12/21/2012 2:08AM

2012 - a look back


Royal Delta.  Ramon Dominguez.  Bill Mott.  Union Rags.  Doug O'Neill.  Rapid Redux. Rosie.  Groupie Doll.  Shack...

Cherished memories, from Rachel Alexandra and her foal splashed with the summer solstice sun to Havre de Grace galloping across an emerald field one autumn morning.  A heart-warming afternoon with old friends Danny Perlsweig and Lord Avie.  A Santa Anita morning silhouette.  A Saratoga rainbow at sunset.

And perhaps, most memorably, one shocking Friday in June...not for what happened but, rather, what did not: I'll Have Another was scratched from what I thought was his date with destiny.

The 2012 racing season provided countless photo opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites, some of which have appeared in previous blogs and/or in the Daily Racing Form.

Above: Blue moon over Saratoga.

Above:  Palm Meadows morning.

Above:  Alpha, Rob Massey up, also at Palm Meadows.

Above:  Alvin, Theodore and Simone (not necessarily in that order) - orphan squirrels taken care of by trainer Leah Gyarmati.

Above:  Sprint star Trinniberg, who remained competitive from March through November.

Above:  Rapid Redux, J.D. Acosta up, at Laurel Park.   The immensely popular gelding won for a 22nd consecutive time on January 4th, at Laurel - his final start.  He was retired to Old Friends, KY.

Above:  The aptly-named Mischief Maker making mischief.

Above:  The tremendously popular near-matched set, Dullahan and Shackleford, trained by the tremendously popular Dale Romans.

Above:  It's Tricky (right) stumbles at the start of the Personal Ensign, won by Love and Pride (left).

Above:  The fascinating Winter Memories cuts through the fog.

Above:  29-year-old Storm Cat with caregiver Eduardo Terrazas, Overbrook Farm.

Above:  A white Standardbred foal named White Bliss - a 200,000-1 rarity - at Fair Winds Farm, NJ.

Above:  The very popular Union Rags, who didn't seem to enjoy his Kentucky Derby run (above, first time past), would fare better at Belmont Park.

Above:  I'll Have Another wore roses on Kentucky Derby day....

...and the handsome chestnut got an appreciative kiss from trainer Doug O'Neill after the Preakness....

...and got a reminder of who's boss from star stable pony Lava Man during Belmont week.  Jonny Garcia is on I'll Have Another and Sabas Rivera on Lava Man.

Above:  Doug O'Neill rarely had a quiet moment during Belmont week - but he was a great sport throughout.

Above:  Exclusive photos of I'll Have Another's near-miss with the Carl Domino filly Isleta.

Above:  The day before the Belmont I'll Have Another was retired, announced in a heartfelt press conference (Paul Reddam, left, and Doug O'Neill).

Above: It was time for Union Rags to let off some steam....

Above:  Union Rags (John Velazquez) beats Paynter (Mike Smith) to the wire in the Belmont Stakes.  It was to prove Union Rags' final start.

Above:  A happy racing moment and the promise of the future - Rosie Napravnik and trainer Todd Pletcher after Shanghai Bobby's Champagne win.

Above:  Rosie also spent quality time with the adorable Ripcord.

Above:  Javier Castellano, Saratoga rain.

Above/below:  John Velazquez was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  After being overcome with emotion, his wife Leona gave him a hand - or, rather, a head on the shoulder.

Above: Racing, stormy day. Gulfstream Park.

Above:  Multiple stakes winner Divine Fortune falls during the NY Turf Writers Cup, won by #3 Demonstrative.  Divine Fortune was uninjured.

Above:  Worm's eye-view, turf racing.

Above:  Gemologist's bath.

Above:  Eye-to-eye...sort of.  Archwarrior and Stay Thirsty.

Above:  Fort Larned won five stakes in 2012.....

...as did the brilliant Groupie Doll, above.

Above:  Multiple G1 winner Questing and her friend Irad Ortiz.

Above:  Champion Royal Delta, now winner of two Breeders' Cups, mooches a mint from trainer Bill Mott.

Above:  So Many Ways gets a loving embrace from owner Maggi Moss...

....while Questing and Kiaran McLaughlin share a quiet moment (above).

Above:  Nothing quiet about this moment for Charming Kitten and owner Ken Ramsey (Mr. Ramsey fell while leading a rambunctious Charming Kitten into the winner's circle.  Ramsey got back up, dusted himself off, and posed - smiling - for the photo).

Above/below:  Another charming kitten, Lucky, with her friend Glory in Motion.

Above:  The amazing philanthropists, Marylou Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson, in the Whitney winner's circle.

Above:  Most touching moment of the year for me...watching Danny Perlsweig (85) visit with Lord Avie (34) at Blue Ridge Farm.  Danny has visited his old champion every year since Lord Avie's retirement.

Above:  Shackleford, doing what he does best, with Faustino Aguilar aboard.  

Above:  Top filly My Miss Aurelia at the hands of Scott Blasi.


Above:  A first-ever deadheat in the Travers: Golden Ticket and David Cohen, and Alpha with Ramon Dominguez.

Above:  2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace enjoys her freedom at Taylor Made Farm in KY.

Above:  Rachel Alexandra and the summer solstice, Stonestreet Farm, KY.

Above:  Morning silhouette, Santa Anita, Breeders' Cup week 2012.

Above:  Possible 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Above:  Wise Dan powers home in the Breeders' Cup Mile - with Animal Kingdom (green/red) in hot pursuit.

Above:  The Breeders' Cup Classic went to the classically-chiseled Fort Larned.  Brian Hernandez up, Ian Wilkes trainer, Janis R. Whitham owner.  

Here's to a beautiful and memorable 2013....