What has felt like a never ending flat season, finally comes to an end on Saturday as the National Hunt season takes over, but what a remarkable seven months of flat racing we have witnessed on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The lasting legacy of the epic 2014 Flat season will be the titanic battles that took place throughout the year for various championships and races.
A determined Richard Hughes finally edged out the classy Ryan Moore to secure his third consecutive Jockeys Championship.
This was a remarkable achievement considering he missed the entire first month of the season with a fractured vertebrae in his neck suffered through a fall in Dubai in March.
Hughes’s willingness to retain his crown and Moore’s seemingly lack of regard for the title ultimately led to Hughes’s victory as he stayed in England to ride winners at low grade evening meeting.
Moore was jet-setting all over the world to ride in top races across the globe in the closing weeks of the season but this certainly takes nothing away from Hughes, who said: “Winning this obviously means more to me than Ryan but it still feels sweet, especially winning it for a third time. I started a month behind everyone else and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch Ryan.”
First-season trainer Richard Hannon Jnr, who only took over the reins from his father at the beginning of the term, capped a memorable campaign by scooping the Trainers Championship after a ding-dong tussle with mastermind John Gosden.
Hannon’s limitless firepower eventually told as he had more than double the amount of runners that Gosden had achieved during the season.
But Group One victories for stable stars Tiggy Wiggy, Olympic Glory and Night of Thunder swelled the coffers enough to claim first prize in a championship, decided by prize money won and not the amount of winners.
Taghrooda, Kingman and The Fugue all claimed memorable Group One victories for Gosden, but the early retirement of Kingman left the writing on the wall and paved a way for a new name to be scribed upon the Trainers’ Championship.
Stable jockey Richard Hughes said of his brother-in-law Hannon Jnr: “It’s been a great first year for Richard.
“It could have been very hard for him to step into Richard Snr’s shoes but for him to be champion as well makes it a great year.
“The stable has evolved more than changed, I think, and the team there do a fantastic job. In general, we’ve had a great year.”
Without a shadow of a doubt the most memorable battle of the season was produced by the equine stars Noble Mission and Al Kazeem who went stride for stride for a full two furlongs in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Noble Mission eventually claimed first place in a race that will last long in the memory of punters and especially an emotional and tearful Lady Cecil, who claimed her first British Group One since the death of her husband Sir Henry Cecil.
It was a memorable season for a number of North Yorkshire trainers too as plenty of top level success went their way.
Kevin Ryan claimed the scalp of Derby heroine Australia to capture the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown with The Grey Gatsby after already winning the French Derby with his Stable star.
Nawton-based David O’Meara finally claimed his first Group One victories among many other big race victories as G Force won the Bet Fred Sprint Cup and Move in Time won the Prix de L’Abbaye in what was a memorable season for the stable.
The Ebor meeting was a personal highlight with an outstanding four-days racing on the Knavesmire, although I certainly wasn’t saying that when outsider Tapestry got the better of Taghrooda to claim the Yorkshire Oaks.
Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and obviously the Guineas meeting at Newmarket and the Derby and Oaks meeting at Epsom will always take centre stage but the local tracks at Beverley, Ripon, Thirsk etc have put on some fantastic racing this year and with the ever expanding Go Racing in Yorkshire festival its a promising time for the sport of horse racing.
Finally, the National Hunt season clicks into first gear with its first big meeting of the campaign at Wetherby on Saturday as they host the Charlie Hall chase and the West Yorkshire Hurdle.
The Charlie Hall is the first chance to see the potential Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates and there are plenty on view this time round.
Stable form counts for plenty at this time of season as certain trainers tend not to have their horses at their peak until later in the season so 6/4 favourite Silviniaco Conti is easily opposed as trainer Paul Nicholls’ string are certainly not firing at present.
It could be worth siding with the Mouse Morris trained First Lieutenant who is coming over from Ireland and will certainly be ready to win.
The ever consistent First Lieutenant often falls short at the top level but with so many doubts surrounding other market principals Mouse Morris will be hoping his stable star can take this before an eventual tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
First Lieutenant (Charlie Hall Chase) Wetherby.