With everyone celebrating the holidays, it is time to bid farewell to 2010 and the exciting racing 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's a look back at the best and worst of the 2010 racing season.
Goldikova wins her third Breeders' Cup Mile
The "girls beating the boys" theme continued in 2010, with several high-profile examples throughout the year. Dar Re Mi won the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Goldikova won several stakes in Europe and then returned to America to win the Breeders' Cup Mile an unprecedented third straight year, and Snow Fairy won the Hong Kong Cup. Last year's heated rivalry between Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and runner-up Zenyatta continued into the early part of the year. The pair had planned to settle the score on the track in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, but after Rachel Alexandra lost her season debut at the Fair Grounds those plans were derailed. Rachel Alexandra would disappoint her many fans, losing not only the New Orleans Ladies but also the La Troienne and the Personal Ensign, which was to be her final career start. Zenyatta stretched her career unbeaten streak to 19, but in what was the most anticipated Breeders' Cup Classic ever, with more mainstream media attention after a "60 Minutes" segment, she finished a head behind Blame, which could deny the future Hall of Famer a Horse of the Year trophy.
The first "big day" of racing of the year was the 6th annual Sunshine Millions, Frank Stronach's Florida vs. California breeder war. Bold Chieftain won the Classic, Sweet Repent won the Distaff, Jet Propulsion won the Turf, and Tight Precision won the Filly and Mare Turf. As well, This Ones For Phil won the Sprint and Quisisana won the Filly and Mare Sprint. In March, the eyes of the racing world were on the brand new Meydan Racecourse in Dubai for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race. Gloria de Campeao led from gate to wire, holding off Lizard's Desire by a nose, with Allybar third. On the undercard, Dar Re Mi won the Sheema Classic, Al Shemali won the Duty Free, Kinsale King won the Golden Shaheen, Joy and Fun won the Al Quoz Sprint, Musir won the UAE Derby. and Calming Influence won the Godolphin Mile.
Lookin At Lucky wins the Preakness
The Triple Crown was disappointing for many as there were three different winners, each heading down a different path. 8-1 second choice Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby under jockey Calvin Borel, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his first Derby, and the popular Cajun jockey his third Derby win in four years. Two weeks later in the Preakness, Lookin at Lucky, who suffered from the inside post as the Derby favorite, came back to win under new jockey Martin Garcia for trainer Bob Baffert, while Super Saver was 8th. In the Belmont Stakes, longshot Drosselmeyer held off Fly Down with pacesetter First Dude third, giving trainer Bill Mott his first Triple Crown victory. Super Saver never won again and Drosselmeyer never raced again, while Lookin at Lucky went on to win the Haskell Invitational and Indiana Derby, and was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, all but guaranteeing him the 3-year-old male Eclipse Award.
Big Red Mike wins the Queen's Plate
With the American Triple Crown completed, our focus moved north of the border for the Canadian Triple Crown, with the Queen's Plate celebrating its 151th running as the oldest continuously-run stakes race in North America. Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance, her first Plate since 1997, to present the trophy and the famed 50 guineas. Big Red Mike and jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva led from gate to wire to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Hotep and Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish. Three weeks later at Fort Erie, Golden Moka, an undefeated "mystery horse" who started his career in Panama, defeated Mobil Unit by 2 3/4 lengths, with Big Red Mike third. In the Breeders' Stakes three weeks later at Woodbine, Big Red Mike and Golden Moka stayed on the sidelines, while 65-1 Miami Deco closed on the rail to defeat Stormy Lord and Cognashene, paying a stakes record $132.10 to win. Also at Woodbine, Joshua Tree won the Canadian International, Reggane won the E.P. Taylor Stakes, and Court Vision won the Woodbine Mile.
