Secretariat

Bid, Book, and Beyond

It was 43 years ago on September 8 that Spectacular Bid won the Marlboro Cup in his first start against older horses. If you thought you knew the complete story of Bid and those who guided him through his Hall of Fame career you were mistaken. Jack Gilden’s new book “The Fast Ride” provides both the memorable and sordid details in revealing the untold story of one of the all-time great Thoroughbreds. Bid’s true greatness also is detailed here by yours truly through stats and recollections.~ Steve Haskin

Bid, Book, and Beyond

By Steve Haskin

 

I lived through the Spectacular Bid years. I covered his Preakness for Thoroughbred Record as a photographer and was at his Belmont, Marlboro Cup, Jockey Club Gold Cup vs. Affirmed, and walkover. I hung out with Buddy Delp after the Belmont, interviewed him on the phone at his home, and wrote several columns about the colt. I even visited Bid at Claiborne Farm and years later at Milfer Farm in Unadilla, New York.

Yes, I knew jockey Ronnie Franklin was a raw immature street kid with no experience and was being thrown into the fire too early. And I knew that trainer Buddy Delp’s braggadocio and occasional outbursts knew no limits. And I knew owner Harry Meyerhoff’s second wife Teresa was much younger than him and that they made for quite an odd couple in outward appearance.  But they were all supporting players to the horse Delp called “the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle.”

However, I recently found out I only thought I lived through the Spectacular Bid years. Author Jack Gilden in his book “The Fast Ride: Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing” convinced me I hadn’t. So now after reading the book I amend that statement by saying I existed through the Spectacular Bid years, witnessing only the performance of the lead character on stage and not knowing the full extent of what was happening behind the curtain. Yes, I cheered, marveled, and stood in appreciation at each bravura performance by this magnificent superstar. But offstage, the human frailties of the supporting cast went unnoticed, until now, more than four decades later. Although the book did not alter Spectacular Bid’s accomplishments in any way, it certainly altered the narrative of his story that is now being told for the first time.

“The Fast Ride” is not a typical biography of a horse, as was Peter Lee’s well-chronicled book on Spectacular Bid a few years ago, as it skimmed over a number of Bid’s races. What it is is a riveting book about how a horse with a fairly modest pedigree and price tag, ridden by a young inexperienced jockey not equipped emotionally for such a big stage and trained by a brash Maryland hardboot, can go on to become one the all-time greats despite the shortcomings and self-destructive actions of those around him.

Gllden went behind the scenes of “The Spectacular Bid show” and revealed the dark side of one of the greatest shows in racing history.  He did make a number of detours, spending several pages on the background of supporting players like jockeys Angel Cordero and Jacinto Vasquez, which most racing fans are already familiar with. But this book is geared toward both racing fans and readers in general who would be interested in their backgrounds, as well as the backgrounds of many of the horsemen and horsewomen who had Bid pass through their hands and helped guide him toward his place in racing’s pantheon. In the end, we know who all the characters are, minor and major, and the roll they played in telling the complete story.

Gilden was fortunate that those close to Ron Franklin, who died in 2018 at age 58, were so revealing, especially Delp’s son Gerald , who is in poor health and was willing to strip away all the layers and disclose his own weaknesses and years of addiction, as well as the struggles of a vulnerable and immature Franklin. This refers to his and Franklin’s excessive drug use during and after the Bid years, which shockingly was supervised by Buddy Delp, who often partook in the rapidly growing ritual. This was a son by telling his story after all these years was freeing himself of his demons at the expense of his own father and an “adopted” brother who was taken into the family’s home.

Delp also was said to be a heavy drinker who could get mean while intoxicated. As Gilden wrote, “It got to the point where Gerald, who arrived at work at 5 a.m. every day, dreaded his father’s stumbling appearance at 8 or 9 because the old man was already reeking of booze and paranoia.”

Another invaluable voice in the book was Cathy Rosenberger, who was Gilden’s eyes and ears into Buddy Delp’s organization. She was able to reveal a great deal about Franklin when he first arrived at Pimlico, knowing very little about working around horses. She also introduced him to a number of key sources in the book.

Gilden comes at you with machine gun-like swiftness, shooting holes in all the misconceptions we have had about Spectacular Bid’s career in regard to the people who helped orchestrate it. However, none of their failings affected Bid’s performances on the track.

The author takes us to Belmont Park on the morning of the Belmont Stakes after Delp was informed by groom Mo Hall that Bid had stepped on a safety pin in his stall. He attempts to put the puzzle together as to what transpired that entire day and the uncertainties that followed regarding whether they should run the colt. We still can’t be 100 percent sure to what the extent the infamous safety pin incident affected the colt’s performance and Franklin’s fragile psyche in the race, but Gilden paints as clear a picture as possible. Bid would wind up going after an 80-1 longshot early in the race and never looked like the horse who won the Derby and Preakness, as he had little left in the stretch, finishing third to Peter Pan winner Coastal.

