Meet the 2021 Vox Populi Award Finalists

The ballot box is open for the 2021 Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award, but before you cast your vote be sure to read the story behind each of the six finalists. ~ Steve Haskin

Meet the 2021 Vox Populi Award Finalists

By Steve Haskin


It is that time of the year again to start thinking about championships even though the Eclipse Awards are out of the public’s hands. It is just the opposite when it comes to the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, which goes to the most popular horse as voted by the public. The award was the brainchild of Big Red’s owner Penny Chenery, who inaugurated it in January 2011, with the honor going to the great mare Zenyatta.

It was Zenyatta’s owner Jerry Moss who summed up the award best when it was presented to him by Mrs. Chenery at Santa Anita.

“We’re thrilled to receive this fantastic award,” Moss said. “Having grown up in the business, to have our horse mentioned in the same breath as Secretariat is an honor indeed. Thank you to the fans and to Penny Chenery for this beautiful award and to Secretariat for setting the mode.”

Now, more than a decade later, the award has gone to a vast cross section of equine stars, from Horses of the Year and Eclipse champions to lesser known, but equally as popular, horses such as Rapid Redux and Ben’s Cat, whose careers were light years from an Eclipse Award, but whose achievements endeared themselves to racing fans all over the country. To show how diverse the Vox Populi Award has become, it even went to the Australian wonder mare Winx, who had racing fans in America staying up all hours of the night to watch her race after race extend her amazing winning streak to 33 races.

Mrs. Chenery came up with idea for the Vox Populi Award to “recognize a horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for the sport during the past year.”

This year the Vox Populi nominating committee came up with six such horses as finalists that will now go to the public, which has the option to submit write-in votes if they feel there are others who deserve the honor.

Following are the six finalists in alphabetical order, all of whom competed in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. But even though half of them were defeated it did not diminish their popularity.

How popular can a 2-year-old filly be who raced only four times from mid-July to early November? As odd as it may sound, it’s not her unblemished record that makes her popular, it is the promise of the future. And it is that promise that has enabled Echo Zulu to capture the imagination of the public.

Ever since 1975, whenever a brilliant 2-year-old filly has come along who is undefeated and totally dominates her opponents, while dazzling racing fans with her freakish victories, the thought begins to enter people’s minds: “Could this be the next Ruffian?” Younger fans can only go by stories and videos, but hardened veterans who witnessed the magnificence of Ruffian in person still hope to see another one come along after almost half a century, knowing full well the chances of it happening are close to zero.

When Echo Zulo won her career debut by 5 ½ lengths at Saratoga at odds of 4-1, outshining all the colts and doing it with little urging, it opened people’s eyes, but there were no thoughts at all of Ruffian, who ironically also went off at 4-1 in her career debut. Then came the leap into grade 1 company and an easy four-length score in the Spinaway Stakes, a race also won by Ruffian. Although Ruffian was forced to miss the Frizette Stake with a season-ending injury, Echo Zulu demolished her opponents by 7 ¼ lengths in a swift 1:35 flat for the mile.

Now everyone’s eyes were open much wider. Facing her strongest opposition by far in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the story was the same, as she ran her opponents into the ground, winning by 5 ¼ lengths and running faster than the undefeated Corniche in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.

No one at this stage is comparing Echo Zulu’s accomplishments with Ruffian and her 10 stakes-record victories. But her first few brush strokes suggest a possible masterpiece in the making. There is a long way to go until its completion, but for now, she appears to be in a totally different class than her opponents, whether it’s at 5 ½ furlongs, seven furlongs, one mile, or 1 1/16 miles. So we can’t help but dream, and it is that dream that makes Echo Zulu worthy of a place on the list of Vox Populi finalists.

Essential Quality will not be remembered as a brilliant horse who turned in even one jaw-dropping performance. Owned and bred by the powerful Godolphin operation that has sent out waves of international Group and Grade 1 winners this year, Essential Quality certainly is never going to be mistaken for Cinderella and he surely was not bred with fairy tales in mind. Yet the handsome gray colt became one of the most popular horses in the country. The reason why can be answered in one word – respect. And respect often breeds popularity.

This was a horse who liked to do three things – eat, sleep, and run. At the barn in the morning you would likely find him sprawled out in his stall fast asleep after his breakfast. That was a scene a good portion of the racing world got to witness through his groom’s videos on Twitter. But on the racetrack in the afternoon Essential Quality was a running machine with a burning competitive spirit. After a while, it seemed that all trainer Brad Cox had to do was wind him up and wait for some horse to look him in the eye.

Essential Quality was the quintessential pro. Fast track or slop he still won. Six furlongs or 1 ½ miles he still won. Fast pace or slow pace he still won. He could be placed anywhere on the racetrack. At the half-mile pole of his races, he was second, third, fourth, fifth, and eighth and won them all. He won four major stakes by under a length and two major stakes by 3 ¼ and 4 ¼ lengths. He became the first horse ever to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Belmont Stakes and ran the second-fastest Belmont in the last 20 years, with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah running only two-fifths of a second faster.

The only two defeats of his career came in the Kentucky Derby when he was very wide the entire trip, losing a good deal of ground on both turns, and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when his stablemate Knicks Go came in on him at the break forcing him to drop back to sixth and get stuck on the rail behind horses.

With all his accomplishments, Essential Quality wasn’t even the best horse in his own barn, although we didn’t find that out until his career finale in the Classic. In the world of the Vox Populi Award that means little or nothing or that he was beaten by Knicks Go, who deprived him of Horse of the Year honors. It is the entire journey that counts and how many fans hop aboard the bandwagon and bet him down as favorite in his races, as they did in the Classic.

