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Sports Review of the Year 2000
INTRO | REVIEW BY SPORT | GALLERY | VOTE | LEGENDS REMEMBERED | 2001 CALENDAR
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By BBC Five Live's
Cornelius Lysaght

When a racing grandee said he believed that the sport could challenge football as the nation's favourite sport in 10 years' time, his critics fell about giggling.

I was one of them, agreeing that there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but insisting that we do have to be realistic in the process.

However, if the man who uttered this now infamous assertion, Angus Crichton-Miller, head of the Racecourse Association, ends up, by some extraordinary turn of events, to have the last laugh, it will have been the year 2000 that set everything up for him.

The drama and the quality was as rich as the fruitiest Christmas cake, varying from the very, very good to the pretty grim.

Frankie Dettori is used to making the lead story on every news bulletin and in every newspaper in the land, but not in the manner he did when surviving, with his colleague Ray Cochrane, a plane crash at Newmarket in which their pilot died.

Seeing the twisted wreckage of the aircraft, it is a miracle that anybody managed to get out, but, thanks to Cochrane's courage and quick-thinking, both did.

The rest of the season proved quite different for the pair.

While the Italian made an emotional and successful return to race-riding, back at Newmarket two months later, a series of unconnected injuries forced Cochrane, best known for winning the Derby on Kahyasi (1988) to retire.

He will though still be involved and in 2001 will act as agent to Dettori.

They were not the only ones in their profession to miss substantial parts of the year.

After a fall at Royal Ascot in June, which nearly cost him the use of an arm, the reigning champion jockey Kieren Fallon was forced onto the injury list, and, as a result, Kevin Darley became the first championship winner from the north of England for nearly a century, a notable achievement.

Horsewise, if the first year of the new millennium is a sign of things to come, we are in for a treat.

When the judges came to decide who was Horse of the Year, they had so much evidence to choose from. Montjeu won the 1999 Arc de Triomphe and started off this campaign in good style, but then rather tailed off.

The appropriately named Dubai Millennium lived up to his ambitious sounding name as the best horse ever owned by Sheikh Mohammed and his Godolphin team, before injury sent him off early to be a stallion.

Ireland's Sinndar completed the unprecedented Derby-Irish Derby-Arc de Triomphe treble in brilliant style, propelling his jockey Johnny Murtagh, who booted home the winners of 11 major races in all around the globe, to the very top of the riding tree.

However, it was the gritty, never-say-die talent of Giant's Causeway, known as the 'Iron Horse' after his stunning run of five major races in Britain and his native Ireland, that landed most accolades.

Sadly the colt was narrowly beaten at the Breeders Cup fixture in North America, and is now off to stud.

And it was not only on the Flat that the Irish carried virtually all before them. Giant's Causeway's stablemate Istabraq put in another electric performance to win his third Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Papillon, ridden by Ruby Walsh for his trainer father Ted, won the Grand National for the Irish for the second year running after Bobbyjo in 1999.

Racing in Northern Ireland celebrated its biggest day when the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Looks Like Trouble took part in only the second running of the Ulster Champion Chase at Down Royal in November.

It was a big boost when he claimed the first prize, but a sting in the tail came only hours later when the horse was found to have suffered a serious leg injury, which means he will be out of action for at least 12 months.

It has been a year that has been a pleasure to report on, and although it is a million to one that the next 12 months will be even half as good, let's hope it just might be, and then, who knows, football might have to start looking over its shoulder.

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