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2021/22 Horse Racing Season in Review

Updated: Aug 27, 2022

The 2021/22 Australian Horse Racing Season was one of the more entertaining seasons in memory, with plenty of controversy and many more feel good stories. We will be going through the most notable events to occur within the 2021/22 season in a rough order as to how they happened, providing a yearly rundown. (Edit to remove photo)

The Air BNB Fiasco

The season started off in turbulent fashion with 5 Melbourne-based jockeys being suspended for a party at an Air BNB down the Peninsula. Those jockeys were Ben Melham, Celine Gaudray, Ethan Brown, Jamie Kah and later Mark Zahra, three of which were leading riders in Victoria. With strict lockdown rules, this would end up having a big impact on the spring carnival, with many other riders now getting the chance to assert themselves and win some big races.

The hype of Ayrton

Ayrton came into the season being one of the most hyped horses (by myself included) and it was easy to see why. He put together some very impressive 3yo performances and it looked like races such as the Epsom/Toorak and Golden Eagle were at his mercy. His first up run in the spring was faster than Behemoths on the same day but faltered second up, losing to Harbour Views. The horse the suffered a Spider Bite keeping him out for the remainder of the Spring. He then returned in the late-autumn, defeating Streets of Avalon but again, failed to deliver losing to Zaaki (after pulling up lame) and then the Stradbroke (after sitting 4 wide). Some part of me still sees potential but the hype has most certainly died down.

The Return of Brett Prebble

After the Air BNB Saga with some of Victoria's leading jockeys, it was Brett Prebble who was one of the big beneficiary. It started by claiming the Behemoth ride in which he won the Memsie. After Glen Boss was not let into Victoria, the ride for Incentivise was down to 2, Kah and Prebble and once again, Prebble picked up the ride and he did not disappoint winning 3 Group 1s in a row on him. Lastly, he won the Might & Power Stakes on Probabeel. It was a sensational spring for Prebble.

The 3yo Profondo

Speaking of hype, I am not sure there had been a more hyped horse ever who had not had a start. The Deep Impact colt won 4 of his first 5 trials and was into 101/1 in the Cox Plate without even having had a start. He won his maiden well before losing to Head of State second up but that did not stop the punters from supporting him in the Spring Champion Stakes where he won arrogantly. His autumn left plenty to be desired though, but I think we can write that off.

The Hype of Anamoe

Anamoe was being billed as a future champion after an impressive 2yo campaign. He won his first up run and the Golden Rose looked at his mercy and punters were piling in (myself included) but unlike the start prior, could not run down In The Congo. He bounced back in the Guineas and only lost the Cox Plate in a protest (more on that later). The autumn included wins in the Hobartville and a dominant Rosehill Guineas win but could not run down Converge in the Randwick Guineas and was disappointing in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The Rise of Incentivise

After a very dominant winter carnival, all the eyes were on Incentivise. First up in the Makybe Diva, many thought he would find the trip too short (myself included) but others thought he would be far too good and he was the latter, winning off a slow tempo. The Turnbull was the complete opposite, Verry Elleegant tried to go with them on a fast tempo and he won well again. His Caulfield Cup win was sheer dominance delivering and then some but the Melbourne Cup would prove to be one bridge too far, losing to Verry Elleegant but it was a valiant second where he pulled up with a suspensory issue where he missed the autumn.

The Cox Plate Controversy

The Cox Plate is seen as Australia's best WFA race and for good reason with its historical honour roll and this year did not disappoint with State of Rest defeating Anamoe but the result would sit with the stewards for over 15 minutes as State of Rest veered into Anamoe on the straight causing him to lose momentum however, which the protest was dismissed. While there have been bigger interferences, any interference on a margin of 0.1L is race matters and the protest should have been upheld but like Viscount vs Northerly, the stewards find it hard to overturn a decision unless it is 100% clear cut.

Verry Elleegant - When a Great Becomes a Champion

While she had one 8 group 1 races until this point, the debate was out on if Verry Elleegant was still a champion. She won the George Main Stakes 2nd up but with losses in the Turnbull and Cox Plate, champion status was proving hard to reach. That all changed in the Melbourne Cup, winning her 10th Group 1 off a perfect ride from JMac winning the race in incredibly dominant fashion. Her autumn was slightly disappointing, not really firing a shot besides in her Chipping Norton win.

Ollies Flemington Carnival

At the ripe old age of 49, Damien Oliver put together a very dominant spring carnival showing that he is still one of the best riders going around. Over the carnival, he managed to ride 3 of the 8 available group 1 races, with his ride on Colette being the ride of the carnival for mine. He managed a further 2 group 1s for the season, with Anamoe and Nimalee providing them showing everyone that the GOAT has still got it.

The Summer of Marabi

Marabi quickly became one of the most hyped horses in the country, with a 7 length win in a Benchmark 70 in Ballarat. She the won a listed race on Boxing Day, followed by the group 2 Australia Stakes in very dominant fashion. She then made it 7/7 winning her first group 1 in the Oakleigh Plate once again demonstrating similarities with Black Caviar who only won her first G1 at her 8th start as a 4 year old Mare. She could not deliver in the William Reid Stakes but it was a very long second prep.

Feel Good Story in Shelbysixtysix

In the space of one month, Shelbysixtysix went from getting beat in a Highway to winning a Group 1 and in the process, etched himself as a cult hero of Australia racing. With his prep starting on the 18th of September 2021 and finishing on the 7th of May 2022 with only one freshen of larger than 3 weeks in that time, Shelbyixtysix had 19 starts for 3 wins 10 placings and a ratings jump of 60 at his lowest to 105 at his highest and over 700k in prize money. It does not get much better than that.

