The 12 Most Exciting Horse Races in 2015

Below are what I feel are 12 of the most exciting horse races in 2015. #4 and #5 on my list are two races that I feel slipped under the radar that would probably rank higher if it weren’t for the Horse of a Lifetime–American Pharoah–rewriting history books.  I will add that there were many more great races that didn’t make this list but these were the most memorable due to the dramatics, history or prestige of the race at stake. Feel free to comment on any you feel that I have left off.

1) The Belmont Stakes that saw American Pharoah win the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Truly a magical moment.

2) Another magical moment in horse racing history–American Pharoah winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic to become the very first horse to win the Grand Slam of horse racing.

3) The 2015 Kentucky Derby was a great battle between American Pharoah and Firing Line.

4) Far From Over (horse #2) has a stumbling bad start but comes back from dead last to win the Withers Stakes.

5) The Illinois-bred “The Pizza Man” comes back for a dramatic win in the Arlington Million.

6) The 2015 San Antonio Stakes. This was billed as the “Clash of the Titans” that pitted Shared Belief vs the 2014 Horse of the Year in California Chrome at the beautiful Santa Anita Park venue in February.

7) The biggest upset of the year in horse racing–Keen Ice beats American Pharoah and stuns the Travers Stakes crowd.

8) Beholder becoming the first female to win the Pacific Classic and doing it in the most impressive fashion.

9) Dortmund vs. Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

10) American Pharoah wins the sloppy Preakness Stakes.

11) Tepin–the Flying Filly–wins the Breeders Cup Mile against the boys.

12) Mongolian Saturday at 15-1 Odds holds on for the upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.


My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Updated: January 7th, 2016 

With 2015 in the books, it is time to look ahead to the 2016 Kentucky Derby and the key contenders. Overall, I say this was a much weaker than average 2 year-old crop as we didn’t have one colt or filly eclipse a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. The filly Songbird has the highest Beyer Speed Figure thus far at 99 and she is still #1 in my rankings. Matt King Coal had the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2 year-old colt with a speed figure of 96.

But there is plenty of good raw talent and this may be a late-bloomer class. Horses will improve by leaps and bounds going forward at this stage. If you remember a couple of years ago, California Chrome was a mediocre 2 year-old (7 starts, 3 wins) before reeling off five straight wins as a 3 year-old.  We won’t have a good idea how good the 2016 class is until the early April. But if I am trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, I am reaching into the other cookie jar and entering Songbird against the boys in a Derby prep race somewhere down the line.

Here is my my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender list:

1) Songbird – Although she will likely be pegged for the Kentucky Oaks, she is the top 2 year-old regardless of gender and she would be my Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated Nyquist is the top 2 year-old colt and my early Kentucky Derby favorite and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Female Horse award. Her next start will be the 1 Mile Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 6th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

2) Nyquist – Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Male Horse award. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt posted an impressive 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Remsen Stakes  and a 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Nashua Stakes on November 4th. For those who loved the horse Frosted on the Kentucky Derby trail last year, he is his half brother and is a striking resemblance. However, he is better than Frosted at this stage of his career. His time of 1:50.69 was faster than Honor Code’s in 2013 and Frosted and Keen Ice’s time last year in the Remsen. He is undefeated in 3 starts and the new dark horse to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby. His sire was Tapit so that makes him a half-brother to Tonalist too. His next start appears to be the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park January 30th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.69 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Remsen Stakes

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he keeps narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004. Swipe had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and is expected to resume training in early February.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Brody’s Cause Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

6) Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction. His next start is expected to be the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 15th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

7) Flexibility – Winner of the Jerome Stakes on January 2nd, the Chad Brown-trained colt just needed a race without Mohaymen in the field. He had finished 2nd to Mohaymen in his previous two starts. His time in the Jerome Stakes was 1:42.98 which was faster than El Kabeir’s 1:44.69 in last years race. His sire Bluegrass Cat finished 2nd in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, then won the Haskell Invitational that year.

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.29 (calculated) – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.93 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93- Remsen Stakes

8) Gift Box – In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes. So it is still up in the air if this colt is just a good slop-track runner or if he will excel on dry, fast tracks.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, breaking his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year. I thought enough of this colt to place $10 on him in the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool that will pay back $889 if he wins. His pedigree (sire: Cool Coal Man) suggests that he might be better suited for a 1 mile to 1 1/8th mile distances. His next start was supposed to be the Jerome Stakes January 2nd but he developed an illness and won’t be entered.

