A Look Back at Horse Racing's Top Breakout Performances of 2016

Jockey Florent Geroux and Arrogate enjoyed breakout performances in 2016. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With the turn of the calendar year approaching, the crew at America's Best Racing took a look back at another great year of racing in 2016 and selected our top breakout performances.

Florent Geroux Establishes Himself as Superstar

Clearly, Forent Geroux’s first true breakout came in 2015, when he nearly doubled his previous single-season record for purse earning to $10,233,677 and won five Grade 1 races, including two Breeders’ Cup races. But for me, in 2016 Geroux elevated his game and became not only one of the best jockeys in the U.S. but in the world.

His 10 Grade 1 wins so far are double his previous career best and his 30 graded stakes victories to date in 2016 exceeded the number of graded wins he’d amassed in his career entering the year. Florent Geroux is becoming a superstar and 2016 was his coming-out party. –Mike Curry 

Jose Ortiz Emerges with Four Grade 1 Wins

Jose Ortiz has been a staple of the New York racing circuit for a few years now, but in 2016 he garnered his first Breeders’ Cup victory aboard Oscar Performance in the Juvenile Turf, catapulting him into the national spotlight. That Breeders’ Cup win capped off a great year for Jose in which he earned three other Grade 1 victories in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic with Ectot, the Hopeful Stakes with Practical Joke, and the Mother Goose Stakes aboard Off the Tracks. I hope he has time to go sunglasses shopping before the New Year, because Ortiz’s future is looking incredibly bright! –Penelope Miller

Arrogate's Travers Stakes Triumph

Even though I’m a devoted California Chrome enthusiast, I have no trouble admitting that Arrogate’s 13 ½-length romp in the Travers was outstanding. The race was his stakes debut and only his fifth career start, and it catapulted him to the top of the 3-year-old class.

Not only did Arrogate set a track record at Saratoga, defeating 153 years of history, he trounced a field that included winners of the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Jim Dandy. He would later prove the race was no fluke with a Breeders’ Cup Classic win, but his Travers truly announced his arrival. –Christina Moore

Arrogate Dominates at Saratoga Race Course

It would be wrong to say that no one saw Arrogate’s win in the Travers Stakes coming. Several prominent racing analysts had heard how highly trainer Bob Baffert thought of the colt during his West Coast run of three straight route wins over the prior two months, and they counted him as a live longshot in a very competitive 13-horse field that included Preakness winner Exaggerator. But few envisioned what went down in the 147th “Mid-Summer Classic” at Saratoga.

A 13 ½-length winning margin. A stakes – and track – record time of 1:59.36. Such a dominant display of pure and lethal cruising speed left some (like me) wondering if the Travers was a fluke performance, even as others jumped on board Arrogate’s bandwagon and touted the 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song as a viable contender to upset California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. We all know how that turned out.

Still, it’s Arrogate’s Travers that may linger even longer in racing history as one of the absolute best “a star is born” moments ever constructed. And, with Chrome’s retirement in early 2017 almost certain, it’s Arrogate who will assume the mantle of the sport’s leading luminary going forward, hopefully all the way up to the Breeders’ Cup.—Patrick Reed

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