Using the traditional horse racing method of judging the field by 1st, 2nd and 3rd the Pro Group team have selected the top three in each field in 2020.
Top 3 Jockeys 2020
Covid-19 has hit everyone this year and jockeys have had to adapt as much as anyone. Having to quarantine between states, dealing with self isolation diets and not have crowds to cheer them on are all factors and we think these three have ridden through achieving the most.
Glenn Boss - The great man arrived back in Australia early in 2020 from his stint in asia and wow did he make an impact. Boss proved he’s still got more to give with his 5 Group 1 wins through the year. He got the ball rolling early winning the ATC Australasian Oaks aboard Godolphin runner Collette before pushing on and winning the Group 1 Sydney Cup piloting Etah James.
Boss continued his great form through the year with a couple of Group 1 wins aboard fellow Godolphin runner Bivouac. Such was Bivouac’s form the galloper now looks to have the eyes of the world on him.
His highlight has to be another Cox Plate win aboard Sir Dragonet. The import from the UK was a $9 shot and Boss ran the Maher and Eustace runner like he should have been race favourite. It topped of an impressive year where trainers sat up and realised if there was a Group 1 race to be run Boss needed to be an option.
Jamie Kah - What a year Jamie Kah has had. Currently the leader of the Victorian Jockeys Premiership Kah has had some iconic wins through the year.
Bursting onto the scene in the 12/13 season when winning the South Australian Jockeys premiership Kah has continued each year to improve and develop in an industry dominated by males.
Claiming big wins through Spring Kah rode out winners in The Gilgai Handicap, The Moonee Valley Gold Cup and The Wakeful Stakes on the biggest race days. She went on to have her biggest victory when winning the Group 1 Toorak Handicap aboard Mr Quickie in an amazing ride for the Phillip Stokes yard.
Following hot on the heels of the Melbourne Spring Carnival Kah went on to win the Sandown Cup and the Group 2 Zipping Classic to add to her spring treasures.
Kah continues to go well currently second in the Victoria Jockeys championship with over 50 wins already and over $6m in prize money a figure only beaten by Melbourne Cup winner Jye McNeil and champion Jockey Damien Oliver.
William Pike - The Wizard of the West has really proven he’s top draw to the part time punters this year will his trip to Victoria and several Group 1 wins making a statement to the Horse Racing Industry.
Most people will know Pike from having one of the most successful records in WA but many had also questioned his ability to translate that form on the Eastern tracks during the Carnival season.
Backed by WA trainers Bob Peters and the racing stable of Grant and Alana Williams, Pike packed his bags and headed to his home state in order to tackle the Spring Carnival
He soon had his Group 1 success riding Arcadia Queen to victory in the Caulfield Stakes. It definitely put horse racing fans on notice as the race was considered a boilover after Arcadia Queen defeated, at the time Melbourne Cup favourite Russian Camelot.
Arguably his best success through Spring were his wins aboard Hawkes trained runner Ole Kirk. On a day when he won 4 races on the card his greatest success was taking out the Caulfield Guineas aboard the big 3yo colt.
His win aboard Ole Kirk showed his true talents as a jockey by getting the job done when a mile back in the field.
The Verdict - PGR Best Jockey in 2020
For us it has to be Pikey. The WA favourite left his comfort zone at home to travel through quarantine to compete against Australia’s best.
He won several Group 1s in tough conditions rolling some big names without a car along the way. His 4 wins on Caulfield Guineas day alone demonstrates his success and proved once again why he is one of Australia’s best jockeys.
Overall Kah has consistently been growing and improving and if there was an award for most improved she’s definitely top of our list. Likewise if there was a comeback award Boss has that down pat all day but for us Pike put himself in a tough situation in order to compete and went on to thrive.
Top 3 Trainers 2020
With so many races and so many runners competing on a daily basis you could make a case for nearly every trainer in Australia to have a mention in the Top Trainer of 2020. For us at PGR though we feel we’ve whittled it down to the 3 who’ve had the most to cheer about in the pandemic year.
Grant & Alana Williams - The husband and wife team from the west have had a great year on the track both at home in WA and across the country on the East Coast where they had a breakthrough year in black type races.
The year of success kicked off as the pair trained Regal Power to success in the All Star Mile in the Autumn to scoop a significant $5m in prize money.
That win was the tip of the iceberg though as team Williams returned to Melbourne in the Spring and won there first Spring Carnival Group 1 as William Pike rode Arcadia Queen to victory in the Caulfield Stakes. The mare would ultimately go on to win the Mackinnon Stakes on the final day of the carnival.
The training duo would see out the year by winning the Kingston Town Classic with Truly Great leaving them with 4 Group 1 wins for the year. A pretty significant achievement when you consider there first Group 1 success came in 2018.
James Cummings - Its undoubted that Cummings comes from extremely strong training stock however 2020 has really been a year where he has forged his own path with the Godolphin team.
Taking over from John O’Shea only a few years ago Cummings has had a host of winners in 2020 including 36 stakes winners, 3 individual Group 1 winners and 5 more in Group 2 company.
Cummings’ top performers this year have had to be those 3 Group 1 winners with Collette winning the Australian Oaks in the Autumn as well as the $7.5m Golden Eagle in the Spring. Trekking who won the Goodwood at Morphettville in May and then finishing 4th in the Everest in October.
