There are few things as exciting in horse racing as a stretch duel. It’s the rawest display of the heart and grit of a Thoroughbred racehorse. It’s two horses coming down the stretch stride for stride and eye for eye. Sometimes they are won by a neck, sometimes they are won by a whisker.
2019 is coming to a close, so lets reflect on this year by looking back on ten of the best stretch duels of the year.
1. Gr.1 Test Stakes - Covfefe vs. Serengeti Empress
The field for the Gr.1 Test Stakes was filled with stars. It had Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress, Gr.1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Bellafina, and Gr.3 Miss Preakness Stakes winner Covfefe.
As the fillies went into the stretch, Covfefe and Serengeti Empress matched up and went soaring down the stretch together. Neither filly was willing to give in, both digging deep for all they had. But alas, Covfefe was able to pull away narrowly to win.
2. Gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup - Code of Honor vs. Vino Rosso The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a highly-anticipated race. Meeting up in the 2019 edition were horses like Travers winner Code of Honor, fan favorite Tacitus, and Gold Cup at Santa Anita winner Vino Rosso. At the top of the stretch, Code of Honor soared past Tacitus to meet up with pacesetter Vino Rosso. The two chestnuts went down the stretch side by side, neither wanting to give up or give in. Though Vino Rosso was able to put his nose on the wire first, he was disqualified to second place for bumping with Code of Honor in the stretch.
3 .Gr.1 Vosburgh Stakes - Imperial Hint vs. Firenze Fire The Gr.1 Vosburgh Stakes drew a field of just four horses. While the race lacked in numbers, it certainly did not lack in excitement. Imperial Hint and Firenze Fire were in first and second positions throughout the entire race. When they went around the far turn, Firenze Fire lined up with Imperial Hint and the two drew well clear of the other two horses. Firenze Fire came to the outside of Imperial Hint and stuck his head in front. Imperial Hint did not like that one single bit - he geared down and put his stick his nose back in front split seconds before the two horses hit the wire.
4 .Gr.1 Chandelier Stakes - Bast vs. Comical The Gr.1 Chandelier at Santa Anita Park is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Because of that, it is always a race that fans look forward to. Because Bast had already won a Gr.1 race, she was heavily favored to win. Few expected that a longshot would give her a run for her money, but that is exactly what Comical did.
When Bast challenged Comical’s lead, Comical refused to give in. She stayed with Bast all the way down the stretch with the battle ultimately ending with a neck in front.
5 .Gr.1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship - Omaha Beach vs. Shancelot The racing world was anxiously awaited the return of Omaha Beach after the surgery for entrapped epiglottis that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby. When it was announced that he would be making his return in a sprint race against talented horses like Shancelot, many doubted his ability to win. The field entered the stretch with Shancelot in front and Omaha Beach on the rail and aimed right at him. Omaha Beach chased after Shancelot who just kept moving faster and faster. As soon as it looked like Omaha Beach had been beaten, the young colt dug deep down and came at Shancelot aggressively, putting his head in front as the two crossed the wire in unison.
6. Pegasus Stakes - King For A Day vs. Maximum Security The 2019 Kentucky Derby was both historical and controversial because of Maximum Security’s disqualification from 1st place. Maximum Security’s next race, the Pegasus Stakes, was to be an easy rebound for the colt. However, a horse by the name of King For A Day had other plans. King For A Day met up with Maximum Security at the top of the far turn, looked him in the eye, and gave it all he had. The two colts went soaring down the stretch side by side. Maximum Security was able to gain a narrow lead, but to the tune of gasps of the fans from the grandstands, King For A Day went by his rival to win.
7 .Gr.3 Withers Stakes - Tax, Not That Brady, Our Braintrust Many times stretch duels occur between two horses, but sometimes there are three or more horses who don’t want to give up in the stretch. This year’s Gr.3 Withers Stakes was a great example of this. At the top of the stretch, pacesetter Not The Brady was flanked by Our Brainstrust to his outside and Tax to his inside. The three horses went down the stretch side by side, each feeling the momentum of his rivals beside him. From heart alone, Tax was able to get about a half-length in front. But as the wire got nearer, the other two horses again got closer. Tax held off Not The Brady by a head who in turn held off Our Braintrust by a head.
8 .Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies - British Idiom vs. Donna Veloce The filly who wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies is almost always voted Champion Two-Year Old Filly. Because of this, it is a very important race for young fillies and their connections. Many, many talented horses met up to hash it out in this year’s edition. When the fillies got to the stretch, favored Donna Veloce was met by second-choice British Idiom. At that moment, the racing world knew there was about to be a battle. Crowds tensed up as Donna Veloce and British Idiom strode down the stretch together. Every head bob changed who was in the lead. Just seconds before hitting the wire, British Idiom stretched out her neck to win by a head.
9. Gr.3 Lukas Classic Stakes - Mocito Rojo vs. Silver Dust
The stretch of the Gr.3 Lukas Classic Stakes quickly turned into a duel between two horses: Silver Dust and Mocito Rojo. At the top of the stretch, Silver Dust was in the lead and looked like he may have a clear shot at winning, but the chestnut Mocito Rojo was looming close behind him.
As they finished the far turn and got to the straightaway, Mocito Rojo stormed up to the outside of Silver Dust and pushed him along. The two gallant horses dueled before the fans at Churchill Downs, putting on a show that ultimately ended in Mocito Rojo’s head in first.
10. Gr.1 Personal Ensign - Midnight Bisou vs. Elate Midnight Bisou and Elate were considered to be two of the top mares of 2019. Each time the two of them faced each other, they put on a show! The Gr.1 Personal Ensign was no different. As the mares went around the far turn, the ever so tough Elate was in front and hoping for a clear run home to the wire. But Midnight Bisou was coming from behind horses, aimed at her rival. Elate desperately tried to hang on to her clear lead, but Midnight Bisou quickly closed the gap. Just a step from the wire, Midnight Bisou stuck her nose in front.
About the Author: Through her blog Champions of the Track, Kaeli Bartholomew works to grow the popularity of horse racing through stories, photos, and videos. She aims for her content to reach new fans and kindle the love of horse racing in current fans.
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