The Fireburn/She's Extreme Rivalry

The Fireburn She's Extreme rivalry was certainly entertaining, albeit a little one sided. They first clashed in the G2 Sweet Embrace Stakes, where Fireburn managed to win by 0.75L in a race which turned out to be the right form for the Slipper in hindsight. Fireburn then won the Slipper in impressive fashion while She's Extreme finished a luckless 7th. Anthony Cummings then added some fuel to the fire stating that she would have won the Slipper with even luck but even with clear running, she did not manage to take down Fireburn in the sires, going down by 1.4L with Avdulla providing some comedy in the process. She's Extreme would get her revenge in the Champagne Stakes however, downing Fireburn by 0.4L finishing the rivalry at 3-1 for the season. However we may need to wait until the autumn as both trainers have stated their fillies will have light preparations.

History Making Hitotsu

It was a record breaking campaign for Hitotsu, doing what few before have done. No horse since 1956 has won the Derby the start after running in the Caulfield Guineas. He was then was the first horse to win the Australian Guineas after winning the Vic Derby since Mahogany, and was the only horse in history to do it in consecutive starts. He then won the ATC Derby, joining Mahogany and Dulcify to win both the Vic and ATC Derby since it was moved to the Autumn. It was a freakish campaign from a freakish 3yo and freakish trainers.

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes was being billed as one of the best in history, with Verry Elleegant finally clashing with Zaaki, the promising 4 year old mares in Duais and Montefilia, the freakish 3yo in Anamoe and with horses such as I'm Thunderstruck and Think It Over being seen as afterthoughts, it easy to see why it was so hyped. However, the race failed to deliver on the hype with the majority of the chances failing on the bottomless surface. At the top of the straight, it looked as if Zaaki would win in a canter but Nash had other ideas, sending think it over to the grandstand side, passing Zaaki (with many whips over in the process) producing one of, if not the best rides of the season.

Nash's Ride on Kementari

Nash however produced one of the worst and most dangerous rides ever on day 3 of the Championships on Kementari in the Hall Mark Stakes. Nash tried to squeeze up the inside of Big Parade where there was no run to be had, forcing Big Parade off the rail and a potentially horrendous incident. For this, Nash only received 7 meetings which is farcial and shows like many other sports, stewards are more concerned about the outcome, not the action that leads to the outcome.

Glint of Hope winning the Australasian Oaks

In a much better story, Glint of Hope winning the Australasian Oaks is one of the best of the year. Trainer Natalie Young had been battling breast cancer and fresh off chemotherapy, watched Glint of Hope storm through to take out the group 1 also providing Daniel Moor with his first group 1 since he returned from Singapore. Cancer is a shitter.

Is Mazu Redzel 2.0

Another star on the rise is Mazu who wears the Triple Crown silks and is also a gelding trained by Peter and Paul Snowden. He has been building that picket fence, winning 6 in a row, culminating with a group 1 win in the Doomben 10,000. This was the same race Redzel won his first group 1 in however, Mazu has done it a season earlier at the age of 3. Like Redzel, Mazu appears to be able to handle all surfaces but prefers it wet. Can he take the next step and compete with the Nature Strips and Eduardos, only time will tell.

The Slightly Disappointing Season of Zaaki

To call a three-time group 1 (if you include the ASM which I do) winners season disappointing may be the wrong choice of words but after a dominant winter campaign in Brisbane, all eyes were on Zaaki. He won his first two runs of the spring but was beaten in the Might & Power Stakes. He then was scratched from the Cox Plate, the aim of his spring. His autumn/winter campaign was a bit similar, winning the All-Star Mile but going down in the big one to Think It Over however, it was his Queensland campaign which was most disappointing, winning the Hollindale in unconvincing fashion and then getting beat in the Doomben Cup. Heading into his 8 year old season, it seems unlikely Zaaki will ever reach the level he showed in Queensland again.

The Return of the Gator

Now this one is just awesome. After being written off by everyone bar maybe Allan Endresz himself as a horse that could get back to his best and written off by many as to if he would win another start again, Gai Waterhouse produced the training performance of the season not only getting the Gator back to being competitive but back to a group 1 winner, winning Queensland best race, the Stradbroke Hcp.

Nature Strip - The Worlds Best Horse

Now we take our attention to Nature Strip. The once maligned galloper put it all together this season, winning almost every target race this season. He won his first Everest, second VRC Sprint, third TJ and was desperately unlucky in the Lightning Stakes which was arguably his best performance this season. He then went over to Royal Ascot and demolished their best 1000m horses, proving to the world that not only is he the worlds best sprinter, but the worlds best horse (yes, even better than Baaeed).

James McDonald - The best season ever?

Speaking of things that are the best, James McDonald put together one of the best individual jockey seasons from an Australian of all time, up there with some of Ollie's performances from the early 2000s. He again rode over 100 metro winners at a strike rate of over 20% as well as taking out 10 group 1s at home, including the Melbourne Cup, the Everest which is basically a group 1 and the Kings Stand Stakes abroad along with a further 2 winners from 10 total rides at Royal Ascot. He is a freak.

The Platinum Jubilee Disappointment

After Nature Strips demolition, the worlds eyes once again returned to the Australians at Royal Ascot with both Home Affairs and Artorius going around in the Platinum Jubilee however, we failed to reproduce. Home Affairs was hopeless and was gone with plenty to go. Artorius on the other hand was a luckless third and with even luck, wins that but as is the nature of his running style, he ran up their backsides again. It was a shame we could not establish further dominance over the poms.

Flow Meter

A slightly left field story to finish up. Flow Meter, a cult hero of Australian racing, posting 200 starts will be forced into retirement at the end of this season. Collecting 20 wins and 73 placings, Flow Meter has been a model for consistency throughout his career and has certainly earned his retirement.

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