The standout has to be fellow duel Group 1 winner in Bivouac who smashed the field when winning the Newmarket Handicap in Autumn only to return in the Spring and do the same in the VRC Sprint Classic.
It may be a love of the Flemington straight however Cummings has got Bivouac humming in 2020.
Denis Pagan - A duel premiership winning coach in AFL, Pagan has not wasted time getting a taste of the winning feeling in the Horse Racing Industry.
Being granted his trainer licence to become a sole trainer in July it took just four starts for Pagan to get his first win with Frankie Two Angels at Sandown.
He will be most noted though for runner Johnny Get Angry who finished 3rd in the Taj Rossi Final as his very first training appearance. After that run it was only 3 months later and Pagan was tasting Group 1 success with the same runner in the VRC Derby.
Many considered it a boilover in the race where Johnny Get Angry at $21 won beating home short priced favourites Young Werther and Cherry Tortini.
The win was an amazing training journey for Pagan who had only started his training career in July to winning one of the biggest Group 1s on the Australian Racing calendar by October.
The Verdict - PGR Best Trainer 2020
As we only picked out our best three trainers in 2020 honourable mentions have to go to Chris Waller in a year where Verry Elleegant was very dominant however you expect him to be on top.
When we look at the form James Cummings has to take 2020. In the past few years it looked as though Godolphin had run aground in Australian Racing. However off the back of triumphs with Alizee in 18/19 Cummings has really come to the fore in 20.
Having 3 Group 1 winners across varying distances, the resurgence of Trekking to win a Group 1 and the form Bivouac has shown to become recognised as one of the worlds best sprinters is not far short of remarkable.
Definitely a trainer to follow going into 2021.
Top 3 Racehorses 2020
The stars of the show have probably been largely unaffected by the pandemic with their main focus, showing up on the day. It was a shame that we didn’t see more international talent on these shores in 2020 however there was plenty there for the punters to cheer for.
Farnan - Despite a drop off towards the end of the year Farnan was by far the best 2yo on the circuit in the past 12 months.
Starting the year off with a disappointing Magic Millions performance where you could argue he got no luck the youngster returned in great form through the Autumn.
An extremely professional colt for Adrian Bott and Gai Waterhouse, the big fella bounced back in Autumn going unbeaten in Sydney during the Carnival.
With former Winx jockey Hugh Bowman taking the ride for all Farnan’s three wins he took out the Group 2 pairing of the Silver Slipper and Todman stakes, destroying the field before winning the Golden Slipper at Rosehill.
Those wins were emphatic and Farnan seemed to grow with each run never looking likely to lose.
The only blot on Farnans copy book was the ridiculous ride Hugh Bowman gave the colt in The Run To The Rose where he ran the Bott and Waterhouse runner into the ground allowing Rothfire to triumph.
It’s hard to look past that Autumn campaign which was pure dominance for a 2 year old.
Loving Gaby - A story of what could have been. We got the news at the start of Spring that the Maher and Eustace runner was to be retired due to injury and all racing punters had a sigh of sadness at the loss of a promising young talent.
Despite not seeing out the second half of the year Loving Gaby makes our top three through her Autumn performances alone where she competed in 4 Group 1s, placed twice and won 1.
After narrowly going down to Gytrash in the G1 Lightning Stakes by 0.2L and then running second to an impressive Bivouac in the Newmarket, Loving Gaby finally got her reward winning the William Reid Stakes at the Valley.
At a track where the 4yo mare had won the Manikato a few months earlier she came back in blistering fashion setting a track record on the way to claiming Group 1 glory.
It was a shame to here of her retirement right before an assault of the Everest was being lined up.
Verry Elleegant - The Chris Waller trained runner had a massive year competing in 9 Group 1 races winning 4 and placing in a further 3.
The 5yo mare kicked off the year with a lot of nearly races coming 4th in the Apollo Stakes before finishing second in the Chipping Norton and Ranvet Stakes before breaking through in Group 1 Tancred Stakes in style.
Verry Elleegant wrapped up her Autumn Carnival finishing 2nd in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes narrowly going down to UK raider Addeybb in heavy conditions. There was a lot more in the run that the result shows however after she jumped awkwardly and finished within 0.2l of the winner.
Heading into Spring the Waller runner took out her second G1 of the year winning the Winx stakes and arguably should have followed that up with the George Main but never got any luck when running on late.
The real highlights of the year came in narrow victories in the Turnbull and Caulfield Cup taking her total of prize money for the year over $5m.
Rounding out her year with a 7th in the Melbourne Cup it will be exciting to see if she can reach undefeated Winx level runs in 2021.
The Verdict - Best Horse 2020
You can’t have the record that Verry Ellegant has this year and not be considered the best racehorse. Having a 44% return rate in Group 1s, not just racing but in Group 1s is phenomenal and unmatched Globally in 2020.
Theres not much more to debate really. She was just unbelievable all year across Autumn and Spring. Perhaps if Loving Gaby had gone on to contest Spring it could be up for debate but even she would have had to go some to replicate 4 Group 1 wins.
That’s a Wrap
Best Jockey - William Pike
Best Trainer - James Cummings
Best Horse - Verry Elleegant
Even though the year has been a struggle for most it’s great to still celebrate success and hopefully in 2021 we see more great moments to cherish in horse racing.