It’s been a banner year for the Sport of Kings.
We’ve seen favorites dominate. We’ve seen shocking upsets. We’ve seen heartwarming and heartbreaking stories. We’ve even seen a horse whom many believe to be one of the sport’s all-time greats.
As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at some of the moments that made 2022 a great year to be a racing fan. If you want to learn how to bet on racing, check out the pari-mutuel betting guide by TwinSpires here.
Life Is Good Wins the Pegasus World Cup
The Grade I Pegasus World Cup was billed as a showdown between 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Knicks Go (who was to be retired immediately after the race) and up-and-coming colt Life is Good, winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The nine-furlong race split the difference between the two Breeders’ Cup races, and many believed the race would produce a tight finish between the two powerhouses.
It was not to be. Instead, Life is Good took command from the gate, and the race was never in doubt. Knicks Go did close into Life is Good’s lead, but it felt as though the mantle had been passed, at least for the beginning of the year.
Rich Strike Wins the Kentucky Derby
The most famous race in the United States is undoubtedly the Kentucky Derby, if for no reason other than the fact that non-racegoers know what it is.
That went double for this year’s edition, which featured surprise winner Rich Strike.
Those who had never even seen a race before were enchanted by the story of the colt, who wasn’t even entered in the race until five minutes before entries closed when Ethereal Road dropped out, who roared up the rail and overtook the favorites at 81-1, and then had enough energy left over to bite his own lead pony.
They were equally enraptured by the story of trainer Eric Reed, who had never won a Grade I stakes race in his career, and who was coming back from a tragic barn fire that proved fatal to several of his charges.
Epicenter Wins the Travers Stakes
Epicenter, the beaten favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, had something to prove.
After skipping the Belmont to rest, Epicenter set out to reclaim his crown as the best three-year-old in the land. Trainer Steve Asmussen set his sights on the Grade I Travers Stakes, known as the “Midsummer Derby.”
Epicenter prepared for the race by winning the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, which drew a small field, but one that was deep with talent: his beaten foes included only Grade III Ohio Derby winner Tawny Port, Grade I Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon, and Preakness winner Early Voting.
In the Travers, Epicenter faced Early Voting and Zandon again, as well as Rich Strike and Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife. Epicenter sat off the pace set by the latter horse and then cruised to an easy, dominant five-length victory.
Flightline Wins the Pacific Classic
Flightline was the major equine buzzword of 2022.
He came upon the racing scene in late 2021, winning his maiden, an allowance race, and the Grade I Malibu Stakes by double-digit margins. He didn’t make his 2022 debut until May, when he ran the Grade I Metropolitan field off their feet.
People thought that the son of Tapit was a talented horse, but many worried about his distance limitations. In his four race career, he had raced in three sprints and a mile race. Would he be able to stretch out his speed?
Those questions were answered in emphatic fashion in the 1 ¼ mile Grade I Pacific Classic Stakes. Flightline, running against a field that included Grade I Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer, raced to the front and didn’t look back- and even if he had, there was serious doubt that he would have even seen his competitors. They were almost 20 full lengths behind him.
Flightline was, it seems, the real deal. But would he be able to do it again, and against a championship field?
Flightline Wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic
The answer, as it turned out, was yes.
Flightline was one of the heaviest favorites in Breeders’ Cup history, and he ran like it. Though the race was marred by the career-ending (but thankfully not life-threatening) breakdown of Epicenter, Flightline made mincemeat of Life is Good, Rich Strike, and the rest of his competition. His victory proved to be a triumphant and fitting cap to the 2022 racing season.