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Horse Racing's Most Memorable Performances of 2013

Michael DempseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

Horse Racing's Most Memorable Performances of 2013

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013 racing season is in the books, and it was an amazing year on the racetrack with plenty of memorable performances.

    Will Take Charge got drubbed by 45 lengths in the Triple Crown races only to come back during the second half of the year to wrap up division honors with wins in the Grade 1 Travers and Clark and a game nose loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

    Game On Dude and Princess of Sylmar saw their Horse of the Year bids flame out during the Breeders’ Cup, and we witnessed an amazing three-way photo in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

    Like the Energizer Bunny, Wise Dan kept on ticking, winning all six of his grass starts on his way to likely claiming back-to-back Horse of the Year honors.

    Let’s revisit horse racing’s most memorable performances of 2013.

8. Calidoscopio Wins Brooklyn Handicap from the Clouds

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    We don’t get to see too many races contested at one-and-a-half miles, and it is rare to see a 10-year-old in action in a graded stake.

    Calidoscopio capped off his 2012 campaign by winning the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) and was making just his second start of 2013 in the Brooklyn Handicap. He was dismissed at nearly 8-1 betting odds.

    Under jockey Aaron Gryder, the bay horse fell 22 lengths behind the early leader and looked hopelessly beaten. The old-timer started picking things up at the half-mile pole, gained momentum going around the far turn and came six wide into the stretch. He inhaled the field and drew away late to win by a length in a breathtaking effort.

    It was his final start of his career, and he became just the second thoroughbred to win a graded stake at the ripe age of 10.

7. Spicer Cub’s Wild Ride at Pimlico

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    It was just a maiden race, and Spicer Cub did not even win, running second. The scene was Pimlico, and the jockey was Xavier Perez.

    Spicer Cub elected to bolt on the far turn, squeezed between the parked starting gate and the rail and then reappeared to rally strongly to just miss out on what would have been one of the most improbable wins of all time.

    Words do not do this race justice. Just watch the video and see for yourself.

6. Verrazano Crushes Haskell Invitational Field

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    The Todd Pletcher trainee was the early betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby after winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in March. Despite winning the Wood Memorial (G1) in his final Derby prep, Verrazano lost some luster after winning in slow time and then disappointed in a 14th-place finish in the Run for the Roses.

    However, he bounced back in the summer with an impressive victory in the Haskell Invitational (G1) where he drew away to win by 9-3/4 lengths.

    He could not duplicate the spectacular performance in his following three starts; however, his Haskell victory did produce the top Beyer Speed Figure by a three-year-old in 2013 with a 116.

5. 'Dude' Is Game in Santa Anita Handicap

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    The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude won his first six starts in 2013, and only a dud in the Breeders’ Cup Classic prevented him from taking Horse of the Year honors.

    His six wins included three Grade 1 victories, and any of the trio could have made this list. His win in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) was impressive, as he drew away to win by 7-3/4 lengths, the largest margin in the history of the race. In addition, he produced a 117 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of his 2013 campaign.

4. Beholder Is a Royal Winner in Breeders’ Cup Distaff

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    Beholder beat one of the deepest fields ever in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), defeating two-time defending champion Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, who was going for her fifth Grade 1 of 2013, which would have put her in the Horse of the Year picture.

    Under Gary Stevens—the Hall of Fame rider who returned from a seven-year retirement in January of 2013the Richard Mandella-trained filly tracked the early pace and drew away smartly to win by 4-3/4 lengths.

    The filly’s win in the Distaff was her fourth Grade 1 victory of 2013 and her second Breeders’ Cup win in her career. She won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in 2012.

3. Wise Dan Defends Title in Breeders’ Cup Mile

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    Despite stumbling out of the gate, Wise Dan defended his title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), running down Za Approval in the stretch to triumph by three-quarters of a length for his sixth win in seven starts in 2013.

    The victory, along with losses by Game On Dude in the Classic and Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff, should lock up his second Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

    His wins in the Woodbine Mile (G1) and Woodward Reserve Turf Classic (G1) were just as impressive, but his Mile win was on racing’s biggest stage.

2. Paynter’s Triumphant Return to the Racetrack

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    Paynter was one of the top horses in training after an impressive victory in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park in the summer of 2012, but soon after his big win, he was fighting for his life.

    He fell ill shortly after the Haskell and was diagnosed first with colitis and then laminitis, which are both life-threatening.

    The colt went through a public battle for his life. He not only won, but miraculously he made it back to the track.

    It was only an allowance race that he entered on June 14, but the colt showed he was back, rolling to a 4-1/2 length win and earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. Only seven horses earned higher numbers in 2013.

    The colt lost his next four starts including a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), but his return race was unforgettable and one of the bright spots of the year.

1. 'Mucho' Is Macho in Breeders’ Cup Classic Victory

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    After losing his first three starts of 2013, Mucho Macho Man did not seem like a factor going into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). That all changed with his win in his final prep for the Classic, where he won the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) over the Santa Anita main track.

    The five-year-old, who was the runner-up in last year’s Classic, gained some support after his sharp prep. He was sent off at 4-1 in the betting.

    He battled on gamely in the stretch and prevailed in a three-way photo, edging Will Take Charge by a nose and sending Declaration of War to another third-place finish.

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