2016 certainly did not disappoint and Racing Fans were gifted with new memories to last a lifetime. Whether it be CAREN‘s complete domination locally, SIR DUDLEY DIGGES’ shocking Queen’s Plate upset, Turf Queen TEPIN‘s long-awaited and fruitful visit to Woodbine in the Woodbine Mile, ERUPT‘s explosive win in the Pattison Canadian International or just seeing some our favourites again and new faces emerging, the year gave us each a memory that holds a special meaning.
True to annual tradition, I’ve compiled my favourite snaps and compiled them into one video from my daily journeys to Woodbine here in Toronto, all the way to sunny Arcadia, California at the Breeders’ Cup. To an amazing 2017 that will have some big horseshoes to fill!
Be sure to check-out ONTARIO RACING‘s website and Social Media channels in the days leading up the Christmas for the stories behind some of my favourite moments.
2016: A YEAR IN HORSES
(Photo/video credit: Mr. Will Wong | Audio: Universal Music Group)
We had so much fun at our first ever Breeders’ Cup last year that we had do it all again! With over 118k people in attendance for Horse Racing’s two championship days Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at Arcadia’s Santa Anita Park – about an hour outside Los Angeles – it was a spectacle spilling over in starpower. Spread over a series of ten races, the extravaganza of the finest in Horse Racing, drew fans and talent from all around the world. If there was any question about the sport’s popularity, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup ranks overall as the fourth-most-bet edition of all time since its inception in 1984 with $159.9 million wagered.
The $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic was the centerpiece of the weekend, contested on Saturday. Seen widely as 2014 North American Horse of the Year and fan favourite CALIFORNIA CHROME‘s crowning moment in a flawless 2016 campaign, it just simply wasn’t meant to be. The Cinderella-storied five-year-old led all the way looking to pull away under a confident ride from Victor Espinoza, only to be caught late by brilliant three-year-old colt and second choice, ARROGATE. The winner is owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who won the important race last year with wonderhorse AMERICAN PHAROAH.
Headlining Friday was the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff starring three of the sport’s queens, all whom have in previous years won a Breeders’ Cup race en route to being named champion with a coveted Eclipse award. Still very much on-top, Spendthrift Farm’s six-year-old mare BEHOLDER, making her final start, took her earnings past the $6 million-mark with her third Breeders’ Cup victory. This very likely will culminate in a rare fourth championship title for the Richard Mandella trainee when awards are handed-out January 2017. Under Gary Stevens, BEHOLDER faced stiff competition from the undefeated and impending three-year-old filly champion SONGBIRD, battling to the end in an exhilarating head-bobbing finish, never to be forgotten. Reigning champion three-year-old filly STELLAR WIND had a poor start and was never in contention despite defeating BEHOLDER in their last match, the Zenyatta Stakes.
Stars of the human variety also were in attendance including Breeders’ Cup Ambassadors BOBBY FLAY and ELIZABETH BANKS in a dramatic mesh, face-covering fascinator, watching the Breeders’ Cup Classic from the rail with her family. Taylor Lautner, Maika Monroe, Emily Ratajkowski and Allison Janney also were among several others spotted.
As Canadians, we had plenty to be proud of. Woodbine Racetrack stars CHANNEL MAKER, NOHOLDINGBACK BEAR, MELMICH and CALGARY CAT ventured to California after accomplished campaigns this season locally, the latter two running a decent fourth in the Marathon and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint respectively under jockey Luis Contreras, who came with his father and brother. Ontario-bred WAVELL AVENUE who was defending her Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint title finished a close second in the race this year. Vancouver’s Mario Gutierrez who got his break at Hastings Park, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with longshot CHAMPAGNE ROOM.
We may be seeing less of Woodbine Trainer Brian Lynch these days but Amerman Racing Stables’ OSCAR PERFORMANCE won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf under his preparation. Our friends at Team Mark Casse thrilled us with runner-up finishes with turf champion TEPIN in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile after winning it last year, and promising Stonestreet Stables filly VALADORNA was a bang-up second in the Juvenile Fillies – she will be a force to be reckoned with next year. CLASSIC EMPIRE gave Mark Casse and owner John C. Oxley their first ever Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and he very well could be in the Kentucky Derby that first Saturday in May 2017 as the favourite.
Let’s re-live that magical Breeders’ Cup experience once more in photos!
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner NEW MONEY HONEY with the sharp-dressed Chad Brown team, under jockey Javier Castellano.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner OSCAR PERFORMANCE and jockey Jose Ortiz, with our friend, Erin Cotterill, assistant to Trainer Brian Lynch. He is a shy colt.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner TAMARKUZ under Mike Smith, who had a fantastic weekend with count ’em… three wins!
Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and reigning champion mare, BEHOLDER and also at bottom her noble opponent, champion filly SONGBIRD.
