HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

2012 Year in Review: Month by Month

Perhaps 2012, with the early retirement of an abundance of our sophomore stars, was not a remarkable year in the eyes of many racing enthusiasts. But I view 2012’s racing as a season abounding with horses with charisma: Animal Kingdom, Black Caviar, Frankel, Groupie Doll, I’ll Have Another, Mucho Macho Man, Paynter, Royal Delta, Shackleford, Union Rags and Wise Dan among them. Despite a three-year-old crop that seemed to disappear off the track with months of the year still remaining, 2012 featured many compelling Thoroughbreds, along with their own intriguing storylines. As in any year, 2012 exhibited some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the Thoroughbred industry.

I have described four highlights per month:

January: Jackson Bend captured the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, which would be the penultimate victory of his career.

Havre de Grace
was crowned as 2011 Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards, becoming the third consecutive female Thoroughbred to be bestowed racing’s most renowned annual title.

2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra delivered her first foal, a colt by Curlin that would later be named Jess’s Dream.

The Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park displayed an exciting race card for Florida-breds, flaunting the brilliance of horses like the then-undefeated Awesome Feather, who captured the Sunshine Millions Distaff by an impressive 5 ¾ lengths, and the classy Mucho Macho Man, who culminated the 2012 Sunshine Millions with a victory in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

February: I’ll Have Another made his 2012 debut, shocking the racing world with an easy victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at odds of 43-1.

Black Caviar equaled the Australasian record for consecutive wins with her nineteenth victory, which occurred in the Lightning Stakes (gr. I) at Flemington.

Animal Kingdom returned to the races with a win in an allowance optional claiming at Gulfstream Park in preparation for the Dubai World Cup (gr. I), but was sidelined due to injury yet again the following month.

With ease, Union Rags triumphed in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) following the scratch of the highly-touted Algorithms.

March: Ron the Greek
rolled to a 3 ½-length victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), scoring his first graded stakes win since early 2010.

2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta delivered her highly-anticipated first foal, a colt by Bernardini.

Reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace made her 2012 debut, winning the New Orleans Ladies Stakes, only to be retired a month later.

On Florida Derby Day, Gulfstream exhibited a tremendous stakes showcase, which included not only a victory by Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (g. I), but a track record win in the Skip Away Stakes (g. III) for Fort Larned.

I’ll Have Another proved that his Robert B. Lewis win was not a fluke by prevailing over Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) after a stirring stretch duel.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith acquired his 5,000th victory, making it all the more special by capturing it aboard Amazombie in the Potrero Grande Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

Wise Dan made his 2012 debut, crushing the field in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, setting a new track record in the process.

Black Caviar ran her flawless record to twenty-for-twenty, breaking the Australasian record for consecutive victories.

May: Rosie Napravnik
, a fast-closing second in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks when she guided the Larry Jones-trained Believe You Can to an inspiring victory on the first Friday in May.

In the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), arguably the most anticipated race each year, I’ll Have Another ran down the speedy favorite, Bodemeister, in the homestretch to garner the coveted garland of red roses, carrying 25-year-old Mario Gutierrez to victory after being escorted to post by richest claimed horse in history, Lava Man.

I’ll Have Another kept Triple Crown hopes alive with one of the best races of the year in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), battling Bodemeister down the stretch at Pimlico to prevail by a neck.

In one of the most thrilling contests of 2012, Shackleford conquered the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, holding off his rival, Caleb’s Posse, by a scant nose.

June: Camelot
easily captured the Epsom Derby (gr. I), thus keeping his undefeated record intact and maintaining England’s hope for the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky II in 1970.

I’ll Have Another, who was slated to attempt to become the first American Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, was scratched from the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) a day prior to the race due to a tendon issue and was subsequently retired and sold for stud duty in Japan.

Union Rags, who had once been viewed to be the best of the 2012 sophomore crop, prevailed with a gutsy victory over the blossoming Paynter in the Belmont Stakes.

The spectacular meeting of Royal Ascot provided the racing world with great performances from some of the most elite equine athletes in the world, including another dominant win by the great Frankel and the outstanding Black Caviar’s first international outing.

Mucho Macho Man confirmed himself to be among the best handicap horses in the nation with a scintillating victory in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park.

Point of Entry garnered his first grade one victory of his career and the first in a string of three with a triumph in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. I).

Acclamation captured the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. I) as his seventh straight victory in what would be the final start of his career.

Paynter dominated the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), surfacing as one of the top sophomores in the United States, only to soon spike a temperature that would quickly become a much more serious issue.

Fort Larned garnered his first grade one victory with a triumph in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.

Wise Dan returned to the turf, dominating his rivals in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga in spite of heavy going.

The underdog Little Mike led from start to finish to conquer rivals in the prestigious Arlington Million (gr. I).

For the first time ever, a dead heat resulted in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) when Alpha and Golden Ticket galloped under the wire in unison.

In his bid for the English Triple Crown, Camelot came up short, finishing second behind Encke in the St. Leger Stakes (gr. I).

Wise Dan again displayed his brilliance, capturing the Woodbine Mile Stakes (gr. I) by 3 ¼ lengths.

Zenyatta’s statue, sculpted by Nina Kaiser, was unveiled at Santa Anita Park.

The final weekend of September exhibited grand performances from elite Thoroughbreds preparing for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on each coast, including Royal Delta’s dominant victory in the Beldame Invitational (gr. I), Flat Out’s second consecutive win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), and Game On Dude’s triumph in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I).

The initial weekend of October flaunted a great stakes card at Keeneland Race Course that included brilliant wins by Groupie Doll and Wise Dan.

Solemia overtook Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre in the final strides of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (gr. I).

Gentildonna captured Japan’s Filly Triple Crown with a triumph in the Shuka Sho (gr. I).

The legendary Frankel made his final career start, extending his unbeaten record to fourteen-for-fourteen with a victory in the Champion Stakes (gr. I) at Ascot as racing fans bid him farewell with bittersweet tears.

The 29th edition of the Breeders’ Cup provided racing enthusiasts with a great display of excitement and brilliance from some of Thoroughbred racing’s best athletes, as evident in races such as Royal Delta’s Ladies’ Classic, Groupie Doll’s Filly & Mare Sprint, Wise Dan’s Mile, and Fort Larned’s Classic.

Havre de Grace became the most expensive purchase of a broodmare prospect in history when she sold for $10 million to Mandy Pope at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

Zenyatta’s half-sister, Eblouissante, made her career debut, easily winning a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park for trainer John Shirreffs.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, two stars went out as winners: the wildly popular Shackleford culminated his career with a victory in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and Stay Thirsty narrowly defeated Groupie Doll to finish his racing career with a win in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct.

Game On Dude – who finished a disappointing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) – redeemed himself with a win in the Native Diver Stakes (gr. III).

Violence stamped himself as a serious contender for the 2013 Derby trail with a win in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).

Santa Anita’s opening day was highlighted by the final grade ones of the year, the La Brea Stakes (gr. I) and the Malibu Stakes (gr. I), which were won by Book Review and Jimmy Creed, respectively.

Paynter, after months of battling serious illnesses, was cleared to return to trainer Bob Baffert’s barn and was announced the winner of the Vox Populi Award.

Goodbye, 2012! Hello, 2013! 


comments powered by Disqus

Older Comments about 2012 Year in Review: Month by Month...

Glad the blurb about Paynter made it in to the article! I'll Have Another coming from behind to run down Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness were my top moments!
My favorite moments of 2012 was every day I got to see the majestic thoroughbreds compete at every level. May this sport survive and provide those type daily moments for years and years to come.
Agreed, Rafirox. The Preakness was an awesome race. I was jumping around and screaming at the TV like a lunatic. haha
I loved every Triple Crown moment, EXCEPT the first 10 seconds of the Derby. After that I looked to the front of the pack and moved my eyes from the familiar wide white blaze, which soon turned brown, LOL.
I'll Have Another's Preakness win was the best moment this year, IMO.
My favorite moments were Shackleford's hard fought victories. I hate that he's retiring, but I'll be looking for his babies in the coming years.
Any kind of foal being born is exciting to me, especially to high class mares like RA and Z. Those, along with Groupie Doll, and Wise Dan's runs in the Breeders' Cup were a highlight for me, but going to the Breeders' Cup for the first time will bias me anyway.
For me the best races that I attended were the Met Mile, the Belmont Stakes, and the Cotillion.
Thank you for writing this remembrance of many highlights, and a few bittersweet moments of 2012. Maybe that wasn't Acclamation's final race?
Great work on this, Mary! My top two moments personally were: I'll Have Another's courageous Preakness win and Groupie Doll's victory at the Breeders' Cup.

Related Pages

Connect With Mary

Me On Facebook
Follow Me On Twitter


About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

Related Stories

Top Stories