Matt King Coal runs 1st Place @ Belmont On 10/29/2015

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5

10) Greenpointcrusader  Although he finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I generally liked his movement up through the field. He should do well in longer distance races.  The winner of Champagne Stakes where he received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His time was 0.37 seconds faster than last year’s Champagne Stakes winner Daredevil (who received a 107 Beyer) on a similar sloppy sealed track. Excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.48 (calculated) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

11) Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. His win in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a solid effort and I liked how he rallied off the pace for the win. But his time of 1:43:54 was 2.68 seconds off Dortmund’s time last year. I generally haven’t been that impressed with what the two best trainers in the business–Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher–have in their stables this year as far as 2 year-old colts.

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.54 – Los Alamitos Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5

12) Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performs on a dry fast track.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Here are some other horses to keep an eye on are:

Smokey Image who is undefeated in five starts. However, he has yet to race further than 7 furlongs. He might prove to be a better Dirt-Miler than a Derby horse.

Sunny Ridge a gelding (sire: Holy Bull) who is trained by John Servis. Sunny Ridge has finished 2nd in his last two starts that were both wet track races. In his last start he received a 92 Beyer Speed Figure finishing 2nd to Exaggerator in the Delta Downs Jackpot. He could excel on dry fast tracks which he hasn’t run on since his win in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park on September 6th.

Todd Pletcher’s Zulu and Sudden Surprise are intriguing prospects. Zulu (sire: Bernardini) broke his maiden in his first start at Gulfstream Park on December 5th. He is pegged to start in the 1 Mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes January 2nd. Sudden Surprise had won 5 of 6 starts but has yet to race further than a mile. And his only loss was at the 1 mile distance (a 4th place finish). So he could be more of sprinter than a Derby candidate.

Here are rankings by time for the most common denominator distance of 1 1/16th mile:

  1. Songbird – 1:42.73
  2. Gift B0x – 1:43.00
  3. Matt King Coal – 1:43.02 (calculated)
  4. Brody’s Cause – 1:43.27
  5. Exaggerator – 1:43.43 (calculated)
  6. Mor Spirit – 1:43.54
  7. Nyquist – 1:43.79
  8. Swipe – 1:43.87
  9. Greenpointcrusader – 1:44.48 (calculated)
  10. Airoforce – 1:45.48 (wet race)

Here are the key Derby prep races coming in the month of January:

  • January 2nd -The Jerome Stakes (1 Mile 70 Yards) at Aqueduct
  • January 9th – The Sham Stakes ( 1 Mile) at Santa Anita Park
  • January 16th – The Lecomte Stakes (1 Mile 70 Yards) at The Fairgrounds
  • January 18th – The Smarty Jones Stakes (1 Mile) at Oaklawn Park
  • January 30th – The Holy Bull Stakes ( 1 1/16th Mile) at Gulfstream Park
  • January 30th – The Withers Stakes (1 1/16th Mile) at Aqueduct


American Pharoah – My Greatest Sports Memory and The Real 2015 Athlete of the Year


I have seen the some of greatest in sports play in person. In 1975 at Royals Stadium, I saw Hank Aaron–the first to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record and still MLB’s all-time RBI leader–drive in a run what ended up being the game winning run for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1976, I saw Major League Baseball’s first African-American manager–Hall of Famer Frank Robinson– manage and also pinch-hit in the same game for the Cleveland Indians. I saw a Nolan Ryan–MLB’s all-time leader in No-Hitters–throw a 100 mph fastball with the Texas Rangers in his mid-40s, just like I saw him do in his mid-20s with the California Angels.

In the early 1990s, I saw the NHL’s all-time leading scorer–Wayne Gretzky–score a goal on a breakaway with the Los Angeles Kings in St. Louis. In 1972, I saw Johnny Unitas in uniform with the Baltimore Colts. I have seen Joe Montana do his 4th quarter magic in Arrowhead. I have seen Peyton Manning–the NFL’s all-time passing leader–play in person in a playoff game. I have seen Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the NBA’s all-time scoring leader–Kareem Abdul-Jabbar–play in person at Kemper Arena. I have seen “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt Sr race on the high banks at Daytona International Speedway.

