Rating Racing's Best Performances of 2016

Mike Smith (left), Frosted (center) and Arrogate are among the stars who shined in 2016. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With the turn of the calendar year approaching, the crew at America's Best Racing took a look back at the best performances of 2016 ... in our eyes.

Arrogate, Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

As far as legitimizing his status as a true star, perhaps Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic win was more impactful, but his Travers Stakes romp is the performance I’ll always remember. I went back and watched it multiple times because I wasn’t sure if I could trust my eyes – or the final time. Arrogate set a track record for 1 ¼ miles in 1:59.36, breaking General Assembly mark that had stood since Aug. 18, 1979. It was the fastest edition of the Travers in the race’s 147-year history with a final margin of victory of 13 ½ lengths. Arrogate was just stunning that day in every way. –Mike Curry

California Chrome and Victor Espinoza, Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse 

This one’s a no-brainer for me: California Chrome and Victor Espinoza in the Dubai World Cup. Not only did the pair defeat some of the top racehorses on Earth this March, but they did it with Chrome’s saddle slipped nearly to his hindquarters. For the pair to win the world’s richest horse race despite a dangerous equipment malfunction required athleticism, focus and perseverance; and that made the 2016 Dubai World Cup the standout performance of the year to me. –Penelope Miller

Frosted, Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park

This year featured some fantastic performances, no doubt, and rating near the top of the list for me was Frosted’s 14 ¼-length runaway in the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes day. After a lackluster performance in the Dubai World Cup, Frosted showed that a trip to Dubai certainly doesn’t knock a horse out of top condition by destroying a talented field in this year’s Met Mile.

Frosted's time of 1:32.73 and his margin of victory were both records for the race, and to me the performance was the most spectacular of a stacked day of racing at Belmont Park. –Christina Moore


Mike Smith in the Breeders’ Cup

There were no shortage of outstanding individual performances by racehorses during 2016; multiple wins from Songbird, California Chrome, Arrogate, and Frosted come immediately to mind. However, I’ll highlight a jockey’s two-day run that re-confirmed for the umpteenth time his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Over Breeders’ Cup weekend, Hall of Famer Mike Smith made eight starts in World Championship races, and finished up with three wins, three seconds, and one third. Smith and Arrogate defeated California Chrome with a masterful stalk-and-pounce trip in the $6-million Classic, and Smith won two other Breeders’ Cup races – the Dirt Mile and the Filly and Mare Sprint – with longshots Tamarkuz and Finest City, respectively. And, just as impressively, he nearly brought Songbird home for a 12th consecutive win in the Longines Distaff with a typically adroit pace-judging ride on the front end.

Those three wins extended his Breeders’ Cup record to 25. Taken in total, “Big Money Mike’s” performance in the 2016 World Championships was one of the year’s best … and with both Arrogate and Songbird slated to continue racing in 2017, there should be more like those on the way.—Patrick Reed

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