JAPANESE HORSES RISE TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
20 January 2015
2014 will be remembered as the year when the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse was trained in Japan for the first time. Following on from the high ranking duo of ORFEVRE (JPN) and crack sprinter LORD KANALOA (JPN) in 2013, Japan secured the top two rankings in the world courtesy of the wide margin Dubai Duty Free (G1) winner JUST A WAY (JPN) and the outstanding Japan Cup in association with Longines (G1) winner EPIPHANEIA (JPN).
JUST A WAY (JPN) emerged as a fast improving older horse in 2013 when he was rated 123 and he continued this improvement in scintillating fashion when running away from VERCINGETORIX (SAF) over 1800m at Meydan in March. The value of that form was confirmed when Vercingetorix finished ahead of Epiphaneia in the QE II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin in Hong Kong and just behind Hong Kong's best middle distance horses - DESIGNS ON ROME (IRE) and MILITARY ATTACK (IRE).
While JUST A WAY (JPN) struggled to emulate that level of form subsequently when running predominately over 2400m for the rest of the year, the strength of his Dubai performance remained undiminished at the end of the year when reviewed by the Handicappers. He would be second only to EL CONDOR PASA (USA), (runner up to MONTJEU (IRE) in the 1999 Arc ) in the hierarchy of Japanese trained horses since they entered the International Classification process twenty years ago.
EPIPHANEIA (JPN) numbered JUST A WAY and GENTILDONNA (JPN) among his victims when putting up the best performance in the Japan Cup in association with Longines (G1) this century ahead of Deep Impact (JPN) in 2006 when winning in impressive fashion. GENTILDONNA (JPN)  had won the Dubai Sheema Classic presented by Longines (G1) at Meydan in March and finished the year by subsequently winning the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix)(G1) at Nakayama racecourse in December.
Overall, the LONGINES World’s Top Ten horses comprised five European, three Asian, one North American and one South African horse. The South African horse VARIETY CLUB (SAF) had attained a highest rating of 120 in previous seasons when he was a prolific Group 1 winner in his homeland. However he proved he was better than that when campaigned internationally in 2014. He won the Hong Kong Champions Mile (G1) in stunning fashion from local horse ABLE FRIEND (AUS). ABLE FRIEND (AUS) subsequently improved later in the year and was hugely impressive in winning the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1). In doing so he achieved the same rating as his earlier conqueror.
VARIETY CLUB (SAF) became the highest rated South African horse since the inauguration of the World Rankings back in 2004 while Able Friend (AUS)’s rating of 127 is the highest international rating ever allocated to a horse trained in Hong Kong.
The standout performance of the five European horses to make the World Top Ten was surely that of the French filly TREVE (FR) who became the first horse to win consecutive runnings of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp since the Irish colt ALLEGED (USA) (1977/1978). TREVE (FR)’s rating of 126 was four pounds less than her outstanding rating when winning the Arc as a three year old in 2013 but for much of 2014 it appeared that she was below her best before she returned to form in devastating fashion in Paris in October.
The Irish trained dual Derby winner AUSTRALIA (GB)  actually achieved his highest ratings coming back in distance when defeating the British trained 3 year old THE GREY GATSBY (IRE) in the Juddmonte International (G1) over 2080m at York before the latter gained revenge when narrowly winning the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at the inaugural Irish Champions weekend meeting at Leopardstown. This duo were joined by fellow European miler KINGMAN (GB) as joint best 3 year olds in the world with KINGMAN (GB) recording his highest rating when winning the St James’s Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot.
The sole North American horse included in the LONGINES Top Ten horses of 2014 was the Bob Baffert trained 3yo BAYERN (USA) who won a gripping Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita from the GB trained 3yo TOAST OF NEW YORK (USA) and the fairytale story that was CALIFORNIA CHROME (USA) who failed to win the U.S Triple Crown at Belmont Park having already won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness (G1).
The final European horse to make the Top Ten was the German 3yo colt SEA THE MOON (GER) whose stunning performance in winning the Idee Deutsches Derby (G1) was the best performance by a German 3yo colt since LOMITAS (GB)  in 1991. Another notable achievement by a German trained horse was their first win in the Emirates Melbourne Cup by PROTECTIONIST (GER) who was joint top stayer in the world along with the Japanese trained horse GOLD SHIP (JPN)
Not unusually, the strength of Australian racing lay in their sprinters and the top three turf sprinters in the world in 2014 were all trained in Australia. LANKAN RUPEE (AUS) was undoubtedly the star sprinter in the early part of 2014 but he was being challenged by TERRAVISTA (AUS) and CHAUTAUQUA (AUS) for the mantle of top Australian sprinter when they both defeated him in the Darley Classic (G1) at Flemington in November.
Apart from TREVE (FR) and GENTILDONNA (JPN) , there were a number of other notable performances by fillies or mares in 2014. The 3 year old UNTAPABLE (USA) was the standout North American filly on dirt in 2014 when winning the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) before defeating the older mares in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). However there were two better performances on turf by British trained fillies. In beating the best European colts in championship contests, THE FUGUE (GB) improved her 2013 rating by a pound when winning the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot. The best 3 year old filly in the world proved to be TAGHROODA (GB) when winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Qipco)(G1) at Ascot in July.
The integration of South American horses into the LONGINES World Rankings which commenced in 2012 continued apace with 20 horses from that continent meriting a rating of 115 or higher in 2014. The Brazilian colt, BAL A BALI (BRZ) achieved the highest rating in winning the Grande Premio Estado do Rio de Janeiro (G1) in January.
“This year's Longines World's Best Racehorse, Just A Way, is a fitting recipient, and his victories on the racecourse showcase performance at the highest level. Performance, along with Tradition and Elegance, are the values cherished by Longines, stated Mr. Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President and Head of International Marketing of Longines.
“The Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings are the global standard that the international racing community turns to when assessing performance noted Mr. Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, “I commend the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee for their skillful dedication that was on display at the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Ceremony.”
For further details on the LONGINES World's Best
Racehorse Rankings, please contact:
Nigel Gray, co-chairman, LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings Committee
Head of Handicapping and Race Planning, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Phillip Smith, co-chairman, LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings Committee
Head of Handicapping, British Horseracing Authority
Telephone +44 1386 834004
IFHA Deputy Secretary General