I have seen many other great athletes and I have seen enough great things in sports to write a book. But nothing will top being camped out at the finish line at Keeneland this past October with my 13-year old son Anthony and both of us witnessing this historic shot below–American Pharoah ridden by Victor Espinoza–crossing the finish line and becoming the first Grand Slam winner of Thoroughbred Horse Racing.

The moment was almost surreal. Everybody wanted American Pharoah to win. As he came out of the last turn, the feeling wasn’t as much excitement as it was tension and nervous anticipation from the crowd for what was ahead. When American Pharoah started widening his lead, the crowd began to whoop and holler as he got closer and closer to the finish line but you could still sense a bit nervousness that some horse would kick it into high gear a clip him at the wire. Noticeably absent was the applause you would expect for such a moment but everyone was using one hand to film the finish on a camera or their cellphone. When American Pharoah crossed the finish line first, it was a triple crown of feelings: disbelief, relief and joy. It was truly an experience I will never forget and one that I feel extremely grateful to witness firsthand.

Announced this past Monday, American Pharoah is one of three finalists for Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. I have seen a number of AP Male Athlete’s of the Year play in person over my lifetime.

To put everything into perspective, it took Wayne Gretzky less than 10 years to break Gordie Howe’s all-time NHL scoring record. For Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it took about 11 years to surpass Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s  all-time leading scorer. It took Hank Aaron about 39 years to surpass Babe Ruth’s all-time home run mark. Then it took Barry Bonds 31 years (and presumably steriods) to surpass Aaron’s record. And the NFL passing records have been broken multiple times the past 20 years and are still being written.

American Pharoah is quite simply–the greatest thoroughbred race horse since Secretariat. Secretariat last raced 42 years ago. Secreatariat was the greatest thoroughbred race horse since Man o’War 53 years earlier. That works out to be a truly great horse every 47 1/2 years.

The “Horse of a Lifetime” would not only be my Associated Press ‘Athlete of the Year’ regardless of gender but he would also be my Athlete of the 21st Century thus far. American Pharoah helped put horse racing back into mainstream American Culture.


2015 Los Alamitos Futurity Preview

Today, another important points-paying Kentucky Derby prep race is on tap with the Los Alamitos Futurity. This 1 1/16th mile race carries a $350,000 purse and has 7 entries, a pair from trainers Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill.

Last year’s race (shown below) ended in a photo finish and was one of the most exciting races of 2014.

A new star could be born in this year’s Los Al. Below are the post-positions and Morning Line Odds. Post time is roughly 6 PM CST and the race will be broadcast on TVG.

Los Alamitos Futurity – Race #8 – Post Time 5:58PM

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Urlacher – Graham/Harty – 10-1
2. Frank Conversation – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 8-1
3. Hollywood Don  – Espinoza/Miller – 6-1
4. Toews On Ice – Garcia/Baffert – 9-5
5. Mor Spirit – Stevens/Baffert – 8-5
6. Sorryaboutnothing – Bejarano/O’Neill – 12-1
7. I’malreadythere – Baze/Hollendorfer – 8-1

Overall, my feeling is that this race will be won by one of the Bob Babbert entries, either Toews On Ice or Mor Spirit.

Toews On Ice has won his last three starts but has never raced beyond 7 furlongs. However, in the 2015 Bob Hopes Stakes (shown below) he displayed a fighting and it didn’t appear that he would have any problems going an extra 1.5 furlongs.

Mor Spirit is the more accomplished horse at this distance. He finished second in the sloppy 1 1/16th mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (shown below). Baffert indicated that they are unsure of Mor Spirit’s running style but they plan to sit back and attack this time instead of pressing the pace so early like they did in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

For betting, I would probably recommend a large Boxed Exacta (4,5 over 4,5,6) and/or a $5 Superfecta wheel (4,5,6 over 4,5,6, over 3,4,6 over 3,6) that would cost $30.

