Flat 2019 – The Racing Hub’s highlights
The Flat 2019: the Racing Hub writers select their highlights
Not easy to single out a highlight from the 2019 Flat season – there were so many.
A standout day was Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the battle-royal between Enable and Crystal Ocean – it will long live in the memory.
Royal Ascot provided some wonderful sport. It got off to a great start with Lord Glitters winning the opening Queen Anne Stakes, with Beat The Bank and One Master taking the places and only a length between them. And, with Stradivarius winning his second Gold Cup, it delivered race-by-race until Cleonte won the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
It wasn’t the greatest season for the crop of three-year-olds, but looking ahead there’s no doubt we should have something to look forward to next year with Pinatubo. His 100% record from six outings, culminating in his two-length victory in the Dewhurst, augurs well for next year.
But, for me, the 2019 highlight was York’s Ebor Festival. We saw Stradivarius win again, landing his second Lonsdale Cup. Japan making it a third Group win on the spin by taking the Group 1 Juddmonte International. Enable piling on the quality to win the Yorkshire Oaks. Whilst, on the same the day Stradivarius won, Battaash put over three lengths between himself and runner-up Soldiers’ Call in the Nunthorpe. And Mustajeer won the Ebor itself after a 57-day break.
It was racing at its very best at the country’s best Flat venue.
And I can’t let the 2019 Flat season go by without mentioning Khadijah Mellah’s victory in Goodwood’s charity race, the Magnolia Cup.
Aged 18, and an A-level student at Sydenham High School, she got the chance to ride in the race through the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, south London.
The highs and lows of her preparations to get race-fit and race-savvy in only a few short weeks is beautifully captured in Riding A Dream (ITV Hub). Against the odds, she became the first British Muslim woman to ride a race, and win it. Prepare to shed a tear or two.
I had to wait until the back end of the season for my favourite moment. Kameko had been my each-way selection for the Solario Stakes as I thought he had scope for improvement. Finishing second to Positive was a good effort and he went off favourite for the Royal Lodge.
He was slightly disappointing when edged out by a neck that day. The Dip may have played a part but I still had faith enough to back him for next years Derby.
The Vertem Futurity was run on the all weather at Newcastle after first being abandoned at Doncaster the week before. I was hoping for a good run, or at best a narrow victory. But he won going away.
It augurs well for next season as I am sure he still has some maturing to do. At this stage it is still anyone’s guess whether he gets a mile and a half, but he is not short of speed, so the Guineas looks a starting point. I will settle for a good fourth in that race behind Siskin.
Obviously, Pinatubo was the star juvenile, possibly the star of the whole season. If he trains on we are looking at a superstar.
Most people would agree that the King George at Ascot was the race of the season. The two top rated horses in the world separated by a neck with the subsequent Arc winner just behind in third.
Enable (pictured) and Crystal Ocean provided a fantastic finish to the race. At the time the second and third ran career bests. Waldgeist only bettered that when ending Enable’s dream at Paris Longchamp.
An even more riveting finish was in the Long Distance Cup where Kew Gardens was just a nose ahead of Stradivarius at the line. I love a staying race and this helps my case when I have to defend this category against those who say “it’s boring”.
Logician looked a better than average St Leger winner and has the scope for all manner of improvement. He could go up in trip or stick at middle distances. What a lovely dilemma to have.
Cape Byron wins the Horses For Courses award. Four runs at Ascot this year and three resulted in victory including the Wokingham and the Group Three Bengough Stakes.
Ascot was the scene of the biggest of my many near misses. The listed Wolferton Stakes was the finale of day one at the Royal Meeting. It read more like a strong Group Two and I thought Magic Wand had a real chance. I also had Latrobe and Elarqam in combination forecast and tricast bets. Two furlongs out it was looking good for me but there had been a lot of rain that afternoon.
The going for the St James Palace Stakes was good. An hour later it had turned soft. And Addeybb does love running on ground he can get his toe into. As I watched the television the pictures seemed to be in slow motion. And I made a face like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone. Magic Wand was second. And I had the third and fourth in the tricast too. “If only” is such a massive phrase at times.
John Gosden (pictured) won his 3,000th British race during the season.
Oisin Murphy became Champion Jockey for the first time. Could this be the start of a dominance?
A word about Magical. She was once again a model of consistency. Nine runs, five wins, and three second place runs. Seven of the races were at the top level. She is off to the breeding sheds now. When it was announced that she was to retire many, like me, paid tribute.
But there were a few who were down on her and her record. Like Laurens, Magical seems to attract those who think the races she wins are of lesser quality. She has run to a consistent high standard. She is no Enable, but Enable is a remarkable racehorse.
When she has finished second the horses in front were Enable and Crystal Ocean. The top-rated horses in the world. She has won over three million pounds and was first or second in fifteen of her twenty-one races. Maybe we should give her due credit.
Finally a boast. Motivator in 2005 was only my third Epsom Derby winner and my first since Shahrastani in 1986. I managed to latch on to Pour Moi in 2011 and that proved profitable.
Since I started writing for The Racing Hub I have a 100% record in the race. Anthony Van Dyck was the successful selection this year. Unfortunately, my last four Derby winners failed to win another race. So far anyway as this years Derby victor could be continuing his career in 2020.
In my opinion it has been a pretty good season. Enable, Stradivarius, and Blue Point will be spoken of in years to come.
While this crop of two-year-olds give cause for excitement.
Roll on next season.
Saturday 27 July will be the day that represented the very best of the Sport of Kings. It will be a popular choice but the duel between Crystal Ocean and Enable down the Ascot home straight was a moment to remember. The challenge appeared to be the most demanding to date.
Settled wide and around 9th of the 11 runners, about nine lengths off the pace setter, Norway. Watching the replays back it is also worth noting it appears Frankie only uses the whip once! The achievement astonishing.
I could go on about the success of Dettori and Gosden that continued right through the Spring, Summer and Autumn by victory after victory. However, “Dettori day” on day three of Royal Ascot was also a particular stand out with a crescendo of wins building up to the staying star Stradivarius in the Gold Cup.
Lingfield Park I think was the track of the season by providing the Oaks and Derby winners with both Anapurna and Anthony Van Dyck (pictured) winning at both Surrey courses. Only nine since 1932 have completed the double. The first time both have achieved the double in the same year.
One interesting point about Lingfield is that they experimented with a 2m4f staying handicap in July, the longest flat race staged at Lingfield, using the whole turf course – straight 7f and then a lap of the round track. This minor race was won by Early Summer and champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
Pinatubo’s eruption to the racing world this season also has been extremely impressive that started in a Wolverhampton novice event in May and the international success for Japan at Goodwood with Deirdre taking the group one Nassau get into my shortlist.
Even though it was a deflating end to the season with many stars showing they are beatable including the likes of Enable and Stradivarius; we can look forward to 2020 with a six-year-old mare hopefully bidding to make history at a second attempt.
For me the undoubted highlight of the flat season was the King George at Ascot in July.
Enable, and Crystal Ocean, both kept in training as five-year-olds, both home bred by “old school” owner breeders, Khaild Abdulla and Sir Evelyn De Rothschild, both trained by masters of the training profession, John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute.
They are prepared to show patience and give horses time to reach their physical peak and ridden by Frankie Dettori and James Doyle in a strong yet sympathetic style, bringing out the best in both horses.
Racing at its finest
Of course there were some obvious stars both equine and human in 2019. And while Enable, Stradivarius and Battaash are worthy of being celebrated I would like to point to another couple of horses who had a stellar season.
The first is Dakota Gold, a five time winner for the doyen of sprint trainers, Michael Dods. After a prep run at Newcastle, he won three handicaps and two listed races as well as being second to Made on India at Newbury. His skilful trainer placed him brilliantly as his Official Rating rose from 97 to 110. He loved York, winning three times. I am sure he will be ready to step up to Group Company next season.
The second is the winner of the Commonwealth Cup and the Prix de Maurice de Gheest, Advertise trained by Martyn Meade. A disappointment in the 2000 guineas over the wrong trip, he proved that form all wrong by being a star performer both against his own age group at Royal Ascot and later against all comers at Deauville.
He did not like the heavy ground on Champions Day but this lightly raced individual will be a threat again in the sprint division next season.
The jockey stars included Dettori (pictured dismounting Stradivarius), Murphy and Cieren Fallon but I also thought Richard Kingscote deserved a mention. A seriously talented pilot especially from the front, he is gaining a reputation for being the master at Haydock, a bit like Dettori at Ascot or Kieren Fallon in his heyday at Epsom.
While not a vintage year, the flat had a number of big stars who we would love to see next season.
Let’s hope Stradivarius, Battaash and new stars such as Pinatubo deliver great racing next year.