Let me interject here my own discussions with Delp regarding the race and its aftermath: I remember when Delp eventually broke the news of the pin to the press he was pretty much branded a liar, and, while he understood their skepticism, he said his mother “cried like a baby” at the accusations. Even long after the race Delp would tear up and become emotional when discussing his decision to tell Franklin about the safety pin, which he felt affected his ride. However, many still scoff at the safety pin excuse.

Delp did tell me that after returning to Maryland from the Belmont, he called noted Kentucky veterinarian, Alex Harthill, who told him what to do about the foot, and said if there was no improvement in seven days he’d have to come to Maryland. Seven days after the Belmont Bid seemed fine, but the next day the colt was dead lame.

When Harthill arrived, he used a miniature plane to remove little bits of the hoof at a time. When he noticed a black spot embedded deep in the hoof he bore into it with an electrical drill.

Delp recalled, “Suddenly this thick black stuff starts shooting out of there like a fountain. It was completely infected. Doc looked up at me said, ‘Hey Bud, where are all those sonofabitches who called you a liar?’ He told me if we had left it alone much longer he likely would have lost the foot, and possibly worse.”

According to the trainer, after Harthill’s drilling procedure, he then had blacksmith Jack Reynolds fly in and fit Bid with a special piece of aluminum on his shoe. Delp said he fed him gelatin to build up the bone and medicated the coronet band to stimulate blood circulation and help the hoof grow back.

A little over two months after the Belmont, Bid returned to the races, winning an allowance race at Delaware Park by 17 lengths in track record time with new jockey Bill Shoemaker aboard. A great horse was about to grow into a legend.

One other note about the controversial and often volatile Harthill, who is vividly portrayed in the book — according to Gilden he had treated Bid before the Belmont, but had to sneak into the track in the trunk of a car because he was banned from the premises.

One of the most compelling parts of the book was the ongoing feud between Franklin and Cordero that resulted in fisticuffs in the jocks room. Cordero knew how to get into your head, and Franklin, still an undisciplined teenager, opened the door wide for him and then tried to close it the only way a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood knew how.

We also learn a great deal more about Harry Meyerhoff than we knew, especially in regard to replacing Franklin following the Belmont. According to Gilden, Meyerhoff blamed Franklin for Bid’s defeat, feeling he was too fearful of Cordero during the race, and his reluctance to be associated with a jockey who was a known drug abuser, even though Meyerhoff and Teresa were recreational drug users themselves. The last thing Meyerhoff wanted was for the scrutiny into Franklin’s use of drugs to eventually trace to him and Teresa.

But the main storyline of the book in addition to Bid was the self-destruction of two human beings, one of whom had the skills to be one of the top riders in the country, but followed those he trusted into the deepest abyss and was never able to get out. As a result he faded into obscurity, as did Gerald Delp, who might have become a top trainer following in his father’s footsteps. Instead it was those footsteps that led him astray, resulting in continued drug use, two failed marriages, and serious financial trouble. Gilden described it as “the father who had engineered the son’s metamorphosis from child to addict.”

I don’t know Gilden, but in addition to his crisp writing style, it is obvious he has the knack of making people comfortable enough that they are willing to open up to him and tell him things even he wasn’t prepared for. You could almost feel the book coming to life for him as he sat there listening to them ripping off the band-aids exposing the under belly of the Spectacular Bid story.

For those who don’t know or cannot appreciate the true greatness of Bid, let us deviate from the world of literature and into straight fact, with a personal touch added.

Spectacular Bid won Grade I stakes on the lead and he won coming from 10 lengths back. He was the ultimate racing machine and proved it at ages 2, 3, and 4. Following two defeats early on at age 2, he won 24 of his next 26 starts, with his only two defeats coming at 1 1/2 miles, which included the safety pin incident. He ran seven furlongs in a near-world-record 1:20 flat and 1 1/4 miles in a world-record (on dirt) 1:57 4/5, a time which has not been equaled in 42 years. He broke seven track records and equaled another at seven different tracks and at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. In addition to the World’s Playground Stakes, in which he ran seven furlongs in a blazing 1:20 4/5 over a dead racetrack, believed to be the fastest seven furlongs ever run by a 2-year-old, he ran 1 1/8 miles in a track-record 1:45 4/5 at Hollywood Park and a track record 1:46 1/5 at Arlington Park, both carrying 130 pounds, and 1:46 3/5 at Belmont Park as a 3-year-old, defeating older horses. He also ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40 2/5 over a slow track at Hollywood Park carrying 132 pounds.

In all, Spectacular Bid won at 15 different racetracks in nine different states, and carried 130 pounds or more to victory five times, while rattling off 12-race and 10-race winning streaks. It is the only time in memory that has been accomplished. In his only other defeat at 1 1/2 miles, he was beaten by the previous year’s Triple Crown winner Affirmed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after being forced to miss his prep in the Woodward Stakes due to a virus and getting a questionable ride from Bill Shoemaker, who broke a step slowly and allowed Affirmed to crawl on the lead in a four-horse field. After being passed by Coastal on the inside, Bid battled back and tried hard to catch Affirmed, but was beaten three-quarters of a length.

