McPeek 3000 wins
Derby Future Pool 4
Sovereign Award finalists
Triple Crown Trail
Derby Points List
Cody's Wish is a sentimental choice for Horse of the Year for 2023.
As everyone celebrates the holidays, it is time to bid farewell to 2023 and the exciting racing which we enjoyed, however much like at the end of 2022, many of us are glad to be done with 2023. This year had some outstanding horses and great feats by both equine and human athletes, but we also had some sad losses to mourn, especially this year for us. Here's a look back at the best and worst of the 2023 racing season.
The $20 million Saudi Cup on February 25 is world's richest horse race, contested at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Japanese invader Panthalassa held off Country Grammer with Cafe Pharoah third and favorite Taiba 8th. On the undercard, Silver Sonic won the $2.5 million Red Sea Turf Handicap, Elite Power won the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint, Bathrat Leon won the $1.5 million 1351 Turf Sprint, Mostahdaf won the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cup, and Commissioner King took the $1.5 million Saudi Derby.
A month later the eyes of the racing world moved further east on the Arabian Peninsula to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. Ushba Tesoro won the headliner with Yuga Kawada aboard for trainer Noboru Takagi. On the undercard, Lord North held off Danon Beluga to win his third Dubai Turf, Equinox won the Sheema Claasic, Sibelius took the Golden Shaheen, and Derma Sotogake won the UAE Derby.
The 2023 racing season will unfortunately be remembered for an unusually high number of equine fatalities at high profile racing events. Derby Week at Churchill Downs saw seven horses lose their lives, leading to the temporary suspension of trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. (who trained 2 of the horses), and after the death toll reached 12 for the meeting, the latter part of the meet was moved to Ellis Park. The Preakness wasn't spared either as Bob Baffert trained Havnameltdown broke down during the Chick Lang Stakes on the undercard and had to be euthanized on the track. Geaux Rocket Ride, a contender for the Breeders' Cup Classic, was euthanized 4 days after sustaining an injury during a workout, and then Tuesday morning of Championship week, Dirt Mile entrant Practical Move collapsed and died due to a suspected cardiac event after a gallop. 2023 was also the first full year of American horse racing being (mostly) conducted under the new Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), which some horse people (especially in Texas and Louisiana) are against. After Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint entrant Givemethebeatboys was scratched by the veterinarians under the new HISA rules, trainer Jessica Harrington expressed she may not want to ship her horses over in future. As for the story from 2021 that seems to never end, Churchill Downs Inc. extended its suspension of trainer Bob Baffert through the end of 2024. We suspect this will reappear in this space next year as well.
There were announcements from Stronach Group about possibly running the Preakness 4 weeks after the Derby, given the poor field sizes the race has attracted in recent years, citing horse safety as a reason, however NYRA rebuffed them saying they have no plans to move the Belmont. On that note, New York racing will look very different in 2024 and 2025, with no racing conducted at Belmont Park as the aging facility gets rebuilt. The Belmont Stakes will instead be run at Saratoga, at a reduced distance of 1 1/4 miles. North of the border, the owners of Fort Erie Racetrack filed a complaint against Woodbine with the Canadian Trade Commission for a number of grievances, not the least of which is the scheduling of the King's Plate in August instead of its usual late June or early July, meaning Fort Erie's signature race, the Prince of Wales, has to be run in mid September, after the peak tourism season in Niagara Region has ended, leading to poor attendance and handle. (It also does not help that the race is run on a Tuesday afternoon). In addition Woodbine has a horse shipping policy restricting movement between the tracks, and has increased purses in lower level claiming events, a move Fort Erie calls predatory.
Equinox, earlier mentioned as the Dubai Sheema Classic winner, completed a perfect 4 for 4 season adding wins in the Takarazuka Kinen, Tenno Sho Autumn, and Japan Cup, retiring to stud as the best Flat horse in the world by Timeform with his whopping 136 rating, tied with El Condor Pasa as the highest rated Japanese horse ever. Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Prix du Jockey Club winning 3-year-old Ace Impact (rated 133), trained by Jean-Claude Rouget for owners Gousserir Racing and Serge Stempniak, was named the 2023 Cartier Horse of the Year, the biggest year-end award in Europe, edging out Paddington, Auguste Rodin, and Mostahdaf.
Of course, with all the excitement and joy the sport brings, there are always losses each year. Many horses lost their lives due to injury while others succumbed to illness or old age. This year was especially difficult for us with the passing of our photographer and close personal friend Vanessa Ng in March. She was a valued member of our team for 17 years. We also lost fellow Woodbine based photographer John Watkins in August. Here are some of the notable losses in 2023, both human and equine, with links to articles about each. If we missed someone, please let us know.
Stakes Racing in 2023 - from Pensylvania Horse Racing Association