Essential Quality’s fans followed him, rooted for him, admired him, and wagered on him, not because he was so dynamic, winning by huge margins in record times. It was because he earned something that doesn’t show up on the highlight reels – he earned their respect.

Many of the qualities we saw in Essential Quality we also saw in Hot Rod Charlie, except that the latter was considered more of a common folks version of the Godolphin colt. And racing fans took an immediate liking to him, as they did to his co-owners, five college buddies and football teammates from Brown University, who formed a strong brotherhood after graduating that eventually led them to owning part of Hot Rod Charlie under the name Boat Racing after a beer game from their college days. Their main connection to racing was the group’s spokesperson, Patrick O’Neill, who happens to be the nephew of Hot Rod Charlie’s trainer Doug O’Neill and Doug’s brother Dennis, who bought the colt at the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale for $110,000. So Charlie was truly a family affair.

But the son of Oxbow earned his popularity mainly because of his consistency, resiliency, and toughness and traveling all over the country to take on the best. But also because many regarded him as a hard-luck horse who always tried hard, but often came up just short, with almost every race being a mini-drama. And because of that, they were always pulling for him to land one of the big races.

In last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he emerged virtually from nowhere, coming off a neck maiden victory, and was just beaten three-quarters of a length by Essential Quality at odds of 94-1. That would be his first of eight-consecutive races at eight different racetracks in seven different stakes.

In his 3-year-old debut, the Robert Lewis Stakes, he got bounced around like a three-cushion billiard shot in the stretch and finished third, beat a neck, by Medina Spirit. He then wired his field in the Louisiana Derby, run for the first time at the extended distance of 1 3/16 miles. In the Kentucky Derby, he had to check in tight quarters passing the finish line, right behind Medina Spirit, dropping back to fifth. He fought hard in the stretch, but fell a length short of catching Medina Spirit and Mandaloun, although he did out-battle Essential Quality for third.

He then ran one of the greatest losing races in the history of the Belmont Stakes, battling on the lead through a torrid half in :46 2/5, which was only a fifth of a second slower than Secretariat ran in his record Belmont victory. Again, he wouldn’t quit in the stretch, but just couldn’t hold off Essential Quality, who beat him by 1 1/4 lengths, with an 11 ¼-length gap to the third horse, Preakness winner Rombauer.

He appeared to have landed his elusive Grade 1 victory by out-battling Mandaloun by a nose in the Haskell Invitational only to be disqualified and placed seventh. Everything finally went right for him in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and he had no trouble winning wire-to-wire by 2 ¼ lengths, earning a career-high 111 Beyer speed figure, but once again had to survive a foul claim.

In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, having run hard all over the country since January and never finishing out of the money, Hot Rod Charlie gave his all chasing Knicks Go, but could finish no better than fourth.

As it stands now, he could face fellow Vox Populi finalists Knicks Go and Life is Good in the rich Pegasus World Cup in January. One thing is for sure, he will have his legion of fans backing him, and five exuberant college buddies who found the horse of a lifetime.

Is Knicks Go about to make Vox Populi history? If he wins the award it would be the first father and son duo to do so. His sire Paynter received the honor in 2012 after battling back from three life-threatening illnesses — pneumonia, colitis, and laminitis. He actually made it back to races where he finished second in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes named after his sire, who, like Knicks Go, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Although Knicks Go did not have to go through such an ordeal, he did have a resurrection of his own, returning from an injury at 3 to earn a likely Horse of the Year title two years later. No horse in memory has had as unusual a career as Knicks Go.

Trained originally by Ben Colebrook, he scored a shocking victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, romping by 5 ½ lengths at odds of 70-1. Despite his impressive score he still went off at 40-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and finished second to the Bob Baffert-trained Game Winner. His career then went into a sudden and dramatic nosedive. Not only did he lose his next nine starts, he was out of the money in seven of them, finishing as far back as 10th and 11th, and in the Gotham Stakes was beaten 51 lengths. The promise he had shown at 2 for some reason had taken a 180-degree turn and his career was now in a free fall and appeared to be plummeting into the abyss.

He was turned over to trainer Brad Cox following a 10th-place finish in a Grade 3 grass race at Churchill Downs. His physical ailment was corrected and he emerged a new horse with a new life and never looked back, going from strength to strength. His ability to accelerate on the turns and his incredible quickness to go along with his powerful strides made him a terror in two-turn races. In his eight starts going two turns he won all eight by an average margin of 5 ¾ lengths. By winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at 4 and Breeders’ Cup Classic at 5, he became the first horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races and finish second in another. His time of 1:59 2/5 was the third fastest Classic ever run on dirt behind Skip Away and Ghostzapper.

In the Classic he instilled something in the opposition few horses are able to  – fear. To pretty much sacrifice your chances of winning because of the fear you have to look him in the eye or even attempt to stay close to him says a lot. He basically had the best horses in America running for second.

But Knicks Go was more than just a brilliant horse who appears a lock for Horse off the Year honors. Fans all over America and as far away as Saudi Arabia got a chance to see him run, as he scored victories at Oaklawn Park and Gulfstream in the south, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and Prairie Meadows in the Midwest, Saratoga in the northeast, and Del Mar in the west, not to mention his trip to Saudi Arabia that likely took its toll physically and contributed to his defeat in the arduous Met Mile in hIs first start back. Both those races were around one turn and his strength is putting his opponents away on the first turn and then accelerating again on the second turn before drawing off in the stretch.