As his coat lightened as a 4-year-old, he was like a ghostly figure hurtling down one stretch after another in isolated splendor. With his head held high and his powerful legs stretching across the racing universe he not only went undefeated in nine starts in 1980, there was never a horse in front of him at the eighth pole.

Bid, however, had been suffering from a nagging sesamoid problem that was discovered after the January 5 Malibu Stakes and was present throughout his entire undefeated 4-year-old campaign. Daily tubbings and Butazolidan helped, but following his victory in the Amory Haskell Handicap under 132 pounds, Shoemaker noticed he didn’t feel 100% right. Delp just wanted to get him to the Jockey Club Gold Cup to close out his career, and continued treating him and making sure he was walking sound. But first came the Woodward Stakes, which wound up being run in a rare walkover when Bid was the only horse entered in the race. Delp instructed Bill Shoemaker to just have him cruise around the track and let him get a good work no matter how long it took him. His priority was protecting the horse in order to make the Gold Cup.

But Shoemaker, despite never fully asking him to run at any point, still allowed Bid to close each of his final two quarters in a mind-boggling :24 1/5. Horses rarely come home their last quarter that fast in a normal race going 1 1/4 miles, never mind closing their last two quarters that fast running against no one. By running his mile and a quarter in 2:02 2/5, faster than previous Hall of Fame Woodward winners Buckpasser, Kelso, and Sword Dancer, Bid re-aggravated his sesamoid injury, which forced his retirement.

Bid remained a major part of Delp’s life until the day he died, as he would retreat to his den, sit in his easy chair, and look up at a vision that would brighten his day. There above him was the face that became the focus of his life for three years. Wherever Delp went, from Florida to California to Illinois, he would take the painting of Bid.

“It’s a head shot of him looking out of his stall, and he’s pricking his ears,” Delp said 20 years later back in 1999. “I look at that painting every day and see that familiar left eye looking back at me. That’s just the way I remember him every morning when I got to the barn. It’s as if it was 20 years ago and he’s looking at me, waiting for his morning donut. He wanted that donut and in fact demanded it. He loved the powdered sugar.”

Reading the book sparked my own memories…

I remember photographing him at the Preakness on assignment for the Thoroughbred Record. With my future wife Joan positioned on the outside rail and me on the photographer’s stand in the infield, we watched him striding out so powerfully as he whizzed by us.”

I also thought back to being in Joan’s office (when she was public relations coordinator for NYRA) overlooking the finish line at Belmont Park watching Bid complete his historic walkover. Eight days later we were married.

In 1998, Joan and I went to visit The Bid at Milfer Farm in Unadilla, N.Y., along with our then 14-year-old daughter, Mandy. He no longer bore even the slightest resemblance to that charcoal gray 3-year-old with the star on his forehead. But he still held his head high with pride, and when he looked at you, that fire and spirit of his youth still shone through. He was Spectacular Bid, and he still knew it. And you knew it.

Milfer Farm owner, Dr. Jon Davis, told us at the time, “I still get goose bumps standing next to him.”

As did I that day at Milfer Farm, seeing him interact so playfully with my daughter. I have a photo album I can open, with photos of Mandy and Bid, and show it to her. And I can tell her, “You remember these pictures of you with this magnificent white horse named Spectacular Bid? Well, his trainer once called him the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle. It was quite a preposterous comment at the time.  But who’s to say he wasn’t right?”

Yes, Delp could be outrageous in some of his comments and some of his actions and those close to him knew it all too well.

As Delp said, “I never once blew my own horn. I only blew the horse’s horn. But, hell, he ran a lot faster than I talked.”

But Delp also knew how to listen, just as he had listened to Spectacular Bid. What the horse told him can be found in the pages of the history books.

In Gilden’s new fascinating book Delp is portrayed in many ways and you can make of him what you wish — a Hall of Fame trainer who was blessed with the horse of a lifetime, someone who could be brazen and insolent, or someone whose actions in his own home were darker than anyone knew.

“The Fast Ride” also strips Ronnie Franklin clean to the bone, unveiling a troubled, vulnerable, immature, but talented young rider who like many children in their fantasies had hopped aboard a beautiful rocking horse and was able to make it go faster and faster until it seemed out of control. But in Franklin’s case that rocking horse was real and it was Franklin who would be out of control.

Secretariat died in 1989, then Alydar in 1990, Forego in 1997, Affirmed in 2001, Seattle Slew in 2002, and The Bid in 2003. Just like that they were all gone, and with them the end of racing’s golden era. We will never see the likes of Spectacular Bid again, in what he accomplished at 2, 3, and 4.

Franklin, Delp, and Meyerhoff are also gone, but thanks to Jack Gilden and his quest to unlock the true story behind an equine legend we were able to find a silent voice waiting to shout to the world in Gerald Delp, who could have uttered Ishmael’s closing line in Moby Dick: “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”

 

Photos courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club, Milt Toby/Blood-Horse, Bob Coglianese, and Steve Haskin. Steve will be on vacation next with the Askin Haskin column returning Sept. 26

 


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256 Responses to “Bid, Book, and Beyond”

  1. Sharon Brock says:

    Thank you Steve for this column. I am ashamed to admit I transferred my dislike of Delp to Spectacular Bid during the time the Bid was racing. Your words show me how wrong I was and reminded me what a great race horse the Bid was.

