Highs and lows of 2013
We take a look at the highs and lows of a dramatic 2013 for the sport of horse racing.
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He endured a frustrating wait for his 4,000th career success but when the moment came at Towcester on November 7, it was genuine McCoy gold. Mountain Tunes looked beaten at the last, only for the great man to galvanise his mount in his inimitable, never-say-die style and poke his head in front on the line, securing a feat that few would ever have imagined could be done.
Following a troubled few years with the wrong sort of headlines at Aintree, it was fantastic to see such a positive renewal of the world's greatest steeplechase. The victory of Auroras Encore was a triumph for the alleged little man in racing, but, more importantly, the race passed without incident as a series of modifications to the start and fences saw 17 runners finish the marathon event.
Estimate's Gold Cup victory at Royal Ascot propelled racing on to the front pages for all the right reasons and the Queen's joy at the win was truly a delight to behold. The pictures of Her Majesty's beatific smile in the winner's enclosure reflected the depth of her feeling for her horses and the sport.
Just a handful of days after the death of Sir Henry Cecil, Riposte raised the Ascot roof as she provided the perfect memorial to the Warren Place legend in the Ribblesdale Stakes. A favourite race of Cecil's, Riposte overcame her limited experience to provide his widow Lady Jane with a truly memorable Group Two winner.
Criquette Head-Maarek's filly ended the year unbeaten in four starts but her breathtaking acceleration in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will be the abiding memory of 2013 for many. Her five-length dismissal of Orfevre was executed with such ease that many must be wondering what can possibly rival her next year.
The leading amateur's fall on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival cast a shadow not just on the final day of proceedings, but also over then following weeks and months. While his life has been irrevocably changed by his fall from Galaxy Rock, it is heartening just how much support his plight has garnered from the racing world.
The popular Liverpudlian endured an eight-month nightmare after the stewards at Mahalaxmi racecourse decided he had not tried his best on a beaten favourite in February. Initially banned for 56 days, Dwyer appealed the verdict and was then handed an eight-month ban. He fought that all the way and it was eventually commuted back down to 56 days by the Indian authorities, with the BHA's decision not to reciprocate bringing the sorry international saga to a close in October.
Mahmood Al Zarooni
The former Godolphin trainer was banned for eight years in April after admitting using banned anabolic steroids on 22 of his horses. While Al Zarooni's case was resolved in a week by the British Horseracing Authority, the incident rumbled on throughout the year with many questioning the speed of the decision, prompting an internal review of Sheikh Mohammed's equine empire that is still ongoing.
Sir Henry Cecil
Sir Henry had made no secret of his battle against cancer but it was still a shock when the legendary handler lost his brave fight in June at the age of 70. He died just a week short of his beloved Royal Ascot and there was barely a dry eye in the house during a moment's silence at the meeting.
The once promising trainer provided a sour note on which to end 2013 as he was banned for five years after admitting using anabolic steroids on some of his inmates. The use of the drugs was bad enough but the fact Butler sourced non-equine drugs and injected some of the horses' joints himself merely compounded his case.