Flat 2020 – The Racing Hub’s Highlights
The 2020 Flat Season has been like no other but we’ve still had some brilliant horseracing stories. The Racing Hub’s team of writers nominate their highlights from the season, selecting top race, trainer, jockey and horse
2020 Has proved to be an odd year for reasons outside of sport. However this year’s Derby had many followers of racing discussing at length the colts premier classic, both beforehand and afterwards. Firstly, the drop in prizemoney (due to the covid situation , and complications of having had racing suspended for around three months of the season) was vast, falling from a first prize of over £921k in 2019 to one of just £283,550 this time around. That said Epsom did well to get the show on the road despite racing behind closed doors.
This year’s winner was Serpentine, an unconsidered (by many) 25/1 chance for Aiden O’Brien, with most people expecting the stable’s Mogul – Vatican City or Russian Emperor to be more of a potent force, with the trio all starting at between 6/1 and 15/2. It didn’t prove to be the case, with Sepentine’s jockey Emmet McNamara seizing an early lead and going clear before the decent to Tattenham Corner, on the run down the hill the lead increased and as they turned for home McNamara had poached a lead of around twelve lengths – eventually coming home five and a half lengths ahead of his closest persuer Khalifa Sat. Bad judgement from the jockeys in behind or a great ride from the front?
The debate would rage on, personally I feel it was a mixture of both – but mostly an excellent judge of the fractions by McNamara. Was it a great race ? I suppose that would depend on which way you look at matters. Was Serpentine a great winner of the Derby? Most definitely not – as two subsequent performances would suggest. However, he was a worthy winner on the day, and whilst it may not prove to be be a career highlight for his trainer it is something that his jockey will cherish for the rest of his life.
Sorry, but I am going to cheat. Five races, all on the same day were, for different reasons, a collective highlight. The day was Champions Day at Ascot and it delivered in spades.
Hollie Doyle, who had already won at the Royal meeting, added to her Ascot tally in the Long Distance Cup getting the better of Stradivarius on Trueshan. From the stayers to the sprinters and it was Doyle again, this time in the Group 1 Champion Sprint Stakes on Glen Shiel in a photo-finish. A double on Champions Day, a first for a female jockey.
In the Fillies & Mares, French-born but Sussex-based trainer David Menuisier won his first British Group 1 with Wonderful Tonight landing the race in cosy style.
If Hollie Doyle was holding the bragging rights, her partner, Tom Marquand, wasn’t going to be outdone. He was aboard the globetrotting superstar Addeybb (pictured) who revelled in the soft ground and saw off some star names to win the Champion Stakes in fine style.
The final leg of the quintet was the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes giving another French handler a Champions Day victory, but this time one based in Chantilly, Francis-Henri Graffard. The Revenant was runner-up in 2019 but went one better this year in what was only his second run of the season. It was no bad thing that Champions Day saw one of its Group 1 contests going to an overseas raider.
On the deserted Epsom Downs, Love produced an eye catching and memorable performance in the Oaks in early July for an impressive nine-length victory. The future could be very bright.
The Sussex Stakes looked high class beforehand and I think it lived up to its billing as the first three all ran career bests. Circus Maximus is a hard nut to crack and he held off Siskin but Mohaather mowed them both down.
The Darley July Cup at Newmarket was notable for the trainer/jockey combination. An ‘unfashionable’ trainer, Roger Teal bringing along a sprinter to peak on the day and ridden by an apprentice, Cieren Fallon, unable to claim but both proving they were well up to the job.
Ghaiyyath had already won the Coronation Stakes and the Eclipse but could he drop back to 10 furlongs to take the Juddmonte International at York. Faced by Magical and Japan, he ground them into submission through a wonderful front running performance full of guts, determination and class. Maybe this brilliant performance left its mark when he raced in the Irish Champion Stakes in September, but his performance at York was probably the best since Frankel.
Once considered primarily a NH trainer, Jessica Harrington (pictured) has shifted focus somewhat in recent years and is now equally talented under both codes these days. A couple of seasons back she trained the wonderful filly Alpha Centauri to four Group 1 successes, and 2020’s star for her has been another Niarchos family owned filly – namely Alpine Star, who tasted success at the highest level when taking the Coronation Stakes back in the Summer.
It may surprise some people to hear that Jessica has trained (at the time of writing) 253 winners on the level in Ireland and Britain in the last five years. It’s a racing certainty that that total won’t stand still during 2021.
Anyone watching Roger Teal as Oxted crossed the line to win the Darley July Cup at Newmarket couldn’t help but enjoy the reaction of the Lambourn trainer. He was galloping about not, it has to be said, with much athleticism, as Oxted crossed the line to win a first Group 1 for the master of Windsor House Stables.
He came close once before when Tip To Win was second in the 2018 2000 Guineas but Oxted was the one who saw him win at the highest level and the joyous reaction was a pleasing contrast trainers from some major yards taking such victories in their stride however much deserved. A highlight for me.
I have to go with William Haggas. He finished fifth in the Trainers Championship earning nearly £2m. Addeybb and One Master were his stars but he also was a force in the big handicaps.
