Earlier in the year Randwick veteran Les Bridge thought he had seen the last of Classique Legend, with the grey sprinter set for a new home in Hong Kong. But he never made it onto the plane until after his comprehensive win in The Everest. It was a training masterclass from Bridge, who kept the five-year-old in the stable from the Bob Charley Stakes in June until the world’s richest race on turf four months later, when he was at his peak to thump the best sprinters in the land.
Tom Marquand might not be Aussie Tom any more after returning to England and winning a classic in the St Leger on Galileo Chrome. But it was here that his star rose last summer, winning the Inglis Millenium on Prime Star before linking with another English raider, Addeybb, to win his first group 1s in the Ranvet Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Jockeys know that they are not allowed to bet so it is hard to feel sympathy for Adam Hyeronimus and Ben Melham, who will start 2021 banned from the sport. Hyeronimus has appealed against a three-year disqualification and is awaiting a decision while Melham is serving a five-month disqualification for betting offences and giving false evidence, which seems light compared to his Sydney counterpart.
Empty racecourses have become the norm with bans on crowds because of COVID restrictions. It has meant a lot of clubs are struggling financially, but hopefully they will be able to take advantage of the racing resurgence with new fans in 2021.
On Everest day, Gytrrash had to settle for third behind Classique Legend but for Gordon Richards and connections, the disappointment of not winning was tempered by his biggest payday. Gytrash would go on to win the Yes Yes Yes Stakes, collecting a $750,000 bonus to take his earnings to more than $3 million from his trip to Sydney. He has had bone chips taken from a knee and hopefully will return to The Everest next year.
The Melbourne Cup has always been the centrepiece of the racing year, but it has become a problem in the past couple of years with horses dying in the race and whip rule breaches. Twilight Payment gave Jye McNeil a day to remember at empty Flemington but the 2020 edition might become the Cup that changes the race. Anthony Van Dyck became the sixth horse to die in the past eight Melbourne Cups, which has seen Racing Victoria put together a committee, including Waller and Godolphin boss Vin Cox, for what it calls the international injury review. The whip remains another talking point as authorities looking to further limit its use by strengthening the rules.
HORSE OF THE YEAR
She has a quirky nature and more talent than most and Verry Ellegant showed that in both the autumn and spring carnivals in Sydney and Melbourne. She had 10 starts for the year – nine of them at group 1 level – for four wins, all at the highest level, including the Tancred Stakes and Caulfield Cup
MAN OF THE YEAR
For punters, he has become the way out of a bad day. Backing Willie Pike in Perth late in the day had become a fallback position for most. Pike, who won the national premiership, came east for the spring and gave Melbourne a real taste of his talent, highlighted with four winners on Guineas day. The wizard of the west won the Caulfield Guineas on the outstanding Ole Kirk and the Caulfield Stakes with Arcadia Queen after taking the All-Mile Star with Regal Power in the autumn. He has returned home and become the punters’ friend again at Ascot.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR
Jamie Kah was a record-breaker before she got to Melbourne but 2020 was the breakout year that she moved into the top echelon of jockeys in the country. She rode more than 100 winners for the year, including winning the Toorak Handicap on Mr Quickie and sits atop the Melbourne riders’ premiership.
VIRAL MOMENT OF THE YEAR
The only thing missing from the fairytale win of James Innes jnr on the Wendy Roche-trained Nettoyer in April’s Doncaster was a crowd. In a year where there was little joy, Innes’ fellow riders made the biggest moment of his career special.
QUOTE OF THE YEAR
“When we pulled up everyone sort of looked at me and I said, ‘I think I’ve won’. I don’t even know how to take this all in.” Jockey Koby Jennings after winning the Golden Eagle on Colette. Jennings, usually a provincial-based jockey, provided a fairytale end to the Sydney spring.
The national tote will move closer to reality as racing looks to continue to lift its revenue streams.
Classique Legend will return from his spell after disappointing in the Hong Kong International Sprint and prove himself around the world under the guidance of new trainer Caspar Fownes before coming home to win The Everest again. Straight-track specialist Bivouac will head to England and once again prove Australian sprinters are superior in the Diamond Jubilee and July Cup.
More horses to follow: Montefilia, North Pacific and Anamoe.
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald