
There’s plenty more we could’ve added here – the likes of Redzel in the Everest and Darley, Jameka in the BMW, and many more – feel free to drop in your best win of the year!