The Tatts Tiara (1350m) is done and dusted, and so is Australian Group l racing for the 2016/17 season. There have been 72 majors during that time, and while we do have too many, they were still and run and won. Here are the leading horsemen for the year:
Hugh Bowman- 13
Kerrin McEvoy- 9
Chris Waller- 9
Darren Weir- 8
David/Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig- 5
John O’Shea, Ciaron Maher, Kris Lees, Peter & Paul Snowden, Damian Lane, Brad Rawiller, Corey Brown- 4
So out of the 72, which races stood head and shoulders above any other? Here is my top ten for the season.
Have Your Say: Which was the best Group 1 win of the season? – Leave a comment below.
10. Crown Oaks – Lasqueti Spirit:
Whether it was others going to sleep, or the unbelievable tactics of Avdulla…whatever the case, this was a stunning win, never mind shocking. The 200/1 pop led at a solid tempo before Avdulla let the filly slide further and she just kept increasing the margin. She was the rank outsider, she’d get tired and fold up…nah. She just kept running and broke their hearts to break her maiden status in a Group l.
9. Australian Oaks – Bonneval:
The staying ranks are thin this part of the world…we just hope that the Baker/Forsman team can get this mare to hold and/or naturally improve her form because she could be a serious Cups contender. This was just an absolute spank job, and Bowman showed once again that he is the master in staying races with an absolute pearler of a steer to get the kiwi filly home by a space. Look out for her in the Spring.
8. Australian Cup – Humidor:
He was the obvious horse to beat after several outstanding lead up runs. The problem with him at the time is that he wanted to lay in terribly, which cost him a win or two prior to the race. That, and Jameka was in the field, heavily backed and had Bowman steering. None of that mattered in the end because Damian Lane timed his run to absolute perfection on the former kiwi, nailing Jameka in the final 50m and pulling clear late.
7. Epsom Handicap – Hauraki:
Watching the replay whilst writing this, I am still not sure how he won. This was just a freakish performance. Was near last with 200m to go and giving them an impossible start but he just absolutely savaged the line and lunged hard to nab old mate Dibayani right on the peg in a thrilling finish. It was a deserved Group l win.
6. Turnbull Stakes – Hartnell:
He probably should be up higher. I think this win was quickly forgotten but upon reflection, it was one of the most dominant Group l wins in recent times, and that is including Winx. He smashed the clock, did it as if it was a barrier trial, and the horse that ran second…yep, that was the subsequent dominant Caulfield Cup winner Jameka. Brilliant to watch.
5. George Ryder Stakes – Winx:
“All conditions, all distances, all challengers”. Perfectly summed up by Darren Flindell. This race was red hot even without the great mare given it had Le Romain, the last start Group l winner, and the best sprinter in the world, Chautauqua. She made them look like Port Macquarie maiden horses. That’s what the champions do. They make good horses look ordinary, and she did it for the 16th time in a row.
4. Queensland Oaks – Egg Tart:
She sneaks into the first four. Personally, this was very satisfying for yours truly given I marked her down as a Queensland Oaks horse prior to her first up win at Newcastle. Ever since then Chris Waller has raised the bar with her and she has gotten better, and this was the pinnacle. Chris Waller has stated many times that this filly is very special…he wasn’t saying that at the same time of the career of Winx. She could well be the heir apparent. The Caulfield Cup is hers to lose if they head that way if Waller plots a course towards the great race.
3. TJ Smith Stakes – Chautauqua:
Still get goosebumps when watching the replay. Everything said no, he couldn’t win. The bias was against him, history was against, he was supposed to be done and dusted. He was the $4 favourite on the Wednesday and during the Saturday, he got out to as much as $10 with some bookies. But that booming finish he has stole the show once again and he created history by winning the TJ Smith for a third year in a row, joining a very select few of winning a major three years on the trot.
2. Melbourne Cup – Almandin:
What a finish. Two of the best in the world in McEvoy and Moreira going toe-to-toe down the entire Flemington straight in the great race with Almandin getting the bob right on the peg in a superb finishing and that man again Lloyd Williams won another Cup. The negative feedback towards the Williams crew post race was pretty poor, with the main point being that it’s not a good look/boring when the rich get richer. Hey, if I had pockets as deep as they do, I’d be spending big too to win the most famous race in the world.
1. Cox Plate – Winx:
You couldn’t have any other as number one could you. We saw what Hartnell did in the Turnbull, and yes, we know he probably isn’t at his best at the Valley, but he was still near the top of his game, and this mare, who is not the biggest horse, nor the strongest, and doesn’t have the biggest stride, or the prettiest action…but she just ambled up to Hartnell and said TTFN (Ta Ta For Now). I doubt Moonee Valley will see a performance like that again…or could we come October 28.