It only seems a minute ago since I was doing this post this time last year at the conclusion of the flat season and we find ourselves here again following Champions Day at Ascot. It’s certainly been some season on the Flat and as one of the minority that prefers the Flat i’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute. As a visitor of mainly northern racecourses i’ve spent some great day’s this season at the likes of York for the Dante & Ebor Festivals, Doncaster for the St Leger Meeting & Chester for the May Festival to name a few and there really has been some top drawer contests.
It’s been very difficult narrowing down a Top 10 horses of the season and no doubt there will be some that haven’t made my cut that some of you will think should have etc.. However this list isn’t based on ratings or anything like that it’s merely my opinion. Hope you enjoy it.
10. HIGHLAND REEL – 71134 (Form This Season)
Trainer: AP O’Brien
Still somewhat of an unsung hero but an unbelievable servant to the game. Highland Reel has racked up over 6 million in prize money. He’s won the Group 1 Coronation Cup and Prince Of Wales Stakes this year as well as running great races on ground that was far from his best in the King George when fourth behind Enable and also in the Champion Stakes when third behind Cracksman.
It certainly looks like another trip abroad for another crack at the Breeders Cup in a couple of weeks for this magnificent animal.
9. STRADIVARIUS – 121133
Trainer: John Gosden
One of the most progressive horses of the year certainly comes in the form of Stradivarius for John Gosden. He developed into a classy and impressive staying type throughout the season with his highlight being defeating Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup. He also ran a massive race when third in the St Leger at Doncaster to Capri and was a close up third behind Order Of St George on Champions Day.
A really impressive season from the son of Sea The Stars and yet another gem from the Gosden stable of which i’m sure we’ll see more of next season in the top staying contests on the flat if he stays in training.
8. BATTAASH – 11141
Trainer: Charles Hills
In at number eight we saw the rise of another sprinting machine in the Hamdan Al Maktoum colours in the form of Battaash. Echoing styles of Muhaarar from not so long ago Battaash quickly established himself as one of the top sprinters around. The only blotch on his record was when he got himself a bit worked up in the Nunthorpe and finished fourth behind the likes of Marsha & Lady Aurelia.
His season culminated with an outstanding performance in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye when he demolished the field by several lengths.
7. WINTER – 2111129
Trainer: AP O’Brien
Another big performer for AP O’Brien now and this comes in the form of the four time Group 1 winner Winter. Her season started off when she rattled off the 1000 Guineas double in outstanding style winning both very stylishly. She then took aim at the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot where she won in great fashion yet again. The next target for her over a further trip and on testing ground was the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood where she again took all that came before her and got her head in front again.
She was just edged out by stablemate Hydrangea on Champions Weekend at Leopardstown before not getting a clear run in the Arc but it was an outstanding season for her none the less and she fully deserves her place in the list in my opinion.
6. RIBCHESTER – 311212
Trainer: Richard Fahey
In at number six on the list comes Ribchester for trainer Richard Fahey. I was overjoyed when this horse won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot as it gave a well deserved big Group 1 victory for one of the best trainers in the game, the King Of The North Richard Fahey. Ribchester also took the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury before that Royal Ascot victory to assert himself as one of the best milers in Europe.
He was however beaten on desperate ground at Goodwood in the Sussex Stakes before returning to form in a Group 1 contest over in France. It isn’t certain whether he’ll stay in training next term but its been great to follow his progress in the last couple of years.
5. HARRY ANGEL – 212114
Trainer: Clive Cox
Taking his place at number five comes Harry Angel for Clive Cox. He’s put in some blistering performances throughout this season breaking the track record at Haydock before returning there to destroy a Group 1 field in the Sprint Cup by many lengths. In between those runs he also bolted up in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket beating a whole host of proven Group 1 performers in the process. He lost nothing in defeat at Royal Ascot when second behind Caravaggio and didn’t run an all that bad when returning there on Champions Day.
