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The Roar’s best of the best: Racing’s finest moments from 2012/13

August 2, 2013

Written by Justin Cinque

Thursday was the annual celebration known as the horse’s birthday. In the southern hemisphere, the first day of August marks the start of a new racing season and each galloper ages by a year.

As the 2013/2014 racing year begins, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the highlights of the previous season.

In this article, Andrew Hawkins and I have compiled a composite list of our top ten moments from last season.  Of course, it’s a completely subjective exercise and we would love to read your thoughts about the great moments of the racing season.

But here are our top ten moments for 2012/2013:

Justin Cinque – Black Caviar returns from injury to win her own race in track record time

Black Caviar’s victory in February’s Black Caviar Lightning was always going to feature in a list like this. In a lifetime of watching sport, it ranks so highly with me.

Sure, I was at the races for the umpteenth time but Flemington on Black Caviar Day wasn’t my normal race-day experience. It was racing Black Caviar style.

27,000 people, many of them children, at a meeting that normally draws 10,000. And they were not there to bet or get drunk but to watch a champion.

In atmosphere, it may not have been completely different to many of Black Caviar’s racetrack appearances but because the day was named in her honour and also because she was resuming off an injury-enforced lay-off, Flemington had a special ambience on February 16, 2013. A legend was honoured.

To a rapturous applause Black Caviar won in track record time and returned to a standing ovation. She became the only three-time winner of the Lightning and the only horse to win a Group 1 named in her honour.

All Too Hard downs Pierro in Guineas thriller
On reflection this was undoubtedly the race of the Australian season. All Too Hard and Pierro, the two gun colts in the greatest crop of three-year olds seen for several years, fought out what is typically Australian racing’s feature Guineas contest – the Caulfield Guineas.

In many ways this was the turning point in the rivalry between the two colts. Prior to the Guineas, the undefeated Pierro held a two-zero advantage over chestnut All Too Hard. To that point, the latter had promised so much but had only delivered a Group 2 victory.

Pierro on the other hand was billed as the star of the spring. In the absence of Black Caviar and Atlantic Jewel, he was expected to win everything he was entered in. And when he arrived at Caulfield on Guineas Day, he was a $1.8 favourite to win the Cox Plate.

A few hours later, having been gassed by jockey Nash Rawiller up the Caulfield hill, Pierro left ‘The Heath’ defeated for the first time and with his Cox Plate hopes almost in tatters.

In a truly epic Guineas contest, the Pierro was given no favours in the small field and eventually found the front after doing plenty of work. All Too Hard, on the other hand, enjoyed a cold ride in last place.

When Dwayne Dunn produced All Too Hard in the straight, he was able to overpower Pierro in the final 100m of the contest.

Pierro fans blamed the defeat on a poor Rawiller ride but the All Too Hard camp were vindicated on Cox Plate Day when the red horse finished second; one spot better than his tired rival.

The explosiveness of Guelph

As I stood hard-pressed against the outside rail, 100m from the Randwick winning post, watching the Sires Produce field pass me by, I witnessed the emergence of the next superstar of Australian racing.

Replays show (and my memory attests) that it was at the 100m mark of the Sires that Guelph, who was placed third at that point, began to really lengthen stride and propel herself to an exciting victory in the showpiece 1400m two-year-old race of the season.

Two weeks’ later, the Exceed and Excel filly backed up her brilliant Sires win with another outstanding performance in the Champagne Stakes over the Randwick mile.

This time Guelph wasn’t clear until 175m from the finish but when she finally saw daylight, she once again exploded down the outside of the track to pinch her second Group 1.

Pen her in for an Oaks victory next season and watch her closely from the point of view of a Cox Plate tilt. She’s good enough to tear the spring apart.

With that big wrap in mind, Guelph’s emergence as a leading player in Aussie racing after those two Group 1 victories at Randwick is a standout of last season.

‘The Popper’ breaks through for Group 1 success

One of the more popular horses in recent times has been Alcopop, so when the eight-year-old South Australian galloper broke through for his maiden Group 1 victory in last November’s Mackinnon Stakes, it was always going to rate a mention in lists like this.

Alcopop stormed into Melbourne Cup favouritism in the spring of 2009 after a string of victories in minor lead-up races to the Cup. But he could only manage a sixth-place finish behind Shocking.

The following season he returned to finish a distant second in So You Think’s Caulfield Stakes before a rapid drop off in form. Alcopop’s stats had taken a hit for two years but when he returned to his best last spring, he quickly recaptured the fan-base that helped install him Cup favourite three seasons earlier.

Once again Alcopop was second to the eventual Cox Plate winner in the Caulfield Stakes – this time Ocean Park. But he was able to follow that performance with an outstanding effort in the Caulfield Cup – when a narrow second to Dunaden.

Aimed at the Mackinnon on Derby Day, Alcopop stormed home to grab Glass Harmonium and Ocean Park in the dying stages to record a maiden Group 1 victory for not only himself but surely the country town of Victor Harbor as well.

‘The Popper’s’ career swansong came in Hong Kong in December where he finished strongly again to take third in California Memory’s Hong Kong Cup.

The class of staying three-year olds

With imports and international horses dominating our spring Cups, a highlight of the season was the emergence of quality staying three-year olds in the form of It’s A Dundeel, Super Cool and Fiveandahalfstar.

Unfortunately, VRC Derby and BMW winner Fiveandahalfstar won’t have recovered from an ankle injury in time for the spring but Triple Crown winner It’s A Dundeel is sure to be a major player in the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup.

The little New Zealander was super impressive in the Sydney autumn and despite having some chinks in his armour – including susceptibility on his Melbourne leg and against the open age – he has the world at his feet.

