Racing review of 2013

Last Updated: 31/12/13 8:13pm

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Racing great: Legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil passed away in June

Racing great: Legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil passed away in June

Sky Bet looks at some of the horses and people who hit the headlines for both the right - and wrong - reasons in 2013.

Man of the Year - Sir Henry Cecil

There could only be one candidate for this award.

The master of Warren Place lost his long battle with cancer in June but his legacy will live for a long time, justifying the universally high opinion of one of the sport's true gentlemen.

Cecil's passing was greeted with many tears however there were just as many smiles, as people across all walks of life reminisced about encounters with him over the course of a training career spanning six decades.

Despite Cecil's superlative record with fillies, the pinnacle of a glorious career was enabled by a colt named Frankel.

Cecil would surely have lost his battle with illness much earlier had it not been for the best racehorse that modern racing has witnessed.

Prince Khallid Abdullah - one of Cecil's staunchest supporters and friends - sent the Galileo colt to the trainer in 2008 but even he could not have dreamed of the heights that the bay would achieve.

Light Shift's 2007 Oaks win brought Cecil back into the limelight after a spell in the wilderness but it was Frankel's unbeaten 16-race career, that included 12 Group One wins, which crowned Cecil as the ultimate trainer of horses.

As he said: "I do everything by instinct, not by the book. I like to think I've got a feeling for and understand my horses, that they tell me what to do really."

A one-off.

Horse of the Year - Treve

Treve: Won Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Treve produced the most astounding turn of foot to crush her rivals in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and seal her position as the best horse in training.

Unbeaten in four starts heading into the Paris spectacular, Criquette Head-Maarek's filly didn't look like extending that run as she pulled hard on the outside of the field in the early stages.

However she moved smoothly past her rivals and, taking up the running with almost two furlongs left, she shot clear in one of the highest-class renewals of the race for years.

Her finishing time over the last 600 metres was actually the quickest of all seven Group One races on the card, including the five-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye.

The Sheikh Joaan Al Thani-owned filly will stay in training next season, as Head-Maarek explained: "Sheikh Joaan bought her to win the Arc and she did it and now we have to try to win it again next year."

If the daughter of Motivator turns up in the same sparkling form, then the others won't have a chance.

Jockey of the year - AP McCoy

Everyone has heard of AP McCoy, however the world's best jumps jockey received more column inches than ever before in 2013.

The reason for the media frenzy was a countdown to the Northern Irishman's 4000th winner.

McCoy originally expected to achieve the feat around the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on the 28th November - he achieved it exactly three weeks before.

Towcester - who introduced free admission in 2003 - attract an average attendance of around 3,000, however nearly 4,500 rushed to the course on a wintry Thursday to witness history in the making.

The Jonjo O'Neill-trained 6/4 favourite Mountain Tunes, owned by JP McManus, looked to be struggling turning for home but under the famous McCoy drive, the horse stormed home to win by half a length to a tremendous ovation.

McCoy said: "It was just amazing, it couldn't have worked out any better.

"To do it for Jonjo and the McManus's is brilliant as they've been so good to me. It was always hopefully going to be in JP's colours."

Although the man from Moneyglass in County Antrim won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010 after landing his first Grand National, there is no doubt that the 12 months just gone will also feature prominently when he reminisces in years to come.

Hurricane Fly: Regained the Champion Hurdle crown

Hurdler of the year - Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly has won a record 17 Grade One Hurdles but, despite winning two Champion Hurdles, he has not always achieved the recognition he deserves.

Willie Mullins' stable star - a title which in itself is some achievement - faced a tough task in March as he tried to become the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle crown.

Sent off the 7/2 favourite, with Ruby Walsh in the saddle, the son of Montjeu had to show resolution, grit and determination - not characteristics always associated with him - to come home in front.

Mullins, whose domination of Irish racing has been led by Hurricane Fly, was thrilled by the effort of his flag-bearer.

He explained: "Last year was so disappointing, but since he came back this year he has been much heavier and stronger.

"He's the champion hurdler again now."

The son of Montjeu will be 10 by the time the next Cheltenham Festival comes around in March and will be hoping to break another long-held record; Sea Pigeon (1981) was the last horse aged older than nine to win the race.

However this was the year of "The Fly", as Walsh explained after his record-breaking Punchestown win: "To win 17 is incredible. It's a privilege to be able to ride him."

It's also been a privilege to be able to watch him.

Finish of the Year - Prix Jacques le Marois

Moonlight Cloud is one of the best fillies of her generation and, in truth, would have been crowned Filly of the Year were it not for her compatriot Treve.

In a season where she won three Group Ones, Freddie Head's mare established herself as the premier miler - of both sexes - currently in training.

And it was one of these races which produced the most electric finish of the season.

Given her outstanding turn of foot, there has occasionally been debate over whether she truly stays a mile.

However she certainly does on the flat track of Deauville, the scene of five of her 12 wins, and she looked to be on course for the easiest of hat-trick wins in the 2013 Prix Jacques le Marois.

Three lengths clear with half a furlong to run, Thierry Jarnet looked to have the race at his mercy.

However he hadn't accounted for a rejuvenated Olympic Glory, who stormed home from off the pace under Frankie Dettori.

Richard Hannon's runner was eating up the ground, engulfing Moonlight Cloud's lead with every stride, and the two horses flashed past the post together.

A tense photo-finish ensued but it was the French hats which were waved aloft after the judge's verdict was announced: Moonlight Cloud had won by a short-head.

Disappointment of the Year - The Al Zarooni drugs scandal

On April 22, Godolphin - the racing empire of Sheikh Mohammed - revealed that 11 of their horses, including the then 1000 Guineas favourite Certify, had been given banned anabolic steroids.

"This is a dark day for Godolphin", said racing manager Simon Crisford.

The horses were in the care of Mahmood Al Zarooni, one of two UK-based trainers for the operation, and the subsequent BHA enquiry resulted in a ban of eight years for the Newmarket trainer.

"We'll have nothing to do with him again and I have no sympathy for him", said Crisford, referring to Al Zarooni.

Whilst the finger was pointed solely at the man from Dubai, the ramifications of the sordid affair were more widespread.

Racing has not always been painted with the lightest of strokes in the media, and this was a golden opportunity for critics of the sport to justifiably cast further shadows on horseracing.

And it will take a long time for those within racing to forget - let alone forgive - the most high-profile instance of doping in recent times.

Race of the year - Cheltenham Gold Cup

No other race captured the imagination of the public more than the 2013 renewal of jumps racing's most prestigious prize.

Kauto Star had always been the story in preceding years but after his retirement earlier in the season, the Ditcheat team were relying on Silviniaco Conti to provide Paul Nicholls with a fifth win in the Blue Riband event.

He was one of five horses in with a chance approaching the fifth-last fence but took a slithering fall, leaving Long Run narrowly in-front.

Nicky Henderson's 2011 winner fought to hold off the challenge of Sir Des Champs, who under late substitute Tony McCoy, looked the likeliest winner.

However Henderson's other runner - the 11/4 favourite Bobs Worth - hadn't read the script and continued to make relentless progress.

He had looked beaten coming down the hill but was rallying strongly at the second-last.

Barry Geraghty booted him into the fence and, clear before the last, the horse stormed up the run-in to the delight of the 50,000 fans at the course.

It was the son of Bob Back's fifth straight win at Prestbury Park and by far the most glorious.

Honourable mentions

Richard Hannon - A third Flat Trainers' Championship cemented his place at the top of the tree

James Doyle - Four Group One wins in a breakthrough season that saw him appointed first-choice UK jockey to Prince Khalid Abdullah

Oisin Murphy - Crowned Champion Apprentice and yet another rising star of the saddle to roll off the Kingsclere production line

Willie Mullins - Dominated in Ireland once more and trained Quevega to be the first horse to win the same race at Cheltenham five times since Golden Miller in the 1930s

Nicky Henderson - Broke Paul Nicholls' seven-year dominance and won the jumps trainers' title for the first time since 1987

Richard Hughes - 208 wins in the season, the highest number since Frankie Dettori's 1995 total (211)

Ryan Mania - Gained the biggest win of his career on Auroras Encore in the Grand National, providing Sue Smith with a first winner of the Liverpool spectacular

Estimate - The first horse trained by a reigning monarch to win the Gold Cup for over 200 years, leading to jubilant scenes in the Royal Box

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