It’s said he’s to stay in training next year and he’s certainly one to look forward when contesting the big sprinting contests again.
4. ORDER OF ST GEORGE – 2121141
Trainer: AP O’Brien
In to the top four and another one in the list trained by AP O’Brien and its the top class stayer that is Order Of St George. He might leave you with your heart in your mouth at times if you’ve backed him at short odds but when he’s on his day he’s one of the best in the business. He was just edged out when attempting to retain his Gold Cup crown at Royal Ascot by Big Orange but he’s since gone on to win the Irish St Leger, finish fourth in the Arc and win the Long Distance race at Champions Day.
O’Brien states he’d like Order Of St George to stay in training for next season and I couldn’t agree more with him. Hopefully we’ll see him in the big staying contests again next time around.
3. ULYSSES – 131213
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
One of the classiest and most impressive performers of the season comes in the form of Ulysses for Sir Michael Stoute. He has come on leaps and bounds throughout this year’s flat season and has become a proven top end Group 1 performer. His highlights come firstly when knuckling down bravely to see off the challenge of Barney Roy to win the Group 1 Coral Eclipse at Sandown he then followed that up with an arguably even more impressive performance when seeing both Barney Roy & Churchill off to claim the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York.
It looks as though he’ll be heading to the Breeders Cup to bow out this term and he’ll certainly take the world of beating again over there.
2. CRACKSMAN – 132111
Trainer: John Gosden
Taking second spot comes a son of the mighty Frankel and that’s of course Cracksman for John Gosden. He looked a really difficult awkward ride in the Derby for Frankie but even though he looked in trouble some way out that day he still rallied on to finish third behind Wings Of Eagles. He then went to try his hand in the Irish Derby where he was denied by the smallest of margins by Capri who then obviously went on to win the St Leger at Doncaster. After making progression with each run Cracksman’s next target was the Great Voltigeur at York where he starting showing all the signs of a top drawer horse powering away up the Knavesmire straight to win by many lengths. After the York demolition job he went over to France to contest the Prix Niel where he again powered away from his rivals for a comfortable victory under Frankie.
After connections decided to bypass the Arc the race what looked to be the final destination on his radar was the Group 1 Champions Stakes at Ascot a race which his father Frankel won five years before. There were a few question marks to whether the drop down in trip would be a negative due to Cracksman’s running style but he proved all the doubters wrong by pulling away from the field and well and truly demolishing them in what was my personal favourite performance of the season to give his Dad his first European Group 1 victory. What a horse we’ve got in store for us next year.
1. ENABLE – 3111111
Trainer: John Gosden
A 1-2 for John Gosden in my Top 10 this year and the horse that will probably top the majority of Top Flat Horse lists this year and it’s of course the outstanding Enable. She really has blossomed into one of the great fillies this year and has taken everything that has come before her. The first big success of the season came in the Oaks at Epsom where she dispatched of then odds on short Rhododendron in pretty emphatic style in slightly testing conditions. After that she then went over to the Curragh to contest the Irish Oaks where the result was of course the same of that at Epsom another comfortable Group 1 victory for John Gosden’s charge.
After taking both Oaks in comfortable style it was time to take on the boys in the King George at Ascot which was arguably her toughest assignment to date. The ground was on the soft side but it wasn’t at all an issue for Enable as she again powered away from her rivals which were this time a field of proven Group 1 performers including the likes of Ulysses and Highland Reel. She went on to win another Oaks after that performance the Yorkshire Darley Oaks at York another Group 1 contest which she took with the minimal of fuss. This led to her final destination of the season which of course was the Arc. She went off the 10/11 favourite and dispatched of the field like a horse at odds a lot shorter than that, once again powering up the straight to claim yet another Group 1 and one of the most prestigious races in Europe.
After the outstanding news broke that she will stay in training next year it looks as though the aim will be to send her to retain his Arc crown and try to emulate the brilliant Treve. What a horse she’s been this season though, outstanding.