This week Andy Newtonâ€™s got nine hot trainers to keep on your side, plus an interesting high-profile handler that you might want to keep at armâ€™s length at present....... Read more
Forget the Cartier Awards. Donâ€™t bother with the Lesters. Thereâ€™s only one celebration of the year just gone that you need to attend and it's right here for you, dear reader. Presenting the 2010 Geegeez Awards... (drumroll please)
Hero of the Year - Tony McCoy
If truth be known, I was waiting for AP to win Sports Personality of the Year before giving away any awards at all. It would have been a travesty of justice had he not won the biggest popularity contest in sport but havenâ€™t we been saying that for the past few years? What it does show is that the wider public are taking note of not only this great man but racing itself.
I can guarantee you that the sport will gain at least a few more racegoers in 2011 because of McCoyâ€™s victory in the BBC award - people will want to see the legend in the flesh, experience what itâ€™s like to cheer him home. But even for those who voted against him, the win has opened their eyes to the Irishmanâ€™s talent and dedication, as well as showing them what racing has to offer. A friend of mine admitted that that he had â€˜googledâ€™ the jockey after seeing him on the awards show - he can now appreciate the manâ€™s achievements and letâ€™s hope a few other people do as well.
Horse of the Year - Goldikova
Wow, this was a tough call. Two fillies stood out for their consistency, toughness and resilience. Both had racked up the air miles after a busy season and both had shown the world how good they really are. Snow Fairy was exceptional in 2010 - improving from maiden all-weather winner to dual Oaks victor in the space of a few months is an unbelievable upward curve but Goldikova just edged the decision.
Royal Ascot, Longchamp, the Breedersâ€™ Cup, â€˜Goldiâ€™ raced and won at them all. Success in the latter, her third Cup, was history-making and mind-blowing. In essence, sheâ€™s a no-nonsense, do-it-all wonder-mare. The only blip came with defeat to Makfi on her hated soft ground. Weâ€™re all forgiven a few blips, and this was her only one on an otherwise unblemished record.
Rumour has it that she may even stay in training for another year. Usually Iâ€™d be delighted at such a decision but a horse like this has nothing left to prove - all the big races have been won and a retirement to breed some more superstars is surely the future she deserves.
Race of the Year - The Cheltenham Gold Cup
It was billed as the deciding duel between two true heavyweights of the game: Kauto Star and Denman. Alas, the bout we were promised never materialised. Instead we were left to ponder the merits of Imperial Commanderâ€™s win: was it a fluke or is this a genuine champion? It seems we will find out for certain this year.
The race itself was a rare, edge of your seat, face behind fingers charge. Carruthers led the field at a ferocious tempo, Kauto made a horrendous mistake down the back, Denman took up the pace-setting with a circuit to run, Kauto fell heavily at the top of the hill and Imperial Commander emerged from the chaos surrounding him to land the Cup.
The three big dogs will be back for another crack this season and Paul Nichollsâ€™ pair will be slight underdogs as they bid to regain the crown. Age may have caught up with them but they can still run most rivals ragged. The new order of steeple chasers may be emerging but the old guard can still sleep easy at night and think to themselves: â€œYou ainâ€™t seen nothingâ€™ yetâ€.
Villain of the Year - Youmzain
Many hung jockey Mike Smith after getting the unbeaten super-filly Zenyatta beaten at the Breedersâ€™ Cup but at least that pair had been victorious during the season.
There is an undoubtedly talented horse, one who has some of the best form in the history of horseracing yet couldnâ€™t get his nose in front during the twelve months of 2010. Step forward Youmzain. Thrice second in the Arc (behind Zarkava, Dylan Thomas and Sea The Stars), his season highlight was a desperate loss in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud where he lunged late but couldnâ€™t hit the front where it mattered.
Come Arc day this time around, many (including yours truly) thought, in Tim Henman style, â€˜is this his year?â€™ The result? A miserable 10th place, and an emphatic 'Non, Monsieur!'.
Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall Award - Richard Hughes / Richard Hannon / Paco Boy
It may just be that Paco Boy was never good enough to beat the once-in-a-lifetime mare Goldikova but I beg to differ. Five times the pair met and five times â€˜Goldiâ€™ came out on top. What baffled me was why, every time, Paco Boy was held up at the back of the pack in the early stages thus gifting the French-trained filly a five length headstart? Surely it would have made more sense to sit on her tail, let her do all the donkey work and then pounce in the shadow of the post. Cop on lads!
Most Improved Horse of the Year Award - Khajaaly
Now there may be just a hint of home bias here (ahem), but the Geegeez Racing Club had plumbed the depths before rising to new heights, and our first ever win, when Khajaaly fair bolted up at Wolverhampton on 19th November. That he was 25/1 doesn't tell the full story. All members were told that he was fancied, and most members got stuck in, leaving bookies tending some fairly gaping financial wounds.
Worse was to follow for the bookies, as our 'Charlie' followed up on 10th December, this time as the 3/1 favourite, backed in from 4's.
That double victory looked extremely unlikely for those fellow members who were present at Kempton (10th of 11) or Lingfield (9th of 10) prior to Charlie's break. We now know our boy needs a rest between his runs, and he'd clearly been overraced previously.
There's 50 of us hoping he starts the New Year the way he finished the old one. Of course, he owes us nothing now, but we'll still be hoping for 'thirds' in the coming weeks.
And hereâ€™s a few more moments I wonâ€™t forget in a hurry:
- Jacqueline Quest losing the 1000 Guineas in the stewardsâ€™ room. Your heart had to go out for her paralysed owner, Noel Martin.
- Johnny Murtagh bulldozing half the field to bag the far rail on Starspangledbanner in the July Cup.
- Everyone scratching their heads and asking â€˜how did that happen?â€™ when Sole Power won the Nunthorpe at 100/1.
- Restless Harryâ€™s bone-crunching fall when going well in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival. It was a relief to see him walk away unscathed.
- Veteran Well Chief rolling back the years by beating Master Minded at Cheltenham.