AFFIRMED – 1978
Affirmed’s courage was in many ways his most remarkable attribute. Affirmed was a natural speed horse who won most of his races on or near the lead. However, when challenged in the stretch, even by top horses such as Alydar and Spectacular Bid, he simply would not let them pass. Affirmed therefore had a lethal combination of speed (which allowed him to get early position and not have to rely on a good trip passing horses to get into position and win) and heart (which allowed him to fend off challengers). “Affirmed is greater than Secretariat, or any Triple Crown winner, because only Affirmed had to face Alydar.”
Trainer, Laz Barrera
OMAHA – 1935
“In action he was a glorious sight; few thoroughbreds have exhibited such a magnificent, sweeping, space-annihilating stride, or carried it with such strength and precision. His place is among the Titans of the American turf.”
COUNT FLEET – 1943
“Going into the race, I thought he’d have to fall down to get beat, and even then I thought he could get up and win. He was that good.”
….”…if he didn’t have racing room, he’d go to the outside or just climb over horses. If you were in close quarters with him, you were in trouble.”
Jockey – Johnny Longden
SECRETARIAT – 1973
…Secretariat is blazing along! The first three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 and four fifths. Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a TREMENDOUS machine! Secretariat by 12, Secretariat by 14 lengths on the turn! Secretariat is all alone! He’s out there almost a 16th of a mile away from the rest of the horses! Secretariat is in a position that seems impossible to catch. He’s into the stretch. Secretariat leads this field by 18 lengths. They’re in the stretch. Secretariat has opened a 22-length lead! He is going to be the Triple Crown winner! Here comes Secretariat to the wire. An unbelievable, an amazing performance! He hits the finish 25 lengths in front!”
Track Announcer, Anderson
SEATTTLE SLEW – 1977
“I was on the lead, and Slew came after me,” Cordero recalled. “He was looking at me. I was running head-to-head with him, and he was giving me different looks, like he was trying to intimidate me. I never, ever knew a horse could look at me (during a race), but he was. He reminded me of Muhammad Ali. He was that good and he had that same sort of presence. He came into the paddock and you could tell he was showing off.”
Jockey Angel Cordero, Jr.
WHIRLAWAY – 1941
“…not even a cyclone could head us off. I don’t think I ever passed as many horses in such a hurry. I might as well have been shot from a gun. What a horse! What a horse!”
Jockey, Eddie Arcaro
Ever popular because of his startling come-from-behind style and his distinctive flying tail, Whirlaway will be remembered as a charismatic champion who maintained an impeccable standard of performance over time.
GALLANT FOX – 1930
“The two straightened out and pounded down the stretch, eyeball to eyeball, and while Workman went to the whip on Questionnaire, Earl Sande abandoned his bat, hand riding the game Gallant Fox in the greatest battle of his career. The Fox of Belair prevailed in the end.”
“Gallant Fox is a horse of individuality and magnetism. He gives the impression of unusual grace and distinction and his symmetry and harmony have attracted thousands of admirers. Since the retirement of Man o’ War no horse has captured the imagination of the American public as has Gallant Fox.”
SIR BARTON – 1919
“Who Had The Best Triple Crown Run Ever?
In the annual run for the American Triple Crown championship, Count Fleet romped, Secretariat’s speed outclassed, and Affirmed’s heart won out, but Sir Barton AMAZED.”
CITATION – 1948
“The Big Cy”, had total earnings over one million dollars, which was a first at the time. Citation posted 45 times and ran off the board only once. His Triple Crown of 1948 was stupendous. His career was compared to the great Man o’ War, who many enthusiasts consider the greatest racing thoroughbred ever.
FUNNY CIDE – 2003
Won the first two of the Triple Crown, but failed to win a Belmont in the mud to Empire Maker. The “horse of the people”, Funny Cide was purchased for a ridiculously low price by some friends. You can imagine the adrenaline while making this most improbable run against millionaires. Also, Jockey Jose Santos said, “I’ve been riding for 27 years and this is the best horse I ever rode in my life.”
