21 January 2020

People's Choice Award Finalists Announced

Dubai Racing Club is pleased to announce the four finalists for the People’s Choice Award, a fan-voted accolade recognising the most compelling 2019 moment in horseracing and part of the HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Horseracing Excellence Awards. In its inaugural bestowing in 2017, the award went to Kei Chiong Ka-kei, who set the standard for female jockeys across the world by winning an unprecedented four races in one day in one of the world’s toughest riding environments, Hong Kong. In 2018, it went to the team behind Lady Eli, who overcame life-threatening laminitis to become an American champion. In 2019, it was awarded to Australian wonder-mare and media darling Winx for her astounding fourth consecutive Cox Plate.


PAT SMULLEN’S GREATEST RACE—It is nearly impossible to find a person in horseracing in 2019 who has made more of a difference than jockey Pat Smullen. Forced into early retirement in May after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018 and undergoing extensive treatments, the 42-year-old native of County Offaly, Ireland, spearheaded initiatives with Cancer Trials Ireland that would send shockwaves of awareness around the racing globe and inspire countless to get involved. Despite the tremendous battle he has fought, Smullen helped raise nearly $3 million and counting for Cancer Trials. All of said good will came to a head on Irish Champions Weekend at The Curragh when the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials charity race galvanised superstar jockeys A. P. McCoy, Ruby Walsh, Paul Carberry, Charlie Swan, Ted Durcan, Kieren Fallon, Richard Hughes, Joseph O’Brien and Johnny Murtagh to return to the saddle one more time to increase awareness and raise much-needed funds. A nine-time champion Irish jockey, Smullen won the 2016 English Derby on Harzand and 12 European classics in his career. His determination won Group/Grade 1 affairs in Ireland, France, Great Britain and the United States—but his greatest race has been sparking change the world over.

BELVOIR BAY: BURN VICTIM TO BREEDERS’ CUP VICTOR—Trained by Dubai World Cup night regular Peter Miller, Belvoir Bay was turned loose during the horrific fire at Southern California’s San Luis Rey Downs in December 2017 and feared to be dead. She was found—almost unrecognizable—with severe burns days later and had to overcome the emotional scars associated with the traumatic event. Nursed back to health, she defied the odds, becoming a graded stakes winner and in March 2019 travelled her talents to Dubai, where she finished a close second to Blue Point in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Azizi Developments. She showed she was not done battling yet when she proved her class (and the strength of Dubai form) in her final race, setting a course record in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and doing so as the only filly or mare in the world championship field. She beat the fire, dominated the boys and is a testament to the resilience of the racehorse.

TEAM DEIRDRE BREAKS NEW GROUND FOR JAPAN—Japanese racing has been on the rise for decades, but in 2019, it stepped up noticeably when globetrotting mare Deirdre made history. Owned by Touji Morita, trained by Mitsuru Hashida and conditioned by travelling assistant Yoshitake Hashida and his team, the two-time Group 1 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World alumnus (third in 2018; fourth in 2019) began her season in Japan before going to UAE. It was then that her team made the enterprising and unprecedented decision to—in lieu of returning the valuable multiple Group 1-winning mare to Japan--base her in England for whole summer and autumn campaigns. Team Deirdre were rewarded not only by a ground-breaking victory in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at the prestigious Glorious Goodwood meeting, but high-class efforts in the Champion Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes. Accessible and transparent to the media, honest in performance and exceptional in representing global horseracing, Deirdre and her team won over legions of racing fans with charm, charisma and enthusiasm.

FABRE’S RECORD-EXTENDING EIGHTH ARC—Andre Fabre is without doubt one of, if not the world's most decorated trainer, thanks to victories in races like the Breeders' Cup Classic, English Derby and the 2000 Guineas. Still, it is his record in Europe’s greatest test, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, that he has displayed immense dominance. In 2019, for the record-extending eighth time, he saddled a winner in the 2400m affair at Longchamp in greater Paris. He prepared Waldgeist with expert patience throughout the season to beat the heavily favoured dual Arc winner Enable on the day that counted, shocking the world in the process. Such a feat is what makes Fabre’s whole career that much more remarkable. To win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe just once is an achievement; twice is considered amazing; but to win it eight times is simply unheard of and unlikely to ever be achieved again. Charles Semblat won it four times in the 1940s, but then there is a big gap to Andre Fabre's eight victories. His record is simply unparalleled in a race that some wait a lifetime to win and many of the greatest never do.