With the turn of the calendar year approaching, the crew at America's Best Racing took a look back the great racing action from 2016 and selected the best racehorse of the year.
A New King in Arrogate
For the Eclipse Awards Horse of the Year title, the champion should be the horse with the best body of work. In my opinion, that was California Chrome. But when it comes to the best racehorse, I think it’s fair to say when Arrogate overhauled Chrome in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5, he staked his claim as the best horse in training in 2016. I expect him to be a buzzsaw in 2017. It took a few weeks after the Classic for Arrogate’s greatness to really sink in, but I’m now a true believer. –Mike Curry
California Chrome a Global Superstar
Chrome or Arrogate? Arrogate or Chrome? I debated this for a long time, and after watching replays of each horse’s races this year, I have to cast my vote for California Chrome. Although the big chestnut lost to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, California Chrome’s body of work in 2016 was too impressive to overlook.
Between the Dubai World Cup, his formidable performance in the stacked Pacific Classic, and his romp in the Awesome Again Stakes, Chrome gets my vote for the top racehorse of the year. –Penelope Miller
California Chrome in Top Form
I never lost faith in California Chrome, and after a disappointing 2015 I was thrilled that he would return for a 5-year-old campaign this year. My hopes were high, and he exceeded them. Chrome put in one powerhouse performance after another, reeling off six straight wins by an average of nearly 2 ½ lengths and capping his year with a 12-length, track-record setting score at Los Alamitos.
Though he was narrowly defeated in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his wins in the San Pasqual, Dubai World Cup, San Diego Handicap, Pacific Classic, and Awesome Again Stakes speak for themselves, and I can’t wait to see him run one last time next month in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. –Christina Moore
Stellar Year from California Chrome
This was a stellar year for world-class racehorses. Songbird put together the best campaign for a 3-year-old filly since Rachel Alexandra’s Horse of the Year tour de force in 2009. Beholder capped off her amazing career by vanquishing Songbird in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. And Nyquist (first half) and Arrogate (second half) stood out in a very good year for 3-year-old males with dominant performances in the Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes.
But let’s face it, the lede of this year’s storyline was written by California Chrome, with the rest filling out the copy below. His Dubai World Cup win opened everyone’s eyes and let the racing world know that the 2014 Horse of the Year was better than ever after a year filled with setbacks in 2015. His conquest of the TVG Pacific Classic was, for my money, the best performance in that great race since Candy Ride’s in 2003. And he was certainly valiant in defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, never giving up when passed by Arrogate near the finish.
Personally, California Chrome’s 2016 exploits remind me of Curlin’s 2008 Horse of the Year campaign in that his owners showed their true colors as passionate fans of the sport by keeping their star in racing for another year rather than succumb to the siren call of stud duty. Maybe Chrome’s modest pedigree had something to do with that, but neither I nor the rest of his army of supporters really care. We’re just grateful for another slew of memories given to us by a true “people’s horse,” and ready for hopefully one more to come at the (new) world’s richest race on Jan. 28.—Patrick Reed