As another year draws to a close, the team at Horsebetting.com.au has compiled their top 10 horse racing moments for the calendar year of 2023.
With fond farewells, emotional Group 1 victories, and unfortunate tragedies, it has been one of the more talked-about years amongst horse racing fans.
From all of us here at HorseBetting, we wish you and your family a safe and Happy New Year.
#10 Pride Of Jenni claims Group 1 double during Melbourne Cup week
Records are made to be broken, and the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Pride Of Jenni made history when becoming the first horse to complete the Empire Rose Stakes / VRC Champions’ Mile double during Melbourne Cup week. Both results were a carbon copy of one another, as Declan Bates took the mare to the front of the field and opened up a massive lead mid-race with her rivals unable to mow her down.
Watch Pride of Jenni win the 2023 VRC Champions Mile
It brought up an emotional double for prevalent owner Tony Ottobre, as there was added meaning behind the result for the Ottobre family. Their horses always carry the Jenni name, in honour of their daughter Jennifer, who died from a brain tumour in 2015. The Monday prior to the Melbourne Cup Carnival was to be Jennifer’s birthday, and the day following Pride Of Jenni’s win in the Champions Mile, November 12 is the anniversary of her passing.
#9 Think About It conquers The Everest
The Everest is quickly becoming one of Australia’s must-watch races, and despite this year’s edition perhaps lacking the superstar power of years past, the Joe Pride-trained Think About It etched his name into Everest folklore. The betting market with the best horse racing bookmakers, had it down to a race in three; Think About, I Wish I Win and Private Eye. The three would fill the trifecta, with less than a length seperating the Group 1 winners, but it was the up-and-coming Think About It who would reign supreme.
Watch Think About It win The Everest
With 11-career wins and almost $10 million in prizemoney accumulated for Think About It, the young sprinter is continuing his rise as one of Australia’s best, and will no doubt feature in lists like this for many years to come.
#8 Craig Williams winning Giga Kick Stakes
Safe to say that it was an eventful spring for Craig Williams and those among the Giga Kick camp. The 2022 Everest champ had his colour lowered in the McEwen Stakes behind Imperatriz, but connections were quick to blame Craig Williams for the below-par performance of their star sprinter. Prior to the news of his injury, connections gave Craig Williams the boot following one poor ride, despite the Hall of Fame-bound Williams taking them to the greatest heights connections can go to in racing. Williams was to be replaced by James McDonald for the Everest ride on Giga Kick, but injury would curtail those plans.
Watch Bella Nipotina win the 2023 Giga Kick Stakes
Williams was as professional as ever following the decision, but perhaps the ultimate ‘karma’ found Williams in the weeks following the 2023 Everest. Williams would partner the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Bella Nipotina to a jaw-dropping victory in the Giga Kick Stakes. It’s ironic how the racing gods work, isn’t it?
#7 Mr Brightside goes back-to-back in Doncaster Mile
Having claimed Doncaster Mile success, Australia’s best miler over the last 12 months, Mr Brightside became the first runner since Sacred Falls in 2013-2014 to claim consecutive Doncaster Mile’s.
Watch Mr Brightside win the 2023 Doncaster Mile
Mr Brightside confirmed his status as Australia’s best miler. Having completed the All Star Mile/Doncaster Mile double in consecutive starts, the Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained superstar would return in the spring and taste success in the Memsie Stakes and Makybe Diva Stakes before being cruelly denied a Cox Plate victory by the barest of margin’s to Hong Kong superstar Romantic Warrior.
#6 Dean Holland’s Newmarket Handicap success
The passing of Dean Holland was without a doubt the saddest moment of 2023. Our thoughts and prayers are still firmly with the Holland family. However, the late jockey got one more crack at a Group 1 winner in the Newmarket Handicap aboard Godolphin’s In Secret. Holland was a late replacement for Jamie Kah, who suffered a nasty fall earlier on the Flemington card, and with not many lightweight riders around at Flemington, James Cummings were quick to snap up the services of Dean Holland. The rest as they say, is history.
Watch Dean Holland guide In Secret to Newmarket Handicap success
Dean Holland would follow instructions perfectly and had In Secret in splendid isolation with 100m to go, where he was able to soak in the roar of the Flemington crowd. Sadly, Holland would pass following a tragic race fall at Donald on April 24, with the racing world rallying together behind his family and loved ones. One of Dean’s final bookings was to be aboard the Brent Stanley-trained Seranaur on the Wednesday at Ballarat. Connections of Serenaur had announced prior to the event that all prizemoney would be donated to Holland’s family. Seranaur would go on to win in emphatic fashion, the scenes that followed at Ballarat were ones that will remain in the memory bank for some time.
Watch Sernaur’s win at Ballarat in honour of Dean Holland
#5 Waller wins first Golden Slipper
Master trainer Chris Waller was long thought of a trainer who couldn’t train a two-year-old winner until June, but Shinzo quickly put those thoughts to bed when claiming the 2023 Golden Slipper.
2023 Golden Slipper Replay
Shinzo had taken out the Group 3 Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) seven days prior to his win in the Slipper, with James McDonald on board. However, a week later, McDonald had already secured his ride in the Slipper, thus allowing Coolmore’s gun UK-based jockey Ryan Moore to take the steer on the valuable colt. Shinzo would go on to win by just over a length and etch his name into Golden Slipper folklore. Shinzo has now been retired following a disappointing spring, having not won another race after his success in the richest juvenile race in the country.
#4 Imperatriz’s perfect spring
Is Imperatriz the best sprinter in Australia? Her spring campaign certainly suggested she is, and we are not buying the “what did she beat?” campaign against the superstar Kiwi. The Mark Walker-trained mare would resume her Australian career in the McEwen Stakes when smashing the likes of Giga Kick and Rothfire in track record time at the Moonee Valley 1000m. Imperatriz would go on toe become just the second horse to complete the Moir Stakes/Manikato Stakes double and make it a clean sweep of the Moonee Valley Group 1 sprints having claimed the William Reid Stakes in the autumn. However, it was the VRC Champions Sprint win that was Imperatriz’s crowning achievement.
Watch Imperatriz win the 2023 VRC Champions Sprint
Imperatriz was sent around as a hot favourite against In Secret who won the Newmarket Handicap in the autumn, and was coming off an eye-catching run in the Everest. However, Opie Bosson gave the Kiwi superstar a gun ride and favourite punters were never in any real danger as Imperatriz would go on to claim a third straight Group 1 win and in doing so, suggest she is the one to beat throughout 2024.
#3 Romantic Warrior wins Cox Plate
There’s little arguing the fact that Hong Kong’s Romantic Warrior is one of the best horses in the world. Despite having his colours lowered by Gold Trip on his Australian debut in the Turnbull Stakes, Romantic Warrior was always going to be a different beast in the Cox Plate. With the run under his belt, the Danny Shum-trained Romantic Warrior entered the 2023 Cox Plate as a hot favourite, and with James McDonald on board, history was on the verge of their fingertips.
Watch Romantic Warrior claim Cox Plate glory
Having been the beneficiary of an economical run in transit, the Moonee Valley crowd roared as the race went on at the 200m mark as Romantic Warrior down the outside and Mr Brightside on the rails made their runs at the same time. On first glance it looked like that Mr Brightside may have nosed out the international star, but it was Romantic Warrior who got his nose down in time to win the Cox Plate and handed Hong Kong their maiden win in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
#2 Without A Fight completes Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup
It had not been done since 2001, but Without A Fight etched his name alongside the likes of Ethereal as horses to have completed the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double. Having taken out the Q22 during the Brisbane Winter Carnival, Without A Fight was destined to contend in the Spring majors, having competed in the 2022 Melbourne Cup. Anthony & Sam Freedman had the former European cherry ripe for the Caulfield Cup with just one run under his belt, but it proved to me more than enough. Without A Fight would wear down West Wind Blows in a dramatic finish to the Caulfield Cup, to signal his Melbourne Cup credentials.
Watch Without A Fight’s Melbourne Cup win
His win in the Melbourne Cup however, was different gravy. Having been given an inch-perfect steer from Mark Zahra, Without A Fight made his run upon entering the home straight in the Melbourne Cup, and once clear, the race was over within a couple of strides. The official winning margin was a touch over two lengths, but Without A Fight had the 2023 Melbourne Cup won a long way out. Who knows, perhaps he can do it again in 2024?
#1 Damien Oliver ends career in style
We had to wait until December 16 for the best moment in horse racing for 2023, but it was the way Damien Oliver’s career came to an end. The 126-time Group 1 winning jockey announced at the start of the Spring Carnival that his illustrious career in the pig skin would come to a close following The Gold Rush at Ascot Racecourse. Script writers are often talked about in sports, and the script writers got it perfectly right for the G.O.A.T. Oliver would finish his career with the straight winners, but it was his ride aboard Munhamek in the Damien Oliver Gold Rush that takes the cake.
Watch Munhamek’s breathtaking win in the Gold Rush
Having settled towards the rear of the field on the rail, Ollie looked destined to finish his career on a sour note. However, as the gaps appeared in front of him, Munhamek quickly put himself into the race with 150m to go, and with a dynamic turn of foot managed to savage the line late and grab Ripcord in the shadows of the winnings. Cue pandemonium at Ascot. Not many jockey’s get the fairytale ending, but Damien Oliver got the one he deserved.
Let us know in the comments below your top racing moments of 2023.