Hollywood Don and Sorryaboutnothing probably represent your best bets to round out a Trifecta. Hollywood Don has only raced on dirt once–a 3rd place finish behind Nyquist and Swipe in the FrontRunner Stakes. And Hollywood Don finished 9th in his last start on turf. Doug O’Neill’s Sorryaboutnothing seems to be the best upset candidate with the way he ran in a 1 mile MSW race at Del Mar on November 15th (click HERE)


Sports Illustrated’s PR Blunder – American Pharoah doesn’t win ‘Sportsman of the Year’

In a move that surprised and outraged an entire fan base of horse racing, Sports Illustrated named tennis star Serena Williams as their 2015 Sportsperson of the Year. To put this bluntly–this is a huge Public Relations blunder for Sports Illustrated. American Pharoah was the Readers Choice in an SI online poll for the award by a considerable margin. See this article

Essentially what Sports Illustrated has said to the readers is that their opinion doesn’t matter or they are stupid when 47% voted for American Pharoah vs 1% for Serena Williams (the second lowest vote total of any of the candidates). If you are in the business of selling magazines, that isn’t smart business. Especially when Sports Illustrated has had Co-Sportsman of the Year….eight different times in the past.

But it shouldn’t be about selling magazines. American Pharoah won the first Grand Slam of horse racing–it will probably be another 50 years before that happens again– if ever. Serena Williams didn’t win a Grand Slam in tennis and has never won one in her career. American Pharoah did more for the sport of horse racing than any of the SI candidates have done for their sport.

For those who don’t think a horse shouldn’t win Sportsman of the Year, then Sports Illustrated should not mislead the public by putting American Pharoah on the ballot in the first place. But is not all about a horse but those behind him–American Pharoah’s owner Ahmed Zayat, his trainer Bob Baffert and his jockey Victor Espinoza–have shown more sportsmanship and class than SI’s pick Serena Williams.

It had been 37 years since we had a Triple Crown Champion and there have only been 12 Triple Crown Champions in the history of a sport that predates the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, etc. And in the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing–the Breeders’ Cup Classic–American Pharoah wired the field, posting the top Beyer Speed Figure of the year (120), thus becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Horse Racing.

A Sports Illustrated subscription given to me as a birthday present as a young teen in the 1970s is partly what grew my interest in horse racing as I read about the Triple Crown races, Secretariat, jockey Bill Shoemaker, Seattle Slew, a teenage jockey Steve Cauthen, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, etc.

Sports Illustrated, I feel you dumped me and so many horse racing fans off at the curb on this one. I suggest that the first foal from American Pharoah be named “Effinbull” in memory of this grand snub.


The 12 Greatest Racehorses of All-Time

Below is my list of the 12 greatest North American Racehorses of All-Time. With any greatest thoroughbred list, there are always challenges comparing horses from different eras. Advances in veterinary medicine and travel have given the advantage to modern-era horses. But often in the early era, fields for races were much smaller. Case in point, some years the Belmont Stakes only had 3 entries. And the Kentucky Derby typically has about double the field size today as it had in the first part of the 20th Century. So I feel that it is much harder to win the Triple Crown today than in year’s past.

Consequently, I place more emphasis on the accomplishments of horses in the modern era (post 1960).  My list of greatest stops at 12 because I feel after you get past the top 10 or 12 horses, it is really hard to rank one horse over another. There are many great horses that didn’t make my list. As far which horse is the greatest of all-time, it is a toss-up between Secretariat and Man o’War–which is why I ranked them 1 a) and 1 b). Secretariat was a faster horse (see video below) but Man o’War won 95% of his races compared to Secretariat’s 76%.

1 a) Secretariat*  1973 Triple Crown Champion, 16 wins in 21 career starts. Holds the track record for all 3 Triple Crown races as well as the North American record for 1 1/2 mile races on dirt (2:24). 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. Bio Video

1 b) Man o’War  – He won the 1920 Preakness  and Belmont Stakes but wasn’t entered into the Kentucky Derby because his owner Samuel Riddle didn’t believe that a horse should race a 1 1/4 mile race that early in the year. Overall, Man o’War won 20 of his 21 career starts. He finished 2nd in his only non-win to a horse called Upset that prompted use of the term in sports. He won the 1920 Lawrence Realization race by 100 lengths. Voted Associated Press #1 horse of the Century. Sports Illustrated Horse of the Century. Man o’War’s funeral was broadcast on radio. Bio Video

3) American Pharoah 2015 Triple Crown Champion, the very first Grand Slam winner. 9 wins in 11 career starts. American Champion 2-Year-Old Male (2014) and he will undoubtedly will win 2015 Horse of the Year. Considering that he produced a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 120 in his last start in Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think he would have been even better as a 4 year-old. As far as recent Triple Crown winners, I rank him below Secretariat but above the next best Seattle Slew because Seattle Slew followed up his Triple Crown win with a 4th place finish in the Swaps Stakes. American Pharoah followed up his Triple Crown by winning the Haskell Invitational. Since most Triple Crown winners and even those who nearly miss are immediately retired to the stud farm, you have to project out how you think they would fare as a 4 year-old. American Pharoah projects out just fine.

4) Citation– 1948 Triple Crown Champion, 32 wins in 45 career starts. The first horse to eclipse $1 Million dollars in career earnings. One of three major North American thoroughbreds (along with Zenyatta and Cigar) to win at least 16 consecutive major stakes races. He won 27 out of 29 starts before sitting out his 4 year-old campaign due to arthritis. Bio Video


Citation’s Triple Crown Trophies from 1948 – Photo Credit: M. Cox

5) Kelso – His 3-year-old season started after the Triple Crown races. He won the Horse of the Year a record five times (1960-1964). 39 wins in 63 career starts. His career earnings of $1,977,896 when he was retired in 1966 would equate to $14.5 Million in today’s dollars. Bio Video

6) Seattle Slew* 1977 Triple Crown Champion, 14 wins in 17 career starts. The only Triple Crown winner to finish the series undefeated. He beat 1978 Triple Crown Champion Affirmed and three-time Horse of the Year Forego in the 1978 Marlboro Cup Invitational. He also finished ahead of Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Bio Video

7) Native Dancer – Horse of the Year in 1952 and 1954. The first thoroughbred television star. 20 wins in 21 career starts. Won 1953 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. His only non-win was a 2nd place finish in the 1953 Kentucky Derby where he was bumped twice and lost by a head to Dark Star whom he had beaten as a 2 year-old.  Bio Video

8) Affirmed*  1978 Triple Crown Champion, 22 wins in 29 career starts. Finished in the Top 3 in all but one start. Horse of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Bio Video

9) Count Fleet– 1943 Triple Crown Champion, 16 wins in 21 career starts. Never finished below third and all five of his non-wins came as a 2 year-old. Bio Video

10) Dr. Fagar – 18 wins in 22 career starts. Once billed as the “fastest horse in the world.” He still holds the North American record time for 1 mile races on dirt (1:32 1/5). He is the only horse to ever win four titles in the same year (1968) when he was named the Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male, Champion Sprint Horse and Co-Champion Turf horse. Bio Video

11) Spectacular Bid – He won 26 races in 30 starts. He holds the North American record for 1 1/4 mile races on dirt with a time of 1:57 4/5. He may have won a Triple Crown in 1979 had he not stepped on a safety pin at Belmont. Bio Video

12) Zenyatta – The Queen of Thoroughbreds and 2010 Horse of the Year. She won 19 out of 20 races. One of three major North American thoroughbreds to win at least 16 consecutive major stakes races. As a filly, she may have raced and won against inferior competition than the boys but she proved herself in the Superbowl of Thoroughbreds by winning the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic and then losing by a head to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic–her only loss. Bio Video

*-indicates Triple Crown Winner

In addition to these horses, it is worth noting a few other horses who were the best of their decade: Cigar in the 1990s, John Henry in the 1980s, War Admiral in the 1930s, Sir Barton in the 1910s and Colin in the 1900s





The Greatest American Thoroughbreds of the 21st Century

Below is my list of the greatest American Thoroughbreds of the 21st Century. I ranked the top two and the rest are listed in alphabetical order.

1. American Pharoah – The very first Grand Slam winner and only the 12th Triple Crown winner. American Pharoah would rank 3rd all-time on my greatest thoroughbred list behind Secretariat and Man O’War.

Career: 11 Starts 9-1-0-0, Win Pct: 81.8%, Top 3 Pct: 90.9%
Biggest Wins: 2015 Arkansas Derby, 2015 Kentucky Derby, 2015 Preakness Stakes, 2015 Belmont Stakes, 2015 Haskell Invitational, 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 120
Awards: American Champion 2 Year Old Male, 12th Triple Crown Champion, 1st Grand Slam Champion
Career Earnings: $8,650,300

2. Zenyatta  The Queen of Thoroughbreds, she won 19 out of 20 races and won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic against the boys. Her only loss was by a head to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Zenyatta is definitely one of the Top 25 horses of all-time.

