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A Look at Contenders for 2023 World’s Best Racehorse

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Connections of horses named as finalists for Eclipse Awards, as well as the finalists in the human categories, aren’t the only ones with some jitters this week.

Before North America’s champions of 2023 are named Jan. 25 as part of an awards dinner in South Florida, the world’s top horse and race of 2023 will be recognized at a luncheon ceremony in London. The World’s Best Racehorse Awards, organized by Longines and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, will announce their winners at a ceremony that will begin about 8:10 a.m. ET.

The World’s Best Racehorse Awards is based on handicapper ratings and while it does not announce finalists, it does provide updates to the ratings throughout the year. Looking at those numbers as announced through Nov. 5, it would be surprising if the winner came from beyond the top five listed.

Contenders

In a tie for fourth with ratings of 127 through Nov. 5 are Big Rock  and Hukum . Classic success just eluded France-based Big Rock in 2023 as he finished second to Ace Impact  in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1). Top-level success initially proved elusive for Big Rock as he also finished second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) winner Inspiral  in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) and then to Sauterne  in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1) Sept. 3.

But frequent runner Big Rock would not be denied. Shipped to England for his final start of the season, the son of Rock of Gibraltar  delivered a six-length score in the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) Oct. 21 at Ascot.

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Trained by Christopher Head for owner Yeguada Centurion with regular rider Aurelien Lemaitre, Big Rock completed an 11-race campaign in 2023 with a record of 5-3-0 that included three group stakes scores.

Shadwell Estate homebred Hukum raced just four times in 2023 but, in his 6-year-old campaign, the son of Sea the Stars  landed a group 1 win for a second straight season when he delivered a narrow victory over Westover in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) July 29 at Ascot. 

Jim Crowley served as the regular rider for Hukum, who is trained by O. J. Burrows.

Tied for second in the ratings through Nov. 5 at 128 were world traveler Mostahdaf  and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Ace Impact (IRE) (more on him soon).

Another Shadwell homebred, Mostahdaf competed on three continents during his 5-year-old season of 2023. The son of Frankel   opened his ambitious campaign for trainer John Gosden and regular rider Jim Crowley with a seven-length rout of rivals in the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cup (G3) in Saudi Arabia. He would just be getting started.

After an off-the-board finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), Mostahdaf was returned to England and delivered back-to-back group 1 scores in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Juddmonte International at York. He finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) to close out his season.

A pair of France-based 3-year-olds earned top-five ratings in 2023 (through Nov. 5) as Ace Impact won all six of his starts, capped by a clear victory in the Arc. That season-ending score followed classic success in the Prix du Jockey Club over Big Rock in early June for the son of Cracksman .

Raced exclusively in France in 2023, Ace Impact is conditioned by Jean-Claude Rouget for owners Gousserie Racing & Ecuries Serge Stempniak. Cristian Demuro was aboard for five of his six races.

Ace Impact isn’t the only horse in the top five who delivered an undefeated season in 2023. Through Nov. 5, Japan-bred and based Equinox  had earned the highest rating at 129 as he followed his 2022 Japan Horse of the Year season with an international campaign that saw him win all four of his starts to land Japan’s top honor for a second straight year.

Photo: Katsumi Saito

Equinox wins the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse

The son of Kitasan Black  opened his 4-year-old season of 2023 by venturing from Japan for the first time. The trip would prove a wild success as Equinox turned the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic into a showcase, controlling the running every step of that nearly 1 1/2-mile turf test. He would follow that smoothest of wins with three straight grade 1 wins in Japan, closing out his career with a four-length romp in the Japan Cup (G1).

Equinox was campaigned by the Silk Racing partnership, trained by Tetsuya Kimura, and jockey Christophe Lemaire was aboard for every start of his career. The connections hope Equinox can become the second Japan-based horse to win the award following Just a Way in 2014.

No Threepeat

North American horses have landed this coveted award the past two years with Flightline   (140) taking the honors in 2022 after Knicks Go   (129) secured the trophy for 2021. That streak figures to end this year as the top-rated North American-based horse through Nov. 5 was Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner White Abarrio  at 123 (tied for 12th). 

White Abarrio is the top-rated dirt horse of 2023 through Nov. 5 as his 123 rating is just ahead of Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner Cody’s Wish   at 122. 

The Longines World Racing Awards will take place at The Savoy in London, and a livestream of the ceremony will be released on multiple digital platforms, including the social media accounts of Longines and the IFHA as well as World Horse Racing (WHR). 

When the award winners are announced Tuesday, the IFHA will release its final ratings of 100 horses. Additionally, the IFHA’s annual list of the Top 100 group/grade 1 races will be released, as well as the rankings for all horses around the world rated 115 or higher. The full list and further information on the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings will be available on the IFHA website.

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