What a year it was. We started with Chateauneuf Du Pap winning the David Flynn Building Contractors Maiden Hurdle at Tramore 363 days ago and we haven’t ended a 12 months that included an Irish 1-2-3-4 in the Grand National and 17 haul winner at Cheltenham, along with the first ever Arc winner to double up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and a four-time winner of the Cox Plate. And that’s not forgetting a Triple Crown winner (yes, that really did happen!)
Anyway, to remind ourselves of the last 12 months – and in a fashion that doesn’t make you want to just cry – here’s a made-up award ceremony for everyone to enjoy or to hate. Here we go:
Sir AP McCoy Award for Ride of the Year: Another great year for horsemanship, especially over the obstacles where we’ve had several exceptional efforts both on the biggest stages and also away from the bright lights of the major festivals. It was also a great year for women riders, many of whom shone on the biggest stages. Bryony Frost and Rachel Blackmore consistently excelled and Katie O’Farrell is not far behind but Lucy Gardener’s effort at Fontwell above Snazz Man would have received more rave reviews anywhere else. The eight-year-old was travelling nicely into the myracing.com Handicap Hurdle before her saddle slipped two out, before losing one ion and then the other. Despite this Lucy Garder managed to get a good jump out of him over the last and win by seven lengths, and that feat of adversity wins the day.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) June 7, 2018
Honourable Mentions: Katie O’Farrell (Low Sun, Galway, 4th August), Richard Johnson (Native River, Cheltenham Festival, 16th March), James Bowen (Raz de Maree, Chepstow, 6th January) Bryony Frost (Frodon, Cheltenham, 15th December), David Allan (Wells Farhh Go, Newmarket, 12th July), Connor Beasley (Jack Blane, Musselburgh 24th September)
The Judy Murray Award for Flat Training performance of the year: John Gosden will have had few finer years than this one and his handling of Enable to retain her Arc title and then take the Breeders’ Cup Turf, becoming the first Arc winner to do so, was a testament to his skill and patience. She stays in training for 2019, hopefully with fewer hold-ups – who knows what she could still do. Charlie Appleby’s exploits across the world saw Godolphin have their best year in recent memory – including a first Derby. Over in America, John Sadler finally took a Breeders’ Cup winner after so very long, and Peter Miller managed to double repeat on Breeders’ Cup night, a sensational achievement.
Honorable Mentions: Charlie Appleby (whole year, 1st Melbourne Cup, 1st Epsom Derby), Peter Miller (Breeders’ Cup Double)
The Martin Pipe Award for NH Training performance of the year: With all the talent at their disposal it’s hard not to look towards one of the elite National Hunt trainers. Gordon Elliott managed to get Tiger Roll to take the National after his Cross Country win, and perhaps even more impressively got Bless The Wings to finish third at the age of 13, and he shaves the award from Paul Nicholls’ 10th King George with Clan Des Obeaux, or Colin Tizzard’s handling of Thistlecrack. Kayley Woolacott’s performance with Lalor, a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and a Grade 2 winner on his debut over fences, should also get a mention.
Honorable Mentions: Willie Mullins (fifth day of Punchestown Festival), Paul Nicholls (Clan Des Obeaux), Colin Tizzard (Native River, Elegant Escape), Kayley Woolacott (Lalor)
The Richard Johnson Award for Jump Jockey Of The Year: This has been a stunning year for women riders, many of whom have excelled at a high level too. Bryony Frost is a shining light for the sport in the UK and she will go higher and higher but the riding of Rachel Blackmore has been perhaps even as impressive and more importantly, she is proving that gender is no matter in high class company. This year she has taken nine Graded races (handicap or open company) including the WKD Hurdle with Bedrock, as well as a Punchestown Festival winner in the shape of True Self, and she’s had 69 winners this year – just three behind Paul Townend. Richard Johnson and Noel Fehily had excellent years, whilst David Mullins has had a fine Christmas to cap off a strong 12 months. In France, James Reveley was sensational on the biggest stages again.
