Only a few days remain until 2013 fades to black as we ring in 2014. It seems as if this year just began, but behind us are nearly 365 days of 2013. Much history was in racing this year, by both equine and human personalities. From a seemingly old-school Triple Crown to a Breeders’ Cup that flaunted many repeat winners, 2013 was abounding with terrific moments.
I have featured four highlights for each month of 2013:
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens announced his comeback and rode in his first race since 2005 on January 6. Six days later, he would win his first race since his return.
Although the special program for Florida-breds is named the Sunshine Millions, the day of the event was rainy, leaving the track sloppy as Thoroughbreds bred in the Sunshine State were put on display. The most notable winner of the day was multiple grade one winner Ron the Greek, who took the Sunshine Millions Classic by 11 ¼ lengths.
Wise Dan became the first horse since John Henry in 1981 to be honored with Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year, Older Male, and Turf Male.
Game On Dude made his 2013 debut in the San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, capturing the race by 6 ½ lengths.
In perhaps the American turf showdown of the year, 2011 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom took on one of the best turf horses the United States has seen in years, Point of Entry, in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. I). It was Point of Entry who reigned that day, as he took the race by 1 ¼ lengths.
Kentucky Derby preps entered full swing, featuring victories by Orb in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), Flashback in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II), Revolutionary in the Withers Stakes (gr. III), and Super Ninety Nine in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III).
Just over a month after resuming his jockey career, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens claimed his first graded stakes win since his comeback, riding Slim Shadey to victory in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. II).
Game On Dude became the fourth two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), taking the historic race by an impressive 7 ¾ lengths.
After a battle with her health nearly claimed her life, 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra returned to Stonestreet Farm after a lengthy stay at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.
The Dubai World Cup Carnival flaunted spectacular international racing, including victories by Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II), Lines of Battle in the UAE Derby (UAE-II), Shea Shea in the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I), Reynaldothewizard in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), Sajjhaa in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), St Nicholas Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I), and Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
The second leg of the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” began, featuring Revolutionary’s Louisiana Derby (gr. II) win and Orb’s Florida Derby (gr. I) triumph.
The wildly popular 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta delivered her second foal, a chestnut colt by Tapit, on her birthday, April 1.
2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan made his 2013 debut in the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, defeating defending champ Data Link by a length.
Kentucky Derby preps came to conclusion with the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), won by Verrazano, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), won by Goldencents, the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), won by Overanalyze, and the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), won by Java’s War.
The great Black Caviar completed her legendary career with a victory in the Darley T. J. Smith Stakes (gr. I) in Australia, retiring with an astounding 25 wins from the same amount of starts.
Princess of Sylmar shocked most with a 38-to-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) before the second-largest Oaks crowd in history.
Orb brought a smile to the racing world with his victory in a muddy Kentucky Derby (gr. I), giving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, the Janney family, and Joel Rosario each their first Derby win.
Although Orb failed to keep Triple Crown hopes alive in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the 2013 Triple Crown maintained its old-school theme with Oxbow’s victory in the second leg of the prestigious series, granting Hall of Famers Gary Stevens and D. Wayne Lukas their first Triple Crown race wins in over ten years and the recently rejuvenated Calumet Farm – which once ruled the spring classics – its first Triple Crown race victory since 1968.
In thrilling fashion, Sahara Sky caught Cross Traffic in the final stages to take the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) by a nose.
The popular Calidoscopio seemingly imitated Silky Sullivan over a sloppy Belmont Park surface, rallying from far out of it to capture the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) in a breathtaking manner.
Palace Malice warmed the hearts of racing fans with his victory in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), giving Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable its first Triple Crown race win in 23 years.
Paynter made his miraculous return to the races after fighting numerous life-threatening illnesses, romping in an allowance optional claiming event at Hollywood Park.
The prestigious Royal Ascot meet boasted some of the world’s best racing, including a win by Queen Elizabeth II’s Estimate in the Gold Cup (Eng-I), a victory by the American No Nay Never in the Norfolk Stakes (Eng-II), Dawn Approach’s thrilling triumph over Toronado in the St. James Palace Stakes (Eng-I), and Declaration of War’s win in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I).
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan endured dreadfully soggy conditions and an assigned weight of 128 pounds to become the first two-time winner of the Firecracker Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
In bittersweet fashion, Game On Dude captured the final Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
Princess of Sylmar proved her Kentucky Oaks victory was not a fluke with a 6-length romp in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I).
Two of the staple summer races for three-year-olds – the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) and the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) – displayed the brilliance of Verrazano and Palace Malice, respectively.
Cross Traffic earned his first stakes victory in style, taking the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.
The annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony honored the likes of steeplechase greats McDynamo and Tuscalee, three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, and the champions Housebuster, Invasor, and Lure.
Wise Dan won the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga for the second consecutive year, joining the race’s namesake – the Sultan of Saratoga himself – as the only two-time winner of the race.
Princess of Sylmar continued her reign, claiming her third consecutive grade one win with a victory in the esteemed Alabama Stakes (gr. I).
The Keeneland September Sale boasted gains, including a 27.6% increase in gross, an 8% surge in yearlings entered in the auction, a 17% rise in average, and an 11.1% growth in median.
After disappointing in her return to the races a month earlier, Groupie Doll more than redeemed herself with a repeat win in the Presque Isle Downs Master Stakes (gr. II), setting a new track record.
Wise Dan added the Woodbine Mile (Can-I) to his list of races he has won twice with a breathtakingly effortless performance, in which he broke the track record.
Super Saturday displayed fantastic racing from coast to coast as elite Thoroughbreds prepared for the Breeders’ Cup, highlighted by Princess of Sylmar’s triumph over Royal Delta in the Beldame Invitational Stakes (gr. I), Little Mike’s thrilling win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. I), Beholder’s easy Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) victory, Mucho Macho Man’s first grade one win in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I), and Ron the Greek’s surprising romp in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
In an electrifying showdown between two promising juveniles, Havana held off the highly regarded Honor Code in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
On Keeneland’s biggest day of its fall meet, the skies released a great amount of rain upon the racetrack, which led to many upsets – not necessarily in terms of odds, but in the case of champions being defeated. The most notable upset was Silver Max’s win over Wise Dan in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (gr. I) that, due to the rain, was neither on the turf nor at a mile. Other upsets included Judy the Beauty’s victory over rival Groupie Doll and We Miss Artie’s 9-to-1 upset in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I).
The spectacular Treve became the third consecutive filly to win the famed Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) while remaining undefeated with an impressive 5-length victory.
Joshua Tree became the only horse to ever win three editions of the Canadian International Stakes (Can-I).
Shortly after winning her second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I), the popular champion Groupie Doll was sold for $3.1 million to Mandy Pope at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
In one of the most exciting races of the year, top three-year-old Will Take Charge determinedly wore down Game On Dude to take the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs by a head.
On a spectacular day of racing at Aqueduct, Stopchargingmaria took the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II), Wedding Toast battled Toasting to garner a victory in the Comely Stakes (gr. II), Honor Code gamely fought for the win in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II), and Flat Out finished his career with a Cigar Mile (gr. I) triumph.
As seventy-five years of Hollywood Park history came to a close, the final stakes races to be held at the Inglewood, California track made it a memorable ending. Races like Seek Again’s Hollywood Derby (gr. I), Egg Drop’s Matriarch Stakes (gr. I), Streaming’s Starlet Stakes (gr. I), a triple dead heat for second in the Hollywood Turf Express won by Boat Trip, and Shared Belief’s impressive victory in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) made the final weeks unforgettable. Racing at Hollywood ended forever with Vic Stauffer’s poignant call in the eleventh race on December 22, 2013.
The popular Japanese Triple Crown champion Orfevre concluded his career in style with a remarkable 8-length triumph in the Arima Kinen (Jpn-I).
Under the unanimous decision of three deciding parties, Mucho Macho Man was honored as the winner of the 2013 Secretariat Vox Populi Award.
Opening day at Santa Anita was highlighted by the final grade ones of the year, both of which resulted in upsets: the La Brea Stakes (gr. I), won by Heir Kitty, and the Malibu Stakes (gr. I), won by Shakin It Up.
Farewell, 2013! Welcome, 2014!