To demonstrate how popular he became during his travels, his appearance in the Cornhusker Stakes practically made the season for a small track like Prairie Meadows.

“We were excited to see his name in the nominations,” said director of racing Derron Heldt. “When Brad Cox confirmed he was running I told everyone let’s hold this race together and make sure it goes. To watch him win off by over 10 lengths with that high cruising speed was so exciting. It was such a great feeling to have a horse of that caliber run here and then go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The morning after the Cornhusker several of my staff members went to the barn to have their picture taken with him. I’m sure our marketing department will put him on the cover of our first condition book.”

Not bad for a horse who two years earlier was rapidly fading into obscurity.

It took a little while for racing fans to embrace Letruska, but when they did it started a love affair that lasted all of 2021. They were intrigued by her when she came to the United States from Mexico in 2019 unbeaten in six races and coming off two grade victories by 9 ½ and 14 lengths. She ran some good races here in late 2019 and 2020, winning the Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes and a pair of overnight stakes but she also threw in clunkers in the Tropical Park Oaks and the Ballerina and Beldame Stakes.

She did open some eyes this year with impressive stakes scores at Gulfstream Park and Sam Houston before getting beat a head by the top-class filly Shedaresthedevil in the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn. But it wasn’t until she surprisingly out-dueled the gutsy two-time Eclipse champion Monomoy Girl in the Apple Blossom Stakes that fans really began to take notice of her.

Even Oaklawn race caller Vic Stauffer was stunned by the outcome, as he bellowed, “Letruska has turned away the champion…oh my goodness!”

That victory propelled her to a five-race winning streak at five different tracks, four of her victories coming in Grade 1 stakes. After arriving at Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff where another victory could have earned her the title of Horse of the Year, depending on what happened in the Classic, Letruska became the most visible horse on the grounds, with photographers and TV cameramen constantly around her and the media doing countless interviews with her trainer Fausto Gutierrez.

Gutierrez had been successful in Mexico and thought it was time to bring his small stable to the United States and give Letruska a chance at stardom. He felt his mare was carrying the flag of Mexico and was hoping she could show that a horse from his country could beat the best fillies and mares in the world. The fairy tale ending was set, despite one of the strongest and deepest Distaff fields ever.

But the race went downhill from the start when Bob Baffert’s fast 3-year-old filly Private Mission took it to Letrustka immediately with jockey Flavien Prat intent on outrunning her. The result was suicidal fractions of :44 4/5 and 1:09 3/5, which killed off both horses. To demonstrate the toll they took, Letruska, who had been racing steadily all over the country since April of 2020, was beaten 32 lengths, with Private Mission another five lengths behind her bringing up the rear. The first five finishers came from ninth, seventh, eighth, 11th, and 10th, respectively, thanks to the blistering pace.

The Distaff will soon become a forgotten blot on Letruska’s record as she and Gutierrez, who said the Distaff was “a very, very tough race on her,” prepare to regroup for another sensational campaign in 2022.

You can tell how people feel about Letruska when she can get beat 32 lengths in the biggest race of the year and no one has a disparaging word to say. Now that is what you call popular.

There was a time when Life is Good and his trainer Bob Baffert were indeed living the good life. Following a learning experience winning the Sham Stakes over Medina Spirit, in which he was pulling himself up in the final furlong, he went into full Kentucky Derby mode by crushing Medina Spirit by eight lengths in the San Felipe Stakes, despite drifting out badly in the stretch. That proved to be a foreboding sign as he came out of a March 20 workout with an ankle chip that required surgery and kept him out of the Triple Crown races. Without the setback he was on his way to becoming the Kentucky Derby favorite.

What made it even more frustrating to his owners WinStar Farm and CHC Inc, was then having to watch Medina Spirit win the Run for the Roses after having fallen victim twice to Life is Good.

During his absence, Essential Quality, Medina Spirit, Hot Rod Charlie, and Mandaloun all emerged as the stars of the 3-year-old division. As Life is Good prepared for a summer and fall campaign, and with the best races being in New York and the New York Racing Association attempting to ban Baffert from racing there following Medina Spirit’s positive drug test in the Kentucky Derby, it was decided to move the colt to Todd Pletcher.

Although he was defeated in his return by the brilliant Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga, he gained a good number fans with his gutsy performance, coming on again in the final sixteenth to be beaten only a neck by arguably the fastest horse in the country while coming off a nearly six-month layoff and running the seven furlongs in a near stakes record 1:21 1/5.

He then toyed with his opponents winning the one-mile Kelso Handicap at Belmont by 5 ½ lengths before romping by almost six lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, giving him victories in one-turn and two-turn miles.

That concluded an unusual 3-year-old campaign, in which he went from early Kentucky Derby favorite to missing half the year with an injury and then returning with another trainer 3,000 miles away and picking up right where he left off, showing improvement with every race.

Life is Good was too late to have a shot at Horse of the Year and likely the 3-year-old title, but his fan base is growing and it’s looking as if he will get his chance to dethrone the overwhelming favorite for Horse of the Year, Knicks Go, in the Pegasus World Cup, which should be an epic battle of speed and will to see who cracks first. Who knows, by then, life may be great for the son of Into Mischief.

Now that you know the story behind each finalist it is time to let your voice be heard. So make sure you vote. Remember, this is your award.



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235 Responses to “Meet the 2021 Vox Populi Award Finalists”

  1. pro vet says:

    Who would race a top 2 or 3 year old at churchill or kentucky? Leading up to the triple crown?….what top prep races for Derby are there?….what meets does churchill have?….spring ? fall?..If you think you have a Derby prospect, you want to train somewhere where the weather is great……Training , or racing on off tracks is not good…..
    Especially in the old days……you sent your best to florida……was the rule……

    You can post “facts” all you want…….knowledge is may more important……

    What is the point?… breds are weak? The “track” is weak?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Before this escalates, Your rebuttal has nothing to do with Eddie’s fact that no Derby winner since 1926 has broken his maiden at Churchill Downs. His fact has nothing to do with where to prep for the Derby and nothing to do with The Derby not being the Derby back then whatever that has to do with anything and certainly has nothing to do with Ky breds. I dont know where you came up with that. He merely states that Derby winners dont break their maiden at Churchill Downs, which obviously refers to a 2 year old. Has nothing to do with weather or training for the Derby. Churchill Downs runs a spring and summer meeting and fall meeting and is known for their number of 2yo maiden races. You would think at least one Derby winner would have broken his maiden there at 2. He wasnt making a point or giving an opinion. He stated a fact and was looking for others who had an opinion explaining the fact. Also, I’m not sure you know what the Dunning Kruger effect is, but if you do I would not have said “My posts are way better than yours.”

    • sceptre says:

      Yes, and until somewhat recently, Churchill was considered less a major track/meet and the better meant 2 and 3 yr. olds raced elsewhere.

  2. EddieF says:

    Ahhh….The Vox Poopuli Award for Internet commentary goes to our very own poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

  3. pro vet says:

    News flash…..the derby wasnt the DERBY WAY BACK THEN………….Mystery solved

  4. EddieF says:

    Here’s a surprising bit of Derby trivia: The last Ky Derby winner that broke its maiden at Churchill Downs was Bubbling Over in 1926. Brokers Tip in 1933 won the Derby in his career debut, so I don’t count that. Several have attempted to break their maiden CD but failed — most recently Street Sense, Monarchos, and Real Quiet. Any thoughts as to why its been nearly 100 years? CD race dates? Supernatural forces?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I think you meant to say Brokers Tip broke his maiden in the Derby.

      • EddieF says:

        He did, but it was in the Derby, not before. So I didn’t include it in the span of time. He no doubt broke his maiden in the Derby.

      • EddieF says:

        To put it another way, Brokers Tip as an ENTRANT in the Derby had not broken his maiden at CD.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          You said he won the Derby in his career debut.

          • EddieF says:

            You are correct, sir. I mixed up Brokers Tip with Bubbling Over. So it was Bubbling Over that won the Derby in his debut. Sorry. Restated…

            The last Ky Derby winner that broke its maiden at Churchill Downs was Brokers Tip in 1933 (in his 6th start).

          • EddieF says:

            The “MAIDEN RACES, KENTUCKY DERBY WINNERS” page of the Derby Media Guide is a bit confusing.

          • EddieF says:

            Doing additional research, seems the Derby Media Guide is wrong. Bubbling Over raced before the Derby. But I double-checked the other info, and Brokers Tip was indeed the last Derby winner to have broken his maiden at CD.

            • Steve Haskin says:

              The point I am making is winning the Derby as a maiden is not the same thing as winning it in his career debut. Who would run a horse in the Derby in his first carer start. Brokers Tip was a maiden and it was the only race he ever won, but it wasnt the first race of is life, he ran 4 times as a 2 year old

              • EddieF says:

                I know the difference, Steve. I already explained that I was wrong about the details of 90-100 years ago because of my own misreading and because of the confusing, and ultimately incorrect, media guide table. Can we get back to the original historical nugget?: That no horse, since before any of us were born, broke his maiden at Churchill Downs prior to winning the Derby.

                Any thoughts on that?

                • Steve Haskin says:

                  I looked into that several years ago because I knew only one KJC winner in forever had won the Derby but never did the research. I was trying to figure out why CD horses did so poorly but still cant come up with a reason. It makes little sense, especially because CD runs so many 2yo maiden races.

                  • EddieF says:

                    Well, if neither of us (or anyone else here) has come up with a possible answer, I’ll fall back on the supernatural forces explanation.

    • Matthew W says:

      Thats an amazing stat.

    • Coldfacts says:

      “Several have attempted to break their maiden CD but failed.”

      I am not sure in what context the above should be viewed. Horses stabled in KY would naturally contest MSW races at tracks located in KY.

      I cannot imagine there is any evidence that trainers based in KY view their losing maiden as failing to win a race CD. A lost of a MSW at CD is no different from a loss at Gulfstream Park. The horses that finish behind the winner have all failed to win. Sometime a horse is just entered for experience with very little stable confidence.

      I cannot recall NY or CA Based trainers shipping horses to CD exclusively to break their maidens, only to fails in the quest.. If said trainers have a contingent of horses at CD they would invariably contest MSW races at the location.

  5. Tori says:

    You so easily sum up what makes these nominees stand out! I had a hard time with my choice after reading your column and then re- reading it. I am hoping Letruska will be back, she earned every accolade given and all the respect and I am hoping to see her back, but she will meet Echo Zulu and she I think, may be pretty magical. Knicks Go, that is well summarized and his fighting spirit that looks effortless, he just goes. Charlie, you can’t help but root for him, the loss at the Haskell was tough. Hard Decisions, usually I vote, I certain this year I am struggling

  6. EddieF says:

    Hey, Steve! What do you have in the hopper?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Still waiting to go over it with Leonard, but next week will all about history, but I wont give it away. The week after will be about the Medina Spirit conundrum as far as what to do about him in the Vox Populi and Eclipse voting and how it demonstrates the complexities of the sport and how we look at things. After that it’s up in the air with the possibility of doing another Derby sleeper column after the big 2 year old weekend, and before you know it the columns fo the most part will end and the Derby Dozen (or Rankings) will begin.

