I’ve tabbed five races as my favorites in 2018:
#5 – MET MILE
Bee Jersey opened 2018 with three romping wins, including the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park, and made his first Grade 1 attempt (and ultimately his career finale) in the Metropolitan H. on the Belmont Stakes undercard. The front-running colt faced early pressure from Bolt d’Oro and One Liner, with the latter making a serious run at the pacesetter leaving the far turn, and Mind Your Biscuits looked poised to run past all while rallying boldly from just off the pace.
It required plenty of determination to repel his classy foe:
#4 – BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
“Stop the presses, this is one fabulous, fabulous filly,” announcer Larry Collmus exclaims after the spectacular victory by Newspaperofrecord in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. After posting dominant front-running wins in her first two starts, the Chad Brown trainee broke on top and cruised on a comfortable lead before being asked for run by Irad Ortiz Jr. A dynamic turn of foot follows as Newspaperofrecord bounds away and wins under wraps.
The sheer superiority makes it worthy of any Breeders’ Cup highlight reel:
#3 – PERSONAL ENSIGN
A thriller that left no doubt in my mind who the top older dirt female was in 2018. Abel Tasman entered the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga in stellar form, recording a 7 ½-length win in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park, and was bet down to 3-5 favoritism over Elate, who was making her second start of 2018 after an easy tally in the Delaware H. (G2). Abel Tasman made an early bid for the lead on the backstretch and gamely turns back Elate, who had every chance to get past during an exhilarating battle to the finish line.
Unfortunately for racing fans, the rousing stretch-long duel appeared to exact a severe toll upon both distaffers. Abel Tasman wound never be the same, going off form for her final two starts, and Elate sustained a leg injury afterward and missed the rest of the season:
#2 – BREEDERS’ CUP TURF
Enable showed her class becoming the first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner to capture a Breeders’ Cup race in the same season, courageously dispatching fellow European-based filly Magical, who ran a huge race finishing nearly 10 lengths clear of third in the Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. Now a winner of nine straight for Juddmonte Farms and John Gosden, Enable was making only her third start of the season and the four-year-old filly is expected to target an unprecedented third straight Arc win next year.
Let’s hope Enable bids for a repeat in the 2019 Turf at Santa Anita:
#1 — PREAKNESS
Regardless of competition, a three-year-old must overcome adversity at some point in the Triple Crown. Examples include Seattle Slew, who didn’t have everything his own way for the first time following a terrible start in the 1977 Kentucky Derby; Secretariat, who broke slowly and circled the field after being last early in the 1973 Preakness; Affirmed, who was tested every step of the way in the 1978 Belmont Stakes; and American Pharoah, who came under a ride on the far turn and had to dig deep to wear down Firing Line in the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
It’s the most difficult task in North American racing and Justify became only the 13th horse to join the legendary honor roll. He faced a potential Waterloo under foggy and wet conditions in the Preakness at Pimlico, with Kentucky Derby runner-up and champion two-year-old Good Magic taking it to him from the start.
The lightly-raced chestnut jumps tire tracks entering the first turn and must withstand a late challenge after dueling head-and-head most of the way. Justify proved far more brilliant on other occasions, but I’ll remember how he overcame adverse circumstances to prevail in the Preakness: