In a year, the gates reopened to welcome back capacity crowds; we were privileged and spoiled with the amount of quality Group 1 and ‘pop up’ races on offer each and every week.
With Australia’s racing landscape forever changing, punters and sports fans are the real winners. There is no real ‘’off-season’’, and preparations are being remapped and reshaped to target the new big money instead of the time-honoured events.
For racing traditionalists, it is a losing battle, for punters and racing lovers, there is no better time to be involved in the sport!
VRC's Winning Hand
The babies kicked off 2022 at The Magic Millions, with Coolangatta maintaining her unbeaten record and setting the benchmark for the two-year-olds. She rocketed to favouritism for the Golden Slipper and ran gamely to place on a bottomless track. She became a Group 1 winner later in the year, taking out The Group 1 Moir Stakes at Moonee Valley.
The World’s highest-rated sprinter had his colours lowered at Flemington in The Black Caviar Lightning. After missing the start, Nature Strip showed remarkable resilience but couldn’t run down the Coolmore Champion Home Affairs.
Melbourne Cup Champion Verry Elleegant returned in style, taking out The Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick. The race provided a handy form guide for the majority of the autumn. However, Verry Elleegant would have an indifferent 2022, including a failed French campaign for a new trainer.
Daumier won The Blue Diamond in an upset, while Marabi scorched the turf in The Oakleigh Plate. Tofane would win a deserved Group 1 in The C F Orr Stakes.
Death, taxes, and a wet Sydney autumn! The weather in March and April dampened Sydney’s autumn racing with a year’s worth of rain failing.
With the heavy tracks each week in wet old Sydney town, the best racing in March was in Melbourne.
VRC Derby Champion Hitotsu would claim the Australian Guineas at Flemington on his way to winning The Australian Derby at Randwick. He became the first horse since Mahogany to do the famous treble. Unfortunately, an injury brought his 2022 to a halt.
Rock ‘N’ Horse started her love affair with the Flemington straight in The Newmarket Handicap at cricket score odds. She would go on to win The Darley Champions Sprint later in the year, beating a red-hot field, again at massive odds. Punters may take her seriously in 2023.
Zaaki took out The All-Star Mile from a fast finishing I’m Thunderstruck. It was a brilliant ride from Jamie Kah from the outside barrier, and this would be a preview of the many battles that Zaaki and I’m Thunderstruck would have in 2022.
Anamore put the writing on the wall for a big year in The Rosehill Guineas, while Fireburn brilliantly won The Golden Slipper for Gary Portelli. Despite being last on turning, Fireburn savaged the line to record a famous victory.
As the racing focus shifted to Sydney for The Championships, the heavens were still well and truly open.
Fireburn continued her form in The Inglis Sires, only to narrowly miss out on the triple crown in The Champagne Stakes. She’s Extreme was the victor on a day the track was bottomless and leader bias.
Nature Strip bounced back to claim his third consecutive The T J Smith, while Mr Brightside took out The Doncaster Mile after putting the writing on the wall in The All-Star Mile.
Knights Order won The Sydney Cup, while Think It Over claimed The Queen Elizabeth to round out a stunning campaign.
The Adelaide autumn carnival took centre stage in early May. The Adelaide Group 1 features are getting harder to win for the locals, with the carnival getting stronger and more competitive each year. The amount of interstate raiders is phenomenal.
Snapdancer produced a blistering turn of foot to claim a well-deserved Group 1 in The Robert Sangster. The Memsie Stakes would be claimed in similar fashion later in the year.
The South Australian Derby was taken out by the talented Jungle Magnate, while the electric Lombardo showed a clean pair of heels to win The Goodwood. Unfortunately, Lombardo would continue to frustrate punters and racing fans with injuries and indifferent form for the remainder of the year.
As we headed into winter, The stunning Brisbane Racing Carnivals kicked off north of the border.
Mazu completed a fantastic comeback to form, claiming The Doomben 10,000. Import Huetor took out the Doomben Cup in an effortless display, while Apache Chase provided local trainer Desleigh Forster a debut Group 1 victory. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!
Stradbroke Handicap Day is the jewel in the crown of The Brisbane Racing Winter Carnivals.
Eagle Farm’s day in the sun always produces quality racing, and 2022 was no different.
Gai Waterhouse turned around the form of the highly controversial and highly talented Alligator Blood in The Stradbroke Handicap. This was also Gai’s 150th Group 1 victory.
Gypsy Goddess claimed the Queensland Oaks after an impressive autumn preparation, while Sheza Belter won the J.J Atkins Stakes for the Snowden camp in a thrilling finish.
Abroad, Nature Strip won The Group 1 King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, again confirming his status as the best sprinter in the world. He destroyed a decent field of Europe’s best sprinters in a canter. This would turn out to be his last Group 1 of the year and possibly of his career.
Despite still being in winter, August always signals the start of spring racing. It also starts the new racing season.
Anamore started his horse of the year credentials with a win in The Winx Stakes against a quality field. This race stood up as a form guide for the entire spring. It produced winner after winner moving forward into the official spring, none more so than Anamore himself, who would go on to be the most winningest Group 1 Godolphin horse of all time.
Snapdancer led them in a merry dance in The Memsie Stakes. They couldn’t run him down, and this was another race that provided a punter’s ‘spring cheat sheet’ with multiple winners coming out of this event.
It’s the month the stars hit the track as they work towards the spring riches and majors. For the lucky ones, the two cups and a plate.
Memsie Stakes placed I’m Thunderstruck ran down Alligator Blood in a thrilling edition of The Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. I’m Thunderstruck defied the pattern of the day, winning from a long way back up the rails. Unfortunately, it would be the highlight of the spring for I’m Thunderstruck, who kept running home behind Anamoe and co.
Anamoe held off a wall of horses in The George Main despite being lame. This would hold up his career-defining preparation for a couple of weeks. However, he would come back bigger and better.
Coolangatta returned to winning form in The Moir stakes defeating the fast-finishing Bella Nipotina. At the same time, The Golden Rose produced a freakish win with Jacquinot coming home from a different suburb.
Stradbroke winner and Makybe Diva runner-up Alligator Blood turned the tables on his foes in Underwood Stakes at Sandown. The day did favour the on-speed horses, but he was brave and tough down the long Sandown straight.
Top Ranked and Ellsberg dead-heated The Epsom Handicap, while No Compromise claimed The Metropolitan in a busy finish. Zougotcha was ultra-impressive in The Flight Stakes.
Anamore continued on his winning ways in The Might and Power Stakes, arguably the most exciting Group 1 of the year. Fans didn’t know where to look at the 200m with the whole field still looking like the likely winner. It was a brilliant spectacle for horse racing.
Golden Mile impressively took his Sydney form to Melbourne, winning the Caulfield Guineas. This was one of the hottest races of the spring, producing a menagerie of winners. In fact, any form around Golden Mile held up well.
Tuvalu ground out The Toorak Handicap, while The Thousand Guineas produced a freakish ride from James McDonald on Madame Pommery.
The biggest boilover for 2022 occurred in The Everest. Giga Kick narrowly beat Private Eye and Mazu, while Nature Strip had his colours lowered on the biggest stage. It was the start of a ‘changing of the guard’ moment, with Nature Strip again being beaten in The Darley several weeks later.
The Chris Waller-trained Durston flew from the clouds to win The Caulfield Cup over Gold Trip. This would prove the right form guide for the race that stops the nation.
In The Spring Champion Stakes, Sharp ‘N’ Smart edged out Elliptical in the final stride, while Anamoe got redemption in The Cox Plate. He starred destiny in the face, and ‘The BIG A’ got the job done from the forever fast finishing I’m Thunderstruck. It was a Cox Plate for the ages. Another 10/10 ride from the world’s best jockey James McDonald.
Manikato Stakes was rescheduled to Cox Plate day after lightning storms caused havoc the night before. Bella Nipotina made a mockery of the field and went one better than her placing in The Moir Stakes. It was an impressive and effortless victory.
Derby Day at Flemington never disappoints, and this year was no different. The Coolmore Stud Stakes saw the flying In Secret rocket from the clouds, arguably producing the day’s best win.
Icebath got her deserved Group 1 win in The Empire Rose, while Manzoice was the surprise winner in The Victoria Derby.
The famous combination of Peter Moody and Luke Nolan won The Golden Eagle with I Wish I Win, while Private Eye blew them away in The Nature Strip Stakes.
The inclement Melbourne weather was front and centre on Cup Day, where Gold Trip stole the show. Despite only winning one race coming into the famous Tuesday in November, he put his rivals to the sword in a masterful display. It wasn’t a vintage edition of The Cup, but it was another exciting chapter nonetheless.
The classy She’s Extreme was too good in The VRC Oaks. The form from The Spring Champions Stakes stood up, producing The VRC Derby Quinella and The Oaks Champion.
The last day of Cup week was the new and improved Champions Day. The Champions Sprint witnessed Roch ‘N Horse outgun a world-class field that included Nature Strip and Giga Kick. Alligator Blood proved too strong in The Champions Mile, while Anamoe tasted defeat for the first time during the spring after a stunning performance from the evergreen Zaaki. Champions Day was a brilliant way to finish Melbourne Cup Week. Well done to The VRC.
The sun headed west to the Perth spring and summer carnivals. Trix Of The Trade provided an emotional win for 84-year-old trainer Colin Webster in The Railway Stakes. It was his first Group 1 success in 42 years since winning The Western Australia Oaks in 1980.
Godolphin stole The Winterbottom Stakes in the last stride with the talented Paulele. It was a well-deserved Group 1 breakthrough for the 4-year-old who has raced at the elite level most of his career.
It was a very fitting ending to Group 1 racing in 2022 with The Northerly Stakes. The performance from Amelia’s Jewel was first class, and she has stamped herself as the real deal. She should arguably be undefeated and has the world at her feet.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!
Bring on 2023!