      • EddieF says:

        Sounds great! The Medina Spirit column will no doubt get a big reaction. I hope that not too many of the extremists on both ends fill up the comment section with their hyperbolic opinions. You’ve managed to avoid that for the most part, but anything that focuses on MS is a magnet. Thanks!

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Nothing wrong with an all-out brawl on occasion. All hyperbolic comments are welcome. Just dont sound like a dummy. lol

        • Coldfacts says:

          Was anything that focussed on Maximum Security a magnet?

          The disqualification and/or pending disqualification of a KD winner is always likely to generate debates. These debates will unfold with or without those you have seen it fit to label as extremists.

          What makes comments extreme as opposed to passionate? Who adjudicates which comments are extreme and which are not? Aren’t such classifications a matter of opinion? A fisherman’s fishes are always fresh.

          Are perceived extreme comments unwelcome in this forum?

          As previously stated people express their views differently. One man sails around an island whereas another
          circumnavigate an island.

          There needs to be greater appreciation for the support of this forum and lesser attempts at critiquing comments for
          what is perceived to be extremities . One man’s extreme is another man’s moderation .

          • Lynda King says:

            OK, enough is enough! Breaking my personal rule here in reference to responding to you! Learned that lesson the hard way when Hangin with Haskin was on Blood Horse. You do not recognize me in all probability because I am using my real name on this page whereas on BH I had a nickname.
            It is NOT you comments regarding racing etc, Coldfacts, in fact sometimes I agree with you. Both you and pro-vet are often rude, condescending and make references like one you did below that certain “people must have been in a come”: when the horses you listed (Arrogate, Zenyatta etc) were racing and therefore cannot grasp your concept that Secretariat is, in the minds of millions, not just some who post on here is the Greatest Thoroughbred Race Horse in the lives of these millions of people.
            YES. Secretariat is in my opinion the Greatest Racehorse of my lifetime and I do not think there will be another like him in my life time. I stand solid as a rock behind that feeling.
            AND no, I was not in a comma when Zenyatta was racing. She is indeed one of the greatest mare I have seen race. But is she greater than Ruffian, no, not in my mind. Is she greater than Rachael Alexandra, no, not in my mind.
            We all have a standard that hold high, or a bar, if you will that determines the ranking of a horse, any horse, in the list of world’s greatest race horses and just because my standard is different from yours in no way makes me an idiot or uneducated about racing and certainly NOT IN A COMA!!!

            • Lynda King says:

              And for me that standard is Secretariat for males and Ruffian for mares!!!!
              Get over yourself Coldfacts!!!

              • Steve Haskin says:

                It’s like talking to a deaf person, He doesnt hear you and doesnt want to hear you. Sorry you had to waste your time and words. He wont respond

              • deacon says:

                Hi Lynda: I read your post & I agree that Ruffian is the greatest filly or mare I ever saw run. Lucian Laurin (Secretariats trainer) once said that Ruffian was better then Secretariat. I wouldn’t go that far but I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who felt that way.
                There have been many great fillies in my lifetime that left me breathless. Rags to Riches was a great race horse never got the accolades I felt she deserved. That Belmont Stakes win against Curlin is one of my all time favorite races.
                Lady’s Secret, Ta Wee, Landeluce, Beholder, Monomoy Girl, Gallant Bloom, Gamely, Personal Ensign, & more recent Winx, Enable & Black Caviar were also brilliant fillies.
                I just think certain horses capture our hearts and we never can never get over how they leave their marks on our souls.
                Secretariat is one of the all time greats, only a fool would argue that. His 3 year old campaign will never be matched. The world has fallen in love with the Triple Crown. Many greats also raced at age 4.
                Spectacular Bid & Dr. Fager plus Damascus, Kelso, Swaps, Affirmed & Seattle Slew were also all time greats.
                If you haven’t go to You Tube and watch some of their races. Yes, it was a long time ago but once left breathless it is difficult to forget.
                ave a blessed Thanksgiving & Holiday season

            • Coldfacts says:

              Hi Lynda,

              It’s unfortunate that you find me contemptable. I consider myself an amiable individual willing to engage when warranted. It is never my intention to be rude. However, I probably need to avoid using certain terms. I from time to time have had senior moments which are consistent with being in a coma. I just find some statements to be lacking in objectivity.

              I find it funny that individuals have referred to supporters of this space as extremists and absurd. Such individuals are not considered rude. But I guess we are all judged differently.

              You have done me a great disservice comparing me to the despicable Pro Vet we are not remotely comparable.

              I am well are of Secretariat’s records. I am also aware of the records of other horses. Secretariat never raced beyond his 3YO career. When asserting that he is the GOAT. this has to be viewed in context. Is he the GOAT in the 3YO division. That isn’t in dispute. But is he the overall GOAT? That is up for debate.

              What I attempted to do at the expense of offending the fans of Secretariat. Is merely proving my perspective on the assertion that Secretariat is the GOAT without qualification. The GOAT in what context? My perspective doesn’t matter. Folks are not required to be receptive to my perspective and are at liberty to classify me as an idiot. I take no offence to a such a classification. I have been so classified on numerous occasions.

              Secretariat was HOTY as a 2YO. So was Favorite Trick. With out comparing their records Secretariat isn’t alone in this category. There have been 13 TC winners. Secretariat is one of them. Nothing unique there. Is he the GOAT as it relate to TC winners. Given his record times in each leg of the TC. It cannot be disputed he is the GOAT in this category.

              Stakes records and world records are rare. If Secretariat won the TC without his records would he have been considered a GOAT in this category? There have been performances that have left race fans breathless but not necessarily in the TC series.. Secretariat isn’t unique as it relates to utter worldly performances. There are some performance that do not include SRs & WRs but if viewed in proper perspective warrant being classified as comparatively great.

              Justify like Seattle Slew completed the TC undefeated. He never made a start as 2YO. He won his debut race in February of the 3YO season.. In February of 1973 Secretariat had already made 9 starts with 2 defeats. He had a ton of experience and foundation for the TC series. A little over 3 moths after Justify won on debut he completed the TC. Secretariat had an approximate 8 months start on Justify in his quest for the TC. No one in their right mind would dare state that the challenges Justify faced rendered his TC win was more impressive than that of Secretariat. But it is certainly food for thought.

              If my recollection is correct the first acknowledge TC winner had a club foot. He was defeated in his first 6 starts. His 7th start was his 3YO debut in the KD as a rabbit for his stable mate. He broke his maiden in the KD and went on to complete what is now recognized as the TC. Greatness can manifest itself in may different ways. But it appear speed has become the exclusive measure.

              We all have perspectives on different performances. I would under no circumstance challenge those holding the view that Secretariat is the GOAT. But many horse have left their hove prints on the sand of time, who never contested the TC but would have likely beaten Secretariat on may occasions.

              Regarding rudeness. I consider myself to be polite and try as best as I can to avoid offending others. But I have failed miserably in this quest. My post are mostly taken out of context. Do folks seem clarification? NO! I am labeled objectionable and disagreeable. As a result I have been the victim of rudeness in this forum for as long as I can remember. Even our gracious host has reduced me to lesser of a man with many of more colorful admonitions.

              Given that I have have been the victim of unprecedented rudeness in these forum. If I am now perceived to be rude. Am I not a product of this environment?

              • Discopartner says:

                You haven’t named a horse to replace Secretariat as the GOAT. Who would that be? And you said he was definitely the Goat of the 3 yo division, but Man ‘O War retired at 3 and was placed above him in some polls, as you covered in your early remarks. Name one horse more worthy of the GOAT title, of all divisions, who raced in the US.

                I believe the public, including people employed in horse racing and fans, of all ages, wouldn’t accept a substitute. No one made as big a splash, not even Native Diver (word play – haha). The track records and 1st triple crown in the age of television helped. Even the losses helped because he came back from them.

      • John Goggin says:

        Are you on the committee that selected the final nominees?

  7. Coldfacts says:

    A regular and very informed supporter of this space was apparently displeased with a post I made which apparently didn’t acknowledge Secretariat as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). My post was not intended to diminish the achievements of Secretariat but rather to widen the scope through which greatness is viewed.

    I must concede that the first time a focused on the classification GOAT, was when American sprinter Maurice Green assigned the classification to himself. Did Mr. Green’s body of work support his claim or was he just a the (GOHE) Greatest Of His Era? I content Mr. Green was neither the GOAT nor the GOHE. One Mr. Michael Johnson was not retired at the time and was the holder of the WR for the 200M & 400M. One Mr. Bolt is now verified as the GOAT.

    But where am I heading. Wikipedia reflects that of the top 100 thoroughbreds in the USA, Secretariat ranks 2nd to Man O’ War. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that knowledgeable folks, using acceptable evaluation parameters, concluded that Man O’ War’s achievements superseded those of Secretariat. By what margin and/or magnitude is likely to be up for debate. But if the compilers of the top 100 thoroughbreds list, ranked Secretariat at #2, Big Red cannot be classified as the GOAT. Irrespective of the emotions harbored by the fans of 1973 TC winner.

    There needs to be no attempt to diminish Secretariat’s achievements. Some are unmatched. But whilst recognizing Secretariat’s unmatched achievements, it is unwise to either dismiss or ignore achievements that are difference but likewise represent greatness.

    American Pharoah was a champion 2YO. After being defeated on debut in a MSW. He broke his maiden in his 2nd start in a G1 Stakes. He followed up with another GI win. In his first 3 starts he won two G1s.. Secretariat broke his maiden is his 2nd start in a MSW and followed up with an allowance win in his 3rd. .

    As 3Yos and ahead of the KD, AP destroyed the oppositin in in his two KD Preps. Secretariat was defeated in the Wood. Both colts went on to win the the TC albeit in different ways. Secretariat appeared invincible with a NSR in each leg. of the TC. Has there been a TC winner with two G1 wins in its first 3 starts?

    Justify won the TC in a window and number of races that is unprecedented for a TC. Which record bears more weight? Some will immediately conclusion it has to be Secretariat’s three SR in the 3 TC races. That would be fair. But which TC winner face the greater challenge? Justify with his limited number of starts as well as no start as a 2YO, was an unlikely TC winner. Secretariat was a HOTY as a 2YO and his TC win could have been reasonably expected.

    Greatness can be measures in different ways. The GOAT will always be the subject to debate. Two SRs and a WR isn’t the measure of a GOAT unless restricted to the TC series. Justify’ s TC win might not have included records but he has to be in the consideration as GOAT in the category.

    Secretariat’s overall achievements shouldn’t be the exclusive bar by which greatness and/or the GOAT is determined..

    • Deacon says:

      I wasn’t going to reply to you ever again but I want to say, & this is my last post to you.
      You are not qualified to make a judgment on the greatness of horses you never saw run. You are clueless when it comes to comparing horses of today with the greats of the 1950’s, 1960’s & 1970’s.

