June 20th 2018
My latest article for US Racing has been published and can be accessed by clicking on the link below: https://www.usracing.com/news/features/justify-vs-american-pharoah-whos-better
June 20th 2018
My latest article for US Racing has been published and can be accessed by clicking on the link below: https://www.usracing.com/news/features/justify-vs-american-pharoah-whos-better
June 12th 2018
I don’t even know where to begin when writing about my experience at the 150th Belmont Stakes or what adjectives to use to describe it. I checked off something that was at the top of my bucket list by witnessing a Triple Crown Championship won in person. And the cherry on top was the fact that Justify became only the 2nd Triple Crown Champion to go through all three legs undefeated. Justify’s great-great-great grandsire Seattle Slew is the other.
I didn’t get to post this on my blog in time as this article for US Racing was posted while I was at the track Saturday but I did call this race. See: Why Justify Will Become the 13th Triple Crown Champion.
Perhaps, it best that I share the two videos I took below and you will get idea of what I experienced. This race undoubtedly goes into my Top 5 sports memories viewed in person along with American Pharoah’s win in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic to make him the first Grand Slam Champion of American Thoroughbred racing.
I was really surprised how well the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt Gronkowski performed in the Belmont Stakes with his 2nd place finish. This colt had never raced further than a mile and had raced mostly on turf or synthetic surfaces. I didn’t really think this was the best race for him but he exceeded all expectations. Unfortunately for me and quite a few others, Gronkowski killed all of my exotic bets.
Although the Belmont Stakes on NBC was the most watched TV program all weekend, the ratings are down from when American Pharoah and California Chrome made their Triple Crown attempts at Belmont. The theory is that since Justify didn’t race as a 2 year old, that he hadn’t developed the following along the way as the other two.
At any rate, my blog views this year were down considerably from January thru May over the last two years. I blame some of this on the fact the Older Horse division lacks stars due to so many key retirements. And also the fact that the most popular Derby contenders in this class entering the year were more lightly raced than in year’s past.
However, Justify is just what this sport needed. The interest seems to be back better than ever as my blog views for the month of June have already set a new record over previous years. So, I foresee that this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Churchill Downs will break a lot of records if Justify races in it as expected.
I am currently working on another article for US Racing that is tentatively titled: “Justify vs American Pharoah: Who’s Better?” This should come out in the next week or so.
For my blog, I also plan to preview this coming Saturday’s Stephen F. Foster Handicap if Patch is entered. So far this has not been confirmed.
May 15th 2018
As Yogi Berra would say, “It feels like deja vu all over again.” I just got this feeling about Justify that he may be another Bob Baffert-trained Triple Crown winner. I write about it in my latest article for US Racing “Triple Crown Fever: Why Justify Could Become The 13th Triple Crown Champion.”
My next blog will preview the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes which I should have out tomorrow evening.
March 27th 2017
In a post-race interview, trainer Bob Baffert called Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate “the greatest racehorse since Secretariat.” At that moment, I wasn’t prepared to disagree. That is quite a statement but Bob Baffert IS one of the greatest trainers in the world.
Now that I have had more time to think about this, I think Arrogate could possibly be the greatest racehorse on dirt since Secretariat. He is the #1 ranked horse in the world and he confirmed his ranking with his brilliant come from behind win in the Dubai World Cup. With the Dubai win, Arrogate is also the highest earning racehorse in North American history with over $17 million in career winnings.
For comparison purposes, I prepared career summaries of Arrogate along with four other horses that I generally feel were the best since Secretariat. These are Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah as well as Spectacular Bid who came up short on his Triple Crown bid. No I didn’t forget about Forego, John Henry, Ghostzapper, Curlin, Zenyatta and a number of other great horses we have seen since 1973. I just feel the four horses below generally are considered to be best since Secretariat was retired.
Among the pertinent stats, I have listed each horses career earnings and also provided an inflation adjustment conversion into 2017 dollars. I used the year each horse retired as a starting point for the inflation adjustment. Obviously, there is no inflation adjustment necessary for Arrogate.
Arrogate – In 2016, he was the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, 3-year-old American Male Champion and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse. 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup.
Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0 (87.5% win percentage – 4 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:46.83 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $17,084,600
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $2,135,575
In chronological order
Seattle Slew*– 1977 Triple Crown Champion and Horse of the Year. 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
Career: 17 Starts 14-2-0-1 (82.4% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.80 – 1979 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.60 – 1978 Woodward Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.21* (estimate-lost by a nose) – 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $1,208,276 ($4,515,412 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $265,612
Career: 29 Starts 22-5-1-0 (75.9% win percentage – 14 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.80 – 1978 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.40 – 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.80 – 1978 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $2,393,818 ($8,032,249 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $276,974
Spectacular Bid – Eight times in his career he either matched or set a track record. He holds the North American record for 1 1/4 mile races on dirt with a time of 1:57 4/5. He was the last horse to be named American male dirt champion at age 2, 3 and 4. He won Horse of the Year honors in 1980. He may have won a Triple Crown in 1979 had he not stepped on a safety pin at Belmont. Bio Video
Career: 30 Starts 26-2-1-1 (86.7% win percentage – 12 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.80 – 1980 California Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:57.80 – 1980 Charles H. Strub Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.40 – 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $2,781,608 ($8,223,398 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $274,113
American Pharoah* – 2015 Triple Crown Champion, the very first winner of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing. American Champion 2-Year-Old Male (2014) and American Champion 3-Year-Old Male (2015), 2015 Horse of the Year and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse in 2015. 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 in the future. 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.
Career: 11 Starts 9-1-0-0 (81.8% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:00.07 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.65 – 2015 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $8,650,300 ($8,890,666 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $808,242
*-indicates Triple Crown Winner
I don’t believe that Arrogate can be considered as the best racehorse since Secretariat at this point. He is certainly talented enough and could very well be when all is said and done. However, we still need to see more. All the above horses have won at least eight Grade 1 races, Arrogate has four Grade 1 wins. Arrogate was a late bloomer, his legs needed time to catch up to his big body much like Zenyatta. Therefore he didn’t go through the rigors of a Triple Crown run–something I highly value in determining greatness in a thoroughbred– because he wasn’t physically mature enough.
Unfortunately, I doubt that we will ever see Arrogate run a 1 1/2 mile (12 furlong) race due to a insufficient purse sizes. The Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont in June would be Arrogate’s best bet but it only carries a $400,000 purse. So probably will never be able to compare him at the 12 furlong distance to Secretariat and other greats who raced in the Belmont Stakes.
Last year, Arrogate won the IHFA Best Racehorse in the world but lost to California Chrome North American Horse of the Year honors. American Pharoah, whom Baffert trained, was able to win both awards in 2015 and the very first Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.
Overall, I would rank Arrogate in the Top 20 greatest North American racehorses of all-time right now due to the simple fact that he is the highest earning racehorse in North American history. However, Arrogate still has more work to do to be considered the greatest since Secretariat. His times through 9 and 10 furlongs don’t rival Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid. I think he needs to win at least four more Grade 1 races as all the above four horses have accomplished. He also needs to sweep Horse of the Year honors in 2017.
For now, its plenty OK to just be the best racehorse in the world. And the sport of horse racing in North America has been extremely blessed to have great horses like Arrogate, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Songbird the past few years. Arrogate’s future race entries will make it an extremely interesting year after the Triple Crown races are over.
January 29th 2017
Arrogate won his 6th consecutive race yesterday in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in dominating fashion. Mike Smith admitted that he coasted him home in the final 100 yards. Now the next question is, who is going to be able to beat him in 2017? Nobody in my opinion.
In his last three starts, Arrogate has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 122 in the Travers Stakes, 120 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and 119 in the Pegasus World Cup. He just turned 4 years-old and thoroughbreds typically peak around 4 1/2 years-old.
Arrogate is undeniably fast, the #1 ranked horse in the world by Longines and he confirmed that yesterday. Out of curiosity, this led me to research the fastest thoroughbreds of the last 20 years to see how Arrogates rates with some of the best from this time frame.
Well, Arrogate is arguably faster than American Pharoah. He proved that in the Travers Stakes by setting an event and track record of 1:59.36. American Pharoah got upset by Keen Ice in the 2015 Travers. Both horses received Beyer Speed Figures of 120 in their Breeders’ Cup Classic races. American Pharoah’s previous best Beyer Speed Figure before the Classic was 109 in the Haskell Invitational. And then 105 in the Belmont Stakes before the Haskell.