**SEABISCUIT – 1938**
Although Seabiscuit did not win the Triple Crown, we couldn’t leave this sport favorite out.
PIMLICO RACE COURSE SPECIAL MATCH RACE – NOVEMBER 1, 1938
1937 TRIPLE CROWN WINNER: WAR ADMIRAL versus SEABISCUIT
By Grantland Rice, Sportswriter
The drama and melodrama of this match race, held before a record crowd keyed to the highest tension I have ever seen in sport, set an all time mark. You must get the picture from the start to absorb the thrill of this perfect autumn day over a perfect track. As the two thoroughbreds paraded to the post there was no emotional outburst. The big crowd was too full of tension, the type of tension that locks the human throat. You looked at the odds flashed upon the mutual board–War Admiral, one to four, Seabiscuit two to one. Even those backing War Admiral, the great majority of the crowd, felt their pity for the son of Hard Tack and Swing On [Seabiscuit], who had come along the hard way and had churned up the dust of almost every track from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
After two false starts, they were off. But it wasn’t the fast-flying War Admiral who took the lead. It was Seabiscuit, taking the whip from Woolf, who got the jump. It was Seabiscuit who had a full-length lead as they passed the first furlong. The Admiral’s supporters were dazed as the ‘Biscuit not only held this lead but increased it to two lengths before they passed the first quarter. The ‘Biscuit’ was moving along as smoothly as a southern breeze. And then the first roar of the big crowd swept over Maryland. The Admiral was moving up. Stride by stride, Man o’ War’s favorite offspring was closing up the open gap.
You could hear the roar from thousands of throats “Here he comes, here he comes! “And the Admiral was under full steam. He cut away a length.
He cut away another length as they came to the half-mile post–and now they were running head and head. The Admiral looked Seabiscuit in the eye at the three-quarters but Seabiscuit never got the look. He was too busy running with his shorter, faster stride. For almost a half mile they ran as one horse, painted against the green, red and orange foliage of a Maryland countryside. They were neck and neck–head and head–nose and nose. The great Admiral had thrown his challenge. You could see that he expected Seabiscuit to quit and curl up. But, Seabiscuit has never been that brand of horse. I had seen him before in two $100,000 races at Santa Anita, boxed out, knocked to his knees, taking the worst of all the racing luck–almost everything except facing a firing squad or a machine-gun nest– and yet, through all this barrage of trouble Seabiscuit was always there, challenging at the wire. I saw him run the fastest half-mile ever run at Santa Anita last March, when he had to do it in his pursuit of Stagehand.
So, when War Admiral moved up on even terms and 40,000 throats poured out their tribute to the Admiral, I still knew that the ‘Biscuit would be alongside at the finish. The ‘Biscuit had come up the hard way. That happens to be the only way worth while. The Admiral had known only the softer years-the softer type of competition. He had never before met a combination of a grizzly bear and a running fool. Head and head they came to the mile. There wasn’t a short conceded putt between them. It was a question now of the horse that had the heart. Seabiscuit had lost his two-length margin. His velvet had been shot away. He was on his own where all races are won-down the stretch. He had come to the great kingdom of all sport–the kingdom of the heart. The Admiral had shown his reserve speed. From two lengths away he was now on even terms. But as they passed the mile post with three-sixteenths left–the vital test–the stretch that always tells the story–where 40,000 looked for the fleet War Admiral to move away–there was another story. Seabiscuit was still hanging on. Seabiscuit hadn’t quit. With barely more than a final furlong left, the hard-way son of Hard Tack must have said to the Admiral– “Now.., lets start running. Let’s see who is the better horse.”
