12/27/2012 1:10PM

2012 Year In Review: Top 10 races

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Daily Racing Form’s Dan Illman picks his 10 best races of 2012.


10. Metropolitan Handicap (May 28, Belmont)

Winner: Shackleford by a nose
Shackleford simply refused to lose the Met Mile. After setting the pace, he was confronted in the stretch by the quality Caleb’s Posse and just wouldn’t let that one past. The race was emblematic of Shackleford’s desire and courage.


9. Pacific Classic (Aug. 26, Del Mar)

Winner: Dullahan by 1/2
Speaking of synthetic races, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar provided a thrilling finish. Favored Game On Dude ran his heart out, but was kicked down late by the polytrack-loving Dullahan, a 3-year-old that shipped across the country for Dale Romans.


8. Ben Ali Stakes (April 22, Keeneland)

Winner: Wise Dan by 10 1/2
Wise Dan may be the most versatile horse in North America. He won four graded races on turf including the Breeders’ Cup Mile and finished a head behind Ron the Greek in his lone dirt start, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. His polytrack performance at Keeneland may have trumped them all. Making his seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on April 22, Wise Dan romped by 11 ½ lengths and received a whopping 117 Beyer, the highest speed figure ever recorded on a synthetic surface.


7. Dubai World Cup (March 31, Meydan)

Winner: Monterosso by 3
Monterosso defeated a very good field that included Royal Delta, Game On Dude, and So You Think, but the World Cup may best be remembered for the early, excessive celebration by jockey Mickael Barzalona. It wasn’t the first time that Barzalona embraced victory before the winning post, but this bordered on unsportsmanlike conduct and would have received a 15-yard penalty in the National Football League.


6. Diamond Jubilee Stakes (June 23, Royal Ascot)

Winner: Black Caviar by a head

Black Caviar is a national hero in Australia and deservedly so. She has won 22 starts without enduring a defeat and traveled across the world to beat 13 foes in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Although she didn’t defeat the strongest group of sprinters in the world in the Diamond Jubilee, she overcame jockey Luke Nolen’s near-calamitous mistake of easing up almost completely inside the final furlong.


5. Queen Anne Stakes (June 19, Royal Ascot)

Winner: Frankel by 11
Any of Frankel’s races could have made the list, but he annihilated a top-class rival, Excelebration, by 11 lengths in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. Excelebration returned from this beating to win two Group 1 races at a mile, yet he wasn’t in Frankel’s universe on this day.


4. Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (Nov. 3, Santa Anita)

Winner: Groupie Doll by 4 1/2
Groupie Doll may have given the performance of the Breeders’ Cup when she obliterated her opponents in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Tracking the pace while six wide over a speed-favoring track, Groupie Doll swept past a good filly in Dust and Diamonds to win by 4 1/2 lengths.


3. Travers Stakes (Aug. 25, Saratoga)

Winner: Dead-heat, Alpha and Golden Ticket
After 1 1/4 miles, the camera couldn’t separate Alpha and Golden Ticket. Dead-heat in the Midsummer Classic. Enough said.


 

2. Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (Nov. 2, Santa Anita)

Winner: Royal Delta by 1 1/2
The Ladies’ Classic was arguably the most anticipated race of the two-day Breeders’ Cup meeting. It featured the defending champion, two undefeated prior winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and the top 3-year-old filly in the country. At the end of nine furlongs, there was no doubt who was best. Royal Delta, under a crafty ride by Mike Smith, turned back My Miss Aurelia, Awesome Feather, Questing, and all the rest.


 

1. Preakness Stakes (May 19, Pimlico)

Winner: I’ll Have Another by a neck
The Kentucky Derby is the defining race of the 3-year-old division, but the Preakness showcased I’ll Have Another’s quality. Faced with the daunting task of running down the talented speedster Bodemeister through moderate fractions, I’ll Have Another courageously reeled in that foe during a spine-tingling last sixteenth of a mile.