    Ron Franklin’s story reminds me a little of Chris Antley, another talented, troubled soul with drug demons. I also remember how Steve Cauthen was taken off Affirmed when the horse turned four because the horse was too strong for him to control. Am I remembering that correctly? What a partnership that was.

    • Matthew W says:

      Affirmed lost to Sure Fire, in a sprint….and I think he lost again…Picayune was the strongest jockey, and when he rode Affirmed they won off by many lengths, as we saw in the Santa Anita Derby win (by eight lengths)….Caution back on, in the Hollywood Derby they won by 2 1/4, over the same horses…Picayune on Affirmed went 9 for 9, but they were DQ’d, in the Travers, they finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Alydar, that day…Alydar lost probably 5 lengths, from the foul…still you wonder—Affirmed was hard to pass.

  2. Matthew W says:

    Plans for Cyberknife is to cross enter, Classic and Dirt Mile, and see who’s going and where….

    • TommyMc says:

      By “who”, I assume you mean Flightline. Does he have anybody else to fear? Maybe Epicenter I guess.

      • Matthew W says:

        I think it’s Flightline…because they know they cannotbeat him, and with Epi on there …..third place may be their limit….of course Life Is Good and Laurel River in the Dirt Mile would present problems….perhaps an off track would change things….

  3. TommyMc says:

    A possible competitive 11-horse field for next Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby and I think each and every one of them was on Steve Haskin’s Derby Rankings at one time or another. Or at least in the “Knocking on the Door” section. At first glance, I’m drawn to Taiba and Zandon. Obviously, Epicenter has Zandon’s number. But, no Epicenter on Saturday and a possible legitimate pace could set up well for Zandon. Let’s see if Flavien Prat follows him to Parx. I definitely think that Taiba can turn the tables on Cyberknife. Cyberknife ran his eyeballs out in his losing effort to Epicenter while Taiba was resting up. For now, I’ll commit to using both Taiba and Zandon in multi-race wagers. I’ll take a stand on one of those 2 by Friday night.

    • TommyMc says:

      A 12:05pm post-time next Saturday at Parx. If I counted correctly, there are ten(10) Stakes races on Pennsylvania Derby Day. The Cotillion & Derby have purses of $1million each. The Gallant Bob & Turf Monster will have $300,000 purses. There will be six other races with $200,000 purses. The Keystone State has put up the money. Let’s see if they can fill those fields.

      Is it my imagination or are $1million races becoming a dime a dozen? I remember back in the late ’70s at Santa Anita, everyone was always talking about how many 100-granders Bill Shoemaker had won. Now, $100,000 is Maiden race at some places.

  4. Spaldeen says:

    That picture is just sinking in.
    Is the Bid entertaining Mandy or the other way around?
    Incredible!

  5. TommyMc says:

    The amazing Charlie Appleby went 3 for 3 in his North American Stakes races today. Mysterious Night scored at 1-2 under William Buick in the $500,000 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. Two races later, his Modern Games was ridden to victory by Buick in the $1million Woodbine Mile at 3-5 odds. Minutes later, Frankie Dettori guided Nation’s Pride to an easy win in the $1million Jockey Club Derby at Aqueduct as the 1-2 favorite. 3 wins. All as easy as pie. You have to hand it to him, Mr. Appleby knows how to pick his spots. He’s one European trainer who realizes that the NorthAmerican turf horses are not all that much. No offense. The Europeans have to be licking their chops when looking at the Breeders Cup Turf & Mile.

  6. TommyMc says:

    Lady Speightspeare is an interesting Filly. After today’s win in the Grade III Seaway at Woodbine, she has won 7 of 12 races. She is 7 for 7 in Canada and 0 for 5 in The U.S. 7 for 7 at Woodbine(4 for 4 on turf and 3 for 3 on synthetic). Why would trainer Roger Attfield ever ship her anywhere else? She scratched out of a race last weekend at Kentucky Downs. I’d say that trainer Attfield made the right move there. Good call!

  7. TommyMc says:

    I know that it saddens most horse racing fans when our heroes are retired. Especially, when they are retired too soon. But, the beauty of the sport is that there is always a brand new cast of characters that show up every year. Many have already run their first races and there are still many to come. The Breeders Cup is coming up, but, it’s never too early to start looking for the 2023 Derby Winner. Don’t we all want to find the next Spectacular Bid or the next Flightline?

    • TommyMc says:

      As I watch the races from Churchill, it looks like their turf course is looking better. They still aren’t racing on it. Will they be able to use it on their big Thanksgiving Weekend of racing? I hope so. I still don’t know why they replaced their turf course. To me, the Churchill turf course was always one of the best in The U.S. Right up there with Belmont IMO. Oddly, I’ve always liked the Indiana Grand/Horseshoe Indy turf course. Unfortunately, they only get decent horses to run over it about twice a year.

