2017: A Year in Reflection

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December 27th, 2017

With only a few days remaining in 2017, now seems like a great time to look back at a memorable year of racing from coast to coast and throughout the world.

From best bets to favorite races, here are some of my most memorable moments from 2017….

Best Bet of the Year

When I look back at 2017, I think my best bet of the year--at least from a confidence standpoint--came on Kentucky Derby day. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs featured a wide-open field of eleven horses that led most handicappers to spread deep and use as many horses as possible in the multi-race wagers. But I had confidence that Divisidero, coming off three straight defeats to start the season, was sitting on a winning run while returning to the site of his two previous graded stakes wins. Despite the competitive nature of the race, I singled Divisidero in the multi-race wagers and played him in the exacta with Beach Patrol, leading to a nice score when Divisidero rallied to catch Beach Patrol close to the finish at odds of 7-2.

Best Handicapping Accomplishment

Identifying that a speed bias was in play on the main track at Aqueduct on April 8th was among my finer handicapping achievements of the year, not because the bias was particularly difficult to identify, but because it led to a memorable last-minute selection in the Carter Handicap (gr. I). For various reasons I didn’t like the chances of the odds-on favorite Unified, and in a race without much front-running speed, the longshot Green Gratto seemed likely to secure an easy lead while encountering a favorable track profile. To my delight, Green Gratto rode the bias and gamely held off a late run from Unified to win by a neck at odds of 54-1.

My 10 Favorite Races of 2017
  1. Arrogate Wins the Dubai World Cup
A slow start and facing Gun Runner should have been enough to stop Arrogate from winning the Dubai World Cup. But with a tremendous, sustained rally from off the pace, Arrogate reeled in Gun Runner to win going away in a performance that can legitimately be considered one of the greatest of all time.
  1. Kitasan Black Wins the Tenno Sho (Autumn)
The front-running Kitasan Black had no business winning the Tenno Sho (Autumn) after a dreadful start left him far behind the early pace, but the Japanese legend shrugged off the incident, threaded his way through the field, forged to the lead in the homestretch, and gamely held off a late run from Satono Crown to win by a head over a bog-like turf course.
  1. Cloud Computing Defeats Classic Empire in the Preakness Stakes
Classic Empire looked home free after surging to a clear lead in the Preakness Stakes, but a long, hard rally from Cloud Computing was enough to steal the victory in the shadow of the wire, giving trainer Chad Brown his first win in a Triple Crown race.
  1. Gun Runner Wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic
It was a showdown of stars—Gun Runner against the Bob Baffert-trained quartet of Arrogate, Collected, West Coast, and Mubtaahij going ten furlongs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the end, Gun Runner prevailed in gate-to-wire fashion, the culmination of a near-perfect year that saw him rise to stardom and stamp himself as a clear choice for Horse of the Year.
  1. Winx Prevails in the Tattersalls Club Chelmsford Stakes
It looked as though Winx’s remarkable winning streak would end at 18 after the Australia superstar entered the homestretch of the Tattersalls Club Chelmsford Stakes with a huge deficit to make up against the front-running Red Excitement. But with a sensational turn-of-foot, Winx turned certain defeat into victory in the final yards and won comfortably by a length.
  1. Mr. Hot Stuff Wins the Grand National Hurdle Stakes
I don’t think there was a more exciting finish this year than that of the Grand National Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills, in which the 11-year-old Mr. Hot Stuff—a veteran of the 2009 Kentucky Derby—edged out Modem and All the Way Jose in a three-way photo finish.
  1. Arrogate Romps in the Pegasus World Cup
It was billed as a rematch between Arrogate and California Chrome, who had run 1-2 in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, but the inaugural Pegasus World Cup was all about Arrogate, who scored a decisive victory while setting a track record.
  1. Bolt d’Oro Wins the FrontRunner Stakes
Bolt d’Oro gave the impression of being a superstar in the making when he won the FrontRunner Stakes by 7 ¾ lengths, effortlessly pulling away while posting a final time that was faster than older mares ran earlier on the card in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes.
  1. Divisidero Rallies to Win the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic
As described above, this race was a fun one for me, and Divisidero’s winning rally made this race one of my favorites from 2017.
  1. Abel Tasman Wins the Coaching Club American Oaks
Huge mid-race moves aren’t usually a winning strategy, but no one told that to Abel Tasman, who rolled past rivals early in the Coaching Club American Oaks and managed to sustain her move to win by a head over the future two-time Grade 1 winner Elate.