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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

The top ten most spectacular races of 2017

Spectacular: Billesdon Brook's win at Goodwood was one of the season's best
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Arrogate's Dubai World Cup victory remains the highest-rated performance of 2017 – although his position, following three consecutive defeats, at the top of the 'World's Best Racehorse' rankings raised eyebrows this week – but quality is only one way to judge a race.

Some of the most memorable moments of 2017 have come not from the biggest stars but from more modest horses whose production of a performance with the 'wow' factor drew headlines around the globe. These were the jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, spectacular races that make watching Flat racing, whatever the level, so thrilling.

Everyone will have their own opinion on which of 2017's performances were the most spectacular – this is our top ten . . . 

10. Run Rhino Run

Greyville 1m6f102yd handicap, October 22

This performance gets all the s words – stunning, sensational and spectacular, but it was also almost unbelievable as this six-year-old had been in the wilderness for much of his career after a 66-1 debut success in 2014. He had even finished last for former connections in the three races before this run.

At Greyville last month Run Rhino Run lived up to his name, running amok from the stalls with the formbook's pithy comment of 'pulled-hung-wide' in reporting his official all-the-way wayward win by officially 21 1/4 lengths under joint top weight.

The Greyville commentator could not believe his eyes, saying: "I'm not sure if the saddle has slipped, I'm not sure if he's still got the weights but he's 300m clear of the rest of the field homeward bound..I've never in my life seen this before."

Style 3/5
Quality 1/5
Overall 4/10 

See what you think:

9. Billesdon Brook

Goodwood 7f nursery, August 2

Not all spectacular wins have to be by big margins and this success by a head at Glorious Goodwood's midsummer festival proves that.

Again it was gained on the lower branches of the racing tree but the drama and spectacle was not beaten during five days of racing on the Sussex Downs.

Billesdon Brook was matched at Betfair's top odds of 999-1 as she was in a hopeless position hemmed in with nowhere to go 2f out, but Sean Levey kept his cool and found a gap inside the final furlong to ride her out hands and heels to lead on the post.

Style 4
Quality 1
Overall 5

Read Peter Scargill's full account of the race along with pictures here

8. Amedeo Modigliani

Galway, maiden 1m½f, August 5

Stablemate The Pentagon might have won his maiden the previous month by over eight lengths, pounding his rivals into submission from the front but this was visually much more impressive.

This son of Galileo strutted his stuff in this five-runner maiden with Seamie Heffernan biding his time behind the two leaders and he waited until the short Galway straight to ask Amedeo Modigliani to show his faster paces after lobbing along in behind.

The response to his win by over five lengths had shrewd bookmakers shortening his Investec Derby odds to 16-1, which was joint-favourite at the time befitting the style of success.

Style 4
Quality 2
Total 6

Amedeo Modigliani: a really eyecatching winner at Galway

Investec Derby entries and latest leading odds

7. Expert Eye

Vintage Stakes 7f Group 2, Goodwood, August 1

Smooth can be equally spectacular especially in a two-year-old and the performance of Expert Eye in one of the traditional big juvenile races of the season even had his trainer Sir Michael Stoute purring.

"I'm excited," said Stoute. "I don't know exactly where he goes now but it'll be ambitious. I'd like to go the next step before talking about Classics."

His Dewhurst run was too bad to be true but could not take away the memory of his Vintage performance where his useful rivals were struggling to keep up before Andrea Atzeni asked Expert Eye to stretch, which he did in awesome fashion. 

Style 4
Quality 3

Expert Eye shows his devastating style in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in August

6. Battaash

Prix de l'Abbaye, 5f Group 1, Chantilly, October 1 

When any big sprint is won by four lengths it has the wow factor.

Battaash could lay claim to a couple of other special wins this season but left his best to last against the previous year's winner Marsha and 11 others.

Jim Crowley eased the three-year-old into an early lead but just when the race should have turned into a contest Battaash quickened away and amazingly kept going clear in the final furlong. 

