This year’s horse racing season couldn’t have been more different than 2015. Whereas American Pharoah swept the Grand Slam in 2015, this year, the four major races were won by a different horse each time, and not always the expected one. A couple of dramatic upsets at the wire caused a stir, making 2016 one of the least predictable seasons in a long time.


Kentucky Derby
May 7, 2016 at Churchill Downs
Winner: Nyquist

It seemed like Nyquist was the only horse that mattered going into the 2016 Kentucky Derby. After breaking his maiden on first attempt less than a year before the Derby, Nyquist won all six starts, which were exclusively grade 1 and 2 races.

After starting strong in the Derby, Nyquist stalked the frontrunner Danzing Candy for the majority of the race, and passed the pack leader when he ran out of fuel in the stretch. As Danzing Candy faded and Nyquist pushed to the front, Exaggerator hit the gas, almost passing Nyquist, but ultimately settling for second place just 1 ¼ lengths back.


Preakness Stakes
May 21, 2016 at Pimlico Race Course
Winner: Exaggerator

The sloppy track conditions at the Preakness improved Exaggerator’s odds. He had previously excelled under these conditions, whereas his top competitor, Nyquist, hadn’t yet been tested on a muddy track. Once again, jockey Kent Desormeaux held Exaggerator back for most of the race, but this time pushed him sooner than he had at the Kentucky Derby. Exaggerator had enough time to push to the front and win the race.


Belmont Stakes
June 11, 2016 at Belmont Park
Winner: Creator

Nyquist wasn’t entered in the Belmont for medical reasons, so people thought Exaggerator would have an easy run. That’s not the way it panned out. Exaggerator failed to kick into high gear and finished 11th. It was the Kentucky Derby’s 13th-place finisher, Creator, who stole the show. Starting from the far outside gate (post No. 13), Creator stayed back for most of the race and started to close in the stretch. He edged Destin by a nose.


Breeders’ Cup Classic
November 5, 2016 at Santa Anita Park
Winner: Arrogate

Fans flocked to Santa Anita Park to see California Chrome. After taking an early lead, Chrome held the front position for the majority of the race. Arrogate crept up, holding third position until the far turn, where he crept to second. In the end, he stole the win from California Chrome, passing the finish line a half length ahead. Arrogate is undefeated after four starts.


Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
November 5, 2016 at Santa Anita Park
Winner: Classic Empire

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile provides a little preview of what to expect the next year. This year’s Juvenile winner, Classic Empire, stalked the frontrunner for the majority of the race, before pushing to the front at the far turn. Second-place finisher, Not This Time, gave Classic Empire a run for his money in the stretch, losing by a neck. These colts should be top contenders in 2017.