Horses / Horse News
One World was a weirdly appropriately named winner of the Sun Met back in January and that’s how his victory will long be recalled. Belgarion and Summer Pudding are forever the “Covid-year” Durban July and Summer Cup champions.
Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori clinched the 2020 Longines World’s Best Jockey title at the weekend, topping a year-long competition based on results in the 100 highest-ranked Group or Grade 1 races across the globe. It’s the fourth time the charismatic Italian-British rider has won the award, but it will be the one that stands apart from the others and remind racing fans of lockdowns, empty grandstands and a million squirts of sanitiser.
In 2020, Dettori won five of the top 100 races: the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup on Stradivarius, the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Prix du Haras de Fresnay on Palace Pier and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Enable.
A Longines press release explained: “The scoring process rewards jockeys for finishing in the top three, giving Dettori a total of 102 points on the year. He narrowly defeated Ryan Moore, the 2014 and 2016 World’s Best Jockey, who finished 2020 with 98 points. William Buick was third with 66 points, while Irad Ortiz Jr was just behind him in fourth with 64 points.”
READ MORE: Merit rating cherry on top for Summer Pudding
The 100 races are set by the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee and scoring is from 1 December to 30 November of the current year. Jockeys get 12 points for a win, 6 for placing second and 4 points for third.
“Historically, a ceremony has been held to honour the winner during the gala dinner of the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December, but due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the in-person ceremony will not take place this year,” said the press release. “Instead, Dettori will be honoured in mid-January when the 2020 Longines World’s Best Racehorse and Longines World’s Best Horse Race winners are announced.”
Currently topping the Best Racehorse log is Ghaiyyath, an Irish-bred colt trained in England by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin. After winning four Group 1s in 2020, this mighty horse is holding off the challenge of American titan Authentic, recent winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the US. The latter will always be remembered as the winner of the Covid-year Kentucky Derby, America’s most famous race, along with a third Group 1, the Haskell Stakes.
Throwing a spanner in the works this week was another award, the Vox Populi Award, established 10 years ago by Penny Chenery, the famous owner of Secretariat, widely considered the finest thoroughbred to have galloped in the US.
Vox Populi claims to have canvassed racing fans in 50 countries, who decided that the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic was definitely the best racehorse on the planet as the pandemic raged.
We’ll never truly know who was the best. That’s racing; always an imponderable. As much as we’d like to see it, there’ll be no match race to settle the debate – for one thing, Authentic has been retired to stud.
And who’s to say the Longines or Vox Populi rating methods are infallible?
READ MORE: Hong Kong gallops on, through sickness and strife
There are many smart horse people out there who’d say UK-trained Enable or Stradivarius are the best; or Japan’s Almond Eye. South Africans might even put up a case for local heroes Hawwaam or Summer Pudding – they might be laughed at, but who can be certain about the most frustratingly uncertain game of all.
There could, in fact, be a late turn up for the books, with the joint fourth-placed horse on the Longines rankings, Classique Legend, contesting the Grade 1 Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin this Sunday.
The Australian-bred of Redoute’s Choice – a striking matt-grey sprinter – sits on 125 ranking points to Ghaiyyath’s 130 and Authentic and Palace Pier’s 126 and could upset the order of things with a sensational performance.
It’s the coronavirus age; anything’s possible.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.