Breeders’ Cup Ambassadors Elizabeth Banks (with family) and Bobby Flay.
Some Can-con for you! 🍁 CALGARY CAT, a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Luis Contreras and Trainer Kevin Attard. Let’s not forget reigning Canadian Horse of the Year CATCH A GLIMPSE in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf entrant CHANNEL MAKER with Team Dan Vella (and our friends Julie and Gina!) and NOHOLDINGBACK BEAR (with jockey Eurico Da Silva) in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint!
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner CHAMPAGNE ROOM under Mario Gutierrez. Do not discount Mark Casse trainee VALADORNA (seen with our friend and lovely assistant Trainer Sarah Campion) who ran second and gorgeous Bob Baffert trainee AMERICAN GAL whom after an unlucky trip, still ran a respectable third.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner DREFONG, under Martin Garcia.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner CLASSIC EMPIRE, Team Mark Casse and Oilman John C. Oxley’s first win in the race. Watch for him on the Kentucky Derby trail. Look out also for runners-up NOT THIS TIME, a handsome half-brother to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, LIAM’S MAP and SYNDERGAARD, named for MLB star Noah Syndergaard.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner FINEST CITY. Jockey Mike Smith truly is a showman, giving us much to photograph! Canadian-born WAVELL AVENUE just misses a repeat win.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner OBVIOUSLY who thrilled us in the 2015 Woodbine Mile on the front end, wins after three tries for leading California Trainer Philip D’Amato. Look at the emotions! We were ecstatic to see his star filly ENOLA GRAY at his barn. Perhaps she will be at Del Mar next fall for Breeders’ Cup 2017?
Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile winner TOURIST under Joel Rosario, with assistant and son to Bill Mott, Riley who has visited Woodbine much this year. Turf queen and defending champion TEPIN was flying late to be second. We were thrilled we got to see the stellar MISS TEMPLE CITY who has two Grade I wins against the boys this season for Trainer Graham Motion.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner QUEEN’S TRUST under charismatic celebrity jockey Frankie Dettori and fan favourite and Breeders’ Cup winner herself LADY ELI, a heartbreaking second. It is a treat to see Japanese/French-speaking jockey Yutaka Take as he rode Asian import, NUOVO RECORD.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic winner HIGHLAND REEL took it wire-to-wire under a daring ride by Irish rider Seamus Heffernan. Great runs also from a now-retired Hong Kong Vase winner FLINTSHIRE and defending heroine of the race FOUND, who recently won the prestigious Arc de Triomphe in France.
Last but not least, Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, ARROGATE under a joyful Mike Smith! It takes a remarkable horse to defeat iconic CALIFORNIA CHROME… and he did it!
And this might have happened… #CHROMIE 📸🐎😁
Horse Racing is here to stay. To racing’s modern fans! 🍾
We had the pleasure not only of stopping by Los Angeles amidst Awards Season last week, but also Santa Anita Park. This was no standard visit. We would be going to meet one of Horse Racing’s brightest stars, the reigning queen and three-time champion, BEHOLDER.
We’ve been a fan of the six-year-old mare who in 20 stars to date, has been a model of consistency, excellent and if not, improving with every start. Her career has seen two Breeders’ Cup victories in her two and four-year-old seasons, a rarity. She has missed the top three only twice in her career, which has seen some delays unfortunately due to health issues.
2015 was a stand-out year for the super-mare who became the first female horse ever to win the $1-million Pacific Classic Stakes and did she ever make it easy, crushing them by over eight lengths! She has amassed over $4.3 million in earnings for Spendthrift Farm.
The Richard Mandella trainee was poised to upset American Pharoah last November in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as he bid to become the first horse ever to win a Grand Slam. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t align despite her being at Keeneland already for the big race and unwell that day. We’ll forever wonder what could have been. Oddsmakers do however, have her pegged as the favourite to win the 2016 renewal of the race this fall in her home court, Santa Anita.
After an extended absence, she is eyeing a return to the races soon. One unique thing about Beholder‘s personality we learn is that although she technically still is on vacation mode currently, Andrea Mandella, daughter of Trainer Richard Mandella, tells me she has the ability to hone-in and focus when it’s crunch time. She just simply knows.
The mare certainly is stunning. The first thing we noticed is how strong and thick her hind legs are. Her demeanour is gentle and she loves her Peppermints, specifically the type manufactured by Target. Although I’d bring her some mint varieties from Canada which would be sure to shock her tastebuds! She possessed a great gentleness to her, occasionally reaching-in to kiss her trainer, Mandella and aware of the camera.
Thanks to the generosity of Spendthrift Farm, Richard, Randi and Andrea Mandella, we are able to bring you a rare peek into Beholder‘s world.
See some Snaps:
Stay tuned for details on that eagerly-awaited 2016 return for Beholder.