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With everyone celebrating the holidays, it is time to bid farewell to 2007 and the exciting racing that we were treated to. This year had some outstanding horses and great feats by both equine and human athletes, but we also had some sad losses to mourn. Here is a look back at the best and worst of 2007.
The year always starts off in the southern states of California, Louisiana, and Florida, where top racing stables spend the winter. The Sunshine Millions, the brainchild of Frank Stronach set up as a California vs Florida breeder war, celebrated its fourth renewal in January. In the main event, the Classic, 34-1 longshot McCann's Mojave pulled off a huge upset, defeating 42-1 Summer Book. Lava Man
In March, the eyes of the racing world were on Nad al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai for the $6 million Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race. Among the U.S. based runners, 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor defeated Premium Tap in the main event, Kelly's Landing captured the Golden Shaheen, defeating Friendly Island, and Spring at Last won the Godolphin Mile. Lava Man again showed he could not win away from home, fading late to finish last after looking like he had a chance at the win at the top of the stretch. The biggest disappointment that night was Discreet Cat, the highly-touted Godolphin hope in the World Cup, who was never in it and finished last.
With the American Triple Crown completed, our focus moved north of the border for the Canadian Triple Crown. With Polytrack installed at Woodbine, this is the only Triple Crown series where the three races are not only at different distances but at different surfaces. History was made in the Queen's Plate, the first ever run on a synthetic track, as Mike Fox split horses in deep stretch to get the victory, making jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson the only female rider to win the Gallop for the Guineas. The action moved south to Fort Erie for the Prince of Wales Stakes over a conventional dirt surface, where Alezzandro led every step of the way to win, with Mike Fox fourth. Back to Woodbine and its E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Marchfield captured the Breeders' Stakes for owner Eugene Melnyk, trainer Mark Casse, and jockey Patrick Husbands, who would go on to win Sovereign Awards in their respective categories. Those same connections were also behind Horse of the Year Sealy Hill, who captured the Woodbine Oaks, Bison City, and Wonder Where to become Canada's first Triple Tiara winner.
Synthetic surfaces appeared in more locations in 2007, as California racing mandated they be installed at all Thoroughbred tracks in that state. Santa Anita and Hollywood Park opted for Cushion Track, while Del Mar went with Polytrack. Presque Isle Downs, a new track that opened in Erie, Pennsylvania in September, features a Tapeta racing surface, and thanks to a short meet and slot machines that had been open for several months, also offered very high purses for its inaugural meet. Problems with synthetics that didn't appear in 2006 definitely showed up in 2007, as the European innovation often did not hold up to the harsher North American climate, with our hotter summers and colder winters.
The New York Racing Association continued to be a hot topic, as the expiration date of their current franchise drew closer. Governor Eliot Spitzer favored an extension of the franchise for 30 years but with the state taking over ownership of the land, a legal sticking point through the whole proceeding. But as the deadline approached, Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno expressed disagreement with the governor, and at time of writing the issue had still not been settled and it is not known whether Aqueduct would be open for racing on New Year's Day.
Foreign racing, besides the Dubai World cup, continues to attract more and more attention in North America with increased availability of betting outlets. Favorite Dylan Thomas won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over 80-1 longshot Youmzain. Then in December, Ramonti shipped in from England to win the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse over Viva Pataca. French-based horse Doctor Dino, who also won the Man O'War Stakes at Belmont Park, captured the Hong Kong Vase while Dylan Thomas finished seventh in the last race of his career. A week later, it was announced that the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club
As the adage goes, "records were made to be broken", and 2007 is no exception. Trainer Todd Pletcher broke his own record for wins in a single year and money earned and may break other records by December 31. Jerry Hollendorfer earned win number 5000, Scott Lake reached 4000 wins, while Mark Hennig and Richard Dutrow Jr. each notched win number 1000. Several jockeys hit some key milestones, with Mario Pino notching win number 6000, Ricky Frazier winning his 3000th, Travis Dunkelberger won his 3000th, Terry Thompson earned win number 2000, and Abel Castellano won his 1000th. As well, jockey Garrett Gomez broke Jerry Bailey's record for stakes wins in a year.
Of course, with all the excitement and joy the sport brings, there are always losses each year. Along with Barbaro and George Washington, once again many horses lost their lives due to injury while others succumbed to illness or old age. It is hoped that the switch to synthetic surfaces will lead to a reduction in such incidents as its proponents have predicted. Here are some of the notable losses in 2007, both human and equine, with links to articles about each. If I missed someone, please let me know.
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