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2020 Year in Review

horse racing
After the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in March, empty grandstands became the norm for most tracks.

Major Races in 2020

 - Quattroelle holds on in the Blue Norther Stakes
 - Robert J. Frankel (G3) and Eddie Logan Stakes
 - Malibu Stakes Day at Santa Anita
 - Malibu Stakes Day Continued
 - Spielberg gets up in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2)
 - 2020 Longines Hong Kong International Races
 - Proud Emma victorious in the Bayakoa Stakes (G3)
 - 2020 Cigar Mile (G1) Day
 - Varda upsets in the Starlet Stakes (G1)
 - Viadera gets up in the Matriarch Stakes (G1)
 - Hollywood Derby Day at Del Mar
 - Arklow holds on in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2)
 - Orglandes wins the Red Carpet Handicap (G3)
 - Loud Mouth gets up in the Cary Grant Stakes (G3)
 - Extra Hope wins the Native Diver Stakes (G3)
 - Ride a Comet streaks to victory in the Kennedy Road Stakes (G2)
 - Red Flag victorious in the Bob Hope Stakes
 - Astute astounding in the Desi Arnaz Stakes
 - Mo See Cal dominates the Betty Grable Stakes
 - Saturday at the Breeders' Cup Part 1
 - Saturday at the Breeders' Cup Part 2
 - Autumn and Maple Leaf Stakes
 - Future Stars Friday at the Breeders' Cup
 - Strongconstitution holds on in the Let It Ride Stakes
 - Maxim Rate romps in the Goldikova Stakes (G2)
 - Belichick wins the Breeders' Stakes
 - Biddy Duke upsets in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3)
 - E.P. Taylor Stakes Day at Woodbine
 - Smooth Like Strait wins the Twilight Derby (G2)
 - Warren's Showtime takes centerstage in the Autumn Miss Stakes (G3)
 - Galilean gets up in the California Flag Handicap
 - 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup Day
 - Just Grazed Me wins the California Distaff Handicap
 - Master Spy tops in the Cup and Saucer Stakes
 - Belmont Derby Day
 - Swiss Skydiver beats the boys in the Preakness (G1)
 - Mighty Heart wins the Prince of Wales Stakes
 - Zenyatta Stakes Day
 - Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Day at Santa Anita
 - Santa Anita "Win and You're In" Day Part 2
 - Eddie D (G2) and Chillingworth Stakes (G3)
 - Summer (G1) and Natalma Stakes (G1)
 - Woodbine Mile Day
 - Mighty Heart much the best in the Queen's Plate
 - Queen's Plate Undercard Stakes
 - 2020 Del Mar Futurity (G1) Day
 - 2020 Del Mar Debutante (G1) Day
 - Authentic a real champ in the Kentucky Derby (G1)
 - Kentucky Derby Undercard Results
 - Raymundos Secret wins the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2)
 - Shedaresthedevil upsets in the Kentucky Oaks (G1)
 - Kentucky Oaks Undercard Results
 - Good With People best in the I'm Smokin Stakes
 - Governor Goteven rules in the Generous Portion Stakes
 - C Z Rocket blasts to the front in the Pat O'Brien Stakes (G2)
 - Dead Heat for the win in Tranquility Lake Stakes
 - 2020 Pacific Classic (G1) Day at Del Mar
 - Warrior's Charge on top in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3)
 - Pulpit Rider gets up in the Solana Beach
 - Woodbine Oaks Day Part 1
 - Woodbine Oaks Day Part 2
 - Pneumatic blows out the Pegasus Stakes
 - Travers Stakes Day
 - Whitney Stakes Day
 - Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and Ballston Spa Stakes
 - Authentic genuine in the Haskell (G1)
 - Haskell Undercard Stakes Results
 - Met Mile at Belmont Park
 - Just a Game Stakes Day at Belmont Park
 - Stephen Foster Handicap Day
 - Belmont Stakes Day
 - She's a Julie wins the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1)
 - Carter Handicap day at Belmont Park
 - Santa Anita Derby Day
 - Rebel Stakes Day at Oaklawn
 - Field Pass gets up in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3)
 - Santa Anita Handicap Day
 - Tampa Bay Derby Day
 - Gotham (G3) Stakes Day at Aqueduct
 - Honeybee (G3) and Hot Springs Stakes Results
 - Maximum Security scores big in the Saudi Cup
 - Saudi Cup undercard stakes
 - STC International Jockeys Challenge
 - Risen Star Stakes (G2) Day at the Fair Grounds
 - Hard Not To Love an easy winner in the Santa Monica Stakes (G2)
 - San Pasqual Stakes (G2) day at Santa Anita
 - Max Player on his game in the Withers Stakes (G3)
 - Mucho Gusto much the best in the Pegasus World Cup (G1)
 - Zulu Alpha first in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1)
 - Pegasus World Cup Undercard Stakes
 - Enforceable wins the LeComte Stakes (G3)
 - Mind Control takes charge in the Toboggan Stakes (G3)
 - Bast triumphant in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2)
 - San Gabriel (G2) and Sham Stakes (G3)
 - Independence Hall victorious in the Jerome Stakes

 - Mohawk Million Night
 - 2020 Pepsi North America Cup Night

Date: 12/31/2020

As everyone celebrates the holidays, it is time to bid farewell to 2020 and the exciting racing which we enjoyed, however it goes without saying, most of us are glad to be done with 2020. 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 2020 racing season.

