Star of the Year

Flightline. It was a short flight, but no horse starred like the undefeated Flightline. The son of Tapit won three races from three starts, earning $4.2 million and retired.

Trained by John Sadler for Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, the four-year-old colt completed a mercurial career with a romp in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“How do you describe greatness?” Sadler said after the Breeders’ Cup. “This is a rare horse. It happens every 20 or 30 years. One of the best American racehorses we’ve seen in a long, long time. And I’m talking back to Secretariat, Seattle Slew. You go through the list.

“I’ve tried to be is a good steward to him, be fair with him. And if you’re good with your horses, they’re good with you.”

Untouched. Untouchable.

Story of the Year

Cody Dorman was born December 18th, 2005 with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic disease which can cause congenital heart defects, intellectual disability, seisures and delayed growth and development.

He spent the first 12 days of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit in Lexington. He had two heart surgeries by the time he was five weeks old.

One doctor told Cody’s parents, Kelly and Leslie, that Cody probably wouldn’t make it to his second birthday.

Seven years later, through a Make-A-Wish event at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, Cody Dorman met an unnamed son of Curlin. The bay colt walked up to Dorman like a new friend on the playground. The inquisitive foal and the captivated boy were hooked.

The horse grew up to win the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland this year. Throughout it all, Dorman watched and cheered.

“I knew he would win. I’m proud of him. I had no doubt about what he was going to do,” Cody said, through the tablet he uses to communicate after the Forego. “He’s my buddy. I love him. He gives me so much motivation.”

Cody and Cody motivated us all.

Breeder of the Year

Elizabeth Merryman took a flyer on a mare because a friend called her and said she liked her. Merryman sent the daughter of Congrats to the working-man stallion Mizzen Mast and bred a grey filly who was raised on Merryman’s small Pennsylvania Farm.

Caravel won seven races for Merryman as owner/trainer before moving to Graham Motion last summer. She went 0-for-3 and went through the auction ring bringing $500,000 in November.

This year, she won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for Qatar Racing, Mark Detampel and Madaket Stable and trainer Brad Cox. Merryman was in the winner’s circle.

Breeder of the Year II

Amy Moore retired from her law practice in Washington, D.C. and decided to buy a farm in Millwood, Virginia.

She knew she needed something on that farm so bought a couple of yearling fillies. One of them was named Queen Caroline. She won some stakes and retired to the farm.

And produced a champion.

Forte won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Repole Stable, Todd Pletcher – and Moore.

“Forte is from my first crop of two foals. I think it’s all downhill from here so I’m enjoying it while it lasts,” Moore said.

“It’s hard to describe, like an out of body experience, like, ‘Who is this person on whom fortune is shining so brightly?’

Winner of the Year

Beverly Park won 14 races from 29 starts in 2022. Claimed for $12,500 in August, 2021, the son of Munnings won eight in a row last year and kept it rolling this year, winning dirt sprints at eight different tracks.

The throwback five-year-old earned over $282,428 for Built Wright Stable and trainer Norman Cash.

Sporting move of the Year

Connections of Life Is Good had a layup in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Instead, they opted to take on Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The front-running Life Is Good put the sword to his seven rivals before fading to fifth, his only loss in a stellar 4-for-5 campaign. Always go down swinging.

Moment of the Year

Watching trainer Steve Asmussen run around the racetrack after Epicenter pulled up early in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Travers winner suffered a lateral condylar fracture to his right foreleg, had surgery and will stand at Ashford Stud. Trainers do care.

Upset of the Year, of the decade… ever…

Rich Strike shocked the world with a come-from-behind, juke-and-jive, check-your-programme rally in the biggest of them all, the Kentucky Derby.

A $30,000 claim in September 2021, the son of Keen Ice didn’t even make the first cut of entries, drew in late and rallied latest.

The overachieving colt tried hard all year, earning cheques in the Travers, Lukas Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic for RED TR-Racing, trainer Eric Reed and jockey Sonny Leon.

And that’s why they run the races.

Sentence of the Year

Sadly, we’re not talking grammar year. Trainer Jason Servis, who trained 2019 three-year-old champion Maximum Security, pleaded guilty to for his role in acquiring, distributing and directing others to administer performance-enhancing drugs to horses in his care.

The highest profile in a 27-person roundup in 2020, Servis will be sentenced in May.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer could face up to four years in prison.

Another trainer in the indictment, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after p

leading guilty.

Patience of the Year

Bill Mott engineered a nearly perfect season with Elite Power. The son of Curlin made his debut last summer, his first of three straight losses.

Since then, the Juddmonte sprinter has won five straight, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. A winless four-year-old in June to a Grade 1 sprinter by November. Only Mott.

“He had baby issues. We didn’t get him until his three-year-old year. But he had typical stuff like shins that many horses have. And it was just a matter of waiting for them to get right,” Mott said.

“We brought him back this year, and he’s been sound as a bell of brass. It’s been very rewarding to have him put in a string of races and of course ending up the season with the Breeders’ Cup.”

Ticker of the Year

Steve Asmussen has won 585 races this year, building his lead at the top of all North American trainers.

Another 41 and he’ll eclipse 10,000 for his career. Yeah, 10,000. And he’s far from slowing down.

Jockey of the Year

Irad Ortiz Jr. continued to dominate at the top of the standings, topping all jockeys by wins (307) and earnings ($36 million). Aggressive, fearless and relentless, Ortiz is at the top of his game.

Passport of the Year

Welcome to America, Hewick. The Irish raider stormed these shores with a flawless performance in the American Grand National at Far Hills in October.

Owned by TJ McDonald, trained by John “Shark” Hanlon and ridden by Jordan Gainford, the seven-year-old Irish-bred succinctly and securely showed where a 167-rated chaser stands on these shores.

Dwelt of the Year

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) was instituted in the summer. Designed to create and implement national uniform safety and integrity rules, HISA is off to a rocky start as it navigates uncharted water.

Determined to be unconstitutional in November, mired in whip rules, HISA has a long road to go before it becomes accepted.

Most horsemen are rooting for it to work, but sometimes a good idea on paper can come undone in public.

Owner of the Year

Godolphin continued its revitalization with another stellar season, winning 78 races for nearly $16 million, far ahead of Klaravich Stable in second with $9.3 million.

Godolphin combined homegrown Kentucky-breds with international stars to dominate the top of the market.

Senior of the Year

Former racehorse Dead Solid Perfect died November 8th. A winner of one race, he was 39. That has to be a record in an unrecorded sphere.

Sale of the Year

A 2.5% interest in Flightline fetched $4.6 million at Keeneland November Sale.

Career of the Year

Six-time Grade 1 winner Malathaat topped her career with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Owned by Shadwell, the daughter of Curlin did it the hard way, gallantly winning photos and winning fans. She joined the broodmare band at Shadwell Farm.

Loss of the Year

Veteran trainer Angel Penna Jr. died November 22nd. A consummate professional and lifelong horseman, Penna trained Eclipse Award winners Christmas Past and Laugh And Be Merry along with numerous Grade 1 winners.

Beyond the statistics, Penna was a soft-spoken gentleman who ran a small, select stable. The Argentine-born horseman will be sorely missed in a game that is sadly losing the threads that wove the quilt.

The sport also lost such notables as handicapper Dave Litfin, veteran trainer Mike Hernandez, bloodstock agent Harley Clemons, owner Morris Floyd, trainer Michael McGee, aftercare advocate Herb Moelis, Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Noel Hickey, owner/breeder Glenn Bromagen, owner/breeder Sarah Ramsey, owner/breeder Helen Groves, 20-year-old exercise rider Callie Witt, owner/breeder Eugene Melnyk, owner/breeder James Ryan, sportswriter Billy Reed, photographer Bob Coglianese, 100-year-old icon Richard Duchossois, renaissance man Evan Jackson, Pin Oak Farm’s Josephine Abercrombie and one of my first bosses in the turf writing world, Dan Mearns.

Rest in peace, beacons of our sport.