That’s it for another flat turf season, but we now have the jumps to get stuck into for our free horse racing tips! What a campaign it was, especially for John Gosden who ended the season in a very fitting manner. Royal Line bolted up in the November Handicap at Doncaster to sign off in spectacular style for the Champion Trainer. The year was full of brilliant moments and below are just a few, as we look back on the 2018 turf season.
John Gosden – What better place to start than with the Champion Trainer… It was a campaign to savour at Clarehaven Stables with 13 victories at the highest level. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Star stayer Stradivarius remained unbeaten in five races during the season, earning the £1m bonus in its inaugural year for winning all four qualifying races. Roaring Lion was transformed into a different animal from the one we saw in the Craven Stakes back in April, gaining four Group 1 wins. Cracksman delivered another scintillating performance in the Champion Stakes to light up Champions Day once again at Ascot on the 20th October. Tremendously exciting juvenile Too Darn Hot won all four of his starts which culminated in an imperious victory in the Dewhurst Stakes, earning him quotes of just 6/4 for next years 2,000 Guineas. Finally, Enable cemented her place in the history books by winning her second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and becoming the first ever horse to win that race and to follow up at the Breeders’ Cup. Truly sensational.
Godolphin – It really was a remarkable campaign for the boys in blue and one that will go down in history. Twenty-eight top level wins spanning eight countries is simply incredible. A Dubai World Cup victory, a first Derby in the famous Royal Blue silks and their first ever Melbourne Cup. What a year 2018 was for the thriving operation!
James Doyle – Doyle has always been a top jockey, but found a new level this campaign with some truly remarkable rides. He struck up an exceptional partnership with William Haggas and together had one of the horses of the season in Sea Of Class. Doyle’s ride on the filly in the Irish Oaks to get up late in the day in supremely confident style was nothing short of ice cool. He was also the man to supply Sir Michael Stoute with his record-breaking 76th Royal Ascot winner in the shape of Poet’s Word in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
Jason Watson – A shining light throughout the year, young Jason Watson proved to be a steal for his claim with some brilliant victories. His success on Gifted Master in the Stewards Cup was arguably the most notable, given the horse had top weight and the pair battled bravely to regain the lead on the line, emphasising how valuable the few pounds were that Watson took off the horses back. The Champion Apprentice title was richly deserved.
Oisin Murphy – The likeable young jockey was yet to win a Group 1 in Britain before this campaign, but along came Roaring Lion. The pair developed a unique understanding of each other which took them to the top level winners enclosure on four occasions and also landed Murphy with the ride on The Tin Man in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. He duly won that too which further added to his credentials of being a future Champion.
Accidental Agent – We didn’t have to wait long for a fairytale story at Royal Ascot this year, as it came in the first race. Accidental Agent crossed the line in-front in the Queen Anne Stakes at a huge 33/1, providing trainer Eve Johnson Houghton her first Group 1 and first Royal Ascot winner in the process. The moment was even more poignant as Gaie (Eve’s mother) owns and bred the horse, making it a truly memorable occasion for all the family.
Alpha Delphini – Generally very consistent, Bryan Smart’s star was yet to record a success at the highest level and at the age of seven, it was looking unlikely to happen. But the Nunthorpe at York in late August was a race connections will never forget, as Alpha Delphini narrowly got the verdict over Mabs Cross in an agonisingly long wait for the outcome of the photo finish.
Arthur Kitt – Arthur Kitt’s Dam, Ceiling Kitty, sadly passed away when giving birth to him and the chances of him surviving were slim as he had a badly twisted leg. But he overcame the odds to secure an emotional win at Royal Ascot.
Feel Glorious – Everyone loves backing a big-priced winner and if you were one of the people that picked out ‘Feel Glorious’ at 125/1 in the Victoria Racing Club Maiden Fillies’ Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, very well done! George Baker’s filly held off the late challenge of the fast finishing Alhakmah to record a memorable success at the Festival.
Laurens – Last but most certainly not least is the filly that keeps on giving. John Dance’s star took her Group 1 tally to five this season and despite seemingly the underdog on many occasions, kept on pulling out more to display her terrific attitude and keep her head in front.
Clues for 2019
Even though the focus is firmly on the jumps game now, it’s always good to be prepared. So below are a few things to watch out for on the flat next year!
Ralph Beckett Fillies – Beckett seems to have a knack of producing very good fillies and he might have a few on his hands next season. Antonia De Vega, Manuela De Vega, Dancing Vega and Feliciana De Vega were all stylish winners on their debuts in the colours of Waverly Racing. Which one of them is best is anyone’s guess at this stage, but they all look highly talented.
Strong looking Classic Colt division – With the exception of Expert Eye, the three-year-old milers weren’t a vintage crop in 2018 as the likes of Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior were campaigned over further for the majority. You only need to look at the 2,000 Guineas and Derby markets to see how many good prospects there are for next year. They could be challenging the older generation in the second half of the season!
Better times ahead for O’Brien – It was no secret that there was a nasty bug in Aidan O’Brien’s yard for some time during 2018, causing a number of horses to get quite ill. This resulted in an 11% strike rate for the master of Ballydoyle in Britain, which for his lofty standards, is very low. Especially so when considering in the three years previous he’s operated at 20%, 21% and 19% respectively. Providing things go smoothly in 2019, it’s not hard to envisage a return to the latter numbers once again in 2019.