2012 was a remarkable year for global horseracing. For the first time since the inauguration of the World Thoroughbred Rankings (WTR) in 2004, there are four horses rated 130+ and one horse who has reached the almost mythical 140 mark. South American horses appear in the WTR for the very first time with three from Argentina, three from Brazil, two from Chile and one from Peru warranting a rating of 115 or higher. A truly global classification of the merits of racehorses has now come to pass.
World Thoroughbred Rankings
The Top 12 Horses in 2012
click here for complete rankings
CIRRUS DES AIGLES (FR)
BLACK CAVIAR (AUS)
WISE DAN (USA)
SO YOU THINK (NZ)
FORT LARNED (USA)
HAY LIST (AUS)
I'LL HAVE ANOTHER (USA)
The British-trained four year old colt FRANKEL (GB)  remained unbeaten during 2012, adding five Group 1s to his tally and improving his 2011 rating of 136 to a new historical high of 140 in 2012. While he first attained that rating over 1600m in the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot when he annihilated the field by 11 lengths and more, he also proved that he was equally good moved up in distance for the first time to 2000m in the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) at York. Quite apart from achieving the highwater mark of 140 in these two races, what is astonishing about his career record is the fact that he ran to a mark of 130 or higher on eight separate occasions and on six of those occasions he achieved a race rating of 135 or higher. To put this sustained consistent brilliance in perspective, his nearest rival in recent times – Sea the Stars (IRE)  (2009) – achieved a race rating of 130+ on three occasions, and only one of those was 135 or higher. From a European perspective, while eight horses have been champion racehorse at both two and three years of age since the International Classifications commenced in 1977, Frankel (GB) this year became the first horse to be officially a champion (or joint champion) at two, three and four years of age during that period. An outstanding racehorse, it is fair to say in the circumstances that he constitutes a new benchmark for equine excellence on the racecourse.
Furthermore, a historical recalibration of ratings sees Frankel crowned officially the highest rated horse since the international rankings began in 1977, 2lb ahead of his nearest rival Dancing Brave (USA) [138 adjusted] (1986). Aware of on-going speculation and debate about the variance in the levels of the ratings, the World Thoroughbred Rankings Supervisory Committee commissioned a review, the findings of which are published today, into the last 35 years of ratings. The primary purpose of the review was to acknowledge that handicapping methods and practices have evolved during the past 35 years and the resulting recalibration was designed to show how the ratings would look if they were being assessed on current levels. The official World Rankings Supervisory Committee paper, a preface by the Co-Chairmen and a revised ranking list of top horses since 1977 can be found attached to this release.
The remarkable Australian mare BLACK CAVIAR (AUS)  also retained her unbeaten career record during 2012 adding a further five Group 1s to her record with her most notable victory taking place at Flemington in February, when she defeated top class sprinters with ease, most notably HAY LIST (AUS) , in the Coolmore Lightning Stakes (G1). While Black Caviar’s rating is 2lb lower than in 2011, it should be noted that it would be practically impossible, given her style of running, to emulate that level of performance in terms of ratings running exclusively in weight for age races (where she was in receipt of a sex allowance of 2kg (4lb)) as she did during 2012. A rating of 130 therefore should be seen as a reflection of that reality rather than an indication that she was not as good in 2012 as she was in 2011, when she achieved her rating giving weight to both male and female horses on handicap terms in the Lexus Newmarket Handicap (G1). Strikingly, just seven days before her Lightning victory, she ran over 1400m for the first time in the Sportingbet C.F Orr Stakes (G1) at Caulfield and her victory there entitled her to the status of top older female miler in the world during 2012. While Australia has only been a member of the World Thoroughbred Rankings Committee since 2004, it is telling that no European filly/mare since the commencement of the International Classifications in 1977 ranks higher than Black Caviar (AUS) (and her 132 rating from 2011). Just as Frankel (GB) has set the standard for overall equine excellence, so Black Caviar (AUS) has set the new benchmark for equine distaff excellence.
Hay List (AUS), in winning the Lexus Newmarket Handicap (G1), achieved the highest rating for an older male turf sprinter (alongside the Singapore sprinter ROCKET MAN (AUS)  (2011)) since the commencement of WTR in 2004 but it is fair to say that he has largely been in the shadow of Black Caviar (AUS) during his career. The same comment can certainly apply to the Irish-trained miler EXCELEBRATION (IRE) , who finished behind Frankel on all five occasions they have met (beaten an average of over five lengths on each occasion) but who showed improved form (in the absence of his nemesis) in winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) very impressively on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October.