Honourable Mentions: Bryony Frost, David Mullins, Noel Fehily, Richard Johnson, James Reveley
The Johnny Murtagh Award for Flat Jockey Of The Year: Godolphin’s return to the highest level has been thanks to world-class jockeyship as well as great training and William Buick mastered every continent this year. Nine Group 1 winners included Masar in the Derby, perhaps the most important successes for Godolphin in years, and there was no sort of stage he couldn’t deliver upon as the record shows. Frankie Dettori had another stellar year, whilst Irad Ortiz and Draden Van Dyke were outstanding in America. Pierre Charles-Boudot and Maxime Guyon starred in France, whilst Josephine Gordon should only get better in 2019.
Honourable Mentions: Irad Ortiz, Draden Van Dyke, Pierre Charles-Boudot, Maxime Guyon, Josephine Gordon
The Denman Award for NH Performance of the Year: Altior could have won this with any of his performances through the year but his Champion Chase win was everything about the horse at his best, and the thrilling manner in which he roared clear of Min earns this accolade over his Tingle Creek performance. Tiger Roll’s Cheltenham and National double deserves a mention, as does Bristol De Mai’s Betfair Chase.
Honorable Mentions: Tiger Roll (Grand National), Bristol De Mai (Betfair Chase), Buveur D’Air (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
Flat Performance of the Year: A stunning year of performances from around the globe. In Japan Almond Eye dominated the year’s end, Beauty Generation is dominating the Hong Kong Milling Scene, and Australian Heroine Winx keeps on trucking. But the stunning demolition job that Alpha Centauri pulled on for the Coronation Stakes field – one of many great performances from her – takes the title. The opposition might have been lacking there, but she beat all comers before injury took her from us.
Honorable Mentions: Enable (Arc de Triomphe, Paris-Longchamp), Almond Eye (Tokyo, Japan Cup), Beauty Generation (Hong Kong Mile)
The Frankel Award for Flat Horse of the Year: Again, you could give this to six or seven different horses, all from different corners of the planet. Almond Eye’s record-breaking Japan Cup victory made it four Group 1’s from 8 to 12 furlongs. Winx was unbeaten again, and her seven Group 1’s included a fourth Cox Plate. We had a Triple Crown winner again in America’s Justify. On home shores it was tempting to give Alpha Centauri, Saxon Warrior, or Enable the award, but Stradivarius won the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, Lonsdale Cup and then landed the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day. In the Gold Cup he beat France and Ireland’s top stayers and all ground came alike to him in an amazing campaign.
Honourable Mentions: Roaring Lion, Almond Eye, Winx, Justify, Accelerate, Enable, Sea Of Class
The Tim Peak Award for Rocket Jump of the year: Presenting Percy flew the last fence in the RSA like he’d literally had rockets attached to his horseshoes and it’s a great way to give him the credit for that performance.
