While horse racing continues throughout the year in the Mid-Atlantic region, a number of Fair Hill horsemen have now shifted their focus to the warmer climate of Florida, which makes it a good time to recap this year’s highlights.
Overall, this year was outstanding by many measures: horses from Fair Hill have already set an earnings record of more than $20 million for the year, with a month remaining. Five horsemen have trained Grade 1 winners this year, three horsemen are involved with horses that are receiving consideration for end of year honors and two horsemen won their first Graded Stakes.
Trainer Graham Motion’s Main Sequence tops the list of outstanding horses. He won four Grade 1 events, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf. His undefeated campaign this year will surely mean he will win end of year awards for the best turf horse and the best older horse. He will also receive consideration for Horse of the Year.
“His record this year is unblemished. He is the only horse that is being considered that has a perfect record,” Motion said of Main Sequence’s chances for capturing Horse of the Year. “To win four Grade 1 events and remain undefeated is just very difficult. Few horses can do that.”
Main Sequence is now relaxing at Fair Hill and participating in light training. He will enjoy a few quiet weeks before gearing back up for a 2015 campaign. The current plans are to send him to Florida after the New Year, and prepare him for his next season in the warmer climate with a potential early target in Dubai, UAE at the end of March.
Motion’s successes this year were not limited to one stand-out horse. Motion became the first Fair Hill trainer whose principal base is Fair Hill to win a trainer’s title at the Keeneland Fall meet. Motion also had Graded Stakes successes with horses Cloud Scapes, Daring Dancer, Fortune Pearl, Holiday Star, Inimitable Romance, Munirah, Rainha Da Bateria, Ring Weekend and Rusty Slipper.
“It has been a very rewarding year, quite extraordinary really,” said Motion on his outstanding year. “It has always been a goal of mine to win a trainers’ title, and to win one at Keeneland is terrific. I am just very fortunate to have such a strong group of horses this year.”
Tony Dutrow, Michael Matz, Eddie Graham and Liz Merryman also trained Grade 1 Stakes winners this year.
Dutrow’s Grade 1 success came with The Big Beast in the King’s Bishop, which capped a great Saratoga meet for the Dutrow barn that included Graded Stakes wins with I Spent It and Big Trouble.
Matz’s patience paid off this year with the five-year-old Somali Lemonade finally capturing her first Grade 1 success in the Diana Stakes at Saratoga. Matz’s Hard Not To Like won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in the spring, and he also campaigned the Graded Stakes winner Assateague this year.
Eddie Graham won the Grade 1 Arlington Million with Hardest Core. It marked Graham’s first start – and win – in a Graded Stakes event. Arnaud Delacour and Niall Saville also won their first Graded Stakes this year with Ageless and Legendary, respectively. Delacour’s Ageless went on to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, beaten by less than a length.
Liz Merryman had great success this year campaigning two Arabian horses: RB Burn Baby Burn and Valiant Boy SBFAR. The six-year-old Valiant Boy SBFAR was undefeated in four starts, which included two Grade 1 wins. He will receive strong consideration for Arabian Horse of the Year.
Other trainers who trained Graded Stakes winners this year from Fair Hill include two Hall of Famers: Shug McGaughey with Norumbega and Jonathan Sheppard with Utley. Tres Abbott also had Graded Stakes success with Medea.
The success of the equines at Fair Hill was matched by the success of a few of the exercise riders who work at Fair Hill and compete in their own right in various horse sports.
Jody Petty, who rides for Kelly Rubley at Fair Hill, won the Maryland Hunt Cup early in the year aboard Guts for Garters. Robbie Walsh, a Graham Motion exercise rider, is the regular jockey for Demonstrative, whose three wins this year will make Demonstrative a strong candidate for an Eclipse award for the leading steeplechaser. Not to be outdone, Willie McCarthy, an exercise rider for Michael Matz, won his first leading steeplechase rider title with 23 victories.
Jennie Brannigan, who also serves as an exercise rider for Matz, won the Fair Hill International three-star event on Cambalda, a horse she has campaigned for several years. The Fair Hill event is one of the most important contests in the eventing world.