  8. Howard says:

    Beautiful.. brought tears to my eyes. I starred following racing in 1978. Boy was i lucky to see The Bid race.

  9. Matthew W says:

    I hear there’s a battle Royale going on, between the Hronis Bros and the other owners, concerning Flightline’s future, with the Bros wanting to race him as a five year old, the others wanting to whisk him away to the breeding shed— the breeders are ruining the sport.

  10. TommyMc says:

    Mo Donegal has been retired because of “bone bruising” suffered in his big Belmont win. Very sorry to hear that. Another 3 year old that looked to have a very bright future who couldn’t make it to his 4 year old season.

    • Matthew W says:

      I think he could have but not until mid year, and since they got the one big win….over a filly that missed the break, and a gr3 winner….they decided he did enough…..and that’s Horse Racing in 2022..

      • TommyMc says:

        I also wonder if the looming presence of Flightline had anything to do with their decision. Could they have figured that they weren’t going to win any big races as long as Flightline is around? May as well go now with The Belmont in their pocket as a pretty good draw for potential breeders. Still, as a fan, I like to see my favorite horses race as 4 & 5 year olds.

      • Discopartner says:

        He beat the Kentucky Derby winner and ran a good Belmont, one of the triple crown races and one of the few remaining 12 f. races. No need to knock the field.

  11. TommyMc says:

    I thought that Big Invasion would have a big chance in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. However, trainer Christophe Clement says that Big Invasion is done for the year. No injury was reported. Clement just didn’t like the way that his horse came out of last Saturday’s race at Kentucky Downs. Monsieur Clement probably saved me some money.
    I know that the European Sprinters don’t do that well in the BC Turf Sprint. Well, not as well as they do in the BC Turf & BC Mile. But, there’s a horse named Highfield Princess and if she comes over she could be very tough. The one concern is that the race I watched her win was on a straight course. Can she handle a turn at Keenland? I’ll have to investigate further. Maybe Golden Pal won’t be a “single” this year. We’ll see.
    Only 7 weeks until the Breeders Cup.

  12. Davids says:

    Steve, your well constructed ‘Christieesque’ dropping of hints has piqued my interest on ‘whodunit’ to Speculator Bid on Belmont Day that I have ordered a copy “The Fast Ride.” Mind you, from what you have written above the storyline appears to be a sad tragedy – which doesn’t surprise. Those who have golden lives are quite rare, quite rare indeed.

    Have you been watching the sales, I’m bug-eyed from watching them especially getting up in the wee early hours of the morning. Constitution looks as though his progeny are going from strength to strength with better broodmares. I’d be surprised if some of his colts in this crop don’t make a noise on the Derby Trail, come 2024.

  13. Ms Blacktype says:

    For those of us with incurable Derby fever — to stay on topic, last I checked the Bid DID win the race — Churchill Downs just announced some interesting tweaks to the point system that go into effect THIS year, as reported by drf.com. First, all points races will include points for fifth-place finishers, and certain Jan/Feb races will go from 10 points to 20 to the winner, including preps in CA and LA. Most significantly, winners of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile will earn 30 points. Similar tweaks are on board for Oaks preps as well.

    • Davids says:

      Yes, Ms Blacktype, the point system did need tweaking as the ‘major’ trainers had worked out a system that suited them but detracted from the experience of most fans. Should be more cut throat, nail biting, for owners/trainers and drama for the fan.

      Mind you, I didn’t the BC Juvenile’s points needed further padding.

  14. Mike Sekulic says:

    Didn’t want to forget to thank Steve for yet another chapter of masterful storytelling!

  15. TommyMc says:

    Charlie Appleby looks to have another big day shipping horses over to The U.S. on Saturday. He will send out the even-money favorite Nation’s Pride in the $1million Jockey Club Derby at Aqueduct. Frankie Dettori takes over for William Buick who will be busy with a couple of Appleby runners up at Woodbine. Only 6 runners in the $1million race. Flavien Prat will be riding Classic Causeway who has handled the switch to turf just fine for new trainer Kenny McPeek. I’ll be interested to see if Classic Causeway can handle the mile and a half on turf.

    With Prat being there for the start of the meeting, I think he might be able to give Irad Ortiz a challenge for leading rider at this “Belmont at Aqueduct” meet. He’s got his foot in the door with some pretty good stables.

    Meanwhile, at Woodbine, Charlie Appleby sends out 6-5 favorite Mysterious Night in the $500,000 Summer Stakes and
    7-5 favorite Modern Games in the $1million Woodbine Mile. William Buick will ride both of those. Eleven horses are entered in the $1million Woodbine Mile. I’ll give the Paulo Lobo trained Ivar a shot to upset and back him with a very small wager. My only bet of the weekend. I noticed that Lobo and jockey Joe Talamo brought in a couple of longshots at Kentucky Downs this week. Let’s see if they can keep the good mojo going.

