2015 Reilly Turf Awards - International Edition

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

January 6th, 2016

Following on from the U.S. edition of the 2015 Reilly Turf Awards, let’s turn to the most memorable performances on the international front.


Golden Horn entered the season as a promising debut winner for John Gosden, but who could have imagined that he’d go on to sweep the Derby (G1), Eclipse (G1), Irish Champion (G1) and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1)? Surely not Sir Anthony Oppenheimer, since he had to supplement his homebred to both the Derby and Arc. Then again, a colt with a name redolent of Constantinople/Istanbul ought to have imperial ambitions. Curiously, his only two career losses came in close duels with fillies in the Juddmonte International (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Chivalrous to a fault?



Japan might have unearthed the right horse to give the race-mad nation an overdue first Arc trophy. Then dual classic hero Duramente missed the second half of the season due to injury. Judging by how the top 3-year-old inhaled the field in the Japanese 2000 Guineas (G1), can’t you just envision him taking to Longchamp? Or for that matter, Chantilly, the Arc’s temporary home for 2016? Adverse weather was the culprit in denying us a couple of other clashes. If it hadn’t been for a summer of pouring rain, Gleneagles would have turned up for a proper showdown with Golden Horn, either at York or Leopardstown, and with Solow at Glorious Goodwood (although Aidan O’Brien ruled him out a bit too hastily there). Figures that a horse with a golf course name needs a putting green. Honorable mention goes to Intilaaq. Not yet ready for prime time in Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1), the Roger Varian pupil rebounded in commanding style versus lesser, only to forfeit his Champion (G1) engagement after a lackluster work. Richard Hills has compared this well-bred son of Dynaformer to Nayef, and he’ll get his chance to live up that appraisal in 2016.




The slugfest in the St Leger (G1) reverberated all the way from Doncaster to the British Horseracing Authority’s headquarters in London. Because the filly Simple Verse unceremoniously shoved Bondi Beach out of her way before winning their war of wills, the racecourse stewards disqualified her. But Simple Verse’s connections lodged a successful appeal – ironically, the same tandem of Qatar Racing and trainer Ralph Beckett who lost their Beverly D. (G1) appeal with Secret Gesture. While the Irish Champion did not result in a disqualification, Golden Horn knocked Free Eagle sideways. Aside from eliminating Free Eagle in the midst of his stern challenge, the blow appeared to have left a mental scar – at least in the opinion of jockey Pat Smullen, who said that he wasn’t the same in his final two starts.




Solow had this award locked up for months, on the strength of a nine-race winning skein including the 2015 Dubai Turf (G1), Prix d’ Ispahan (G1), Queen Anne (G1), Sussex (G1), and Queen Elizabeth II (G1). Trainer Freddie Head self-deprecatingly says that Solow would have done better earlier if he hadn’t run him over longer trips. But in fairness, the Wertheimer homebred lost a lot of time due to an illness as a 3-year-old, and Head’s patient handling was the making of him. Maurice made a late-season run to join Solow on my imaginary podium. Unbeaten from five starts in 2015, the aptly named son of Screen Hero turned a prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1)/Mile Championship (G1) double, and earned an even rarer accolade – high praise from the circumspect Ryan Moore. Maurice capped the year by downing local kingpin Able Friend in the Hong Kong Mile (G1).




Buffering, a popular fixture on the Australian sprint scene since the days of Black Caviar, sustained a sesamoid injury in March that put his career in doubt. Returning from a nearly 10-month layoff in the October 2 A.J. Moir (G1), the 8-year-old veteran flashed his trademark speed and fighting spirit to win the Moonee Valley dash for an unprecedented third time – and almost equaled the course record. And Buffering wasn’t done. Later, “The Buff” captured the Winterbottom (G1) for a second time. A credit to trainer Robert Heathcote and all of Queensland! Also worth recognizing is the British stayer Litigant, who resurfaced from a 16-month absence to plunder the Ebor for new trainer Joseph Tuite. The statute of limitations has not run out yet on this newly turned 8-year-old with few miles on the clock.



Trainer David O’Meara deserves a custom-made category to highlight his achievements with Mondialiste and Amazing Maria. Mondialiste, a Wertheimer cast-off, was nurtured into a Woodbine Mile (G1) winner and commendable Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) runner-up. Amazing Maria, a classy juvenile and onetime classic hope, was rejuvenated to score a summer hat trick comprising the Duke of Cambridge (G2), Falmouth (G1) and Prix Rothschild (G1). In the latter, she handed Ervedya her only loss of the season.




Wesley Ward’s team flew the flag with distinction at Royal Ascot, where Acapulco overwhelmed them in the Queen Mary (G2) and Undrafted upstaged them in the Diamond Jubilee (G1). If the ground hadn’t been slowed by rain at York, Acapulco would probably have beaten older horses in the Nunthorpe (G1). Earlier in the year on Dubai World Cup night, Ward’s Green Mask was a superb third in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) to a senior globetrotter, Sole Power. Aerovelocity was a terrific advertisement for Hong Kong, outgunning the Japanese sprinters in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) and then speeding clear in Singapore’s KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1). Criterion fared best closer to home in Australia, but he too performed with credit while crisscrossing the globe from Hong Kong to England and back again.