Career: 20 Starts 19-1-0-0. Win Pct: 95%, Top 3 Pct: 100%
Biggest Wins: 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Awards: American Champion Older Female Horse (2008, 2009, 2010), American Horse of the Year (2010)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112
Career Earnings: $7,304,580

Here are ten more great horses of the 21st Century in alphabetical order:

California Chrome – The 2014 Horse of the Year, he will race in 2016 to see if he can add to his resume and legacy.

Career: 18 Starts 9-3-1-1, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%
Biggest Wins: 2014, Santa Anita Derby, 2014 Kentucky Derby, 2014 Preakness Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Male (2014), American Horse of the Year (2014)
Career Earnings: $6,322,650

Curlin – A two-time Horse of the Year winner, he earned $10.5 Million dollars over his career–the most ever for a North American horse.

Career: 16 Starts 11-2-2-1, Win Pct: 68.8%, Top 3 Pct: 93.8%
Biggest Wins: 2007 Arkansas Derby, 2007 Preakness Stakes, 2007 & 2008 Jockey Club Gold Cup, 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap, 2008 Dubai World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Male (2007), American Horse of the Year (2007, 2008), World’s Top Ranked Horse (2008), National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (2014)
Career Earnings: $10,501,800

Ghostzapper – One of the fastest horses of all-time. He recorded four Beyer Speed Figures that were 120 or greater. His career best Beyer of 128 is the fastest ever recorded in two-turn races. He still holds the track record for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1:59.02. He has to be one of the top 50 thoroughbreds of all-time based upon his speed figures.

Career: 11 Starts 9-0-1-1, Win Pct: 81.8%, Top 3 Pct: 90.9%
Biggest Wins: 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2005 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 128
Awards: American Champion Older Male (2004), American Horse of the Year (2004), World’s Top Ranked Horse (2004), National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (2012)
Career Earnings: $3,446,120

Invasor – The Argentinian-bred horse was a Uruguayan Triple Crown winner before racing in the US. He won all five races in his North American race career.

Career: 12 Starts 11-0-0-1, Win Pct: 91.7%, Top 3 Pct: 91.7%
Biggest Wins: 2006 Whitney Handicap, 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2007 Dubai World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 116
Awards: 2006 American Horse of the Year, 2006 American Champion Older Male, World’s Top Ranked Horse (2006), National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (2013)
Career Earnings: $7,804,070

Point Given  The only horse other than American Pharoah to have won four $1 Million dollar races in a row when he won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, the Haskell Invitational and the Travers Stakes in 2007. And he was the first to accomplish this feat. OK, point taken.

Career: 13 Starts 9-3-0-0, Win Pct: 69.2%, Top 3 Pct: 92.3%
Biggest Wins: 2001 Santa Anita Derby, 2001 Preakness Stakes, 2001 Belmont Stakes, 2001 Haskell Invitational, 2001 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 117
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Male (2001), American Horse of the Year (2001), National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (2010)
Career Earnings: $3,968,500

Rachel Alexandra – The 2nd best filly in the 21st Century after Zenyatta. With her 2009 Preakness Stakes win, she became one of only eleven fillies to have ever won a Triple Crown race.

Career: 19 Starts 13-5-0-0, Win Pct: 68.4%,  Top 3 Pct:  94.7%
Biggest Wins: 2009 Kentucky Oaks, 2009 Preakness Stakes, 2009 Haskell Invitational, 2009 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 116
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Filly (2009), American Horse of the Year (2009)
Career Earnings: $3,506,730

Shared Belief – His career was cut short by his untimely death due to colic and various injuries. Had he been healthy, I strongly believe that he would have been a Triple Crown contender in 2014. He had the top Beyer Speed Figure for a 2 Year Old in 2013 (105) and as a 3 Year Old in 2014 (111). To me, it is a no-brainer that he should win the 2015 Older Male Horse award.

Career: 12 Starts 10-0-0-1, Win Pct: 83.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%
Biggest Wins: 2014 Pacific Classic, 2015 Santa Anita Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115
Awards: American Champion 2 Year Old Male (2013)
Career Earnings: $2,932,200

Smarty Jones – His Triple Crown pursuit came up short by one length to Birdstone in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. He finished 1st or 2nd in 9 career starts–near perfection. A very underrated horse, definitely Horse of the Year caliber but he lost out to Ghostzapper and didn’t run after the Belmont.

