No prizes for guessing who was Australia’s No.1 racehorse. James McDonald on Verry Elleegant. Photo: by Mark Evans/Getty Images

Top 10 horses of 2020: New queen rises to take crown

27th December 2020

Racing in Australia was the one sport to continue virtually unimpeded throughout the 2020 COVID pandemic and there was excitement aplenty with a host of younger gallopers rising through the ranks with a couple who were good enough to be elevated into the Top-10 after turning in spectacular performances.

Overseas gallopers landed a few majors with Addeybb taking out the Ranvet Stakes-Queen Elizabeth Group 1 double and of course Twilight Payment in the Melbourne Cup but the National Racing Newsroom team have cast their votes for 2020 based on the best Aussie-trained gallopers of the year and this is how it landed.

10 – SEPTEMBER RUN (Trainer – Chris Waller)

It’s virtually impossible to believe where this filly came from to make the top ten and rank as one of only two three-year-olds on the star studded list. She won a maiden in May then came from nowhere during the spring to become a Group 1 winning star. Beaten out of the placings at Randwick when resuming in the Silver Shadow she excelled at Flemington winning three-in-a-row down the straight course culminating in a sizzling win in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes.
2020 record: 7 starts – 5 wins
Group 1 wins: Coolmore Stud Stakes.

9 – NATURE STRIP (Trainer – Chris Waller)

It was a massive fall from grace for the horse rated world’s best sprinter after brilliantly winning the TJ Smith Stakes in the autumn. Nature Strip started the spring as a raging hot favourite for The Everest after trialling sensationally but come grand final time the chestnut was nothing more than a spectator. He was beaten first-up at odds on and two runs later finished seventh in The Everest. Nature Strip closed out the year with a much better performance finishing second in the VRC Sprint Classic, but he was beaten 3¼ lengths by Bivouac.
2020 record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 2 placings
Group 1 wins: TJ Smith Stakes

8 – RUSSIAN CAMELOT (Trainer – Danny O’Brien)
As a lightly raced three-year-old Russian Camelot only won his maiden in April but an emphatic win in the South Australian Derby had him elevated to Melbourne Cup favouritism as soon as weights were released. Only won once during the spring taking out the Underwood Stakes but was placed in three other Group 1 races and closed off with an eighth in the Melbourne Cup when he lost little caste. He’s still one of Australia’s best.
2020 record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 3 placings
Group 1 – SA Derby, Underwood Stakes

7 – SIR DRAGONET (Trainer – Ciaron Maher & David Eustace)
Australia only got to see son of Camelot twice after he arrived in Australia following solid form in Europe earlier in the year. Sir Dragonet charged through the line to give Glen Boss his fourth Cox Plate, emphatically beating fellow invader Armory. He then went to the Melbourne Cup and was far from disgraced finishing sixth beaten 3½ lengths. Look out for him in the autumn.
2020 record: 6 starts (2 Aus) – 1 win – 4 placings
Group 1 wins: Cox Plate

6 – OLE KIRK (Trainer – John, Michael & Wayne Hawkes)
The Hawkes Racing-trained Ole Kirk was a shooting star late in the year, coming from nowhere to become the most valuable racehorse in the land. He’s closely related to champion mare Black Caviar so it was no surprise he was sold for $675,000 at the sales. After winning the Group 1 double of the Golden Rose and Caulfield Guineas he’s now worth $50m-plus and heads to Vinery Stud at the conclusion of his racing career – but the autumn comes first.
2020 record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 4 placings
Group 1 wins: Golden Rose, Caulfield Guineas

5 – GYTRASH (Trainer – Gordon Richards)
Sold as a weanling for $70,000 he was later on-sold at the Inglis Premier Sale in 2017 and only realised $40,000, however after a stellar 2020 he’s now banked just on $3.2m for connections which include 92 year-old Valerie Gordon. Gytrash only won the one Group 1 during the year, the Lightning Stakes at Flemington, but he was placed another three times at that level along with a third in The Everest – the only four times he was beaten in 2020.
2020 record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 4 placings
Group 1 wins: Black CaviarLightning Stakes

4 – CLASSIQUE LEGEND (Trainer – Les Bridge)
The fourth winner of The Everest Classique Legend turned in one of the performances of the year when he demolished his rivals at Randwick back in October. He was supposed to be off to Hong Kong after being beaten the previous year but COVID restrictions resulted in the big grey staying in Sydney and having four local starts before he eventually made the trip to the Asian mecca. Three wins and a brave second were his lot before a failure in Hong Kong when he did eventually get there. Suffice to say he wasn’t the same horse and the vets would later deem he had issues.
2020 record: 5 starts (4 in Aus) – 3 wins – 1 placing
Major win: The Everest

3 – ARCADIA QUEEN (Trainer – Grant & Alana Williams)
After a failed assault on the 2019 Everest and Golden Eagle Arcadia Queen was racing for redemption when she kicked off her 2020 campaign in August and come the end of the spring nobody could deny the outstanding West Aussie was back in a big way. She burst the bubble of Russian Camelot in the Caulfield Stakes and was outstanding in the Cox Plate after almost falling when finishing fifth. Closing out with a brilliant win in the Mackinnon Stakes Arcadia Queen certainly earned her high ranking at number three.
2020 record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 placings
Group 1 wins: Caulfield Stakes
, Mackinnon Stakes

2 – BIVOUAC (Trainer – James Cummings)
Even though he wasn’t dominant in the sprinting ranks when Bivouac did turn up the stallion was as dynamic as any horses in the land. He was sensational winning the Newmarket in the autumn and never had the best of luck when second in The Everest. However it was his VRC Sprint Classic win at Flemington to close out his year that went a long way to landing Bivouac second spot. His straight track form is impeccable and should the son of Exceed And Excel take on the best in Europe at Royal Ascot in 2021 they better look out.
2020 record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 3 placings
Group 1 wins: Newmarket Handicap, VRC Sprint Classic

1 – VERRY ELLEEGANT (Trainer – Chris Waller)
For a mare who has more often than not has looked the unfinished product Verry Elleegant was a standout as Australia’s premier racehorse in 2020. She raced ten times during the year, more than any other horse in the ‘10-to-1’ and she was outstanding from start to finish, winning four times at Group 1 level. In the autumn the Chris Waller-trained mare landed the Tancred Stakes and was placed three more times at the top level before returning for a stellar spring. She resumed and immediately set the high watermark winning the Winx Stakes then later claimed the Turnbull Stakes and Caulfield Cup. Her worst run of the year, if you could call it that, was her seventh in the Melbourne Cup but her performance was still sensational, running the fastest last 600m in the race when coming from 19th on the home turn.
2020 record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 3 placings
Group 1 wins: Tancred Stakes, Winx Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Cup

– National Racing Newsroom,