As 2012 draws to a close, let's take a look back at some of the big moments in racing over the last year. Part I will review the action from January through March. Part II: April, the final Derby preps, Triple Crown races, and action to June. Part III: July through September. And Part IV: October to the Breeders' Cup and on through December.
The year kicks off with a pair of graded stakes on New Year's Day, with Bauble Queen taking the G2-Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita, and Sacristy winning the G3-Old Hat at Gulfstream.
Mizdirection wins the G3-Monrovia on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, a sign of things to come for the filly as she would go on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint 11 months later over the same Arcadia course.
The stakes calendar for three-year-old colts kicks off at Santa Anita in Jan. 7 when Out of Bounds beats 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle in the G3-Sham Stakes.
The sophomore stakes action shifts to the Bayou where Mr. Bowling beats Z Dager and Shared Property in the G3-Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds. The Derby preps in Louisiana turned out to be much weaker than in previous years.
The first Grade 1 race of 2012 goes to Home Sweet Aspen in the G1-Santa Monica Stakes on Jan. 28th. 2/1 post time favorite Rumor finishes a disappointing sixth of seven.
Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek clash in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28th, with Mucho Macho Man holding on to a comfortable length and a half victory over Ron the Greek. Both colts would go on to have strong 2012 seasons.
2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Hansen makes his seasonal debut in the G3-Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 29th but finishes second to Algorithms after setting fast early fractions and fading late.
The month ends with wagering on U.S. races down 1.10% from January of 2011, according to the Equibase report on Economic indicators.
The G2-Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 4th went to a 43/1 shot - the longest shot on the board - and saw 3/2 post time favorite Liaison finished dead last. The winner, ridden by a young jockey recently riding at Hastings Park in Vancouver, Canada, was I'll Have Another.
Out in New York, Aqueduct gets its three-year-old stakes calendar under way with the G3-Withers Stakes, won by Alpha by 3 ¼ lengths. Alpha would go on to run well all year in New York, but struggle outside of his home state.
Game On Dude begins his 2012 season with a victory in the G2-San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 5th in preparation for a start in the Dubai World Cup in late March.
Hymn Book edge out Mission Impazzible by a nose in the G1-Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. Finishing well behind the winner were Flat Out (5th), Shackleford (7th) and Ruler on Ice (8th).
Due to an overwhelming number of entries, Oaklawn runs the G3-Southwest Stakes in split divisions on Feb. 20th. The second division proves to be the stronger of the two with Secret Circle winning as the 6/10 favorite. In the first division, Castaway wins by an easy 3 ¾ lengths. Ninth place finisher Unbridled's Note would go on to have a strong year sprinting.
On Feb 25th, Awesome Maria runs her first race since June of 2011 and blows away a G3-Sabin field that contains Royal Delta and Groupie Doll by eight lengths.
Out in Southern California, Mizdirection wins another race over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, this one in the ungraded Clocker's Corner Handicap.
On Feb. 26th, Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Union Rags makes his first start of 2012 and wins by an impressive four lengths over News Pending and odds-on post time favorite Discreet Dancer in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
A bit of good news peak it's head above the horizon at the end of February: wagering on U.S. races during the month is 7.60% higher than in February of 2011, with purses 13.93% higher. Overall, wagering is up 3.24% with purses up 8.26%.
Ron the Greek stamps himself as an early Breeders' Cup Classic contender with his 3 ½ length victory in the G1-Santa Anita Handicap on March 3rd. Ron the Greek, running in ninth position after a half mile, closed hard in the final quarter mile to easily beat Setsuko.
Hansen gets back in the winner's circle after he stalks the pace in a three-length victory over My Adonis in the G3-Gotham at Aqueduct. On the same card, Calibroachoa defeats a strong field in the G3-Tom Fool Handicap, posting a huge speed figure in the process (Beyer: 111; Bris: 114; Equibase: 122).
Calibrachoa's victory in the Tom Fool would rank as one the best performances by a winning horse in the Dirt Sprint division in terms of an aggregate of speed figures.
Zagora (FR) wins the G3- Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10th as the 8/10 odds-on favorite. On the same day, Trinniberg, making his first start of 2012, dominates the G3-Swale Stakes at Gulfstream by six lengths under Willie Martinez.
On March 17th, Secret Circle continues his hot start to 2012 with a ¾ length victory over Optimizer in the G2-Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Out at the Fair Grounds, Havre de Grace wins the final race of her career by 4 ½ lengths over Juanita in the ungraded New Orleans Ladies.
Daddy Nose Best wins the $800,000 G3-Sunland Derby, securing a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. The Sunland Derby is one of the prep races significantly impacted by the new Kentucky Derby qualifying system.
Take Charge Indy wins the G1-Florida Derby; heavy favorite Union Rags didn't have the best of trips and has to settle for 3rd. On the same card, Fort Larned rolls to an easy victory at odds of 12/1 in the G3-Skip Away.
At Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emeriates, Monterosso (GB) rolls home at odds of 35/1 to win the $10 million Dubai World Cup over Capponi (IRE) and Planteur (FR). The American duo of Game On Dude and Royal Delta ran poorly (although Royal Delta had a pretty rough trip) and finished near the back of the field.
The month closes with a 9.46% gain on wagering on U.S. races as compared to March of 2011, with purses up 12.39%. Overall, the first quarter of 2012 sees a 5.43% wagering gain and a 9.84% purse gain over the first three months of 2011.