Presenting Percy is now a general 8-1 chance for the 2019 Gold Cup @CheltenhamRaces after an impressive win in the RSA Chase. Do you see him as a leading contender? #TheFestival pic.twitter.com/UAi1YEj1Yp
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 14, 2018
The Ed Whittaker Award for Photo Of The Year: An outstanding amount of great pictures all across the planet in all codes. They are listed below but it is impossible to get the image of Paul Townend putting his hands up on Kemboy as he crashed through the last, before managing to stay on and win in impressive style. Patrick McCann of the Racing Post took the award, and did so in sensational style. But for now, enjoy the pictures:
Special Tiara takes off at Kempton, Francesca Altoft, 27th December:
— Francesca Altoft (@FrancescaJane_x) December 27, 2018
Thisonesformary and Luke Dempsey have a collision with She’s Apache and Kevin Sexton in a Maiden Hurdle at Fairyhouse, Dan Heap:
Number 4 – All Action – Thisonesformary and Luke Dempsey have a colision with She's Apache and Kevin Sexton in a Maiden Hurdle at Fairyhouse. The horse almost square to the hurdle as they land and Luke's feet both displaced make it,All finished the race
1/1600 f4.0 115mm ISO 500 pic.twitter.com/mZFl67zb3L
— Dan Heap (@Ohdannyboy77) December 8, 2018
Woodland Opera, Woodland Opera and Robbie Power absolutely fly the last fence to win the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase, Dan Heap:
3/3 they went so quick, I thought I had missed the shot. The elation when I saw it on the back of the camera was huge. It’s probably the best / my favourite racing photograph I’ve ever taken. It's not been a bad year really 🙂
1/1600 f7.1 27mm ISO 500 pic.twitter.com/l8dSsMbfpW
— Dan Heap (@Ohdannyboy77) December 8, 2018
An unbelievable recovery from Davy Russell aboard Ordinary World at the Dublin Racing Festival, Dan Heap:
Number 7 – HE STAYED ON – an unbelievable recovery from Davy Russell aboard Ordinary World at the Dublin Racing Festival. I like the stirrup rising up, Davy looking likely to go over the horses head and Robbie Power and Special Tiara just continuing on
1/1000 f5.6 123mm ISO 800 pic.twitter.com/79hzIZ6IjL
— Dan Heap (@Ohdannyboy77) December 7, 2018
Waiting Patiently is brought down by Bristol De Mai in the King George Chase, Michael Harris:
He’d waited so patiently for this race…. pic.twitter.com/DpaGnhTV3W
— Michael Harris (@mjyharris) December 26, 2018
Runners in the Labe Stakes take the Irish Bank but Patrick Boekhout gets unseated from his horse Elias and runs down the bank, Tom Fordyce for The Guardian:
Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word serve up an absolute thriller in The King George, Michael Harris:
Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word serve up an absolute thriller in The King George. pic.twitter.com/yGIOPn1Zgy
— Michael Harris (@mjyharris) July 28, 2018
Kemboy crashes through the last and Paul Townend manages to stay upright, Patrick McCann:
Paul Townend becomes the latest to perform miracles to keep the partnership intact en route to victory pic.twitter.com/qVtVNnL4By
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) January 27, 2018
Newspaperofrecord romps in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Melissa Bauer-Herzog
My biggest wish for next year's racing isn't to see another Triple Crown winner (though that'd be cool), it's to this this filly go for at least one European classic. Weeks after the race, I still can't get over how dominant Newspaperofrecord was – and her name is cool too. pic.twitter.com/Hbob8f5brf
— Melissa Bauer-Herzog – Pyrois Media (@mbauerherzog) November 12, 2018
The Lazarus Award for Comeback of the Year: Nicky Henderson’s rejuvenation of Brain Power to take the International Hurdle was a terrific performance given how bad his jumping had previously been over fences (as well as his bad finishing of races) but we go to America for our winner. David Cohen had to take an injury absence of four years after a fractured fibula and tibia received when kicked by a horse in an Arlington Paddock. This year he won 109 races and was presented with JockeyTalk360.com’s fourth annual Comeback Jockey of the Year Award – and he can have this one too.
Scat Daddy Award for Promising Young Sire: Lots of contenders here, with No Nay Never making a big impact in terms of graded winners, but Kingman perhaps has even greater promise. The four time Group 1 winner had three Graded winners in his crop including Calyx, who could have gone onto greater things had he not been injured after taking apart the Coventry. Persian King looked like a horse with a bright future took the Autumn Stakes and there were also listed wins for Sangarius and Look Around amongst others. Given the way he thrived going from two to three, better can be expected for his progeny.
CALYX (top) makes an emphatic winning debut at Newmarket to become Kingman’s (bottom) first winner as a sire.