Super Cool, the Australian Cup winner, is equally as exciting. An outstanding middle-distance galloper, the VRC Derby runner-up will be kept to a distance of 2000m in the spring. His victory over It’s A Dundeel in last year’s AAMI Vase on Cox Plate Day was a shock at the time but it could prove to be a telling entrée to this year’s Cox Plate.

Not for a few seasons has there been so much excitement about the quality of Australia’s top echelon four-year old stayers at the start of a season.

Andrew Hawkins – The strong three-year-old crop in general

Justin has touched on much of the success of the three-year-olds – the miler/stayers, All Too Hard vs Pierro – but I think much of the excitement of the 2012/2013 season revolves around their overall strength across the board.

Not since the 1995 crop – think Octagonal, Saintly, Nothin’ Leica Dane, Filante – have we had such a strong crop of three-year-olds. There have been some highlights since, though – the 1999 crop (Redoute’s Choice, Testa Rossa) and the 2009 crop (So You Think, More Joyous, Shoot Out) are a couple of examples.

We had top sprinters like Epaulette, Your Song and Nechita, while many of the other top horses of the crop – Pierro, All Too Hard, It’s A Dundeel, Super Cool, Fiveandahalfstar, Sacred Falls – have already been mentioned.

Here’s hoping they can progress as four-year-olds, because the general state of racing amongst the other age groups suggests it could be a weak spring if they don’t step up.

Animal Kingdom wins the Dubai World Cup…for Australia

I still firmly object to Animal Kingdom’s Dubai World Cup victory being labelled Australian, but as a moment, it has to go down as one of the highlights of the year.

The Dubai World Cup is a race Australia is highly unlikely to ever win with a product of her own, given the race is run on the synthetic Tapeta surface.

Australian horses are more likely to target the Dubai Duty Free over 1800m, if they don’t stay at home to take advantage of top prizemoney in weak races like The BMW.

The Americans, who have struggled to win the Dubai World Cup since the race shifted from the dirt at Nad-al-Sheba to the Tapeta at Meydan, have been robbed of a victory against their name in the record books, all because John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud bought a controlling share in the weeks leading up to the race.

Still, every racing pundit knows it was an American victory. And it was quite a thrill, as an Australian trackside, to hear Advance Australia Fair played by the band as the trophy was presented.

The strength of the Caulfield Cup

The 2012 Caulfield Cup will go down as one of the most exciting editions of the race, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The 2011 edition of the Caulfield Cup was nothing short of diabolical, and it suggested the Melbourne Racing Club could have a crisis on its hands with suggestions the Caulfield Cup was now being overlooked in favour of the Geelong Cup.

While Southern Speed was a deserving victor and Green Moon franked the form by winning the Melbourne Cup a year later, the rest of the field was very ordinary.

Fast forward 12 months, and the situation couldn’t have been any different with arguably the strongest Caulfield Cup field in the last half-century assembled.

A Melbourne Cup winner in Dunaden beat a subsequent Hong Kong Cup third in Alcopop, with Brisbane Cup winner Lights of Heaven third in front of Americain.

That’s a top four that will be remembered for years to come.

Tommy Berry’s success

The 2012/13 season will be remembered as the coming of age of Tommy Berry, who may go down as one of the best jockeys Australia has seen.

I remember when Tommy had just become a senior rider in 2010 and he was struggling to pick up rides over the Melbourne Cup Carnival. In the end, it became more of a social visit. Those days are long gone.

The signs were there when he partnered Glencadam Gold to a dominant victory in The Metropolitan. Until then, I was sceptical about his ability to judge pace aboard frontrunners, as he’d made numerous errors in the past.

He was overlooked for the Caulfield Cup ride, but hopped aboard for the Melbourne Cup where he produced one of the best beaten Cup rides I’ve ever seen. Glencadam Gold finished sixth, but he gave the horse every hope while also negating the chances of many of his rivals.

In the autumn, he announced his arrival on the big stage when he won the Golden Slipper on Overreach and the Doncaster Mile on Sacred Falls. He then went to Hong Kong, where he was successful in the QEII Cup on Military Attack at his first day in the Chinese territory.

He went on to notch up 23 winners in just under three months, a phenomenal effort in the pressure cooker environment that is Hong Kong.

Miracles of Life for Dan Clarken and Lauren Stojakovic

Every season, there is an emotional story of some sort. This year’s emotion surrounded Miracles of Life.

The gun filly, trained by small time trainer Dan Clarken, won two in Adelaide by big margins before dominant wins in the Blue Diamond Preview and the Blue Diamond Stakes.

In the lead up to the Blue Diamond Stakes, there was much conjecture about whether Lauren Stojakovic would keep the ride. A mature age apprentice, she had never ridden in Melbourne prior to the Blue Diamond Preview and she didn’t have the best strike rate in Adelaide.

But both owner and trainer stuck firm, and Stojakovic rewarded their loyalty with a perfect ride to give the filly victory.

The post-race footage of Stojakovic’s family, ever so emotional, made plenty of hardened punters well up. It was one of those stories.

It was a miracle.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 3, 2013 2:32 pm

    Good read, thought the kiwi domination might have rated a mention. Oh I forget you’re Aussies… Ocean Park, Dundeel, Sacred Falls taking out the Cox Plate, AJC Derby and Doncaster respectively. Plus OPs domination of the spring and Dundeel’s same in the autumn. Dundeel’s performance in the Derby will go down as one of the most impressive victories I have ever seen. He’ll be a champion. Champagne stuff from the Kiwis last season, would love to see it continue.

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