The World’s Best Racehorse in 2017

The news broke on Tuesday afternoon and Twitter went wild: Arrogate was crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2017.

Australia’s wonder mare Winx finished second, Cracksman and Gun Runner joint third. And Enable? The Arc, dual Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and QE II champion?

Fifth. Let that sink in….

“Are you kidding???” my initial reaction. A couple of angry tweets later I remind myself how these self-proclaimed world thoroughbred rankings are compiled.

Arrogate landed the Dubai World Cup in most scintillating fashion, flopped on three subsequent occasions afterwards – however, this doesn’t matter for the rankings. One might wonder why? It all makes sense if you know what BHA handicapper Phil Smith explains:

“We look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.
With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from January 1 to December 31.”

Long story short: the World’s Best Racehorse is awarded to the horse that ran the single best race in the given year. It probably would be more appropriately titled “World’s Best Racing Performance in 2017”.

Plenty of wise racing folks are of the opinion Arrogate’s stunning Dubai win was, indeed, the single biggest performance of the entire year. So there must be some merit to it – who am I to argue?

Because his performance in the DWC was deemed so outstanding, it didn’t matter what else he did in 2017. In the eyes of the panel (that came up with the rankings), that day Arrogate repeated performances from the past, hence the performance was deemed sustainable.

Well, racing and judging performances is subjective – the world thoroughbred rankings are highly subjective as well. An esteemed panel comes up with these ratings – still it is a subjective way of assessing performances. There is no other way in racing, though.

Personally, I do not agree with the rankings. Plenty others do. And that is okay, too. I believe, nonetheless, to crown the best horse of any year based on one single performance – in this case achieved in March – while not taking into account the rest of the year and therefore subsequent performances, is flawed.

I find it hard to accept that a filly like Enable, who won five top class Group 1 races in 2017, doesn’t even get into the top 3 of these rankings. Mind you, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was named the best individual race of 2017… but the horse who won it, who clearly repeated her big performances time after time, finishes in the so called World’s Best Racehorse rankings only in 5th place.

It’s not right. In my eyes, at least. I think, if you want to ensure that this award is a serious reflection of achievement in a given year, you have to be able to reflect and look back on the entire year in order to decide what performance(s) reflect the very best of this given year. That has its own flaws, mind. Still, it would be a fairer way, in my opinion.

That doesn’t take anything away from Arrogate. He was – deservedly so – crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2016. He clearly was not the best in 2017, though. His DWC victory remains a sensational piece of achievement, nonetheless.

So does Enable’s Arc win, beating eleven other Group 1 winners that day. Doing at at the end of a long season. Doing it after landing four other big Goup 1 prizes during her 2017 campaign.

So is a third consecutive Cox Plate win by Winx. Who did it after winning nine other graded races in 2017, including 5 more Group 1’s.

That’s class. Class that has been repeated over and over again. An exceptionally high level of performance that is sustainable. As 2017 proved.

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