Even hindsight can’t make the case for the 50-1 Arabian Queen to repel Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International. A perfect storm for her, and against him, but unforeseeable all the same. Qualify was almost as inscrutable when nabbing Legatissimo in the Oaks (G1) at 50-1. The best storyline of them all was furnished by the 100-1 Prince of Penzance in the Melbourne Cup (G1). Michelle Payne thereby became the first woman jockey to win the “Race that Stops a Nation.” And there were heartwarming scenes of her brother with Down syndrome, Stevie, who had an extra special reason to rejoice – he’s Prince of Penzance’s groom.



Xtravagant elicited comparisons to So You Think after his scintillating New Zealand 2000 Guineas (G1) in stakes-record time. A Shin Hikari ran them ragged from pillar to post in the Hong Kong Cup (G1). Lumiere had the raw speed to throw her foes off the bridle in the Cheveley Park (G1), then kept finding more up the rising ground. Ertijaal’s power-packed Cape Derby (G1) wasn’t a harbinger for the rest of his South African campaign, but the Hard Spun blueblood can do some real damage at the upcoming Dubai Carnival for Mike de Kock.






Able Friend qualified for “Biggest Flop” after his bitterly disappointing non-effort behind Solow at Royal Ascot, but let’s accentuate the positive. In his first start back from his English holiday, lumping top weight against Hong Kong’s top sprinters, the star miler blew them away at their own game in the six-furlong Premier Bowl. Conversely, Japanese sprinter Straight Girl snared the Victoria Mile (G1) with a whirlwind late charge up the Tokyo straight.




The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) might have lost its leading players with the withdrawals of Golden Horn and Flintshire, but Ascot’s midsummer showpiece still served up perhaps the most spine-tingling finish of 2015: racing on ground thought to be softer than his preference, Postponed was headed by Eagle Top, yet did not hesitate to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately I can’t embed it, so be sure to watch it here. There was an even more protracted duel in Randwick’s All-Aged (G1), where Dissident called on every ounce of moral fiber to wear down Wandjina – despite conceding both ground and weight. Retiring to stud in a blaze of glory, he clinched Australian Horse of the Year honors. In Caulfield’s Blue Diamond (G1), Pride of Dubai showed commendable poise for an inexperienced juvenile to overcome a tough trip. He should have been intimidated, but not this son of Street Cry, who shrugged it all off to break his maiden on a big stage. And he came right back to earn another gutsy win in the Sires’ Produce (G1). Honorable mentions go to Curvy, who was an equine pinball en route to victory in the Ribblesdale (G2), and Covert Love, who came again to nip Jazzy Top in the Prix de l’Opera (G1).




Admittedly, this is something of a catch-all to recognize consistently high-class performers who don’t readily fit another category. But what year-in-review could ignore New Bay, the French Derby (G1) hero who capped his superb year with a third in the Arc; the ultra-reliable Australian sprinter Chautauqua, whose customary late rallies carried him to the T.J. Smith (G1) and Manikato (G1); Ervedya, victorious in the French 1000 Guineas (G1) and Coronation (G1) in her own division, and in the Prix du Moulin (G1) over older males; Esoterique, who would have doubled her Group 1 tally for the year if not bumping into Solow and Muhaarar; the tough-as-nails Pleascach, successful in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) in a busy campaign; South African Horse of the Year Futura, who turned the Queen’s Plate (G1)/J&B Met (G1) double; and Argentine sensation Hi Happy, who extended his unbeaten sequence to six in the South American “Arc,” the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1)?


Treve was unable to complete her Arc three-peat, but she was entitled to regress off her annihilation of the Prix Vermeille (G1) only three weeks prior. Australia’s answer to Zenyatta, the Street Cry filly Winx, dominated males in the Epsom (G1), then smashed them senseless next time in the Cox Plate (G1). Muhaarar, who ended the season as Britain’s best speedster since Dayjur, commenced his Group 1 quartet with a devastating conquest of the Commonwealth Cup (G1). His South African counterpart, Captain of All, ran up the score late in the Mercury Sprint (G1). Jack Hobbs turned the Irish Derby (G1) into a rout, and Order of St George did the same to his elders in the Irish St Leger (G1). Let’s not forget how Legatissimo fairly oozed contempt in the Nassau (G1), or that Air Force Blue made a routine of soaring over his rivals in a Group 1 hat trick culminating in the Dewhurst (G1).







We mourned a trio of world-class stayers -- Red Cadeaux, Cavalryman, and Brown Panther – all felled by injuries sustained in action. The fine sprinter Astaire and the lovely filly Ihtimal likewise left us too soon. And although I’ve traditionally excluded retired horses from this category, it would be a colossal blunder to omit legendary steeplechaser Kauto Star from this honors list.


Green Desert died at the ripe old age of 32 in September, in the midst of a season that highlighted his enduring influence at stud. The son of Danzig was accomplished on the racecourse, landing the 1986 July Cup (G1) as a 3-year-old, and finishing second in the 2000 Guineas to the great Dancing Brave. But Green Desert blossomed as a sire. His sons include Oasis Dream, sire of Muhaarar; Invincible Spirit, sire of Kingman; and Cape Cross, sire of Sea the Stars, Ouija Board, and Golden Horn.

There are others I’ve had to leave on the cutting room floor, lest this grow to an interminable length. So in the comments, please add your favorite international horses that were overlooked!

Golden Horn photo at top courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter; photo of his paternal grandsire, Green Desert, courtesy of Shadwell via Facebook.