His failure to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) a fortnight later at Santa Anita can, in part, be explained by the sheer excellence of the opposition there, most notably, the North-American-trained gelding WISE DAN (USA) , whose performance in winning that race marks him out as the joint best North American turf racehorse, along with NORTHERN SPUR (IRE)  (1995), since they joined the International Classifications in 1995. Winner of three Group 1s on turf, he narrowly lost in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on dirt (but emerged as the best horse in the race at the weights running to a mark of 123) while his one performance on a synthetic surface, in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, was startlingly impressive and earned him top rank in the non-Turf miler category (125). His versatility and brilliance over three different surfaces is reminiscent of Lava Man (USA)  (2006) earlier this century and if he stays fit and well (with no stud prospects on the horizon) he may well evolve into a 21st century John Henry.
CIRRUS DES AIGLES (FR)  is, like Wise Dan (USA), an evergreen gelding who is getting better with age. Rated 118 as a four year old in 2010, he jumped to 128 last year before attaining a career high of 131 in winning the Prix Ganay (G1) at Longchamp in April, and then the Prix Dollar (G2) at Longchamp in October before running up to Frankel (GB) in the QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot two weeks later. He is the highest rated French-trained horse along with MANDURO (GER)  (2007) since the WTR began in 2004. Another notable French feat in 2012 was having two 3yo fillies, both owned by the Aga Khan, sharing the accolade of top 3yo filly in the Intermediate category (2000m), namely the ill-fated VALYRA (GB) , who won the Prix de Diane Longines (G1) at Chantilly in June, and RIDASIYNA (FR) , who won the Prix de l’Opera Longines (G1) at Longchamp in October.
One disappointing feature of the 2012 season was the quality of the European classic colts which were, in general, not up to their usual standard. The standout colt was the Irish-trained CAMELOT (GB)  who was champion European juvenile in 2011 before winning the first two legs of the ‘Triple Crown’, namely the QIPCO 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket and the Investec Derby (G1) at Epsom before narrowly failing, raised in distance, to win the third leg, the Ladbrokes St Leger (G1) at Doncaster where he lost to the British-trained colt, ENCKE (USA) . The performance of Camelot (GB) in the 2000 Guineas  was the joint best performance in the world in the 3yo Miler colt division alongside two other Guineas winners, namely the South African-trained VARIETY CLUB (SAF)  (KRA Guineas (G1) at Greyville in May) and the Australian-trained half brother to Black Caviar (AUS), ALL TOO HARD (AUS)  (Beck Caulfield Guineas (G1) in October). Camelot (GB)’s authoritative win in the Investec Derby  was also the joint top Turf performance by a three year old in the world alongside the Japanese-trained GOLD SHIP (JPN) . Gold Ship (JPN) was accorded a rating of 124 for his impressive performance in winning the Arima Kinen (G1) against the older horses in Tokyo in late December. Gold Ship (JPN) had earlier won two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown and his rating of 124 is the joint highest rating for a Japanese three year old colt (alongside Deep Impact (JPN)  (2005)) since WTR began in 2004.
If one adds the traditional sex allowance to the rating, it could be validly argued that the outstanding 3yo Turf horse in the world during 2012 was the Japanese-trained filly GENTILDONNA (JPN) , who became the first 3yo filly to win the Japan Cup (G1) having previously won the Japanese Triple Crown for fillies. In that race, she defeated the brilliantly talented but quirky colt ORFEVRE (JPN) , who had earlier snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in going down to the French-trained filly, SOLEMIA (IRE)  in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp in October. Orfevre’s best performance of the year came in winning the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) in June and that win made him top older turf colt in the world over 2400m and also the joint best Japanese-trained horse along with Deep Impact (JPN) [127) (2006) since WTR began in 2004.