Some readers may recall how 2019 was an annus horribilis due to safety issues plaguing several tracks especially in California. Thankfully that aspect did not carry over to 2020, however, the sudden spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 disrupted professional sports worldwide, and horse racing was no exception. For much of the year, tracks were either closed down or operated without spectators, with only essential horsemen, owners, and very limited numbers of credentialed media allowed to attend. So, sadly we were treated to another annus horribilis but for very different reasons.

horse racing
Mucho Gusto after winning the Pegasus World Cup
The first big day of racing in 2020 is the Pegasus World Cup, run at Gulfstream Park for a reduced purse of $3 million. Mucho Gusto defeated Mr Freeze and War Story, while the favorite Higher Power was last of 10. Mucho Gusto was unable to repeat that form, finishing 4th in his 2 other starts this year. The co-feature saw Zulu Alpha defeat Magic Wand in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, with Instilled Regard third and favorite Without Parole 11th of 12.

As if to upstage the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the Saudi Arabian ruling family introduced the new $20 million Saudi Cup on Leap Day, February 29, a 1 1/8 mile dirt race for older horses, taking over the title of world's richest horse race. Favorite Maximum Security, best known for being disqualified from the win in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, held off late-closing filly Midnight Bisou and Benbatl, with Mucho Gusto fourth. On the undercard, Call the Wind won the $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap, New York Central won the $1.5 million Saudia Sprint, Dark Power won the $1 million STC 1351 Cup, Port Lions won the $1 million Mohamed Yousuf Motors Cup, and Full Flat took the $800,000 Saudi Derby.

In mid-March, after NBA player Rudy Gobert and others tested positive for COVID-19, many pro sports immediately paused their seasons, or in some cases, cancelled the remaining games completely. As usual, late March marks the Dubai World Cup, with the 25th anniversary celebrations scheduled. Horses from Europe, Asia, and North America shipped in to Meydan over a week in advance, however, on Sunday March 22 after morning training and just 6 days before race night, the event was scrapped. Originally the event was to be run behind closed doors without spectators (which would be the "new normal" for the rest of the year at most tracks). Given that the UAE's airspace was to be shut down effective Tuesday the 24th, this meant that all horses, horsemen, and media who had travelled in had to quickly leave or risk being stranded. HRN's staff photographer Vanessa Ng faced this situation first-hand, flying home Monday on the last Emirates flight back to New York, after just arriving there on Saturday evening. For over 2 weeks the entire Emirates Airline fleet was grounded, and to this day many of their planes still sit in storage at Dubai World Central and Dubai International airports.


Authentic wins the Kentucky Derby
By early April, almost every racetrack in North America was closed, with the length of disruption unknown, but most reopened by June. Officials scrambled to adjust their stakes schedules with the expectation of being allowed to reopen, hopefully with fans. The American Triple Crown was affected the most, with the Kentucky Derby moved to September 5th and the Preakness to October 3, however the Belmont was only delayed 2 weeks and was run on June 20. In addition, because the Belmont was now the first race of the Triple Crown, and with many horses unable to follow their prep race schedules due to track closures in the spring, the usually 1 1/2 mile "Test of a Champion" was shortened to just 1 1/8 miles. Florida Derby winner and heavy favorite Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes with Manny Franco riding for trainer Barclay Tagg and owners Sackatoga Stable, defeating Dr Post and Max Player. Due to the scheduling, Tiz the Law also won the Travers between the Belmont and the Derby. At the Kentucky Derby, 8-1 Authentic, winner of the Haskell, went gate to wire holding off favorite Tiz the Law, with Mr. Big News third. Four weeks later at the Preakness, the filly Swiss Skydiver pulled off a mild 11-1 upset over favorite Authentic and Jesus' Team, with Tiz the Law not in the race.


Mighty Heart wins the Queen's Plate
The Canadian Triple Crown usually begins after the American version ends, but this year the series were concurrent as, although Canadian racing resumed in June, officials delayed the Queen's Plate to September 12 in hopes of having fans in attendance, but this proved impossible. 13-1 longshot and one-eyed colt Mighty Heart went gate to wire in the Plate, defeating Belichick and Clayton, with favorite and Woodbine Oaks winner Curlin's Voyage third. 17 days later, Mighty Heart with jockey Daisuke Fukomoto again went gate to wire to take the Prince of Wales Stakes over Clayton and Dotted Line. This set up a chance for the first Canadian Triple Crown sweep since Wando in 2003. However it was not to be as Mighty Heart tired to finish 7th in the Breeders' Stakes beaten 20 lengths, as his stablemate Belichick defeated Meyer and English Conqueror. Josie Carroll became the first female trainer to sweep the Canadian Triple Crown (but with 2 different horses). The Woodbine racing season was slated to end on December 13 but due to the provincial government's lockdown in Ontario, the meeting was cut short to November 22, having also started 2 months later than usual.


