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Who Had the Best Year Ever?
Jumping from the starting stalls in 2016 with a bang, we have to look back on 2015 and the great accomplishments in the horse industry. We witnessed horse racing’s first Triple Crown champion in 37 years. Unprecedented dominance in show jumping, dressage and hunters. We laughed, cried, fell in love, scraped up our knees and got a boo-boo, blew on it a little and kept on going. Suffice it to say, 2016, you have some mighty big (horse)shoes to fill. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the horses, and people who had the best 2015 ever.

American Pharoah
Thoroughbred champion
              Photo by Diana Robinson (flickr/dianasch)

2015 Became just the 12th year in history to produce a Triple Crown winner when American Pharoah did what was widely believed to be impossible. Kentucky Derby. Preakness Stakes. Belmont Stakes. If that wasn’t enough, the champ tacked on one of the most dominant performances ever seen in a Grade I race in the Haskell Invitational before hitting a walk-off grand slam with a resounding victory in the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. A bona fide superhorse who cemented his place among the sport’s all time greats, American Pharoah had an exceptional team of people behind him, from jockey Victor Espinoza, trainer Bob Baffert and his owners, Team Zayat. (And of course his right hand man, Smokey). It was a perfectly managed, fan-friendly campaign that helped catapult the brilliance of sport horses into the mainstream.
Scott Brash
Champion Horses
               ©Spruce Meadows Media Services

The world’s top ranked showjumper took his game to even greater heights in 2015, becoming the sport’s first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam. With the Brit’s consecutive wins at Geneva, Aache nand Spruce Meadows, Brash accomplished a feat widely deemed impossible and banked a $1.6 million bonus along with it. Brash owes at least half of that to his herculean horse, Hello Sanctos.

Charlotte Dujardin
Winner circle
             ©Dirk Caremans/FEI

The reining Queen of Dressage already holds every major record in the sport, but in 2015, she went out and one-upped herself. With the ever-so-incredible stallion Valegro, Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin won EVERY FEI CLASS, at EVERY SHOW they competed in this past year. That includes the 2015 World Cup Final in Las Vegas and the 2015 European Championships in Aachen. Because that’s just what Charlegro does.

Michael Jung
              © Horse Collaborative

The 33-year-old German overtook the top spot in the world rankings in 2015 and looks to be just getting started. Jung conquered Rolex Kentucky in 2015 with his self-proclaimed second-stringer, FischerRocana, while finishing third with his ace, La Biothesque Sam. He then won Burghley with Sam, and then the very next week won the FEI European Championships on FischerTakinou. And he did both with a BROKEN LEG! Then he went out and finished 2nd at Luhmuhlen for good measure. The Year of Jung.

Kent Farrington
best of the best
              ©Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Every year seems like a pretty great year for Kent Farrington. What makes 2015 his best year ever is the sheer consistency of his awesomeness. Farrington collected awhopping 26 FEI victories in 2015, nine of which were 1.60m Grand Prix titles he collected at Spruce Meadows, the Longines Global Champions Tour Hamburg, the Grand Prix of Dublin and, most recently, the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final. Farrington blew it up in 2015 with his stable of dazzling warmbloods like VoyeurUceko andBlue Angel. And now he’s #2 on the world rankings as a result. So many reasons to smile…or not.

Jennifer Alfano
Style and  stamina
             Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy. (A. Glavan/Phelps Media Group)

Winning a million dollars in prize money is a noteworthy feat for any rider. But for a hunter? It’s downright amazing. Jennifer Alfano joined the USHJA Elite $1 Million Club in 2015. She’s now one of only five riders to have ever accomplished the feat. (Kelley Farmer, Peter Pletcher, Scott Stewart and John French are the others.) It’s no surprise that her famed mount Jersey Boy firmly stands atop the derby lifetime money-won leaderboard as well.

“I’m sexy and I know it.” (Courtesy of Gainesway Farm)

If you have a mare, an extra $300,000 laying around and are interested in breeding a racehorse, here’s your guy. The $300k stud fee for North America’s top thoroughbred stallion is actually a bargain, considering Tapit’s yearlings have sold for an average of $402,243 over the last three years. The 2001 son of Pulpit/Tap Your Heels (Unbridled) continues to shape the sport’s upper echelon. His progeny earned over $18,000,000 on the track in 2015, from 174 winners like Tonalist,UntapableFrosted and Constitution, to name a few. Make no mistake, the Grey Ghost of Gainesway is a stud muffin.

Steve Guerdat
winner takes al
              (c) FEI/Tapio Maenpaa

On the surface, Steve Guerdat (SUI) might not seem a likely pick for best year ever. Sure, the 33-year old started off on high note when he broke his runner-up streak to capture the 2015 World Cup Final title in Las Vegas. But he spent a many month in 2015 defending his reputation after his top two horses, Nino des Buissonnets and Nasa, tested positive for prohibited substances at CSIO5* La Baule (FRA) in May. Guerdat successfully proved contaminated feed was the cause. Reinstated by the FEI, he ended the year by winning the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva and put himself firmly in the running for a new title.