You could argue that American Pharoah was never pressed in his Breeders’ Cup Classic run like Arrogate was with California Chrome and thus could have produced a faster time and higher Beyer Speed Figure (BSF). And that he was on an upward plain and would have accomplished much more as a 4 year-old. I agree. However, he never produced two 120+ Beyer Speed Figures or matched Arrogates times at the 9 and 10 furlong distances.
So what North American Thoroughbred is Arrogate the fastest since? Answer: Ghostzapper and it isn’t real close. But note that Ghostzapper accomplished most of his eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures and times as a 4 year-old. Here is what Ghostzapper produced in 2004 as a 4-year-old:
Tom Fool Handicap – 7 Furlongs – 7/04/2004 – Time of 1:20.42 and BSF of 120
Philip H. Iselin Handicap – 9 Furlongs – 8/21/2004 – Time of 1:47.66 and BSF of 128
Woodward Stakes – 9 Furlongs – 9/11/2004 – Time of 1:46.38 and BSF of 114
Breeders’ Cup Classic – 10 Furlongs – 10/30/2004 – Time of 1:59.02 and BSF of 124
So it will be interesting to see what Arrogate accomplishes as a 4 year-old in 2017. It is unbelievable to think, that this horse who seemingly came out of nowhere, already ranks 3rd all-time in career earnings. He is just $3.66 million in race winnings behind California Chrome and should surpass him this year if he stays healthy.
My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings. And I have a new rising 3 year-old star that I feel you need to keep a close eye on. I hope to have this blog out by next Friday evening at the latest and if time permits, race previews of the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.
July 12th 2016
The month of July is way too early to come up with next year’s Kentucky Derby favorite or even a contender list for that matter. At least, that is my opinion because the majority of the most recent Kentucky Derby winners didn’t make their race debut until the months of August or September. The exception being California Chrome who first raced in April of his 2 year-old campaign. However, when a 2 year-old with a great pedigree and an excellent trainer behind him displays great promise on the race track, it gets my attention.
Classic Empire is a half -brother to Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion American Pharoah, both sharing the same sire Pioneerof the Nile. He also would be a third cousin to American Pharoah on his dam’s side since they both have the same great grandsire Storm Cat. So he essentially shares 5/8ths the same genes as American Pharoah.
But genes aside, we all know in horse racing that it takes more than genetics. Many exciting progeny have bombed or never made it to the race track. Here is what peaked my interest and gets me mildly me excited about Classic Empire. He has two wins in two starts. Classic Empire’s winning time of 1:09.39 was the 2nd fastest time in the 26 years that the Bashford Manor Stakes has been a graded stakes race. And Classic Empire received a 87 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest thus far for any 2 year-old colt or filly at a distance of 6 furlongs or longer.
His win in the Bashford Manor Stakes was a Grade 3 stakes race. And shall I add that he overcame the dreaded rail in this race and displayed great maturity navigating through traffic? At this point in their careers, he is way ahead of his half-brother American Pharoah who didn’t make his race debut during his 2 year old campaign until August and didn’t win his first race until the Del Mar Futurity in September.
And when you watch the replay above, how Classic Empire blew through the field coming down the stretch to nip Recruiting Ready at the wire–he looked quite “Pharoahish” doing so–it is very obvious to me that this colt will like longer distances. Just how long, we don’t know but he has one of the top trainers–and arguably the hottest trainer right now–in Mark Casse.
Always viewed as a great trainer, Mark Casse has gained worldwide attention the past 8 months for what he has done with Tepin and Catch a Glimpse on the turf side. Tepin is viewed as the 2nd best North American racehorse this year in polls behind California Chrome. And on dirt, Casse’s Noble Bird won the Stephen Foster last year and Noble Bird’s 110 Beyer Speed Figure in the Pimlico Special back in May is still the top Beyer Speed Figure in 2016 for races longer than one mile.
It is way too early to draw conclusions on Classic Empire’s future or make too many comparisons to his famous half-brother. He may flame out like so many other promising 2 year-olds do along the way.
But for now, Classic Empire has to be on everyone’s radar and at the very minimum, viewed as a 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender this fall.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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