Blame beats Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic
The Breeders' Cup World Championships, back at Churchill Downs for the next 2 years, determine most of the Eclipse Awards, and for the first time, some of the races were run after sunset under floodlights. Along with Blame and Goldikova mentioned above, Dangerous Midge passed front-running Champ Pegasus in the Turf, after heavy favorite Workforce scratched. Unrivaled Belle won the Ladies' Classic, and Shared Account won the Filly and Mare Turf. The Juvenile, usually regarded as a preview of next year's Triple Crown, saw heavy favorite Uncle Mo romp by 4 1/2 lengths. The biggest upset over the two days was in the Dirt Mile, when 38-1 longest shot Dakota Phone nailed Morning Line late for the win. The event was marred by tragedy when Rough Sailing slipped and fell on the clubhouse turn during the Juvenile Turf, and had to be euthanized at the barn due to a broken shoulder. Jockey Anna Napravnik escaped uninjured. As well, 7-2 second choice Life at Ten broke poorly in the Ladies Classic and was eased late, after jockey John Velazquez had expressed concerns while interviewed by ESPN on the way to the starting gate, leading some to question why the horse was allowed to race. Adding to the embarassment seen on global TV screens was the fight in the winner's circle between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano after the Marathon.
A still from the Secretariat movie
In October, Walt Disney Pictures released the movie "Secretariat" starring Diane Lane as owner Penny Chenery and John Malkovich as trainer Lucien Laurin. The film opened in third place in box office receipts in its opening weekend, and received mostly positive reviews from the mainstream press.
Maryland racing again made headlines for the wrong reasons, as 2 weeks before the end of the year no agreement had been reached between the owners of the Maryland Jockey Club and the racing commission, and it appeared the entire 2011 season along with the Preakness was in jeopardy. A last-minute deal saved the season but unless major changes take place this dispute will likely repeat itself. New York may finally see slots at Aqueduct in 2011 after 10 years of political wrangling, but the New York City OTB Corporation went bankrupt and, with no bailout from the state, closed its doors in late November. However, as New York may be finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, their neighbors across the Hudson River in New Jersey are going in the opposite direction. After enjoying a historic "Elite Summer Meet" at Monmouth, with reduced racing days but higher purses which led to record handle and attendance, Governor Christie may have single-handedly killed horse racing in New Jersey, both harness and Thoroughbred, instead favoring the politically-connected Atlantic City casino owners. Despite a 2-year study that found that horses are less likely to break down on synthetic tracks versus conventional dirt surfaces, Santa Anita Park removed its Pro-Ride track, which hosted 2 Breeders' Cups without any injuries, replacing it with a dirt track in time for the 2010-2011 winter meeting. Due to this renovation, the 2010 Oak Tree meeting was run at Hollywood Park instead, and it is likely Oak Tree will move to Del Mar in 2011 as a permanent site. As well, both Churchill Downs and Magna International Developments pulled their tracks out of the NTRA.
Snow Fairy beats the boys in the Hong Kong Cup
Foreign racing, besides the Dubai World Cup, continues to attract more and more attention in North America with increased availability of betting outlets and TV coverage. Juddmonte Farms homebred 3-year-old Workforce won both the Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Turf as trainer Sir Michael Stoute was unhappy with the very firm Churchill Downs turf course. Snow Fairy won the Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks, Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in Japan, and the Hong Kong Cup. Along with her historic Breeders' Cup Mile three-peat, Goldikova also won the Prix d'Ispahan, Queen Anne Stakes, Prix Rothschild, and Prix de la Foret. Americain became the first French-trained horse to win Australia's race, the Melbourne Cup, off wins in the Prix Kergorlay at home at Deauville and the Geelong Cup on arrival in Australia. In the final big race day of the international calendar, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, Mastery won the Vase for Godolphin, J J The Jet Plane won the Sprint for his South African connections, locally trained and owned Beauty Flash won the Mile, to go with Snow Fairy's win in the Cup.
Of course, with all the excitement and joy the sport brings, there are always losses each year. Once again many horses lost their lives due to injury while others succumbed to illness or old age. Here are some of the notable losses in 2010, both human and equine, with links to articles about each. If I missed someone, please let me know.