Author: Derek Thompson
THE NEW YEAR has arrived and with horses like Pinatubo and Logician to look forward to in 2020 we could be in for an exciting 12 months. But looking back on the last decade, there’s a lot to reflect on, top of the Xmas tree has to go to Frankel and Sir Henry Cecil. Together they made an incredible team winning 14 out of 14 races and the highlight has to be that runaway success in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Jockey Tom Queally set off in front, there were many of us who thought he was going too fast, but he went further and further away, winning by a record six lengths! His victory was inspiring and I am certain he added a few months to Sir Henry Cecil’s life before cancer sadly claimed him. Frankel and Sir Henry certainly helped me because I’ll never forget when I was told I had cancer and the surgeon wanted me in to hospital the following day to operate.
He wasn’t very pleased when I told him “I can’t do that I have to see Frankel running at Royal Ascot!” After a few seconds pause and a hard look across the table he said that was OK and to come in 24 hours later. I did and his six hour operation and the subsequent chemotherapy mean I’m still here to this day. Frankie Dettori is one of life’s great survivors and even at 49 years of age he is number one in the world and certainly the most famous and popular jockey on the planet. An amazing 250 Group One victories followed by that famous flying dismount have endeared him to race fans all over the world and long may it continue. Enable, his dual Arc winner stays in training and that has to put a smile on his face!
Enable’s trainer John Gosden has now been Champion Trainer in the UK four times and apart from Enable he also has his St Leger winner Logician to look forward to and believe me, this superb grey could turn out to be the Horse of the Year in 2020. And what about Charlie Appleby who splits his time between Newmarket and Dubai? He literally has worked his way up to becoming one of the best trainers in the world. I don’t know many men who can train a Derby winner and a Melbourne Cup winner in the same year and it’s a joy to visit his stables because he always finds time for you even though he must be one of the busiest guys in racing. Pinatubo, wintering in Dubai, could be his star of 2020. It seems a long time since the great Cigar won the first running of the Dubai World Cup and the best winner of the past decade has got to be Arrogate.
What a horse! I’ve never seen a horse come from last to first in such a top race and his victory at Meydan was one of the most exciting things I have ever seen on a racecourse. I was actually at Bob Baffert’s stables when he arrived back at Santa Anita when he climbed off the plane from Dubai a week later; and jockey Mike Smith told me he must have swallowed a ton of dirt during the race as he came from behind to land that incredible victory. And what about Bob Baffert who told me he owes his life to HH Sheikh Mohammed? For when he had been in Dubai a few years earlier, he had suffered a heart attack and it was HH who sorted for him a Dubai hospital room. And talking of the last decade, what about Winx? I know she did all her winning in her native country Australia but she became a world superstar and it’s good to know she’ll be having a foal in the next few months.
Chris Waller her trainer is also a man who deserves a mention and I well remember him a few years ago before he became famous and introducing himself to me in a hotel in Newmarket. What a guy. Satish Seemar and Doug Watson have been in Dubai since day one and they both continue to send out winner after winner after winner at the UAE racetracks. I remember Satish once training five winners in one day but it was Doug who made history when saddling six out of six at Meydan! And what about Saeed bin Suroor who hasn’t taken a day off since he walked into Godolphin’s stable all those years ago? I was there that day and he has since managed to train the winner of the Dubai World Cup a record nine times. And what about jockeys Richard Mullen and Tadhg O’Shea who have both made their homes in Dubai and continue to fight out the jockeys’ championship?
Long may it continue. So I wonder what 2020 holds for us on the racetracks around the world? It’s now 50 long years since a horse called Nijinsky won the Triple Crown in the UK, namely the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger and no horse has done it since then! There’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year and I for one can’t wait!