The charismatic Belgian rider Christophe Soumillon set a new European record of wins in a calendar year, when riding 306 winners in 2017. The 36-year old French-based jockey rode in 1,635 races across the country, over a total distance of more than 3,000 km, to beat the previous record of 300 wins, set the year before by Pierre-Charles Boudot.
SOUMILLON conquers Europe
The MIRACLE horse
When Edwulf collapsed at Cheltenham Festival last year, everyone feared the worst and the racecourse veterinarians battled for more than an hour to save his life. Since then, trainer Joseph O’Brien, the son of multiple Irish champion Aidan, has together with the vets worked to nurse Edwulf back to health again. Less than eleven months later, the now nine-year-old gelding was dubbed “the Miracle Horse” when winning a thrilling G1 Irish Gold Cup by a neck at Leopardstown in Ireland.
One for the Ladies
22-year-old conditional jockey Bryony Frost became only the second female in Britain or Ireland to land a Grade 1 race over jumps, when riding Black Corton to victory in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, England, on Boxing Day (26th December). Frost’s top-level win came only weeks before a statistical analysis on gender differences among British jockeys was published, suggesting that female jockeys are just as good as male jockeys. The study, which was carried out through the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool, has looked at data covering a 14-year period and found that the performance of female jockeys is equal with that of their male counterparts, once the quality of the horses they are riding is factored in. However, only 11.3% of professional jockey license holders are female, and only 5.2% of available rides were taken by female jockeys during the period of the study.
Music City gets jumpin’
Nashville may be famed for its country music, but once a year it turns into a popular destination for racing fans. The Iroquois Steeplechase has been the rite of spring in ‘Music City’, located in Tennessee, USA, since 1941. The annual steeplechase event, which takes place on May 12 this year, attracts more than 25,000 spectators to watch the best jumpers in the country compete over hurdles and timber fences. The day is named after the horse Iroquois, the first American-bred horse to win the prestigious Epsom Derby in England, in 1881. He retired to stud in Nashville.
The Peoples Race
Japan’s season-ending race, the G1 Arima Kinen, is set to be run on December 24 at Nakayama racecourse near Tokyo. The all-aged race is a celebration of Japan’s favourite racehorses, as the majority of the field is decided by a public vote, similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. Last year, 1.5 million votes were cast. The public interest in the race makes it the most popular betting race not only in Japan, but in the world. The turnover for the 2016 Arima Kinen was an astonishing ¥44,902,572,000. (€366,814,052/US$383,569,131)
Beyond the racetrack
Retraining of thoroughbred racehorses has become a topic of increasing importance in the racing industry all over the world. Many retired racehorses have very successful second careers, competing at the highest level in equestrian disciplines such as eventing and polo, or find homes in pony club, polo, and as pleasure horses. Others go on to become broodmares or stallions. Beyond the racetrack Racing NSW in Australia recently set an example for other racing jurisdictions when deciding that A$2 million per year will be set aside to ensure that all thoroughbred horses domiciled in New South Wales are appropriately cared for outside of their racing careers. They have also purchased a 2,600 acre property to be used for the rehabilitation, retraining, and rehoming of horses after their racing careers.