Boxing Day festivities bring curtain down on 2013

A GOOD YEAR: 2013 has been another strong year for racing in the North-East

A GOOD YEAR: 2013 has been another strong year for racing in the North-East

First published in Sport

ALTHOUGH pretty wet at present, it was great that the majority of the racing got the go ahead on Boxing Day and plenty of local winners over the festive period.

Sedgefield had to pass an inspection before their meeting got the thumbs up and Middleham trainer George Moore and jockey Barry Keniry had a welcome winner with Wolf Sword in the concluding bumper.

Running in the colours of Randall Orchard, Wolf Sword had shown clear ability first time out at Haydock and looks the type to do well over jumps.

Haydock raced on Monday and Phil Kirby had another winner with Moscow Presents who took the opening conditional jockeys hurdle under Adam Nicol.

Afterwards part-owner Neil Hassall was on hand, saying: “That was a slight surprise but Moscow Presents has always looked as if he would get three miles. He got it well and jumped well too.”

A special mention must go to Mark Johnston and his team as a double at Lingfield on Saturday with Jalingo and Galician saw him equal his best tally of winners for a year in Britain. The number of winners was 216, the figure which was also posted in 2009.

Below is a list of the good, bad and the ugly from 2013.

Keep It In Yorkshire

AURORAS ENCORE became the first northern winner of the Grand National since Merryman won the worlds most famous horse race, springing a 66-1 surprise for trainer Sue Smith and jockey Ryan Mania.

The Bingley-based handler said afterwards: “It’s unbelievable. He gave him such a good ride.

“I knew the ground was right for him and hoped everything else was.

He stayed down the middle and had a bit of luck in running. He didn’t have a lot of weight and that helped, too.

“He’s such a grand little horse, you can ride him any way you like.”

Brilliant Burke

AFTER landing the Grand National, the small matter of the Derby nearly came this way as Karl Burke’s Libertarian ran a cracker to finish second to Ruler Of The World.

This was no fluke as the talented colt had run out an easy winner of the Dante at York in May.

Although he has now been sold to Godolphin, Libertarian was a real credit to Burke and his team at Spigot Lodge in Middleham.

Goodbye Sir Henry

SIR HENRY CECIL, the master of Warren Place, lost his long battle with cancer in June but his legacy will live for a long time, justifying the universally high opinion of one of the sport’s true gentlemen.

Cecil’s passing was greeted with many tears however there were just as many smiles, as people across all walks of life reminisced about encounters with him over the course of a training career spanning six decades.

Despite Cecil’s fantastic record with fillies, the pinnacle of a glorious career was enabled by a colt named Frankel.

Cecil would surely have lost his battle with illness much earlier had it not been for the best racehorse that modern racing has witnessed.

Jockey of the year – AP McCoy

WHILE Frankel is the best racehorse that modern racing has witnessed, AP McCoy is the best jockey we have ever seen and, for me, the best we ever will.

Early November McCoy partnered his 4,000 success on Mountain Tunes, a record that surely will never be broken, leaving McCoy, his own fiercest critic, delighted with his achievement, saying: “It was just amazing, it couldn’t have worked out any better.

“To do it for Jonjo O’Neil and the McManus’s is brilliant as they’ve been so good to me. It was always hopefully going to be in JP’s colours.”

Enjoy watching him while we have him.

The Ugly

MID-APRIL saw Sheikh Mohammed’s racing empire Godolphin reveal that 11 of their horses, including the then 1000 Guineas favourite Certify, had been given banned anabolic steroids.

“This is a dark day for Godolphin”, said racing manager Simon Crisford.

The horses were in the care of Mahmood Al Zarooni, one of two UK-based trainers for the operation, and the subsequent BHA enquiry resulted in a ban of eight years for the Newmarket trainer.

“We’ll have nothing to do with him again and I have no sympathy for him”, said Crisford, referring to Al Zarooni.

Whilst the finger was pointed solely at the man from Dubai, the ramifications of the sordid affair were more widespread.

Racing has not always been painted with the lightest of strokes in the media, and this was a golden opportunity for critics of the sport to justifiably cast further shadows on horseracing.

No more of that, please.

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