Triple Crown winners, Epsom Derby dazzlers and a trifecta in the Vodacom Durban July – 2015 had a lot to celebrate
The first month of the year saw Fort Wood and his progeny make headlines in South Africa. One of Fort Wood’s greatest sons Dynasty was in the news thanks to his brilliant son Futura, who won the Cape’s two most famous races, the GR1 J&B Met and GR1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. Futura was subsequently named Horse Of The Year. Dynasty made more news that month when a colt sired by him fetched a new SA record (R5.2 million) at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale.
Sadly that month, the death was announced of Fort Wood, Sadler’s Wells and Fall Aspen’s Gr1 winning son – a champion sire and broodmare sire in this country, who left behind 15 G1 winners including the above mentioned Dynasty and legendary champion, Horse Chestnut.
One of the grudge matches of the year takes place in North America, where Shared Belief, an unlucky loser of the Gr1 Breeders Cup Classic, takes on popular Horse Of The Year California Chrome. It is Shared Belief who prevails comfortably over his chestnut rival to take his score line to nine wins from just ten outings.
Sadly, after winning the Gr1 Santa Anita Handicap by an effortless four and a quarter lengths, Shared Belief breaks down badly next time out. Tragically, he never races again and dies in December of colic. Sad end to a hugely talented athlete!
Dubai World Cup night, on March 28th, saw a host of notable performances – including a stunning eight length demolition by the Mike de Kock trained Mubtaahij in the Gr2 UAE Derby. The son of Dubawi will later take his place in the Gr1 Belmont Stakes. Another superb win on the night came in the form of the French galloper Solow, who puts four and a quarter lengths between himself and runner up (and Prix Du Jockey Club hero) The Grey Gatsby in the newly named Gr1 Dubai Turf. The gelding will go on to win his four races (all Gr1) in a row, culminating in a win in the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. North America lost a leading light when dual US Champion Sire Smart Strike died at the ripe old age of 23. His offspring included champions Curlin, English Channel and Lookin At Lucky – all of whom tasted success as sires themselves this year. In Australia, unbeaten Medaglia D’Oro colt Vancouver wins the world’s richest 2yo race – the Gr1 Golden Slipper.
Champions Day at Turffontein saw a number of smart victories. Subsequent Equus Champion 2YO Filly Entisaar landed the Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery, continuing the fine run of form enjoyed by Australian-breds in South Africa, while disqualified July “winner” Wylie Hall gained some well-deserved reward for his controversial July loss with a win in the Gr1 President’s Champion Challenge, and the impressive Legal Eagle outgamed subsequent Equus Champion and stable mate French Navy to win the Gr1 SA Derby by three lengths.
American Pharoah justifies favouritism in the Kentucky Derby, when beating Firing Line by a length. The son of Pioneerof The Nile will go on to become the first US Triple Crown winner since in 1978 when he adds wins in both the Gr1 Preakness Stakes and Gr1 Belmont Stakes. The champion will confirm his place among the all-time greats at the end of the year at Keeneland. At Newmarket, jockey Ryan Moore enjoys a great Guineas double when his mounts Gleneagles and Legatissimo win the 2000 and 1000 Guineas respectively.
Frankie Dettori enjoys his second English Derby win when he scores on Cape Cross colt Golden Horn in the Investec Derby. While Golden Horn is dispatched favourite for the Epsom classic, the Investec Oaks sees a shock result when Aidan O’Brien trained Fastnet Rock filly Qualify wins the Oaks at odds of 50-1. While Qualify fails to feature in the Irish Derby next time out, Golden Horn goes from strength to strength winning the Eclipse Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe before suffering a surprise loss in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Once again controversy mars the running of South Africa’s most famed race – the Gr1 Vodacom Durban July when the Dean Kannemeyer trained Power King beats Punta Arenas into second, but bumps the runner up badly in the proceedings. Remarkably, the first three home were all bred by Maine Chance Farms with all of Power King, Punta Arenas and Tellina being sired by the farm’s champion sire Silvano.
Captain Al picks up his first general sires title, while Futura is named Horse Of The Year at South Africa’s Equus Awards. Gavin Lerena and Sean Tarry are the country’s champion jockey and trainer respectively. The Gold Cup, controversially run on the first day of the new season, goes to former runner up Wild One, who sadly dies just shortly after winning South Africa’s premier staying race. In the USA, American Pharoah suffers only the second defeat of his career when beaten by Keen Ice in the Gr1 Travers Stakes.
Drakenstein Stud’s new sire Duke Of Marmalade makes more headlines when his daughter Simple Verse wins the Gr1 Ladbrokes St Leger. The first filly since User Friendly to prevail in the Doncaster classic, Simple Verse finishes first past the post, is disqualified only to be later re-instated as the winner. She is her sire’s fourth classic winner of the year and later goes on to win the Gr1 Qipco British Champion Fillies &Mares Stakes at Ascot. Simple Verse will bid to emulate her sire and become a King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in 2016.
New Zealand’s legendary sire Zabeel dies, aged 29. His 44 Gr1 winning offspring won 3 Melbourne Cups, 4 Cox Plates and included local champion Greys Inn – sire of Legal Eagle.
The Breeders Cup is held at Keeneland for the first time. American Pharoah lives up to expectations when winning the Gr1 Breeders Cup Classic by six and a half lengths, with subsequent Gr1 winners Effinex and Tonalist behind him. The great horse breaks the track record in the process and he now retires to Ashford Stud for a 2016 fee of $200 000.
Michelle Payne makes history when becoming the first female ride to win the Gr1 Melbourne Cup when scoring on 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance. Sadly, three time runner up Red Cadeaux breaks down in running and is later euthanized. Trainer Geoff Woodruff’s success in the Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup as he saddles Master Sabina and Deo Juvente to fill the first two placings.
Silvano’s great year continues when daughter Silver Mountain outclasses her rivals to land the G1 World Sports Betting Cape Fillies Guineas by five lengths. However the filly, a clear leader of her generation thus far, is beaten into fourth by Gr2 Investec Dingaans winner Noah From Goa in the G1 Grand Parade Cape Guineas two weeks later.