Here it is, the Major’s favourite horse races of 2011. As I put the list together I have to admit to being struck by the quality year of racing 2011 was. If 2012 gets anywhere close to this, I would be amazed!
These are my personal 2011 racing favourites, not the most accomplished races. Where a horse could feature twice (such as Frankel!), I have tried to select my favourite race that the horse was involved in, with a notable exception…
1. Kauto wins his 5th King George
Words cannot express what this race meant to national hunt fans. Kauto’s Betfair run had advertised the fact that he was back in business but no-one expected him to come back and win the King George for a fifth time.
Fair play to Team Ditcheat, to get his legs ready for another big run was a training achievement right up there. Kauto cemented his status of racing Legend. He made the front pages. What the sport needs.
2. Pour Moi and Barzalona – Youth and Impudence at the Derby
The closest to rock and roll in a horse race, the 2011 Derby. The image of Barzalona bolt upright in the stirrups, arm heaven-bent, well, that’s the impudence of youth for you. Pour Moi sent down Treasure Beach by the narrowest of margins, certainly not enough to celebrate in such style! A shame the horse suffered setbacks as I thought Pour Moi was the Arc winner.
3. Kauto’s Betfair Win
OK I said I would not include two races involving the same horse but Kauto’s comeback win was emphatic, dramatic and filled th heart with joy. Watching Kauto roll back the years was awe-inspiring.
4. Frankel Destroys Canford Cliffs
Frankel gave us so many wonderful moments. For me his best two were a toss-up between his 2,000 guineas and the race I settled on, the Sussex Stakes.
This was a match bet scenario between Canford Cliffs who had just beaten the wondermare Goldikova (see below) in arguably the race to determine the best miler in the world…. Then Frankel did this to him.
After the race, Hughsie argued that Canford didn’t handle the camber but the Major looking back just cannot think he was beaten by anything other than Frankel’s demonic turn of foot. It is simply sensational how he moved away from that quality of opposition. What a pleasure to have him back next year.
5. Long Run’s Gold Cup – March
What a race…. Watching the 2011 Gold Cup again still raises incredible levels of excitement. The build up to Cheltenham suggested that the old guard were done for. To see Denman and Kauto freewheeling down the hill and turn into the home straight…. Serving it up to each other… it rolled back the years and the unbelievable reaction from the crowd…. Long Run’s terrific win was not overshadowed, merely enhanced.
6. Black Caviar does it in the Newmarket Handicap
The Major loves a bit of international racing and although there were some great races in the States, Hong Kong and Dubai, it is Australian star Black Caviar who makes the top ten.
This is my favourite race of hers, she absolutely mastered the opposition. Black Caviar v Frankel? We can but dream… what a race that would be, give her a decent mares allowance and the Major thinks it is race on! Let’s get her over to Europe!
7. Goldikova v Canford Cliffs
Canfords victory in the Queen Anne was a great race. The fact Peslier had put overweight on Goldikova added an air of controversy but I feel Canford would have won anyway.
This race was a lovely example of the ideal situation developing. There were no excuses, Goldikova’s pacemaker made way at the ideal time and the two market principals settled down to sort it out, at the time we thought we were watching the best milers in Europe, perhaps the world….. but then Frankel smashed Canford and caused a serious reevaluation.
8. The Tatling wins on his Last Appearance
OK so 14 year old the Tatling is a little unique in the top ten. He might not be a world beater but the old boy steamed up like a three-year old to nick his Swansong race on the line. The Tatling deserves his retirement, he has been a fantastic servant to his connections and the sport.
9. Hayley Turner, Group One Success on Dream Ahead
The Darley July Cup was an absolute thriller. It also made history for Hayley Turner became the first female jockey to win a Group One. Well Deserved. What I loved about this race was the brave route she took through horses. It was a shame she subsequently became injured and missed the ride in France.
10. Hurricane Fly shows What we have been missing!
The Fly had many doubters, the Major included. His Irish form was so often against Solwhit who seems short of being first class and so, I must admit, I was surprised by the Champion Hurdle. He won in with panache though against top hurdlers Peddlers Cross and Menorah. Let’s hope he is back and fit to defend his crown.