Both made very similar debuts on the July Course at Newmarket. If he’s half as good as his old man he’d have done well! pic.twitter.com/ApMtpIetYj
— ᴄᴀʟʟᴜᴍ (@Connochie7) June 10, 2018
Honourable Mentions: No Nay Never (Coolmore), Charm Spirit (Tweenhills), Australia (Coolmore)
Broadcast Reporter of the Year, presented by Ryan Moore: Many of the same faces here but really tough to separate at the end of the year. Much has been made of the new channels that will start up just after you’re reading this and Hayley Moore will be an integral part of that new offering. She went viral earlier in the year after Give Em A Clump’ fell and unseated Fran Berry at Chepstow, leading her to run into action and capture the runaway horse, but she has had an excellent 12 months and has a varied and engaging interviewing style.
Take a bow, At The Races presenter Hayley Moorepic.twitter.com/hEIlV7Ejp1
— Francis Keogh (@HonestFrank) May 22, 2018
Honourable Mentions: Ed Chamberlain (ITV), Gary O’Brien (ATR), Matt Chapman (ITV), Lydia Hislop (RUK), Nick Luck (NBC/RUK), Sally Ann Grassick (ITV/RTE)
The Michael Owen Award For Analyst of the Year: Another stellar year for Kevin Blake, who doubles up after another stellar year across all formats. His appearances for At The Races have been excellent once again but perhaps even more enlightening have been his regular columns for their website, tackling the good, the bad, and the ugly. Rachel Canderlora has been excellent for Racing TV, whilst Simon Rowlands deserves a big shout. All year his time analysis – painstakingly curated without the help that his counterparts in America have – has been invaluable, whether over flat or jumps. Will Hoffmann, who had debut columns in the Irish Field, has also made a great deal of progress this year. A shout out for Lydia Hislop’s amazing Road To Cheltenham.
— Kevin Blake (@kevinblake2011) December 17, 2018
Honourable Mentions: Rachel Candelora (RUK), Steve Mellish (RUK), Matt Bernier (NBC), Jamie Lynch (Timeform), Lydia Hislop (RUK, Sporting Life), Will Hoffmann (Irish Field), Candice Hare (RTE)
The Wacky Races Award For Funniest Contest of the year: No contest. On a cloudy Thursday afternoon in January, for the second time in six months, two horses ran in the wrong races. Again. Ivan Furtado, no relation to Nelly of the same name, sent two horses to the wonderful Nottinghamshire Venue. Scribner Creek was making his debut for the stable, and set to run in the sunbets.co.uk Download The App Handicap over a mile. African Trader was set to go in the sunbets.co.uk Top Price On All Favourites Handicap, also making his debut, but over seven furlongs. Scrinber Creek was third in the one mile handicap, whilst African Trader was seventh in the seven furlong race. Punters were confused but even more remarkably this was discovered since one of the horses involved was randomly selected for drug-testing after its race.
Trainer Ivan Furtado fined £2,000 for running wrong horses in two races at Southwell.
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) February 1, 2018
Honourable Mention: On a sunny October day in Nottingham, at 3.35, Operative, a live contender for the KFE Leaders In Frying Excellence Handicap otherwise known as The Jockey Club Grassroots Sprint Distance Series Final, was getting rather unruly in the stalls. As you do, he was withdrawn beforehand. This is a standard procedure as we all know, but when the one course announcement was made, it was Magic Pulse, the last time out winner at Chelmsford, that bad been withdrawn. Expect of course, she hadn’t. But wait a minute – she had. A massive stewarding error was confirmed with a third announcement that left Craig Buckingham absolutely fuming, and no wonder.
Statement regarding Magic Pulse being withdrawn in error at Nottingham this afternoon:
— BHA Press Office (@BHAPressOffice) October 3, 2018
The James Blunt Award for Tweeter of the Year: A lot of people managed to provide joy, laughs, information and insight on the platform through the year – and whilst there might be more division than ever there are still plenty of great tweeters. Video is king nowadays and Jay Hazley (@TracksideJay) managed to entertain and delight us all with his wonderful video mashups that were not limited to this brilliant mix of Home Alone and the King George.
