Monday November 2, 2015
In 1999, Blood-Horse magazine compiled a list of Top 100 Greatest U.S. Racehorses of All-Time which you can see by clicking HERE. These rankings generated a lot of controversy as Man o’War and Secretariat were virtually tied but a one voter ranked Secretariat 14th which gave the #1 spot to Man o’War. Seabiscuit, a horse known to many casual fans due to his Hollywood fame from several movies, ranked 25th in the poll.
So where should American Pharoah fall on this list of greats?
There is little doubt in my mind that he now deserves to be ranked in the Top 3 racehorses of all-time. He is one of only 12 Triple Crown winners–the benchmark for great thoroughbreds. And now he is the very first winner of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing (Triple Crown plus Breeders’ Cup Classic).
This past Saturday in The Classic, with the competition the best American Pharoah’s has ever seen, he needed to run the best race of his career. And that is exactly what he did, wiring the field and winning by 6 1/2 lengths. He produced a career best 120 Beyer Speed Figure–the top Beyer recorded this year and the highest ever recorded for a 3 year-old at a distance 1 1/4 mile or greater since Beyer Speed Figures were first recorded in 1993. The previous best Beyer at this distance for a 3 year-old was the 119 Beyer Speed Figure Curlin recorded in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. American Pharoah ran the last 1/2 mile in 48.86–unbelievable and I think he could have ran it faster if pressed. He would have beaten Beholder and Tonalist even if he ran as well as he did in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race.
A truly amazing horse–a once in a lifetime horse.
I, like many, are sad that he is now retired but I feel extremely grateful that my son and I got to see his Kentucky Derby win as well as seeing him complete the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing in person. It may take another 40 to 50 years for another horse to accomplish this feat and any horse that wins the Triple Crown will probably only get one shot like Pharoah did to win the Classic before being retired and studded out.
American Pharoah deserves to be ranked in the Top 3 but it is hard to compare horses from different eras. Advances in training and veterinary medicine along with air travel vs long hauls for a horse across the country in a trailer or train–have given the advantage to modern horses. However, there are also more thoroughbred foals today than the first part of the century, so that means more competition.
American Pharoah’s combined times in all three Triple Crown races ranks as the fourth best of all twelve Triple Crown Champions: 1) Secretariat (6:16.4), 2) Affirmed (6:22.4), 3) Seattle Slew (6:26.2) and 4) American Pharoah (6:28.13). And his Preakness Stakes win was on a sloppy wet track that hurt his time and cost him at least 2 seconds and maybe even as much 4 seconds. If he had run on a dry, fast track, I am convinced that his combined times would rank third.
So here is who I feel are the three greatest American Thoroughbreds:
1) Secretariat – 1973 Triple Crown Champion, 16 wins in 21 career starts. Holds the track record for all 3 Triple Crown races. Also was 1973 American Male Turf Champion. ESPN’s Greatest Horse of the 20th Century. His 31-length victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes ranks as the most impressive performance by a horse of all time.
2) Man o’War – Won 20 of 21 starts, finished 2nd in his only non-win. Associated Press #1 horse of the Century. Sports Illustrated #1 greatest horse in racing history.
3) American Pharoah – 2015 Triple Crown Champion, Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and the first winner of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing. 9 wins in 11 career starts. American Champion 2-Year-Old Male (2014) and he will undoubtedly will win 2015 Horse of the Year. And he is without a doubt the Greatest Horse of the 21st Century.