Secretariat

Most Memorable Finishes Part 2

If you enjoyed Part 1 of the most memorable finishes we have a lot more this week. We all have our favorites and these are determined by historical significance and from a personal standpoint. ~ Steve Haskin

Most Memorable Finishes Part 2

By Steve Haskin

Wild Again winning the inaugural 1984 Breeders’s Cup Classic (Breeders’ Cup photo)

 

Although last week’s column ended in 1985 I am beginning this week’s column with an earlier race that I had listed but overlooked, one that is very well known to most racing fans.

1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Wild Again) – This race needs no introduction as we are all aware of its importance in establishing the Breeders’ Cup as one of the world’s great events in its first year. Yes, it was an exciting finish and a shocking result and is listed for its historical impact. But the overwhelming favorite, Slew o’ Gold, who was on the verge of greatness, was suffering from a quarter crack and his jockey Angel Cordero put on quite an act when he took up sharply in deep stretch despite appearing to be beaten after falling back to third. Because of Cordero’s dramatics it seemed as if the stewards were obligated to take down either the horse inside him, the nose winner Wild Again, or the horse outside him, the hooded Gate Dancer, who already had a reputation having been disqualified from fourth in the Kentucky Derby. There was no way the Breeders’ Cup or Hollywood Park wanted the first Classic to be decided on a disqualification, and it was Horse of the Year candidate Slew o’ Gold’s jockey who was claiming foul, so they took down the “notorious” Gate Dancer, who in my opinion did nothing to warrant it when it looked as if Wild Again was more to blame for coming out. But neither horse affected Slew o’ Gold or deserved to be taken down and the gutsy Wild Again was a deserving winner, especially since his owner supplemented him to the race for an outrageous $360,000… for a 30-1 shot. Now that is chutzpah. With Pat Day saluting the heavens afterwards, providing an everlasting image, the Breeders’ Cup was on its way.

1987 Haskell Invitational (Bet Twice) – As New Jersey correspondent for the new publication Thoroughbred Times it was a thrill to cover a race of such importance, with all eyes on Monmouth Park to witness the showdown between Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba and the Derby and Preakness runner-up Bet Twice, who then crushed Alysheba in the Belmont, winning by 14 lengths. Also in the mix was the exciting speedster Lost Code, riding one of the oddest winning streaks in memory, winning the Alabama Derby, Thomas Nash Memorial Handicap, Illinois Derby, Ohio Derby, St. Paul Derby, and Arlington Classic. This was his big move up to the top level. Lost Code, as expected, went to the lead, tracked by Bet Twice, who was the local hero, being stabled most of the year at Monmouth with Jersey favorite trainer Jimmy Croll. Alysheba took back and waited to make his move. Coming to the top of the stretch, Bet Twice went after Lost Code as Alysheba moved to the inside. Turning for home, Bet Twice pulled on even terms with Lost Code, but as they moved in toward the rail Alysheba had to veer to the outside. Now the battle was on. Lost Code showed what he was made of as he matched strides with Bet Twice. Alysheba still had a couple of lengths to make up but was flying. It was obvious all three horses were going to hit the wire together. In the end it was Bet Twice by a neck over Alysheba, who was a neck in front of a game Lost Code. Monmouth was going through a growth spurt in the mid-80s and this race put the Haskell on the map as one of the country’s top races for 3-year-olds.

1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Ferdinand) – While this was an exciting finish between two Kentucky Derby winners, which certainly made it historic, it was not one of my favorite races because it looked as if Ferdinand, as he was known to do, began to idle in the final sixteenth after taking the lead from a stubborn Judge Angelucci, while Alysheba, although closing the gap, seemed to be doing so only because Ferdinand was allowing him to do so by shutting it down. I am probably being too unkind to what was a thrilling finish between back-to-back Derby winners, but I was actually more excited and more impressed with both horses in the following year’s Santa Anita Handicap when they laid it all out with Alysheba, in front this time, stretching his neck out and holding off a relentless Ferdinand. They would repeat it again in even more dramatic fashion in their next meeting in the San Bernardino Handicap when Alysheba had to come again to beat Ferdinand by a desperate bob of the nose in a heart-pounding three-horse photo with outsider Good Taste. That race was as exciting as it gets. So just consider this the Alysheba – Ferdinand trilogy.

1988 Haskell Invitational (Forty Niner) – Forty Niner spent half his career in photo finishes and knew how to fight and how to win. He was one of the gutsiest horses I’ve ever seen and he needed every ounce of his courage to outduel the top-class Seeking the Gold the entire length of the stretch in 100-degree weather. I remember so well at noon that day the sun was actually burning the top of my head even through my hat. Here were two colts giving 100 percent in stifling heat while going stride for stride, with a tenacious Forty Niner refusing to let an equally game Seeking the Gold get by him. Back at the barn after the race Forty Niner had three fans blowing in his stall to try to cool him down. Amazingly, several weeks later Forty Niner again beat Seeking the Gold by a desperate nose in the Travers Stakes. What made these battles all the more interesting was that both these sons of Mr. Prospector grew up together at Claiborne Farm. Forty Niner would then lose a heartbreaker in the Woodward Stakes against older horses when he dug deep yet again but just failed to hold off Alysheba by a neck, and Alysheba had to break the track record to beat him, running the mile and a quarter in 1:59 2/5. I don’t think that I have ever seen three gutsier performances strung together, especially in only a month and a half.

1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Personal Ensign) – All you have to do is say Secretariat’s Belmont or Affirmed and Alydar’s Belmont and that is sufficient. They require no other words. The same can be said of Personal Ensign’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff and her determination to catch the Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the deep stretch run. Winning Colors was on a clear lead enjoying her return to Churchill Downs on a sloppy sticky track with Personal Ensign, appearing to dislike the surface and with too much ground to make up, charging at her relentlessly trying to end her illustrious career undefeated. Everyone already knew at the sixteenth pole it was going to come down to whose nose was going to be in front at the wire. First Personal Ensign had to get by the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Mother Goose winner Goodbye Halo and even that was going to be close. After that it would take about three or four more strides to crack the big powerful speedball Winning Colors. Just like Forego in the 1976 Marlboro Cup history would not be denied as Personal Ensign just got up to win by a nose ending one of the great careers of all time. For a race that requires no words I think that was more than enough.

1989 Preakness Stakes (Sunday Silence) – Has there ever been a five-year period in racing that saw more epic finishes than 1984 to 1989? And we didn’t even include the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic, that track announcer Tom Durkin called a “racing epic,” but paled by comparison to the ’89 Preakness between the same two antagonists, Sunday Silence, the pride of the west, and Easy Goer, the pride of the east. Before the Kentucky Derby, Easy Goer had been anointed the next Triple Crown winner by his avid worshippers only to run into a black bullet named Sunday Silence and a deep, wet Churchill Downs track he showed the year before in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile he despised. So, here came the Preakness and his chance for redemption. A week before the race Sunday Silence came down with a foot bruise and if he wasn’t able to work the following day he likely would have to be scratched. Noted veterinarian Alex Harthill was summoned from Kentucky. He went into the colt’s stall and both the top and bottom doors were closed. Shortly after, he came out and left and while we will never know what took place behind closed doors, the next morning Sunday Silence worked a half in a stunning :46 1/5. A week later Sunday Silence and Easy Goer engaged in a stretch battle for the ages, with Pat Valenzuela managing to get Sunday Silence outside of Pat Day on Easy Goer and in a stronger position. Both colts ran their hearts out with Sunday Silence just edging his rival to take the first two legs of the Triple Crown. And this was a colt who was so close to being scratched a week earlier.

1996 Dubai World Cup (Cigar) – I had traveled halfway across the world to cover a new race called the Dubai World Cup, the richest race in the world run at tiny Nad Al Sheba Race Course in the deserts of the rapidly growing Dubai. The $4 million purse topped the Breeders’ Cup Classic by $1 million. But no one knew what to expect or whether this race would succeed. It sure helped that they were able to lure American superstar and reigning Horse of the Year Cigar. But it had been reported that Cigar was battling foot problems since arriving in Dubai. Still, he was on the track every day and looked great. But as I sat in the media tent, word came in that Cigar was going to be scratched. Had I traveled this far to a strange new land for nothing except to see two decent American horses, Soul of the Matter and L’Carriere, face a bunch of locally based horses and mediocre European grass horses? To cover myself I wrote an opening paragraph about Cigar being scratched just in case. Then the horses filed on to the track from the stable area located on the backstretch. I looked through my binoculars and there was Cigar with his trusted pony Snowball. Thank goodness. Could he extend his winning streak to 13 races running on a questionable foot and at night for the first time? As they came down that interminably long stretch, Cigar had the lead, but here came Soul of the Matter with all the momentum. He ranged up alongside Cigar and inched ahead. “Oh, no, Cigar is going to get beat. Soul of the Matter is a good horse but where is the story?” Just then, Cigar seemed to find another gear or just dug deep into his heart of a champion. He came back again to win by a half-length. My story was written. The Dubai World was here to stay. It was a glorious flight back home.

1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile (Da Hoss) – This one surely was personal. In 1998 my family and I made several visits to Michael Dickinson’s Tapeta Farm and witnessed first-hand the struggle Dickinson and his crew had getting Da Hoss back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile after his victory in 1996 off only one minor race at Colonial Downs in two years. Da Hoss had been suffering one physical problem after another and his chances of making it back to the Breeders’ Cup seemed extremely slim. Dickinson kept showing me letters he faxed to co-owner Art Preston. On May 30 following an ultrasound of his tendon all seemed promising. But on July 10 he wrote: “Dr. Ross examined Da Hoss today, and he thought he had muscle atrophy on the left hind and was moving worse than he had ever seen him… It is disappointing to us all.” But his crew kept working feverishly on him. His groom spent six hours a day in the stall with the horse, rubbing him, giving him physiotherapy, massage treatments, ice treatments, and laser treatments. Dickinson then wrote to Preston: “We all know that he does have aches and pains, and on a nuclear scan he lights up like a Christmas tree. We’re all holding our breath at the moment and it will indeed be a miracle if he wins the Breeders’ Cup again this year. But miracles do happen.” What happened in the Mile will forever be etched in Breeders’ Cup lore. Da Hoss was forced to move early on the far turn after getting bumped and having to check on the first turn. Rallying four wide, Da Hoss hit the front at the three-sixteenths pole. Dickinson was upset, fearing the horse had moved too soon. Da Hoss was on the lead with more than a furlong still to run. From out of the pack came the stretch-running Hawksley Hill, who charged up alongside Da Hoss inside the eighth pole and actually got his head, then neck in front at the sixteenth pole and looked about ready to draw clear. Da Hoss, with only one allowance race under him in two years and countless setbacks, had made a gallant effort, but he was a beaten horse. But then the “miracle” happened. Da Hoss dug in and came battling back, his neck fully stretched and his teeth clenched. No one could believe it. Da Hoss kept reaching for more and with one final surge he stuck his head in front right on the wire. A stunned Tom Durkin, calling the race, bellowed: “Oh, my! This is the greatest comeback since Lazarus!” I remember back in July when all looked lost and Dickinson’s crew all were crying. Four months later, in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle, they all were crying once again.

1998 Belmont Stakes (Victory Gallop) – This was it. The 20-year-old Triple Crown drought would be over in a few seconds. Joining the list of racing’s immortals would be… Real Quiet? Really? A horse so unassuming and narrow from the front his trainer nicknamed him “The Fish”? A horse who was not even the most talented 3-year-old in his own barn? But it was going to happen. After upsetting the Derby and winning the Preakness, Real Quiet now held a commanding lead coming down the stretch. Racecaller Tom Durkin said it all: “Real Quiet is taking the lead, he’s coming to the eighth pole; 20 years in the waiting; one furlong to go. But here comes his rival Victory Gallop… Kent Desormeaux imploring Real Quiet to hold on. Victory Gallop a final surge; it’s going to be very close. Here comes the wire — it’s too close to call! Was it Real Quiet or was it Victory Gallop? A picture is worth a thousand words. This photo is worth five million dollars. Oh, no, history in the waiting on hold until we get that photo finish.” The wait seemed forever as I stood behind Real Quiet’s owner Mike Pegram’s box waiting to see if history had been made. Even if Real Quiet had held on there was a good chance he would be disqualified for coming out and interfering with Victory Gallop. Could the stewards really disqualify a horse from a Triple Crown sweep? They never got to make that decision as Victory Gallop’s number went up. By the way, Victory Gallop’s owners would go on to win another historic photo that year with a gutsy 6-year-old. His name was Da Hoss.

2007 Belmont Stakes (Rags to Riches) – If you want historic, this is your race. When Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense passed the Belmont Stakes after getting nipped by Curlin in the Preakness, the final leg of the Triple Crown lost most of its luster. That was until it was given a much-needed shot in the arm with the inclusion of Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches. It couldn’t have turned out better. After the decision was made to run Rags to Riches there she was, charging down the stretch in the Belmont locked in furious combat with the brilliant, tough, and determined Curlin, whose meteoric rise to stardom was one victory away from taking on legendary proportions. The crowd of 46,870, the smallest since 1996, was on its feet as the feisty filly and the brawny colt looked each other in the eye, neither budging an inch. One of the great battles in Triple Crown history was on. There is a saying attributed to both Eleanor Roosevelt and Carl Sandburg: “A woman is like a tea bag. It’s only when she’s in hot water that you realize how strong she is.” Curlin put Rags to Riches in scalding water down the Belmont stretch, but it was he who got burned. Rags to Riches, who had stumbled badly at the start and then raced wide the entire way, took the outside route, while Curlin, who had saved ground, split horses inside her with a quick burst of speed. Now, as they honed in on each other, it was time to see which one had the strongest will. It was a classic male vs. female confrontation, something you don’t see in most other sports. Rags to Riches, who had been manhandling humans since she was a baby, was not about to be intimidated by the powerful chestnut colt. Curlin came out and bumped Rags to Riches, who just shrugged it off, sticking her head in front. Although Curlin kept digging in and battling back, Rags to Riches refused to relinquish her head advantage. As she eased in slightly and Curlin again came out into her, the two were leaning all over each other as the wire approached. Most horses, especially fillies, would have been intimidated by the contact from a bruiser like Curlin, but Rags to Riches seemed to relish this test of superiority and she held her advantage to the wire, becoming the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont.

2009 Woodward Stakes (Rachel Alexandra) – You want more fillies, we got another one. This was the race a filly literally shook the Saratoga grandstand. Rachel Alexandra had not only decimated her own sex winning the Fantasy takes by almost nine lengths, the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths, and the Mother Goose by 19 1/4 lengths, she had beaten the boys in the Preakness Stakes and romped in the Haskell Invitational by six lengths, crushing the Belmont winner Summer Bird. Now came the bold move to take on older males in the Woodward Stakes. A 3-year-old filly going against older males in a Grade 1 race was unheard of, but Rachel’s connections were looking for new and higher mountains to climb. To make things even more difficult, Rachel had to repulse one challenge after another throughout the race, while pressing a brutal opening quarter in :22 4/5, and still was able to dig down deep and turn back her final and most formidable challenge from the multiple graded stakes winner and $1.7-million earner Macho Again. First, she had to turn back Past the Point, then the previous year’s Belmont winner Da’ Tara, prompting racecaller Tom Durkin to say, “There’ll be no free ride for Rachel Alexandra. They’re making her work for every step today.” And work she did through a testing three-quarters in 1:10 2/5. Then Asiatic Boy made a futile run at her followed by Whitney winner Bullsbay. Finally it was Macho Again who came at her, closing in with every stride. Rachel, under a barrage of 13 right-handed whips from Calvin Borel who had already hit her eight times, kept finding more. The crowd urged Rachel to hold on, their hearts pounding with every stride. At the wire, it was Rachel Alexandra by a head and the place went crazy. Rachel returned to an eruption of cheers, unlike anything heard before at Saratoga. But that race gutted her and it took her a long time to get back to the races. When she did she won several stakes, but was never the same filly we had seen earlier in 2009. But 13 years later, all those who were there still remember the day Rachel rocked the Spa.

I am wrapping this up with my three favorite Breeders’ Cup Classic finishes – the 2000 and 2001 victories by Tiznow and the 2013 victory by Mucho Macho Man, three of my favorite races of all time. The stories behind all three of these races are so long and so special and at times so heartwarming and gut-wrenching I would be doing them a gross injustice by trying to squeeze them in here. They can all be found in my archives at Bloodhorse.com along with the amazing story behind Zenyatta’s heartbreaking defeat in the 2010 Classic, to me the greatest race she ever ran.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to Secretariat.com since 2020.


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59 Responses to “Most Memorable Finishes Part 2”

  1. Bob G. says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for these articles, and all the others through the years. I was just starting to pay attention to horse racing in the early 2000’s. Then I watched Afleet Alex win the 2005 Preakness and I was hooked. While it didn’t make your list, I know you were as amazed and thrilled watching him pick himself up and win as the rest of us. I still watch it every few years. When I’m asked why I follow the horses, I show them the end of that race.

    We each have our own lists and memories. Thanks so much for sharing yours.
    Bob G.

  2. Nick says:

    Steve thank you so much for this amazing article I’ve been saving reading it and finally did I’m a suoer
    Horse racing fan and saw every one of those races nobody is a better horse racing writer than u !! Please start your derby lists soon

  3. Rick Cochran says:

    Thanks Mr. Haskin for all the memorable finishes as well as the extras provided by your readers. Like a really great, rare book that I find worthy enough to re-read after many years gone by, it’s especially enjoyable to revisit and re-watch all these incredible races and warriors via YouTube. You are so right to point out how we arrive at our own personal favorites given there are a myriad of factors involved, but regardless, how could any fan not be exhilarated and thrilled once again watching and reliving every one of these races and appreciate how incredibly game and special these horses are.
    Aways look forward to your next column. Keep ’em coming!

  4. Ms Blacktype says:

    Another great list, Steve! I was traveling/visiting over the holidays so haven’t had a lot of time to review these races (or watch the replays), but I will as time allows.

    I DID have a chance to catch the Sham just now — I like that spotted horse (winner Reincarnate)! Baffert has been quoted as saying “he wants a mile and a quarter, mile and a half.” Did just fine on the lead in a 1 mile Grade 3 stakes, repulsing two (mild) challenges. Hope Spun Intended is OK (fingers crossed, prayers said).

  5. Robin M says:

    Every race mentioned is memorable for various reasons. My favorites are Cigar winning the inaugural World Cup and Rachel Alexandra at the Spa. Unlike many horses that had success in Dubai, Cigar came back as good as ever, extending his streak before it was stopped in a tie for Citation. IMO, Rachel was never the same, or even close to the same, after the gut-wrenching victory in the Woodward, but the win garnered her HOY that year, so in that sense, I guess it was worth it. But, for myself, if I’d had a vote, I would have voted for Rachel without the victory over her elders and I sure would have loved to see her at her best for a 4-yr old campaign instead of the shadow of her former self she’d become.

  6. Kellye says:

    I didn’t know Dr. Alex Harthill worked on Sunday Silence. That’s very interesting.

    • Sarah Rowe says:

      I’ve heard Dr. Harthill had a reputation! You have to wonder if everything he did with Sunday Silence was “okay.”

      • Davids says:

        From the vet that gave Northern Dancer Lasix, illegally. Lol.

        • Sarah Rowe says:

          Actually, Northern Dancer’s Derby came BEFORE Lasix (or Salix) came onto the market even for humans, so maybe it wasn’t illegal after all! Northern Dancer won only by a neck in then-record time of 2:00, so clearly the good Doc made the right call! A little bleeding problem would slow you down, even if it wasn’t bad enough for most people to notice– just look at Tyler’s Tribe, a descendant many times over… Unfortunately, Northern Dancer was one of many horses from that era whose masked ailments led to our durability problem in the industry today, although it’s not the horses’ fault. They can’t help what breeders and vets do, combining different fast but unsound horses because the pedigree pages look good together.

          • Lynda King says:

            Furosemide was actually discovered in the 1940’s by a chemist at Merck. It was patented in 1959 and approved for use by the FDA in the United States in 1964.
            Lasix is a brand name for furosemide.
            The original use of the drug was to lower blood pressure by flushing sodium and other electrolytes out of the body via the kidneys thus reducing blood pressure. Was also used and still used to treat congestive heart failure.
            Harthill was a very controversial veterinarian who according to a close friend was able to get the drug while it was still in the human drug trial stage.
            There is no evidence that Northern Dancer was a bleeder but he was very volatile. Harthill supposedly have ND an injection of the drug before the race to lower the colt’s blood pressure so he would not leave his race in the paddock.
            Harthill was a brilliant veterinarian and was sought out by many trainers and owners. He was not above however administering a drug to any horse that would result in performance enhancement.

            • Ms Blacktype says:

              Interesting back story on Lasix and Northern Dancer, Lynda. Sounds like he was one of the first horses to get the Lasix edge.

              • Lynda King says:

                Hi MsB…Happy New Year!
                Yes, if the accounts are accurate then ND was the first horse who received Lssix.
                I have long wondered if Lasix was reconsider for sudden death in the young race horses.
                Lasix can result in a sudden drop in blood pressure and an upset in the natural balance of electrolytes such as potassium.

          • Davids says:

            Yes, Sarah, an excellent, succinct summary of the dilemma US racing has faced over the past half century or so. The positive has been that the US thoroughbred are in better health than what might have been expected. The prevention of the use of lasix on race-day in stakes races, 2 year old races etc has not turned to a disaster as some predicted. US racing is more detrimental to the horse than European turf racing which is more forgiving- soundness, conformation faults etc.

        • Lynda King says:

          Davids, Lasix is still technically illegal for horses in the Unied States. It is used under what is called “off label” under our FDA. It is approved for use in dogs with fluid retention issues such as kidney failure or have certain conditions whereby fluid is retained in the lungs. Some years ago my Heeler/Aussie cross..best dog I have ever owned developed a rare lung disease found primarily in working breeds. She was retaining fluid in her lungs and required her lungs to be tapped every few days to drain the fluid. Lasix was prescribed in hopes the fluid build up could control the fluid build up. Sadly it did not work and I had to put her down.
          Many countries including Germany have researched exercise induced pulmonary bleeding in horses and have concluded that it is genetic in certain bloodlines.

          • Davids says:

            Yes, Lynda. I remember reading an article in “The Horse” a few years back. “ Study: Epistaxis Has ‘Complex Hereditary Basis” – Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA. There have been numerous articles in “The Blood-Horse” over the many decades now.

            Overall, the recent withdrawal of the use of lasix, salix on race day in stakes races etc has not been the disaster as predicted by some which is/was a positive. I’ve wavered on both sides of the argument over the years – US racetrack environment, track surface, climate (humidity) et al are more liable to cause epistaxis than the European environment etc. Leaving aside the obvious advantage of being able to enable the horse to run ‘lighter.’ Withdrawal of water vs lasix is another debate as well.

    • Lynda King says:

      Harthill was known for giving horses injections of amphetamines before a race.

  7. Matthew W says:

    1989 Preakness was the best race of my lifetime, in my opinion….two great horses….east v west rivalry…..two Pat’s race riding! So much happening! The 1997 Preakness is a close 3nd, the two Grey’s, (Silver Charm and Free House)…the tough trip (Touch Gold)….Captain Bodgett….and the outside horse that delayed the start for so long!..

    • Brian says:

      89 Preakness…best race call ever in my view…Denman at the top of his game…

      • Matthew W says:

        Yes! Denman was so transfixed, by such a tremendous race….”PHITO FINISH! I CAN’T TELL…”….Two other great calls . 1) the 1977 Hollywood Gold Cup, Harry Hensen, Crystal Water and Pincay, fending off everybody, fast fractions, and then there’s “CASS–CA–PEDIA THE FILLY”….at the 1/8 pole, and then “Here comes Caucasus!”…….2) the 1995 Classic, Tom Durkin at his best—-in my opinion the best US caller, not close..

  8. Steve, Great article and thanks for keeping the memories of the great horses of the past alive. Have a wonderful rest of the week.

  9. Mike Cooper says:

    Great memories Steve. The greatest race I ever attended was the 1994 Travers with Holy Bull and Concern. One of the best race calls ever by Tom Durkin. Holy Bulls Woodward was just as impressive. Thanks for your passion.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Definitely belongs. I blew that one. It’s one of my favorite races and I just overlooked it.

    • Mike Cooper says:

      “Cause for Concern”. Enough said.

      • Matthew W says:

        …or for that matter the Classic, where Concern got up by a nose, over Tabasco Cat, who only won the Preakness and Belmont and lost the Classic by two inches, among other good performances, he only was 3rd best three year old!…

    • Todd Vaughn says:

      Glad you mentioned Holy Bull. He’s been kind of overlooked and forgotten, by myself included. He was everything a racehorse should be.

    • Sagebrush says:

      Holy Bull’s Travers – Yes! Holy Bull and Durkin at their best. Tiznow x2, Personal Ensign and Holy Bull for me and can’t rank them!
      I was going to say something after the first article to not forget the ’94 Travers, but never did!
      Love these articles so much, Steve.

  10. Lynda King says:

    Steve, totally agree about 2013 BCC. To this day I think it is one of the best Classics I have watched.
    Rachel’s Woodward is still breath taking to watch.

    • arlingtonfan says:

      MMM’s Classic is one of my all-time favorite BCCs, too! I would also pick Zenyatta’s epic victory in 2009. Both of these races got me jumping off the sofa and cheering my heart out. And as a Star Wars fan, how could I not love Skywalker’s surprise win in 1986 at odds of something like 12-1?

  11. Bill Dawson says:

    I thought the 2007 Belmont Stakes battle between Rags to Riches and Curlin was epic. Frankly, I’m against running females against males in graded races (on dirt) but Rags to Riches proved she certainly belonged in that race.
    On a side note, the G3 one mile Sham Stakes is coming up on Sunday, Jan. 8th, with a field of 11 listed as possible/probable.
    I was shocked to see 9 of the 11 are trained by Bob Baffert, the other two are trained by Jeff Mullins and Esteban Martinez.
    If Packs a Wahlop (Mullins) and One in Vermillion (Martinez) were to scratch out of the Sham, that would leave only Baffert colts in the race. That would certainly be a first. 🙂

  12. Roberta Greevey says:

    Wow! What great races these were. Wonderful job, Steve. Your descriptions brought back exciting memories. Interesting that there’s no Kentucky Derby finish in the group. I might include the 1999 Derby won by long-shot Charismatic. Cat Thief fought for the lead to mid-stretch and held on gallantly for third place. My pick, Menifee, rallied strongly to come up short by a neck. Ouch! Maybe that’s why I remember it so well. I believe it was the last “body part” finish in the Derby (neck, head, or nose).

    Someone recently asked me a question about horse racing that I hadn’t ever thought about. He asked me which horse was the greatest of all that finished second in the Kentucky Derby. The first horse that came to mind was Native Dancer. Later I thought of Arts and Letters, Sword Dancer, Alydar and, of course, Easy Goer. Maybe that’s a future Haskin column. Ha!

    • Jiffy says:

      I think you were right the first time. But I was a fan of Arts and Letters, and I’m glad you included him. Gallant Man is another one that I would put on the list. Once many years ago I heard Max Hirsch asked what was the most memorable Derby he had ever seen. He named four and he identified them all by losers. He said there was the Native Dancer Derby, there was the Gallant Man Derby, there was the Sword Dancer Derby, and I think the other one was Hill Prince but I’m not sure. Anyway, you don’t have to win to make a lasting impression.

      • Matthew W says:

        Before he got up on Spectacular Bid…Shoemaker said his best ever mount was between Swaps and Gallant Man, and Shoe rode most of the top horses for three decades.

    • Davids says:

      Roberta, my ‘second best horse’ running second in the Kentucky Derby goes to Nashua. You can’t really pass over Native Dancer.

      • Jiffy says:

        I forgot all about Nashua. He probably would be second to Native Dancer on the list.

        • Davids says:

          The Swaps – Nashua rivalry is something I regret not being alive to witness. Both horses obviously being of the highest quality.

          • Jiffy says:

            I was alive but I was a child and I wasn’t into thoroughbred racing yet. It probably wouldn’t have done me any good if I had been because racing coverage in our area was virtually nonexistent in those days. Native Dancer is the one from that era that I wish I could have seen. 21 wins in 22 starts at that level is amazing.

            • Davids says:

              Absolutely, Native Dancer is the crème de la crème of racehorses.

              • Jiffy says:

                In our area in the 1950’s world news got a total of 15 minutes of TV coverage each night–not 24 hours. When Native Dancer retired, he got a spot with video in those 15 minutes. That says a lot about how highly he was regarded.

  13. Kelly Eefsting says:

    Steve, that stretch in the 80’s was amazing I agree. My fav was that ’89 Preakness though I was hoping the “East” would’ve won that time lol. I’d like to know if you thought that ’98 BC Classic field was the best ever assembled for an American race. I keep saying it WAS but I see arguments against it.

    • Matthew W says:

      2000 Classic in my opinion the best field…Tiznow, Giants Causeway, Albert the Great, Fusiachi Pegasus, Captain Steve, Lemon Drop Kid any of those six could win a Classic. ..

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Both great fields

      • Davids says:

        I’d say 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic field slightly tops the 2000 field by the inclusion of 2 horses. The 2001 field had the 2001 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee and the mighty Galileo in the field. That’s phenomenal star power.

        The Breeders’ Cup Classics were always more intriguing when some of the best European runners were entered

      • Matthew W says:

        Giants Causeway kept winning big races, always digging in for victory….they tried dirt in the Classic, and he fired another big race, a performance that wins most Classics..1998 Classic Swain ran ten lengths better than his rivals, I don’t think any horse from the 1998 Classic finishes any better than 3rd, in 2000, Tiznow got good he was so good he repeated, despite the back injury, the refusal to train, the rushing to make the race, the two cross country ships AND the long laover at Belmont, after 9/11…..

        • Matthew W says:

          Update! I just rewatched the 1998 Classic, Swain bore out but he didn’t lose ground like I thought, Awesome Again was best….I stand by my “not better than 3rd” comment, Tiz and Giants were tops..best 2nd place finish in my opinion , first time dirt and 14 post….

          • Davids says:

            Sakhee won the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe by over 6 lengths on October 7, then only 3 weeks later ran second by a nose for the first time on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a time of 2:00.62

            Giant’s Causeway had a 5 week break from the Queen Elizabeth II stakes to the Breeders’ Cup Classic running second in a time of 2:00.75. First time on dirt beaten by a neck.

    • Discopartner says:

      The ’98 field was the best, almost every horse’s name well known for good reason.

  14. Mike Sekulic says:

    I was at TIZNOW’s Breeders Cup win in New York. What a thrilling contest that was, on such a strange and exciting day.

  15. Hi Steve,

    Like Greg M., I’d also like to begin by wishing you a Happy New Year. That said, this collection of fantastic finishes is quite complete and quite entertaining to read. I’m glad you mentioned the 2010 B.C. Classic, which was incredible if heartbreaking, but like John G. below, I’d nominate the ’09 B.C. Classic. As Trevor so memorably noted, it was “one we’ll never forget.” Also among my personal favorites were the 2016 B.C. Distaff, with Beholder narrowly defeating Songbird, and one of the top races I’ve ever seen in person, the 2011 Delaware Handicap. The pre-race sniping between the Jerry Hollendorfer and Larry Jones camps only added to the excitement, and it was quite clear from early on that it would essentially be a match race between the two rivals. I loved them both (shades of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra), but preferred Blind Luck and was thrilled when she got up at the finish.

  16. Davids says:

    I’d say Lava Man’s 2006 Hollywood Gold Cup deserves a credible mention. Pure courage and determination by Lava Man and even beats Vic Stauffer’s call to win, magnifique. The race is available on YouTube.

  17. Davids says:

    Steve, reading the Alabama Derby which Lost Code won at the now defunct Birmingham Turf Course brought back old forgotten memories. So much so that I watched a rerun on YouTube. You should have a look.

    1987 Alabama Derby: ESPN Broadcast

    There are some old familiar faces as well as a tribute to A. I. Savin, who had just died, along with footage of Mr. Prospector. It goes for 44 minutes or so. A ghost from the past.

  18. SoloSolo says:

    For me, the 2007 Preakness, Curlin digging in, a preview to his great heart & determination. The heart of thoroughbreds on full display. Happy New Year, Steve. Will you treat us to another Derby Dozen —-can I say that, can you still use that title?

  19. Todd Vaughn says:

    Many great memories and great stories contained in these lists. I’ve always enjoyed the fast horses like Spend a Buck, Wild Again, and Lost Code, often refusing to be passed. Lost Code’s story could be a movie. As for Zenyatta, i’ve never agreed with Mike Smith being the villian in her defeat. Not sure she was ever passing Blame, but if anything it was her lack of preparation with kickback and lights that got her beat.

  20. John Goggin says:

    2009 BC Classic. There is no other race finish than can compare to this race. This is the most memorable race finish that has become the gold standard of memorable finishes. Zenyatta’s win will always be, in my opinion, the greatest finish ever in a race….period. End of story.
    UN….BE,,,,LIVE…ABLE!

  21. greg marsh says:

    Hi Steve

    First of all, I wish you and all of your readers a new year filled with joy, blessings and wonderful memories.

    Thanks so much for adding a part 2 to your list of great finishes. As a fan of Damascus and the Phipps racing stables, I love watching Personal Ensign’s Breeders Cup victory. It is one of those events, that, even though you know the ending, you can watch it continually and still get excited by the ending. Sheer beauty, dramas and excitement . . . everything that makes thoroughbred racing the wonderful sport and ballet that it is.

    greg (Fan of Damascus . . . all his many offspring)