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Why the long face? Take a look back at the year in horse racing...

It was all about Frankel while the racing world also said farewell to another all-time great.

Image: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Horse of the year

A five- time Group 1 winner in 2012, Frankel may not just have been the horse of the year but arguably the greatest there has ever been.

An accumulating winning distance of 30-and-three-quarter lengths throughout those five starts, Henry Cecil’s colt extended his unbeaten record to 14.

Not only did he win the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot and retain the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, but then he successfully took a step up in distance by winning the Juddmonte International Stakes at York and the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot. The calibre of opposition can often determine whether a horse can be deemed as a great and in Frankel you had someone who took on the very best.

Between Excelebration and Cirrus Des Aigles, they had four Group 1 wins in 2012, and both were effortlessly beaten by Frankel this year. A fee of £125,000 for his first season as a stallion, the hope would be that Frankel will deliver in those quarters, in a similar fashion to which he showcased on the racecourse.

Performance of the year

Again it’s Frankel and his victory in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting at Ascot in June was simply formidable. Sent off the 1/10 favourite for the one mile event, it was if jockey Tom Queally allowed Frankel to show what he could really do and held nothing back. Within a furlong, Frankel had put 11 lengths between himself and the distinguished Excelebration, lengthening his stride in effortless fashion.

His 2,000 Guineas win in 2011 was probably the most visually impressive performance you will ever see on a racecourse, however in the Queen Anne he was more disciplined and professional, adding to its class. Nothing else came close in 2012.

Jockey of the year

For jockey Davy Russell it had been a long wait to be declared Irish Champion jockey. Having finished second in the title race five times in his career, in 2012 the County Cork man finally added his name to the role of honour.

Number one jockey for Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s operation, it was a season to remember for Russell. Big race wins included Sir Des Champs at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Quito De La Roque getting the better of Sizing Europe at Down Royal, with Trifoilum and Bog Warrior also helping his cause.

Hard luck story

Victories in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Investec Derby at Epsom, left Camelot with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970. The St Leger at Doncaster was the final leg of the Triple Crown and despite doubts regarding the step up in trip for the three-year-old, he was sent off the 2/5 favourite.

Having travelled emphatically throughout, under Joseph O’Brien, he generated a challenge two furlongs from home. Encke under Mickael Barzalona had kicked clear however and produced an unobtainable lead. Three-quarters of a length was the difference at the finish line and it was despairing hard luck for Aidan O’Brien and Camelot. Will we ever see another Triple Crown winner?

Quote of the year

‘I should have paid the supplement and entered him in the Gold Cup’.

The words spoken by race horse owner Anthony Knott, after his horse Hunt Ball won a Listed Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham festival. Although rising 73lb in the weights within a matter of months, the flamboyant trainer may just have got a bit excited following his festival success. Given a quote of 50-1 afterwards for next year’s Gold Cup, the owner who once mounted Hunt Ball after a victory at Wincanton, confirmed he has backed Hunt Ball to win a million. He seems confident. 

Farewell to a great

In 2012, the racing world witnessed the concluding appearance of Kauto Star on a racecourse, sadly not the performance of the horse we had all admired and idolised for so many years. And although folding tamely in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the five-time King George winner and two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will be remembered as one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time, his legacy untouched.

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