Style 4
Quality 4
Total 8

5. Harry Angel

Haydock Sprint Cup 6f Group 1, Haydock, September 9

Hands up all those who thought Harry Angel had a chance after a couple of furlongs of this feature as he reverted to his impetuous self and raced freely in the lead on what was officially described as heavy ground.

Yes it was an easy lead but most expected him to pay for those exertions on the ground. Instead he turned on the style going to the final furlong to romp away after Adam Kirby gave him a couple of slaps.

They produced an extra surge to turn a comprehensive win into a magnificent effort at the highest level.

Style 4
Quality 4.5
Total 8.5

Harry Angel and Adam Kirby stretch out to land the 32Red Sprint Cup

4. Winx

Warwick Stakes, 1,400m Group 2, Randwick, August 19

The return of Winx this autumn after a four-month wait almost led to the end of her wondrous winning streak.

Off since April the wondermare gave everyone palpitations as she missed the start by four lengths.

Hugh Bowman in the saddle was the only one not to panic and, despite having to come round her rivals in racing wide off the home bend, Winx somehow ran them down from a hopeless position to win by a head.

It was so mesmerising that it needed a few replays to convince she had actually recorded her 18th straight win.

Style 4.5
Quality 4
Total 8.5

3. Cracksman

Champion Stakes, 1m2f Group 1, Ascot, October 21

Another part of the spectacular can be the unexpected in a performance and that is what elevates Cracksman into the frame.

Having ruled out first the 1m6½f St Leger and then the 1m4f Arc connections chose the even shorter Champion Stakes to end Cracksman's season.

Nobody, certainly not his owner Anthony Oppenheimer, expected what followed as Cracksman took apart the Group 1.

Asked politely to take the lead into the straight Cracksman left his rivals chasing shadows to win by seven lengths and give Frankel his first European Group 1 success in a race he had more trouble winning in his swansong five years earlier.

Style 5
Quality 4
Total 9

Experience the Champion Stakes from the saddle but don't expect to see much of Cracksman as he disappears into the distance!

2. Enable

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, 1m4f Group 1, Chantilly, October 1  

It was Chantilly not the traditional Longchamp that hosted this year's Arc but there have been few winners of the autumn crown who have won the race with a more devastating turn of foot than Enable.

Add that Enable had taken a keen enough hold through the race as Frankie Dettori kept her close to the pace to raise doubts and her performance was nothing short of fantastique.

How lucky we are that she stays in training with the dream of more special days ahead.  

Style 5
Quality 4
Total 9

Enable powers away from the Arc field with her blistering trademark turn of foot

Fancy the chance to discuss Enable's ranking with the filly and her connections at a special breakfast, check out this charity auction offer.

1. Arrogate

Dubai World Cup, 1m2f Group 1, Meydan, March 25

The most memorable race of the year bar none and another list that Arrogate tops. He may have lost his mojo since, possibly because of this herculean effort, but the race will live long in the memory.

Coming off his win in the new and fabulously-endowed sweepstake that is the Pegasus Stakes, Arrogate's World Cup win had everything.

With the dirt track relaid at Meydan the Carnival trends suggested coming from off the pace was not sensible and rarely possible so scrimmaging from the stalls sending Arrogate to last suggested the game was all but up.

Even off the home bend with Arrogate caked in the dirt thrown at him for nearly a mile, there were just a couple of stragglers behind the favourite.

What followed was both spectacular and hardly believable as not only did he run them all down he was clear of none other than Gun Runner, who would later turn the tables in the Breeders' Cup, making this as strong a World Cup as there has been in years.   

Style 5
Quality 5
Overall 10

Watch the Dubai World Cup again:

If you liked this don't miss this week's RP Sunday, packed with the usual features


Billesdon Brook was matched at Betfair's top odds of 1,000-1 as she was in a hopeless position hemmed in with nowhere to go 2f out
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