Career: 9 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%,  Top 3 Pct: 100%
Biggest Wins: 2004 Arkansas Derby, 2004 Kentucky Derby, 2004 Preakness Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 118
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Male (2004)
Career Earnings: $7,613,155

Tiznow  The only horse to have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice. It will be a long time before this feat is accomplished again.

Career: 15 Starts 8-4-2-0, Win Pct: 53.3%, Top 3 Pct: 93.3%
Biggest Wins: Breeders’ Cup Classic (2000, 2001), 2001 Santa Anita Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119
Awards: American Champion 3 Year Old Male (2000), American Horse of the Year (2000), American Champion Older Male (2001), National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (2009)
Career Earnings: $6,427,830

Wise Dan – The two-time American Horse of the Year winner was primarily a turf horse but he did win the 2011 Clark Handicap on dirt as well as a couple of races on synthetic surfaces.

Career: 31 Starts 23-2-0-3, Win Pct: 74.2%,  Top 3 Pct:  80.6%
Biggest Wins: 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile, 2012 Shadwell Turf Mile, 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile, 2014 Shadwell Turf Mile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 117
Awards: American Champion Older Male (2012, 013), American Champion Older Turf Male (2012, 2013), American Horse of the Year (2012,2013)
Career Earnings: $7,552,920

In addition to these horses, keep an eye on Beholder, Songbird and Nyquist.

If you feel that I have missed somebody, leave a comment




A Tribute to Shared Belief

The sport of horse racing received some very sad and shocking news today with the passing of Shared Belief due to a bout with colic. Shared Belief was a tremendous talent and a super star that the sport needed heading into 2016. He currently ranked 4th in the Longines World’s Best Horse Racehorse rankings-the 2nd best dirt horse in the world behind American Pharoah. He was ranked #1 in the world before being sidelined with injury in April.

His jockey Mike Smith was devastated by the news, posting this on his Facebook page: “I can’t stop crying right now. Shared Belief was one of the greatest and most special horses that I have ever ridden. Every day I woke up looking forward to being reunited with him. I am so thankful that I got to be part of his life. My thoughts and prayers go out to the connections as I know they are hurting too. RIP Champ.”

Jim Rome, part of Shared Belief’s ownership group, posted this: “Thoroughbred racing is a sport filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Some of the most thrilling and surreal moments of our entire lives have occurred in this sport. Unfortunately, today we have suffered our most devastating. We are all absolutely devastated. Shared Belief was a once in a lifetime horse. A champion, fighter and unbelievable talent who impacted and changed all of our lives. He loved to compete and run, and as heartbreaking as today is, we consider ourselves so fortunate to have been a part of this amazing animal’s life.”

Shared Belief’s career numbers: 12 Career starts, 10 wins. The winner of the American 2 Year Old Male Eclipse Award in 2013. He had the top Beyer Speed Figure for 2 year-olds in 2013 (106), the top Beyer Speed Figure for 3 year-olds in 2014 (115). And his 111 Beyer Speed Figure in the Santa Anita Handicap (his last win) was the top Beyer Speed Figure for all horses at the time when was he was sidelined from racing after the Charles Town Classic in April.

I was totally shocked and saddened by this news. I had to read the news bit twice as I was in disbelief. I was looking forward to his return to racing in 2016 and beyond. I was hoping to see him defend his Santa Anita Handicap Championship in person next March. I think he should win the 2015 Eclipse Award for Older Male Horse-this would be the most fitting way to remember him. The sport has lost a tremendously bright star.

Here is Shared Belief’s first start of his career–an impressive win. Even the announcer took note of his talent.

Here is his Awesome Again Stakes win that really demonstrated his fighting spirit.

Here is his biggest win of 2014, the TVG Pacific Classic where he posted a career best 115 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 2015 San Antonio Stakes deemed as “The Clash of the Titans” that saw him beat the 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome,

And Shared Belief’s last win, probably the biggest of his career–the 2015 Santa Anita Handicap.

And a great tribute video:

RIP Shared Belief. A CHAMPION that will be dearly missed by many.