It was a flat season that had it all and as the attention turns to the Jumps we look back at the 10 standout moments of the 2019 Flat Racing season.
10) Japan’s wait for a Group One win is over!
It’s tough to find a more fanatical country than Japan when they have a horse travel abroad and amazingly it had been 19 years since their sole British Group One win. Not many before the Sussex Stakes expected Deirdre who had finished down the field in the Prince Of Wales’s at Royal Ascot to end that wait.
Trained by Mitsuru Hashida and piloted for the first time by Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy she never left the inside rail and looked like she could be a typical Goodwood hard luck story as she met a wall of horses 3 furlongs out. Once finally clear she soon swept past the long time leader Mehdaayih to some wild celebrations on the Sussex Downs and back in Japan.
9) A first Royal Ascot win in 32 years for a female jockey
“It was only a matter of time” was Hayley Turners understated response as she came back to rapturous Royal Ascot applause landing the Sandringham Stakes and becoming the first female rider to win at the Royal Meeting since Gay Kelleway back in 1987.
How apt it was Hayley that finally did it, the first female to 100 winners in a year and the first woman to win a Group One, here she was back from a short-lived retirement back re-writing the records on the biggest of stages.
8) The Aussie Superstar bows out
Not many horses transcend the sport the way Winx captured Aussie’s hearts as she bowed out at Royal Randwick claiming her 33rd straight win; a feat we may never see repeated.
Over £14 million in prize money was earned by the time she retired from her 43 race career of which she won 37 including 25 Group Ones. Labelled “freakish” due to her ability to take 14 strides every 5 seconds compared to her rivals 12 she is up there with the Australian legend Phar Lap and in more recent times the undefeated Black Caviar.
7) Kentucky Derby Drama
There has been 145 running’s of the Kentucky Derby and in that time there’s been a lot more impressive winners than this years but not many as dramatic.
The heavens were open when the gates flew back with the 2nd favourite Maximum Security taking an early lead. As they rounded the home turn and with challengers stacking up behind, Maximum Security swerved out to his right making contact with War Of Will. As Maximum security’s jockey corrected his mount, he bumped Code Of Honor who was coming up the rail. Despite this Maximum Security then drew clear to cheers from the crowd.
But wait, the jockeys of 2 others in the race – Country House and Long Range Teddy objected. A 22-minute stewards inquiry then took place and for the first time in the history of this great race the result was amended and Country House the 65/1 outsider was awarded the race.
6) A Royal Ascot Frankie Four Timer
History was repeating itself. Frankie Dettori, the greatest showman in racing was going through the card at Ascot just like he had done 23 years previously, only this time it was at the premier meeting, Royal Ascot.
A’Ali was first up, well supported in the betting but no maiden had won the Norfolk since 1990. Results will show a neck finish, but it was far more comfortable than that with Frankie just needing to push out Simon Crisford’s 2 year old.
Winners that week didn’t come much easier than Sangarius as he was a ready 2 ¼ length winner for Sir Michael Stoute.
Third race, same story, Star Catcher who has progressed to become a top-class filly won to give Frankie a first win of the day for his boss John Gosden.
4th race, can Frankie really do it? Betting offices are checking their liabilities and what’s worse is that it’s the banker of the week, the Champion stayer Stradivarius. Always in command, he claims back to back Ascot Gold Cups and give Frankie a 449/1 four time.
Now the form book goes out the window, everyone just wants Frankie Detorri to win and Turgenev goes from lively outsider to 7/2 favourite. Alas, it was not to be as he was headed 60 yards from home to save the betting industry!
5) Stradivarius the Staying Superstar
When Weatherbys sportingly announced a million pound bonus for a stayer to land the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup it looked quite the unsurmountable task.
Now its just a question, is Stadivarius better than the legendary Yeats? For the time being most will still say Yeats but with an ever growing CV including a 2nd Wetherbeys Stayers Bonus we’ll soon have to start reconsidering.
A shock defeat on Champions’ Day saw him end the season on a slightly low note but with the Champion stayer staying in training, he has time to cement his legacy as one of the best we’ve seen.
4) Pinatubo better than Frankel?
Arguably there’s not been a more exciting horse since Frankel than Pinatubo, but is he better?
Clearly prior to his first run Charlie Appleby and the Godolphin team didn’t have much hope, pitching him in a Wolverhampton Maiden where he went off at 3/1. A win on Oaks day was next followed by Royal Ascot success in the Chesham.
Glorious Goodwood was the next port of call and another impressive win and a first Group success in the Vintage Stakes.
There’s been a lot of superstars win the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes including Dubawi, George Washington and Gleneagles but none so emphatic than Pinatubo. A 9-length demolition of a quality field with a seen to be believed instant acceleration, the Frankel comparisons were starting.
An Official Rating of 128 was given, the same mark as Enable, but one that was 5lb greater than that achieved by the mighty Frankel at the same age.
The season finished with a more workman like but comfortable victory in the Dewhurst not too dissimilar to Frankel 9 years before him.
Can Pinatubo improve again over the Winter and take the likes of the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and the Arc and be confirmed the best ever?
3) Blue Point Royal Ascot Double
Last achieved in 2003 with the Champion Aussie Sprinter Choiser, Blue Point confirmed himself as the Champion European Sprinter by completing the near impossible – A Royal Ascot double.
Tuesday’s King Stand was all about Blue Point v Battaash, a repeat of the 2018 edition and it saw the same result, Blue Point on top close home.
With the Breeding shed calling it was time to make history and a surprise declaration for Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee.
Kachy ensured there would be no hiding place, breaking like a bullet and a furlong out Blue Point took it up. All of a sudden Dream Of Dreams was finishing fast but fortunately for the Boys In Blue the finishing line was coming quicker and Blue Point held on to complete the Sprint Double. A €45,000 Stud Fee for Shamardal’s best son doesn’t look the worse value.
2) The Race Of The Season
Reminiscent of Grundy v Bustino in “the race of the century”, Europe’s top 2 middle distance runners Enable and Crystal Ocean delivered one of the greatest battles in recent history in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes .
For over a quarter of a mile up the Ascot straight these two went toe-to-toe like two Heavyweight Champions neither prepared to give an inch.
There had to be a winner and it was Enable in the end by a Neck with Simon Holt on commentary duty summing it up best “What A Race,That Was A Horse Race!”
1) Waldgeist Breaks British Hearts
This was meant to be the final chapter in the Enable story, the first horse to win the Arc for a third time. With 300m to go she had seen off all of rivals with Frankie kicking clear. Suddenly Waldgeist, beaten by Enable 3 times previously came out of the pack and flew past a wearing Enable. You could hear a pin drop at Longchamp.
Maybe it was the ground, maybe Frankie could of held on to Enable for a bit longer but in the end it was a record eight win in the Arc for Andre Fabre.
As it would later transpire, this would not be the end of the road for the superstar mare, with Enable staying in training next year, the lure of a third Arc proving too strong for owner breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah.