Story of the year
Michelle Payne and the Melbourne Cup, just tipping out the tributes that flowed for 12-time winner Bart Cummings after his death two months before the race that stops the nation. Ironically, it was Bart who gave Payne her first ride in Australia’s great race in 2009. He would have been watching from above with a big smile after Payne steered 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance to victory to become the first female rider to win the Cup.
Issue of the year
Cobalt. Predictably, the cobalt circus dragged on throughout the year – and still shows no signs of nearing a conclusion. High-profile trainers, veterinarians, an administrator and even a media personality – whether rightly or wrongly – have been dragged into the mess and spat out the other side. When will it ever end?
Star of the year
Hard to go past Michelle Payne, but Chris Waller gets the nod for his sustained excellence throughout the calendar year. The man who arrived in Australia with one horse more than a decade ago chalked up a head-spinning 16 group 1 wins in 2015 and almost pulled up off a Royal Ascot success with Brazen Beau. The record books will only stop being rewritten when he decides to stop.
Delighted: Chris Waller with Joao Moreira after Brazen Beau won the Coolmore Classic. Photo: Getty Images
Controversy of the year
Live baiting scandal. Never has an industry been brought to its knees like greyhound racing after the ABC obtained clandestine footage of conditioners using rabbits, possums and even piglets in barbaric training methods. Some of the sport’s biggest names were caught in the affair, which has seen dozens of licensees banned across the country, taking the gloss off the freakish deeds of Fernando Bale on the track. A special commission is ongoing into the sport in NSW.
Quote of the year
Photo finish between two previously before unseen moments on the track. Michelle Payne calling out the “chauvinistic ways” of racing: “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world.” And Blake Shinn after losing his pants mid-race while riding Miss Royale at Canterbury, exposing his bare backside to trailing riders. “They [the pants] went just after the start and there was nothing I could do. I think a lot of people are going to have a bit of fun with this, but they can’t say I wasn’t focused and went to the line.”
Queen of the turf: Michelle Payne after winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Social media storm of the year
Blake Shinn and that wardrobe malfunction. Who needs Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl slip up when one of Australia’s leading riders loses his strides during a race? Social media went into meltdown with footage of Shinn, riding Miss Royale, into second in a Canterbury race with his backside exposed to all. It was only appropriate a horse named Modesty was the third runner home, trailing Shinn to the post. Blake Shinn finished 2nd on Miss Royale, with his backside a close 3rd http://t.co/Jo8auiWz2Vhttps://t.co/KajE3qa7Lupic.twitter苏州美甲美睫培训学校/CYg1wLQbW1— Racing Ahead (@racingaheadmag) April 24, 2015
Ride of the year
It might have been the middle of winter, but Paul King’s take-no-prisoners ride on Lovethebeaches in the Stayers Cup was as good as they come. Having ridden earlier in the day at Kembla Grange, King motored up the highway and jumped aboard Lovethebeaches, opening up a mid-race break estimated to be as much as 150 metres. And the rest couldn’t catch him. For freakishness? Watch Joao “Magic Man” Moreira’s effort during a Hong Kong race in November where he fumbled his whip and grabbed it out of thin air before continuing to ride.
Race of the year
All Aged Stakes. There is something about Jim Cassidy and those little red gloves with elbows flailing in the closing stages of a race. The Pumper sent Australian Horse of the Year Dissident into retirement with a gripping group 1 win, outpointing Damien Oliver and Wandjina in a stirring climax. It would be Cassidy’s 104th and last major win, calling time on his career in November.
Fond farewell: Jockey Jim Cassidy poses with gifts presented to him at Flemington Racecourse on November 5. Photo: Michael Dodge
Flop of the year
Administrators and their handling of racing’s broadcast rights. Bickering, bungling and blackouts characterised the first half of the year as punters, pubs and clubs were kept in the dark for weeks before the eventual demise of TVN. It was an embarrassing throwback to the stone age in a sport that is struggling to maintain relevance in a crowded market.
A prediction for next year
The cobalt scandal deepens with a slew of appeals from trainers and vets ending up in court. Jockeys revolt over the new mandatory riding helmets early in the new year. Michelle Payne retires from race riding after piloting Prince Of Penzance to a midfield finish in the Melbourne Cup.
with Chris Roots
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