Top 10 Races of 2016: Part 2
by John Piassek
It’s a year-end tradition on Danonymous Racing to cover the best races of the year, and this year is no exception. Yesterday, I covered the first half of the top-ten list (which can be found here). Now, we cover the meat and potatoes of the list: the top five races of 2016.
5. 2016 Belmont Stakes (Creator)
This race was voted the best race of the first half of 2016 by this site, and for good reason. While it couldn’t match up to the drama of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown-winning race last year, it had plenty of excitement of its own, with a thrilling stretch run that wound up coming down to two grays: Destin and Creator. Destin gave it his best shot and hung on bravely, but Arkansas Derby winner Creator ultimately prevailed by a nose.
4. 2014 Pacific Classic (California Chrome)
The Pacific Classic was hyped up as a big showdown: 2015 Pacific Classic winner and champion mare Beholder, the great California Chrome, and 2015 Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund. On the track, however, it was no contest. Chrome went directly to the early lead and blew the competition away by five lengths. While Chrome had other great races throughout the year, it’s likely this race was the icing on his Horse of the Year cake, and for good reason. It was a tremendous effort.
3. 2016 Travers Stakes (Arrogate)
Bob Baffert had hyped up Arrogate as one of the best three-year-olds in his barn going into the Travers Stakes. There wasn’t much on paper to confirm that reputation, though. He had never run in a stakes before, and was coming off a n/w2x allowance win against just two other horses. The bettors didn’t buy Baffert’s talk, and dismissed his charge at 11/1 odds.
Of course, we all know what wound up happening. Arrogate crushed the best three-year-olds in the country by fourteen lengths, setting a new Saratoga track record. It was awe-inspiring.
2. 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Arrogate v. California Chrome)
After that big Travers win, Arrogate had a lot to live up to going into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He would get a big test, facing off against California Chrome on that rival’s home turf. Three-year-olds rarely beat their elders in the Classic when there’s a dominant older horse, and horses winning the Classic off a sixty-day layoff are unusual.
Arrogate proved himself the exception, gamely running down California Chrome to win the Classic in a blazing 2:00.11. He became one of the few horses to run a Beyer Speed Figure of greater than 120 in back-to-back ten furlong races.
1. 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Songbird v. Beholder)
I’ll repeat what I said on facebook about this race: if you only watch one horse race in your life, make it this one.