Year in Review: The Best Horse of 2018

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 16th, 2018

While the debate over U.S. Horse of the Year honors has taken up a lot of press since the Breeders’ Cup, I find a less formal but no less challenging debate to be just as interesting—who was the best horse to race anywhere in the world in 2018?

I’m not just looking for who compiled the best campaign, or who ran the best single race, or who showcased the most pure talent. I’m looking at a combination of all those factors and more. Racing fans around the world were treated to spectacular performances from at least a half-dozen sensational horses in 2018, including not only the U.S. Horse of the Year candidates Justify and Accelerate, but also the European superstar Enable and the Australian wonder mare Winx, who has won a staggering 29 consecutive race.

But as great as those horses have been—and they were amazing—I’m ready to argue that the informal title of “2018 Best Horse in the World” should be bestowed upon Almond Eye of Japan.

If you’re not deeply familiar with Almond Eye’s achievements, you can be forgiven—she has yet to achieve the same level of international recognition as, say, Enable or Winx. But on the track, this virtually unstoppable three-year-old has been every bit as brilliant as her more heralded superstar counterparts.

During the course of 2018, Almond Eye ran five times and was never seriously challenged on any occasion. She opened the year with a comfortable win in the Shinzan Kinen (Jpn-III) going 1,600-meter, and then she absolutely blew the doors off every filly who dared oppose her in the three legs of the Japan Filly Triple Crown, repeatedly showcasing a tremendous turn-of-foot to win the 1,600-meter Oka Sho (Jpn-I), the 2,400-meter Yushun Himba (Jpn-I), and the 2,000-meter Shuka Sho (Jpn-I) with complete authority.
But Almond Eye’s season-defining performance was still to come. On November 25th, she stepped up to face older male rivals for the first time in the prestigious 2,400-meter Japan Cup (Jpn-I), but even this seemingly stiff challenge proved to be no meaningful obstacle for Almond Eye. Showing more speed than usual, Almond Eye tracked a solid early pace before taking over in the homestretch and pulling away to win by nearly two lengths in the almost unfathomable time of 2:20.60, which is being recognized as a world record.
Already I’m looking ahead to 2019, when Almond Eye is expected to take on the world in races like the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I). In the latter race, Almond Eye could even square off against the two-time Arc winner Enable, and I fully expect Almond Eye to hold her own against Europe’s star, because—quite simply—I believe Almond Eye was the best racehorse in the world in 2018.