    Modern Games should be very tough to beat. People will remember that he won last November’s Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf after he was scratched and then wasn’t scratched. When he won, his backers only got their bets back without any winnings due to a snafu caused by the Del Mar Stewards. Basically, he won and nobody could bet on him. I’m still angry about that one.

  16. Mike Sekulic says:

    I know it’s hard to rank horses, but it’s fun to try, and I always come up with the same top two of all time: SECRETARIAT and SPECTACULAR BID. And as I pointed out in my letter to the editor on Thoroughbred Daily News last week, in response to their question, “Was Flightline’s Pacific Classic the best performance since SECRETARIAT’s Belmont?” there have been many great performances in that nearly 50 year period, and “Leapfrogging over a horse like SPECTACULAR BID is unthinkable.”

    • Steve Haskin says:

      jay Hovdey did a column on his Top blowout performances. I think I’ll do the same thing, Eastern version. So many to choose from. But mine will be races that blew me away and not all of them were huge margins.

      • Mike Sekulic says:

        When it comes to great races (after SECRETARIAT’s Belmont and before FLIGHTLINE’s Pacific Classic) that blew me away there are a great many that come to mind, including:

        SECRETARIAT’s Marlboro Cup, beating one of the best fields ever assembled (RIVA RIDGE, COUGAR II) in world record 1:45-2/5
        DESERT VIXEN’s brilliant 12 length Beldame win (following another brilliant Beldame the year before)
        RUFFIAN’s 13-1/2 length Mother Goose victory.
        FOREGO’s Marlboro Cup in 2:00 flat under 137 pounds!
        ANCIENT TITLE – Del Mar Hcp (in what might have been a world record performance if not for the “about” distance).
        J.O. TOBIN’s savage run in the Swaps Stakes. Too bad he didn’t run this same race, or his race at all in the Preakness!
        ALYDAR’s 10 length victory in the Whitney in 1:47-2/5!
        EXCELLER & SEATTLE SLEW’s showdown in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
        SPECTACULAR BID – Strub Stakes in 1:57-4/5, Santa Anita Hcp win in the slop, Malibu, Washington Park Hcp, etc.
        AFFIRMED’s Hollywood Gold Cup in 1:58-2/5 while carrying 132 pounds!
        PRINCESS ROONEY obliterating the field in the inaugural Breeders Cup Distaff by 7 lengths.
        PRECISIONIST’s 1:46 Woodward by 4-3/4 lengths.
        FERDINAND – mostly because it was awesome to see William Shoemaker, the greatest jockey in history, win the Kentucky Derby.
        EASY GOER’S 1:32-2/5 smashing win in the Gotham Stk.
        SUNDAY SILENE & EASY GOER in the Breeders Cup Classic!
        SKIP AWAY – loved his Breeders Cup Classic win.
        ZENYATTA’s Breeders Cup Classic was the most exciting race I’ve witnessed live.
        AMERICAN PHAROAH’s Belmont Stakes, and finally getting another Triple Crown winner was a thing of beauty!
        FROSTED, like he was shot out of a cannon with less than 1/4 mile to go in the Metropolitan Mile, winning by 14-1/4 in 1:32-3/5!
        ARROGATE’s Travers Stakes in track record time!

        Those are the dirt races that instantly come to mind, but if I were to include turf races I would have to throw in some beautiful efforts by DAHLIA, JOHN HENRY, GOLDIKOVA, DEEP IMPACT, FRANKEL, MIESQUE and a few others.

  17. Marc Mink says:

    I saw him win in Florida early…am convinced that he is still the last Superhorse we have seen, and the 1970s, which gave us Secretariat, Forego, Seattle Slew. Affirmed/Alydar and Spectacular bid to 1980, has colored my opinions of all that have come since, and makes me grateful it is so embedded in my memories.
    Thanks so much Steve!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      To me, thre have been only two male horses since Bid I would consider all-time greats — John Henry and Cigar, and Cigar is borderline only because I’m not sure what he would have accomplished had Holy Bull not gotten hurt and retired. Holy Bull might have become an all-time great or they might have canceled each other out.

      • Deacon says:

        Respectfully, I think Point Given would have been perhaps an all time great if he were not injured. I would also include Ghostzapper but perhaps he did not have enough races under his belt.
        Zenyatta, Rachel & Rags to Riches are fill all time greats IMO.

        Regardless Steve, your assessment is spot on.

        • Matthew W says:

          He said males….

        • Steve haskin says:

          I can list 20 might have beens if….

          • Spaldeen says:

            I bet you can easily, Steve.
            Hoist The Flag gotta be way up there.
            Thank you for the magnificent article on the Bid.
            Much heavier than the well documented drama of the Slew crew.
            I think the current day shenanigans are of a different nature for the most part…

            • Matthew W says:

              A forgotten “could’ve been” is Roving Boy, a big son of Olden Times, foaled in 1980…took three races to break his maiden, then won four stakes in a row, including the Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk and Hollywood Futurity…injury prevented a Triple Crown run, he came back in the Fall, and ran 2nd in an allowance race, then he won a small stakes, at Oak Tree, and collapsed, right after the finish, and passed away on the track…..