Authentic winning the Breeders' Cup Classic
The Breeders' Cup World Championships were held at Keeneland for the second time, with no paying spectators in attendance, however the stands and apron appeared quite full and not "socially distanced" what with all the owners, sponsors, officials, and other VIP guests who were allowed to attend. "Future Stars Friday" featured all the 2-year-old races (with Lasix prohibited), starting with the Juvenile Turf Sprint won by Golden Pal with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. Essential Quality won the feature, the Juvenile, making him an early choice for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Saturday was highlighted by the Classic, where Authentic and jockey John Velazquez drew off to defeat Improbable and Global Campaign, with favorite Tiz the Law 6th. French invader Tarnawa with new rider Colin Keane beat the boys in the Turf defeating fellow distaffer Magical and Channel Maker. Monomoy Girl repeated in the Distaff with jockey Florent Geroux, over Valiance and Dunbar Road. Whitmore finally reached the Sprint winner's circle, having raced in 4 straight editions. "Big Money" Mike Smith, known for his Breeders' Cup success despite going winless last year, remained in California due to restrictions on jockeys shipping into different tracks. French jockey Christophe Soumillon tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival and was forced to sit out the event, only to watch all three of his scheduled mounts go on to win, Tarnawa, longshot Order of Australia in the Mile, and Audarya in the Filly and Mare Turf. The Championships will be contested at Del Mar in 2021, and then back to Keeneland in 2022.


Maximum Security "winning" the Saudi Cup.
The 2020 racing season will mostly be remembered for all the difficulties caused by the global pandemic, but the sport suffered a huge black eye in March when trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro and numerous other horsemen were arrested and indicted on federal charges involving performance enhancing drugs and race fixing. Maximum Security, who was disqualified from the 2019 Kentucky Derby due to interference, could retroactively be disqualified from all his starts while trained by Servis, including the winner's share of the Saudi Cup purse. Owner Gary West immediately shipped Maximum Security from Servis' barn at Monmouth Park to Bob Baffert's barn at Santa Anita. Navarro's stable star X Y Jet died of a heart attack in early January. Maybe racing can turn the page at the New Year with the passing of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 27, requiring training and racing safety standards consistent with the humane treatment of horses, a system to maintain track surface quality, programs for injury and fatality analysis, investigation and disciplinary procedures, and an evaluation and accreditation program. In addition, Lasix was banned for use by juveniles in 2020 at tracks operated by NYRA, Stronach Group, Del Mar, Keeneland (including the Breeders' Cup), Lone Star Park, Oaklawn, Los Alamitos, Oaklawn, and Tampa Bay Downs, and then in 2021, the medication will be prohibited in all stakes races at those tracks, including the 2021 Triple Crown races. Sadly, our home track Woodbine in Toronto has not yet joined this coalition as of time of writing.

horse racing
Win Bright wins the Longines Hong Kong Cup
Foreign racing continues to attract more and more attention in North America with increased availability of betting outlets and TV coverage. In the Melbourne Cup, the "race that stops a nation", Twilight Payment gave trainer Joseph O'Brien his second win in the race, defeating Tiger Moth and Prince of Arran gate-to-wire. Sadly, 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, trained by Joseph's father Aidan, broke down at the 5/16 pole and had to be euthanized. The year closed out with the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin. Local heroine Normcore defeated Win Bright and Magical to take the Cup giving jockey Zac Purton a record 9th International Race win. Mogul took the Vase for Coolmore, jockey Ryan Moore and trainer Aidan O'Brien representing Ireland. Danon Smash won the Sprint for Japan and trainer Takayaki Yasuda with Ryan Moore also aboard, and Golden Sixty gave local trainer Francis Lui and jockey Vincent Ho their first International Race win in the Mile. Like most race meetings worldwide, both the Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Internationals were run with their usually packed grandstands empty.

Of course, with all the excitement and joy the sport brings, there are always losses each year. The Saratoga meeting started on the saddest of notes as ten horses trained by Christophe Clement died when their trailer caught fire as they were being shipped from Belmont Park.

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 2020, both human and equine, with links to articles about each. If I missed someone, please let me know.

Thoroughbred

People

Horses

  Standardbred

People

Horses
horse racing
Roger Brueggemann

horse racing
Beau Greeley

horse racing
Pat Smullen

horse racing
Bill Sorokolit

horse racing
Anthony Van Dyck

horse racing
A.P. Indy

horse racing
Archarcharch

horse racing
Arrogate

horse racing
Awesome Again

horse racing
Einstein

horse racing
Empire Maker

horse racing
Pleasantly Perfect

horse racing
Rip Van Winkle

horse racing
War Emblem

horse racing
X Y Jet

As other places put their year end recaps online, I will add links to them here.

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