      All you do is make yourself look foolish. Secretariat is an all time great, as are a few others. It is only a matter of opinion who believes one horse was greater then another. My dad used to argue with his buddies always saying that Jack Dempsey was the greatest fighter of all time. They would argue for Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano or Gene Tunney.
      Like all sports it is a matter of opinion. Everyone has a right to believe what they want. There is no wrong, only one’s perception.

      • Mike Relva says:

        Bravo! He must be one lonely individual.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Deacon, I hope you noticed he didnt reply to you. He never does, so it’s best not to waste your time replying to him. Did you ever know a kid who liked to instigate a fight but never participated in one? Growing up in Brooklyn if you opened your mouth you better stick around and back it up.

    • Diana says:

      Did you seriously just argue that Secretariat isn’t the GOAT because only Man O War can have that title? I don’t think you can realistically separate the two and say either is not a GOAT. Its a title they must share- something that does happen, even in horse racing. Pretty sure this is a dead heat in every significant way.

  8. Nelson Maan says:

    Jackie’s Warrior underwent surgery to remove a knee Chip Surgery last week… this frailty might explain his subpar performance in the BC Sprint.

    It was reported that the brilliant sprinter is coming back next year. The fans will hopefully enjoy great spectacles to be staged by a nice group of (3-year-old) Stakes horses also running in 2022… i.e. Life Is Good, Mandaloun, Medina Spirit, Hot Rod Charlie, Midnight Bourbon, Concert Tour, O Besos, Keepmeinmind, Rombauer, Dynamic One, Super Stock, Flightline, King Fury, Weyburn , Masqueparade, Greatest Honour, Highly Motivated, Following Sea, Dr. Schivel, Stilleto Boy, Spielberg, etc.

    There could be a Vox Populi winner among these nice horses… unless Letruska continues winning fans next year…

    I assume no one of these horses is already retired… if you know about that, please, let me know… thanks!

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I forgot Caddo River who is training well at Churchill for Brad Cox…!

      • Davids says:

        …as well as Triple Tap, Annex, Get Her Number, Drain the Clock, Soup and Sandwich, Proxy, Never Surprised, Bourbonic, Promise Keeper, and Unbridled Honor…that’s from memory. Yes, there is plenty to look forward too next year besides the Derby Trail.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Wow … thanks for the addendum Davids.

          Warrant (Oklahoma Derby winner) a son of Constitution for Brad Cox also seems like a possible good player next year ..l.

          I knew I had forgotten another good bunch…

          I don’t remember so many good 3-year-old horses continuing their campaign at 4 in the past… and we are not even mentioning turf runners and some brilliant fillies…!

          • Nelson Maan says:

            *other turf runners and…

            • Davids says:

              Nelson, there was another I couldn’t remember who was impressive last out….Americanrevolution

              • Nelson Maan says:

                That’s right Davids…!

                Americanrevolution shows outstanding improving speed figures… Pletcher must have great things in mind for the son of Constitution…

                • Davids says:

                  Nelson, hopefully, if augurs well the older horse division might be the best for ages. Flightline scorching the Santa Anita track in the Malibu Stakes could be a precursor of things to come. Fingers crossed.

                • Matthew W says:

                  That’s the NY bred? Horse has talent, could make a bundle against NY breds, but might be better than that, might be a graded stakes horse!

                  • Nelson Maan says:

                    Yes Matthew… Americanrevolution was third in the Pennsylvania Derby behind Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon. It was a very good performance for his first Stakes against open company defeating very good horses like Fulsome, Weyburn, Bourbonic and Speaker’s Corner …

                    Again he is an improving horse and could be a very serious 4-year-old

                  • Davids says:

                    Yes, after Americanrevolution’s last performance Pletcher alluded to the options available. Rich pickings with the NY bred stakes while chancing their hand in open stakes races.

            • Davids says:

              Founder looks much better on turf and Cellist keeps improving.

          • EddieF says:

            Miles D, Speaker’s Corner

            • Nelson Maan says:

              That’s right Eddie … those two are going to be great players next year as well…!

              Great pedigrees and connections supporting raw talent indeed…!

        • Davids says:


        • JanBer says:

          Proxy is particularly interesting. Those races where he, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon traded off getting the win are looking more interesting in retrospect.

          • EddieF says:

            Yes, JanBer. Those FG races turned out to be strong ones. But we knew that with the Derby result, right? FG runners finished 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th. Proxy was supposed to return in July in the Iowa Derby, but he was scratched due to a “hind-leg setback.” He hasn’t worked since then and I haven’t heard a thing about him.

      • Mike Relva says:

        Nelson, was CR injured?

    • EddieF says:


      Good night!

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Odds-on favorite tomorrow at Aqueduct (3rd race).

        Let’s see how the undefeated New Yorker runs after 9-month-layoff…!

        Good horse indeed…!

        • EddieF says:

          That did not go well. 🙁

          • Nelson Maan says:

            Did not … finished 7th less than five lengths behind a 28 to 1 longshot… Equibase is giving Nick his best speed figure ever though… so it might be better than it looked on paper specially after 9 months sidelined and against older horses…!

            still worth watching going forward…!

            • EddieF says:

              I’m always suspicious of figures where nearly every horse in the race runs a career best, as it looks for this race and the Equibase figs. Happens a lot with Beyers, and nearly as often with Brisnet.

              I was expecting a better run from Nicky. I hope he bounces back in his second race after the long layoff.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Lights out!

