In theory, it should be easy to crown a Horse of the Year; you just pick those that have won the biggest races on the calendar.
But, of course, there are different disciplines within racing – from sprinting and one-mile specialists to stayers – and so often the best in the business will never meet on the track.
So, to crown an annual champion, you need to call upon a panel of experts who really know what they’re talking about – that is the idea behind the Cartier Horse of the Year Awards.
Sponsored by the purveyor of luxury goods, the Horse of the Year for 2023 is Ace Impact, the incredible runner from Jean-Claude Rouget’s yard who claimed the French Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in a stellar campaign.
There were also awards on the night for Prix du Cadran and Doncaster Cup winner Trueshan and Mostahdaf too.
What are the Cartier Racing Awards?
Established back in 1991, the Cartier Racing Awards were designed to honour the best horses of a given year – be it as the finest in training today or the best in a specific discipline.
The awards are designated for those racing in Europe – overseas horses can win a gong, as the American raider Roaring Lion did in 2018, but they must be trained on European soil.
So how the winners decided? That’s a three-tiered process that starts with points earned from their performances in Group races, with 40% of the final decision coming from these points.
There’s also a public vote, with readers of the Racing Post and Daily Telegraph able to have their say – this ballot is totted up and contributes another 30% to the overall decision.
Finally, the remaining 30% is permed a selection of handpicked racing journalists, who cast their own votes as to their horse of the year and winners in the various categories.
Once each of these processes has been completed, the points and the votes are collated to determine each of the award winners.
In addition to Horse of the Year, there’s a number of other categories that are up for grabs:
- Top Sprinter
- Top Stayer
- Two-Year-Old Colt
- Two-Year-Old Filly
- Three-Year-Old Colt
- Three-Year-Old Filly
- Top Older Horse
Some horses, like Frankel and Enable, have multiple Cartier Awards to their name – more on those shortly. Aidan O’Brien is the most prolific trainer of winning horses, with (as of 2023) 38 Cartier Award winners in his collection.
Who Has Won the Horse of the Year Award?
As you would expect, the list of Cartier Horse of the Year Award winners reads like a who’s who of Flat racing in Europe over the past three decades.
Cartier Horse of the Year – 1991 to 2023
|2023||Ace Impact||2||Cristian Demuro|
|2021||St Mark’s Basilica||3||Aidan O’Brien|
|2018||Roaring Lion||3||John Gosden|
|2015||Golden Horn||3||John Gosden|
|2009||Sea the Stars||3||John Oxx|
|2008||Zarkava||3||Alain de Royer-Dupré|
|2007||Dylan Thomas||4||Aidan O’Brien|
|2006||Ouija Board||5||Ed Dunlop|
|2005||Hurricane Run||3||André Fabre|
|2004||Ouija Board||3||Ed Dunlop|
|2002||Rock of Gibraltar||3||Aidan O’Brien|
|2001||Fantastic Light||5||Saeed bin Suroor|
|2000||Giant’s Causeway||3||Aidan O’Brien|
|1999||Daylami||5||Saeed bin Suroor|
|1998||Dream Well||3||Pascal Bary|
|1997||Peintre Celebre||3||André Fabre|
|1995||Ridgewood Pearl||3||John Oxx|
|1992||User Friendly||3||Clive Brittain|
Arazi was the inaugural winner back in 1991, with the award shared pretty equally between French and British trained horses for the first decade – O’Brien joined the party with Giant’s Causeway in the year 2000 after the Irish horse won five Group 1 races in a single season.
The remarkable Rock of Gibraltar was rewarded in 2002 for claiming the rare 2,000 Guineas double on both sides of the Irish Sea, while Hurricane Run’s fine 2005 – which saw victories in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Irish Derby – was also commended by Cartier.
It’s generally been pretty rare for older horses to be crowned as the Cartier champion, but Goldikova’s incredible campaign of 2010 – in which she won Group 1 renewals in England, France and the United States – struck a blow for the veterans of the track.
Between 2014 and 2019, John Gosden trained horses won the Horse of the Year award five times – Enable (twice), Roaring Lion, Kingman and Golden Horn doing the honours.
And in 2022, we saw a second-generation Horse of the Year champion. Baaeed took the spoils after racking up four Group 1 victories – 13 years after his sire, Sea the Stars, had won the award.
Has Any Horse Won the Horse of the Year Award Twice?
Whenever debate turns to naming the best racehorse of all time, you can offer a couple of recommendations of Flat racers from the modern era that have been crowned Horse of the Year twice.
At the time of writing, only three horses have accomplished the feat. Ouija Board, the darting filly from Edward Stanley, prevailed in 2004 – victories in the Oaks, Irish Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mares – and again two years later, after a five-year-old campaign in which she won the Nassau Stakes and Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Frankel is the only horse to win the award in consecutive years. His list of achievements on the track require little introduction, and that unbeaten run at Group 1 level through 2011 and 2012 saw him quite rightly named Horse of the Year.
The most recent two-time Horse of the Year winner is Enable, whose incredible four Group 1 wins in 2017 was backed by a hat-trick of majors two years later. Including category wins, Enable won five Cartier Awards in total – a feat matched only by Frankel.