Foot by foot and yard by yard, Woolf and Seabiscuit started moving away. Charlie Kurtzinger gave the Admiral the whip. But you could see from the stands that the Admiral suddenly knew he had nothing left in heart or feet to match this crazy five-year-old who all his life had known only the uphill, knockdown devil-take-the-loser route, any track–any distance–any weight–any time. And who the hell are you? War Admiral had no answer. Down the final furlong the great-hearted ‘Biscuit put on extra speed. He moved on by. Then he opened a small gap. Forty thousand expected the Admiral to move up, close the gap again. But the Admiral was through. He had run against too many plow horses and platers in his soft easy life. He had never tackled a Seabiscuit before. He had never met a horse who could look him in the eye down the stretch and say to him, in horse language, “Now let’s start traveling, kid. How do you feel? I feel great. This is down my alley.” Yard by yard Seabiscuit moved on ahead. Then it was length by length. Seabiscuit left the Admiral so far behind that it wasn’t even a contest down the stretch. War Admiral might just have well be chasing a will-o-the-wisp in a midnight swamp. He might just as well have been a fat poodle chasing a meat wagon.
He had been outrun and outgamed–he had been run off the track by a battered five-year-old who had more speed and heart. The race, they say, isn’t to the swift. But it is always to the swift and the game. It so happened that Seabiscuit had these two important qualities in deep abundance. War Admiral could match neither flying feet not fighting heart. Man o’ War’s brilliant son hung on with all he had until it came to the big showdown–to the point when the hard-way thoroughbred, the horse from the wrong side of the track, began really to run.
**WAR ADMIRAL – 1938**
The elegant, invincible War Admirable in 1937 was unbeaten, Horse of the Year and Triple Crown Winner. He was the most successful son of the legendary Man O’ War. The royally bred colt was known by his fans as “The Mighty Atom” or simply “The Admiral”. The Admiral was a stunning almost black dark brown.
**SILVER CHARM – 1997**
Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Gary Stevens, Silver Charm won the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before falling short of the Triple Crown by placing second in the Belmont Stakes to Touch Gold. He was voted the 1997 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Three-Year-Old Male Horse. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, Silver Charm was ranked #63. In 2007, Silver Charm was elected to the United States’ Racing Hall of Fame.
**SPECTACULAR BID – 1979**
“The Bid” was one of the most dominant racers of his time. Spectacular Bid won 26 races of 30 started, winning $2,781,607 USD over his career, a then-record sum. He finished worse than third just once in his career. He is unique among “great” horses in that he never lost between 7 furlongs and 1 1/4 miles, i.e., at any of the most common middle distance events in American racing. He is probably most noted for his ill-fated attempt at winning the Triple Crown which came up short in the Belmont Stakes as a result of a freak accident involving a safety pin in his stall the morning of the race and a questionable ride by jockey Ronnie Franklin. The Los Angeles Times quoted jockey Bill Shoemaker as saying that Spectacular Bid was the best horse he ever rode.
**KAUAI KING – 1966**
Ridden by jockey Don Brumfield, Kauai King won the 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but finished 4th in the Belmont Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, 2 lengths back of the winner, Amberoid. On June 16th, the colt was sold to a horse breeding syndicate for a then record price of $2,520,000. He had won the Kentucky Derby leading every step of the way. But Jockey Don Brumfield kept insisting that wasn’t Kauai King’s natural way of running. In winning seven of twelve previous races, the dark bay, three-year-old colt had come from behind every time. In the Preakness at Pimlico, under Brumfield’s sure rein, Kauai King reverted to his old ways. The result was even more impressive than at Churchill Downs.
**NORTHERN DANCER – 1964**
Bill Hartack became Northern Dancer’s permanent jockey, guiding him to his best season in 1964 at age 3 when he won the Flamingo Stakes, Florida Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Derby in record time, the Preakness Stakes, and the Queen’s Plate. He was also named the Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old of 1964. In his two years of racing, Northern Dancer won 14 of his 18 races and never finished worse than third. In The Blood-Horse ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Northern Dancer was ranked #43.
**ALYSHEBA – 1987**
Ridden by Chris McCarron, he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes but missed out on the U.S. Triple Crown when he finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes. He finished second to the four-year-old Ferdinand in the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic, won the Grade 1 Stakes “Super Derby,” and was named 1987’s Champion Three Year Old. As a four-year-old in 1988, Alysheba was dominant, winning several major Stakes races including the Santa Anita Handicap. Alysheba, son of Alydar, did inherit his father’s heart and will to win. He demonstrated that in Kentucky Derby 1987 after surgery corrected his breathing problem.