While perhaps not the best way to remember 2011, one of my most poignant memories will be of 9-year-old gelding Secrets Untold, a gallant one-time G3 runner-up who, making his 77th career start today in the listed Lyndhurst Handicap at Doomben, went down after clipping heels shortly after the start. Lying immobile on the turf, the dreaded green screen came out—but then, unbelievably, the old boy jumped to his feet! An unlikely miracle it seemed, but, alas, his condition (a broken shoulder) was such that he had to be euthanized on track in full view of the grandstand. Moments like this break your heart. Sadness replaced by elation, only to be smacked down by anguish. Thus is the emotional fate of any horse racing fan, and too many times in 2011 I felt the tumultuous ups-and-downs of our sport.
However, in the spirit of optimism rather than negativity and regret, here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to in 2012:
- Undefeated superstar Black Caviar’s return to the track, with a campaign geared towards taking on the world. Without a doubt, her 16-for-16 streak—not to mention the way in which she dominated her competition—made this Bel Esprit mare the most exciting racehorse in the world last year, bar none. After anticipated starts in the G1 CF Orr (February 11) and G1 Futurity (February 25) both at Caulfield, Black Caviar will be aimed for Royal Ascot in June.
- The continuing internationalization of horse racing and breeding, particularly the welcome influx of German strength and stamina. In 2011, the most apple-pie of American races, the G1 Kentucky Derby, was won by Animal Kingdom—a colt by Brazilian-bred Leroidesanimaux out of the German-bred mare Dalicia. He wasn’t alone in demonstrating quality race horses result from good German breeding. Graham Motion-trained German-bred Sanagas won the G1 Hollywood Turf Cup, while French-born (but entirely German-bred) Stacelita captured the G1 Beverly D and G1 Flower Bowl. And what about 3-year-old German filly Danedream—dominating winner of the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe—not to mention 4-year-old German-bred Be Fabulous, winner of the G1 Prix Royal-Oak (French St. Leger) over 15.5 furlongs? A little stout German blood may do wonders for American dirt breeding.
- Celebrating the blue-collar horses who prove, day-after-day, that horse racing is ultimately about the joy of running. With so many “quality” horses lightly-raced these days, what a pleasure it is to enjoy the gallant warriors who continue to race with such enthusiasm. Rapid Redux, Awesome Gem, Ravalo, Star Guitar, The Tatling, Mustard, Catlaunch, Joey P, Russell Road—I’ll watch these horses any day of the week, and I do.
- Yet another crop of promising 3-year-olds on the Derby trail. Admittedly, I can’t help myself—I love the Derby prep races. Once again this year, along with my fellow contributors at Hello Race Fans!, we’ll be picking apart key races for our Derby Prep Alert—sign up now!
Here’s hoping 2012 is prosperous and healthy for each one of you. Happy New Year!