I decided to combine two of my favourite things at Christmas.
Home Alone & The King George VI Chase.
RT's much appreciated! pic.twitter.com/RCgDgYu45A
— Jay MBE (@TracksideJay) December 17, 2018
Honourable Mentions: Matt Chapman (@MCYeeehaaa), Alex Banks (@UAE_Racing), Kitty Trice (@KittyTrice), Simon Rowlands (@RowleyfileFFF), Graham Cunningham (@gcunning12), Carly Kaiser (@ballydolphin), Jason Beem (@BeemieAwards), Martin Pennington (@quevega), Jon Da Silva (@CreamOnTop), John Priddey (@gloriavictis), and Baba Jasmine (@Baba_Jas)
The Donald John Trump award for most aggressive tweeter of the year: This is what was written last year: “There was A LOT of competition for this award, but Shane Reeves (@shanereeves1982) is the King of rage and remains undefeated for another year. A particular highlight is his never-ending vendetta against Irish racing, which never fails to be bent when he has had a short priced horse beaten.”
Same again, and no real competition either. Congratulations!
Buvair D’Air beaten and they say racing isn’t corrupt who u lot trying to kid it’s bent as fuck end of 😂😂
— shane reeves (@shanereeves1982) December 26, 2018
The Best Feature Piece of the Year: In recent years we have seen this sport tackle mental health like no other, and Lee Mottershead’s brilliant interview with Kayley Woolacott, trainer of Lalor, is necessary reading. To begin, Mottershead says that “you cannot tell this story properly over three pages or 2,500 words.” But this is as close as anyone will get.
The Journalist Of The Year: The subject of racing coverage is perhaps at its most fiercely debated and perhaps at its most important. On Satellite TV, the sport is undergoing some big changes – and with plenty of talent to back it up – but there’s lot of quality coverage in print and on the net here. Chris Cook’s willingness to cover the sport’s positives and negatives, with an illuminating style of writing and also analysis of the day to day events that make the sport tick. A special shoutout to Gloucester based Melissa Jones, who has done a wonderful job of covering jumps for one of the best local papers in the shape of Gloucester Live. She is invaluable reading, especially with Trials Day and The Festival coming up soon. Donn McClean has been a valuable source of print insight for Irish racing, and Scott Burton has covered French racing in great detail.
Honourable Mentions: Melissa Jones (Gloucester Live), Scott Burton (Racing Post), Kitty Trice (Racing Post), Maddy Playle (Racing Post), Donn McLean (Irish Times), Rob Wright (The Times)
The Daily Mail Award for Judge of the Year: At times it feels like it has been more difficult than ever to make it pay – indeed trading departments have had the Christmas of all Christmases – but plenty of the brightest and best have managed to beat the odds and there have been some spectacular performances. Last year this award was shared by Ryan Summerfield and Rhys Williams, and they take it once again after Summerfield turned over 1/2 favorite Dulhallow Gesture with a 33/1 tip of The White Mouse at Lingfield in November, whilst Williams managed to land a 40/1 winner with Ringrone Castle in August. There are literally dozens of potential candidates though, and a big shout to Ben Linfoot who signed off with a winner in the shape of Doitforthevillage at Chepstow.
Bold decision from the handicapper to give Ringrone Castle a rating after only 2 chase runs under rules, refusing in one and being beaten 33l in the other. Ran quite well in last 2 starts in points when ridden by novice riders. Small bet at 40+ in next at Roscommon.
— Rhys Williams (@Rhys_N_Williams) August 7, 2018
Honourable Mentions: Ron Wood (Racing Post), Ben Linfoot (Sporting Life), Tony Kenenan (Betfair, At The Races), Rory Delargy (Irish Field), Tom Collins (Racing Post’s The Punt), Ben Linfoot (Sporting Life)