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HH Sheikh Mohammed racing excellence awards for Godolphin, O’Brien, Soumillon & Gun Runner

05/04/2018
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The glitzy HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Horseracing Excellence Awards night on the Thursday before the Dubai World Cup drew the racing fraternity together with a focus on honouring some of the great performances in the sport in 2017. The awards, instituted by HH Sheikh Mohammed, the Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recognise the best performances throughout the year from the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners who competed on Dubai World Cup day 2017. Godolphin, Aidan O’Brien, Gun Runner and Christophe Soumillon won their respective classes, while legendary French handler Criquette Head-Maarek was handed the Lifetime Achievement Award for her immense contribution to the sport over the years.

Lady Eli was voted the People’s Choice winner via an online vote. Legendary Irish trainer O’Brien picked up the Best Trainer gong, while Christophe Soumillon claimed the Best Jockey honours, even as Gun Runner was adjudicated Best Horse. HH Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation were handed the Best Owner prize. The winners of the Best Horse, Best Jockey, Best Trainer and Best Owner were based on a tally of statistical data compiled by the US Jockey Club and analysed by a committee consisting of representatives from Nielsen Sports and KPMG.

The judging committee reviewed performances in Group and Graded races from the period from last year’s Dubai World Cup through to Super Saturday on 10 March. Best Horse was awarded to Winchell Thoroughbreds’ and Three Chimneys Farm’s Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner, who never lost after a game second in the Dubai World Cup to Arrogate. His five consecutive Grade One victories included the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Best Jockey was awarded to Christophe Soumillon, whose monumental 2017 season included setting the European record for wins in a calendar year, as well as victories in the UAE Derby on Godolphin’s Thunder Snow and Dubai Gold Cup on the Aga Khan’s Vazirabad.

Best Trainer went to Aidan O’Brien, whose record breaking 2017 included 28 Group or Grade One victories around the world. The Ballydoyle-based Irish conditioner broke the record set by the great Bobby Frankel. He had nine runners on Dubai World Cup night in 2017, including Longines Dubai Sheema Classic runner-up Seventh Heaven. Best Owner went to Godolphin after a phenomenal 2017 season in which the operation won 18 Group or Grade One events throughout the world, including the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic with Jack Hobbs, Breeders’ Cup Turf with Talismanic, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with Wuheida and Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes with Ribchester.

All four of those were with different trainers. The Lifetime Achievement Award, decided by committee, went to trainer Criquette Head- Maarek, whose retirement was announced earlier this year. An icon in global horse racing for decades, Head-Maarek conditioned more than 60 Group One winners, won three editions od blazed the trail for female trainers throughout the world with her talent, class and dedication to her craft. T

he fan-voted People’s Choice Award, which recognises the most compelling 2017 moment or accomplishment in racing to have taken place in any country represented by a runner on the 2017 Dubai World Cup card, was awarded tf Europe’s top race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, trained a record tying seven winners of the French 1000 Guineas ano American mare Lady Eli and the team surrounding her. After recovering from life threatening laminitis, the Chad Brown-trained fan favourite did the impossible and returned an even better horse, winning Grade One races from ‘coast to coast’ and ultimately becoming a champion for Sol Kumin’s Sheep Pond Partners. A new award for the Best Contribution to the sport will be instituted from next year.

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