              • Matthew, I will never forget Roving Boy and who knows how good he could have been. His “catastrophic” breakdown after the finish line ( I still have that image in my mind of that picture that either the LA Times or Herald Examiner had the next day after the race of his trainer, Joe Manzi, kneeling next to him on the track with a look of pain and hopelessness ) was not only a loss for horse racing but also to the breed as he had a very strong pedigree lineage to the “All Time GREAT” …. Man o’ War !!!

  18. Andrea Bouwkamp says:

    I absolutely love your articles on legendary horses. Bid was a phenomenal freak that the younger generation needs to know about in relation to the horses of today that pale in comparison. I’m going to buy this book so I have something to follow the Landaluce book. I’m really enjoying reading books again which has taken a lot of my time away from internet reading and honestly that’s OK.

  19. Deacon says:

    Love the story Steve, the horse of a lifetime Spectacular Bid. Sometimes a horse and a trainer just make it work. Buddy Delp was not as well known as many trainers but he hit the jackpot with the “Bid”.
    Thank you for sharing this story, I truly enjoyed it.
    To this day I still believe that Spectacular Bid & Dr. Fager were the 2 best horses I ever saw run. I was at Santa Anita when the “Bid” set his 10 furlong world record.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Of the horses I’ve seen, Best horse at 2 and 3 Ruffian. Best 3 year old Secretariat and Damascus. Best 4 year old Dr. Fager. Best horse at 2 3, and 4 Spectacular Bid. Best horse at 4, 5, 6, and 7 Forego. Best horse at 8 and 9 John Henry

      • Matthew W says:

        I know he didn’t always run his best…but I consider Skip Away special, he could go fast early and hold sway late….just my opinion….

      • Deacon says:

        I am curious Steve how would you rank American Pharoah? He did win 7 of 8 starts as a 3 year old. He logged more air miles then most pilots. He beat some pretty good horses in the BCC at Keeneland as well.

        If were able to run at age 4 then maybe affecionado’s would have viewed him differently.

      • Nice assessment here Steve, and have no disagreement with it The thing about John Henry I would add, and you don’t see it with too many horses is that he knew he was in a race, and in the late stages of a race, he ran with determination !!! Ears pinned back grinding and gaining with every step. I felt the same way with Justify.

      • Davids says:

        Interesting Steve, but who is the best 2 year old you’ve seen?

  20. TommyMc says:

    BTW, I ordered my copy of “The Fast Ride”. It will be here on Monday. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll only have 3 days to finish it before digging into the Form for Pennsylvania Derby Day. The only day of the year that I play Parx. They added a couple of Penn-Bred Stakes races this year to make something like 8 or 9 Stakes Races on the day. I’m looking forward to it. It will be interesting to see if BB can reassert himself on the national stage. BB is supposedly sending Taiba for the Pennsylvania Derby and Adare Manor for the Cottillion. Adare Manor has been training well. Heck, she always trains well. It’s time for her to step up and fulfill her promise.

    The Turf Monster will be run on that Penn-Derby card. Some may remember that last year a $10,000 Claimer beat the Beer Can Man over a course that can be best described as a “cow pasture”. No offense. That turf course was soggy from rains in the days before and the race probably should have been moved to the main track. That former Claimer paid way over $100 for his backers. I don’t remember his name. He was entered in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint only to be scratched just before the race. Like I always say: “such an interesting sport”.

  21. Matthew W says:

    Bud Delp brought out a horse for the 1981 San Pasqual…he told Bill Garr he did not expect to beat Flying Paster, and he said take Bid away and Paster sweeps the ’80 Strub series, and wins the BigCap for fun….Bud was class! I saw Paster win the ’81 San Antonio, but he lost, at 6/5 in the BigCap, he got injured in that race, won by a six year old John Henry…. Paster sired runners, but he passed too soon..

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I just watched the 1981 Big Cap … Flying Paster was never able to be better than fourth during the race but still always up there… he was retired after that emblematic race…

      Flying Paster was so dominant 2 and 3-year-old in the West that many people thought he would be able to defeat Spectacular Bid in the 1979 Kentucky Derby. Before that highly anticipated East‐West confrontation the trainers of prior Derby winners were asked about their preference. Lucien Laurin, LeRoy Jolley and Lazaro Barrera favored Flying Paster slightly above Spectacular Bid. Woody Stephens liked Spectacular Bid and Billy Turner could not separate the two Derby favorites.

      Flying Paster finished fifth in the Derby as the second choice (2.2-1). It was reported he had suffered cuts in his right foreleg during the race. Flying Paster came out the Derby very tired with sore muscles and, as you mentioned in one of your posts, lost anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds after that only race at Churchill.

      The addition of Butazolidin in the Preakness did not help him recuperate and finished a distant 4th (penultimate) as a third choice at 10 to 1. His speed duel with General Assembly was indeed tiresome for both.

