What We're Thankful For in Horse Racing This Year

Thoroughbred racing celebrated a 13th Triple Crown winner in 2018.
Thoroughbred racing celebrated a 13th Triple Crown winner in 2018. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Racing fans have been fortunate to watch an abundance of stars, blockbuster events, and heartwarming tales unfold in 2018. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, find out what the America's Best Racing team is most thankful for this year.

Monomoy Girl wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff
Monomoy Girl wins the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Remarkable Decade for Fillies

It’s tough to have perspective in the moment, but I’m incredibly grateful as a racing fan to have been able to enjoy a remarkable run of brilliance from the fillies and mares in our sport over the last 10 years. I’m only scratching the surface here but we’ve been lucky to watch stars like Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Goldikova, Havre de Grace, Royal Delta, Beholder, Black Caviar, Treve, Songbird, Tepin, Found, Unique Bella, and Lady Eli, and this year Winx, Enable, and Monomoy Girl. Even with two Triple Crown winners in the last four years, it has been the females that have consistently dazzled over the last decade.—Mike Curry

Enable before her Breeders' Cup win
Enable before her Breeders' Cup win (Eclipse Sportswire)

A Filly Completes a Historic Double

When I think of the moment in racing I’m most grateful for this year, I think of seeing Enable become the first horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. I was lucky enough to be taking photos of the race while sitting on the grass course on the first turn; Enable swung so wide into the homestretch that, for a few moments, it really looked like she might run over the top of us when she was galloping out. The best part about that was that my brain did the math and decided that being run over by Enable as she made history with an Arc-Turf double was totally worth it, so I just kept taking photos. Her win was so exciting, and I’m incredibly grateful to have been there to see history made.—Penelope Miller

Justify wins the Kentucky Derby in the slop
Justify wins the Kentucky Derby in the slop. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Witnessing a Shooting Star

Despite the brevity of his career, Justify’s Triple Crown win is the 2018 racing event that stands out most to me, and I am thankful I got to experience part of it. Justify burst onto the scene in February and quickly scaled Grade 1 heights, winning the Santa Anita Derby impressively to become the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve favorite. It was there at Churchill Downs that I got to witness his superiority, a spectacle that made the record deluge dumped on Louisville that day bearable. I was not surprised when he won the Triple Crown five weeks later, and I was (unfortunately) not surprised when he was retired less than seven weeks after that. However brief, Justify’s star shone brighter than any other this year and I’m grateful to have seen it. —Christina Moore

Equestricon opening ceremonies
Equestricon opening ceremonies (Eclipse Sportswire)

Bringing the Best Back to Louisville

Granted, as a Kentuckian I am partial to the Bluegrass State’s crown jewels of the Thoroughbred world such as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and the unmatched beauty of horse country in and around Lexington. So it’s not at all surprising that I get stirrings of state pride when industry attention focuses on the commonwealth for a special (i.e., non-Derby) occasion. In 2018, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships returned to Churchill Downs for the first time in seven years, and back to Kentucky for the first time in three. Miserable mid-week weather cleared up in time for a memorable running of the two-day event featuring racing’s biggest stars, part of which I was fortunate enough to witness in person. And an even bigger treat was attending the second annual Equestricon convention in downtown Louisville, which kicked off Breeders’ Cup week. The convention featured a packed schedule of interesting panel discussions, networking events, autograph signings, and a large and diverse trade show setup, among other offerings. It’s a grand idea expertly executed, and I hope Equestricon returns to Kentucky to accompany Keeneland’s second hosting of the Breeders’ Cup in 2020. —Patrick Reed

Front-Row View of History

Photo courtesy Gonzalo “Chino” Anteliz

When I was younger, I always got a kick out of watching the reactions of fans at the finish line inside the infield rail at some of racing’s biggest races. Watch a replay of the 1998 Belmont Stakes - who were those people and how did they get there?

In the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to watch Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races from some pretty cool vantage points. But this year’s Preakness Stakes was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I got to be one of “those people” right by the finish line as Justify captured the second jewel in his eventual Triple Crown.

Making it even more memorable was that I only saw about six combined seconds of the race. You might remember the fog was pretty thick that day and if there weren’t many angles at which the horses could be seen on TV, it was entirely impossible to see the horses from where I was standing - with the exception of them going by the finish line.

I’m thankful that I got to experience a race like that up close this past year. My only regret was that I wasn’t smiling for the camera. Credit to my man Gonzalo “Chino” Anteliz for capturing this photo. —Dan Tordjman

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