John Gosden – top of the trainer’s table but more than that a perfect mouthpiece for the sport of racing – knowledgeable, lucid and tells it as it is without preaching. Let’s hope the powers that be listen.
Newmarket-based George Boughey is a new name to the game but what a season his stable has had. Maybe not on the big Saturday’s but during the week they have had a great summer and some runners looking impressive. Plenty of two-year olds showed promise and I will be looking out for the team in the future.
A decade and a half after Sir Percy’s Derby triumph, Marcus Tregoning returned to the big time with Mohaather. Denied a winning run in the Queen Anne, he made amends in the Sussex Stakes with a terrific turn of foot which will live long in the memory.
Hollie Doyle has cemented her position as one of the country’s leading riders for sometime now, and 2020 has been a great year for her. At the time of writing (29 October) she has recorded 127 winners during the calendar year, from a staggering 848 rides. That’s a fantastic achievement considering the suspension of racing earlier in the year as the Covid virus ravaged many sporting fixtures.
Her own personal highlights will be her stunning 899/1 5 timer at Windsor in August, her first Group (2) success aboard Dame Malliot in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket’s July meeting, and riding her first Royal Ascot winner on Scarlet Dragon in the Duke Of Edinburgh – defying odds of 33/1. A grafter and very gifted rider who will build on already impressive figures for years to come.
It’s been the breakthrough year for Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand and they’re well represented in other Racing Hub writers’ highlights, so I’m going for someone who is knocking at the door of a breakthrough. Cieren Fallon, who gas been crowned champion apprentice, is one short of 50 winners for the year, and in amongst those triumphs is his first Group 1 victory, on Oxted in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket’s July course. That, added to his Group 3 win on the same horse in the Betway Abernant Stakes on the Rowley course, has represented an excellent year for the 22-year-old. Neither course is easy to ride but he got Oxted home with aplomb.
Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand – British Champions’ Day summed up their season in perfect style after enjoying a fantastic summer. Hollie making history at Windsor with a five timer and her victories at another Berkshire venue in June and October stand out. Marquand’s consistency and achievements Down Under should be recognised too as well as his first Royal Ascot success. What a team!
Hollie Doyle has lit up this season but I’m going for a relative old boy. Former champion Paul Hanagan suffered a serious injury in February and missed most of the season. He came back to win the Cambridgeshire and has just passed 2,000 wins in Britain. Let’s hope he has more luck in 2021.
Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand – you can’t have one without the other. A couple who have been a credit to themselves and racing throughout a difficult season and have done nothing but good for the sport. Long may it continue.
My jockey of the year is Tom Marquand. He began the year by winning Group 1s in Australia and ended it by winning the Champion Stakes with the mighty Addeybb. In between he won the St Leger. A very good judge of pace, he can only improve and will surely take the jockeys title before too long.
Many racegoers love a good stayer, and Stradivarius (pictured) has proved the best of them since the great Yeats. Racing as a six-year-old this year he lit up the Royal meeting with a stunning success in the Gold Cup – his third victory in the race. The winning margin was ten lengths , but could easily have been more. It was just what the sport needed follow a lack of racing in the preceding months. His like do not come along very often and we should all appreciate him while he graces the stayers scene.
Sprint races aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love how much is packed into around sixty-seconds. From getting away quickly at the start, avoiding traffic, and timing the run to the line, there’s little or no room for error.
But, above all, there is the athleticism of the sprinters themselves and none have been finer this season than Battaash. His three-from-three, all Group 1 victories, have been electrifying. But the standout performance was at Goodwood where he smashed the track record coming home two-and-a-quarter lengths in front of Glass Slippers. The wins, in consecutive months, were on good, good-to-firm and good-to-soft. He hasn’t gone to the Breeders’ Cup, so he’s finished the season on an unbeaten high.
Two for me, I can’t split them. I know this is an obvious pick but Enable has become a beacon for Flat racing in recent years and becoming one of the best mares there has been with history made at Ascot in July, achieving her third Group one King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. A mare that will be missed greatly!
Stradivarius is another from the Gosden stable worth including. The sight of how he kicked clear on the soft ground at Royal Ascot in June was the only thing that felt “normal” at the meeting. The performance blew me away and deserves a spot in my favourites especially after a good effort at ParisLongchamp in his “Arc” prep race when behind Antony Van Dyck, showing ability at the shorter journey.
My favourite horse only ran three times. Love scored a Group 1 treble in the summer . She was running away from them at the end of her races. I am not sure she has reached her peak yet or been fully tested, so there could be more to come.
From Rosehill Australia in March to Ascot Berkshire in October – Addeybb is a six-year-old perfectly trained and perfectly ridden who maintains his consistency and enthusiasm and being a gelding hasn’t finished yet. A tribute to all concerned with him.
It’s One Master. A seven-furlong specialist with top form on soft ground, she showed super tough qualities to win at Goodwood before landing a third Prix de la Foret. Enable couldn’t do it, but this mare was able to complete the historic three timer.