      I am not sure if Flying Paster was totally drained or if he was injured after the first two TC legs but he needed a 7-month vacation before returning as a 4-year-old.

      Flying Paster was undeniably one who pushed Spectacular Bid to potential during their 4-year-old campaigns.

      As a sire, the son of Gummo was champion in California from 1987 to 1991 with 44 Black Type winners from 353 starters (12.5%). His best progeny in US were California Champion Flying Continental, Cats Cradle, Flying Julia and Key Phrase. The latter is the dam of Yankee Gentleman, the notable broodmare sire of American Pharoah. Not too shabby for a pure Californian…!

      • Matthew W says:

        Paster and General Assembly went around Pimlico in tandem, finishing 4th and 5th (last) …Paster probably shouldn’t have run, but back then you ran them….probably one if the best east/west Derby showdowns, Paster won SA Derby by six then Hollywood Derby by ten….did not like that Churchill surface and was beaten by another Cal bred Golden Act that day….

  22. Matthew W says:

    The question was always who is the “best since Bid:….for years my answer was Easy Goer, then Candy Ride….it’s Flightline now, I’ve seen them both! Bid had Paster, to push him Flightline has no one, I am fortunate to have witnessed them both!..What Bid did, with lite training and a hot spit in a tendon he was really something..

    • Matthew W says:

      Hot spot..

    • TommyMc says:

      I would never question your opinion, Matthew. But, I’m surprised that you said Easy Goer.

      • TommyMc says:

        Didn’t Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer 3 of the 4 times that they faced each other? Easy Goer beat Sunday Silence in The Belmont to deny him the Triple Crown. But, Sunday Silence prevailed again in the Breeders Cup Classic.

        • TommyMc says:

          Sunday Silence: 14 9-5-0, 6 Grade I wins. Easy Goer: 20 14-5-1, 9 Grade I wins. I guess a case could be made for Easy Goer because of his slightly longer career. Being from California in those days, I was a big Sunday Silence fan. So, I may be blinded by my allegiance to him.

          If I remember correctly, Pat Valenzuela’s troubles began with Sunday Silence which caused Chris McCarron taking over for the Breeders Cup Classic. His troubles really came to a head with a horse named Hawkster. Patrick didn’t show up to ride him in a Stakes race one day. Russell Baze, of all people, got the mount and rode him to victory. Russell Baze was a Northern California rider. I don’t remember the circumstances that had him at Santa Anita that day. I hope I got my facts right. That was all from my very questionable memory. Except for the Sunday Silence/Easy Goer stats which I looked up.

          Pat Valenzuela eventually took off for the Mid-West. I think his first stop was down in the Bayou. He ended up in Chicago before returning to Southern California. I always say that he was a much better rider when he came back.
          PV was another of my favorite riders. Many times he saved the day for me by winning the 9th race or “get out” race.

          • Matthew W says:

            Pat Valenzuela was ultra talented, and he “rode” several horses in a race, which I didn’t like…..he could herd horses, push things to the limit, in the 1989 Preakness, the best race I ever saw on television. Pat Day on Easy Goer puts him PVal on Sunday Silence into a pocket, down the backside…PVal brings his quicker horse around Easy Goer, then crowds Day, down the length of the stretch, then Day makes the decision of turning his mounts head towards his competition, hoping to spur him on…a strange move, considering the margin at the wire was two inches.

      • Matthew W says:

        Just my opinion….I thought the Phipps Family erred, using a 12 furlong race as a prep, against Sunday Silence….Kentucky Derby was an iff track, Easy Goer didn’t like off tracks. ..they were both great ….

        • Jiffy says:

          I always had a gut feeling that Easy Goer was the better of the two horses. All the evidence, both on the track and in the breeding shed, says no, but I still think he was better than his record indicates.

        • Davids says:

          Those sharp, tight corners always favored Sunday Silence. No lasix for Sunday Silence and Big Sandy’s luxurious corners allowed Easy Goer to excel. The turning of Easy Goer’s head may have been the distraction that lost him the race but that’s guessing.

  23. Lynn Taylor says:

    I have been looking for a picture of fager to add to my wall but I have never found one better than what you took when he was going out for a workout. I would like to add it to my wall of slew swaps and Medina spirit. If you can help me thank you

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Really? I thought that photo was good only in my eyes because of how special it is to me. How can I help you? Do you want me to email you the photo?

      That is a very eclectic wall you have.

  24. Carol Fox says:

    Hi Steve. Oh my goodness I had been debating as to whether to buy this book but after reading your column I am going to order it. Amazon needs to thank you. Spectacular Bid is in the pedigree of Hoppertunity who stands here in Maryland.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I think you will enjoy it. Jack Gilden told me yesterday that the day the column was posted the book “zoomed to No. 1 on Amazon for racing books.”

  25. Carol Fox says:

    Hi Steve. Oh my goodness I had been debating as to whether to buy this book but after reading your column I am now convinced that I should. Amazon needs to thank you. Have a great vacation although I will miss your columns while you are gone. Spectacular Bid is in the pedigree of Hoppertunity, who is standing here in Maryland.