If the Japanese Classic crop was well up to scratch, the same could justifiably be said of the Australian three years olds, most notably the crack filly ATLANTIC JEWEL (AUS)  and the champion Turf male sprinter SEPOY (AUS) . Atlantic Jewel (AUS) was Champion (or joint Champion) Three Year Old Turf filly over 1600m and 2000m and rated 121 for her performances in the first half of her three year old season during the latter half of 2011, but she came back at Randwick racecourse in April showing remarkable versatility to win over 1200m in the Yellowglen Sapphire Stakes (G2), improving her rating in the process to 122, a figure which is 4lb better than the next best three year old female turf sprinter since 2004 (Moonlight Cloud (GB)  (2011)). SEPOY (AUS)  is still the best male turf three year old sprinter since WTR began even though he rated 1lb lower than his 2011 mark in 2012 when his best performance was in being beaten only a length on handicap terms in the Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (G1) in February.
In Europe, the German classic crop of colts was high quality in nature and this is reflected in the fact that the only two 3yos to win in WFA company in Europe against the older horses in 2012 were both German-trained, most notably PASTORIUS (GER) , whose best performance was in winning the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis Bayerisches Zuchtrennan (G1) in Munich by eight lengths over 2000m in July, which made him top 3yo turf performer over 2000m in the world during 2012, the first time a German-trained colt has received such an accolade since WTR commenced in 2004. His compatriot DANEDREAM (GER)  did not quite emulate her Arc level of performance during 2012 but in winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) (Sponsored by Betfair) in a photo finish from the ultra-consistent British colt NATHANIEL (IRE)  she is the top older mare in the world over 2400m and indeed alongside SNOW FAIRY (IRE) , she would rank second only to GOLDIKOVA (IRE)  (2009) in the hierarchy of older European turf females since 2004. The sensational British-trained mare Snow Fairy (IRE) was rated 120 in 2010, 122 in 2011 and improved her rating to a career high of 124 when she beat the colts in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown – a performance that marks her down as the best 2000m older mare in Europe since Bosra Sham (USA)  (1997).
The non-turf category of Champions is dominated by performers in the UAE and the USA. MONTEROSSO (GB)  and KRYPTON FACTOR (GB)  were both especially impressive and topped their categories for winning the Dubai World Cup (G1) (sponsored by Emirates Airlines) and the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) (sponsored by Gulf News) respectively on the synthetic surface at Meydan. The American colt I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (USA)  defeated BODEMEISTER (USA)  in the first two legs of the American Triple Crown before being retired because of injury. His performance in the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico was the best performance by a three year colt on any surface during 2012 and indeed it is the first time since 2006 that a North American dirt three year old colt has topped the overall world three year old listing (Bernardini (USA) and Discreet Cat (USA) both 128 in 2006). Among the North American females ROYAL DELTA (USA)  and GROUPIE DOLL (USA)  stood out.
Royal Delta (USA) once again topped the older mare non turf 1600m to 2000m categories and improved her rating from 2011 by 2lb in winning the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Park in November. Groupie Doll (USA) completely dominated the female dirt sprint division with impressive victories in the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs in May and in the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares Sprint (G1) in November. Her rating of 121 makes her the best female dirt sprinter since WTR began in 2004. FORT LARNED (USA)  was the best older dirt colt in the world following his win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) while the strong turf contingent in North America in 2012 included two three-time Group 1 winners worthy of note – LITTLE MIKE (USA)  and POINT OF ENTRY (USA) .
The South American contingent, included for the first time in WTR, is headed by a progressive Brazilian-trained three year old colt, GOING SOMEWHERE (BRZ)  who defeated the Argentinean-trained three year old INDY POINT (ARG)  and the older Brazilian-trained colt DIDIMO (BRZ)  in the prestigious Carlos Pellegrini (G1) on turf at San Isidro racecourse in Buenos Aires in late December. Indy Point (ARG) had earlier achieved the same rating when winning the Gran Premio Nacional (G1) on dirt in November, while Didimo (BRZ) had won two Group 1 races in Brazil prior to running in Argentina. The Carlos Pellegrini is the South American equivalent of the King George VI Stakes in Europe and it is where the best horses in South America converge to meet each other and it obviously helps the local Handicappers enormously in assessing the relative merits of the South American horses. It is further helpful when horses from South America travel elsewhere in the world and 2012 marked the first time South American-trained horses competed at Breeders Cup with the Argentinean-trained Calidoscopio (ARG) winning the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2).