    • Matthew W says:

      Another good three year old from this crop is Subconscious, who has won three in a row, now, after being gelded…with the father and son Mandella team.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Yes Matthew… the son of Tapit is another very good one. He looked terrific in winning the Twilight Derby (Gr. 2)

        I wonder why Mandella is dedicating Subconscious to the Turf despite a strong dirt pedigree… it would be interesting to see Subconscious trying the dirt at Stakes level.

        Being a Gelding he would be a treat to the fans if he endures …

        • Matthew W says:

          Hes a beautifully balanced gelding, with natural speed and a big kick, is going to be around a long time, I think he’s going to turn out to be a world class turf miler—the Matthis Bros Mile, looks like a fine next race, and then its Smooth Like Strait, Mo Forza and Hit the Road—I think Subconscious will beat all three!

  9. Katie says:

    I vote for Medina Spirit
    The Kentucky Derby winner, awesome again winner, 2nd in the breeders cup classic
    Who has received so much bad press but is a good race horse

  10. Matthew W says:

    Gosh, Rock Hard Ten passed, 20…..time IS flying, seems like yesterday….huge horse, rushed into the Triple Crown, won his final four starts, all Gr 1’s, I think, but by then the Strub may have been gr2. …turf or dirt, sprint or 10 furlongs, Rock Hard Ten was all class

  11. Richard Nash says:

    Life is Good

  12. EddieF says:

    Before reading Steve’s blog on the VP award, I was inclined to vote for Smooth Like Strait. After digesting all of Steve’s persuasive commentary on the nominees, I settled on Knicks Go. But I really do love the kind of horse that SLS is. He was in seven turf races this year, all G1/G2s. Because the Vox Populi Award is about more than winning races, I thought he was deserving for the grit and determination he has exhibited in ALL of his races. He won just one race this year, the G1 Shoemaker Mile by 1.5 lengths. But he finished second FIVE times, by margins of 1/2 length in the BC Mile, 1/2 length in the G2 City of Hope Mile, a head in the G2 Del Mar Mile, a neck in the G2 Eddie Read, and a neck in the Kilroe Mile. Add to that the only race he didn’t win or finish a close second this year, the G1 Turf Classic, in which he was third by a NECK.

    SLS is a speed horse, always first or second in the early going. But most top turf runners with early speed tend to throw in a few less than stellar performances. SLS never does that. He runs hard and nearly wins every race. You gotta love that kind of horse. Oh no! Now I’m having second thoughts about my vote.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      But was he popular? Did he have a fan following? Did he have a bigger fan following than Mo Forza? If the answer is yes to all of these then you certainly have a point. I didnt know much about him until I saw the BC Mile PPs. He surely was gutsy and consistent, but were you a fan of his during all the races you mentioned? I’m not one to give the award to a horse most people around the country knew little or nothing about until November and then made a case for him retroactively.

      • EddieF says:

        He’s certainly not a horse that racing fans talked about much during the year. I’m pretty sure that I bet him to win/place in one of his seconds earlier this year, so I’ve taken notice of him throughout the year and admired him for his competitive nature. But I can’t say that I was a BIG fan until the BC Mile. But it’s sometimes difficult to gauge popularity for horses that aren’t continually in the news. Ben’s Cat was popular in Maryland, but was he expected to be popular enough coast to coast to win the most VP votes a few years back?

        • Steve Haskin says:

          He had to be if that many people voted for him. He had to have had a big following even outside Maryland. I remember going to the Preaknsss and everyone was talking about him and looking forward to his race. I wish more horses like him would come around and win this.

    • Matthew W says:

      His neck third at Churchill his saddle had slipped way back….I have been a big SLS followers, I even had him when he paid boxcars, as a two year old!

  13. EddieF says:

    Maybe I was dropped on my head in the delivery room, but I have a hard time understanding why people think Secretariat was deserving of Eclipse awards and GOAT accolades with these defeats:

    Wood Memorial – Beaten 4L by Angle Light
    Whitney – Beaten 1L by Onion
    Woodward – Beaten 4 1/2L by Prove Out

    ; – )

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Well, you either were dropped on your head in the delivery room, which I am sure you werent or you didnt read any of the countless stories behind those races,all of which have been written about hundreds of times, in books,shown on videos, and in my numerous columns on Secretariat. Are you sure this isnt Coldfacts using your name? Yes, I know this is a joke. Just in case someone takes you seriously.

      • EddieF says:

        LOL. I am certain that a few will take it seriously, even with the wink at the end and after they read this. But I was even worried that YOU thought it was serious…until you said “I know this is a joke.” 🙂

    • Matthew W says:

      Even though there wasn’t the communication ability we have today…Secretariat was a huge “thing”, back then…we knew about him in California, even as a two year old…he did toss a clunker in, from time to time…but he was so great you just shrugged it off, the horse ran so many incredible races!

      • Steve Haskin says:

        He never threw in a clunker, unless finishing 3rd with a terrible abscess in his mouth or finishing second with a virus and fever that knocked him out of the Travers or finishing second in the slop in a race he never trained for as a last minute sub for Riva Ridge coming off a world record two weeks earlier and finishing 11 lengths ahead of Hall of Famer Cougar II are all considered clunkers.

        • John Goggin says:

          With all due respect the Big Cat (Cougar II) was going on 8 years old, was at the end of his racing career, had already ran seven times as a 7 year old and had placed 3rd in four of his last five races run by him.
          Charles Hatton of the DRF even said the Big Cat had the only excuse in the Marlboro….not that it would have made a difference.

          • Matthew W says:

            Yes, he was seven, and had run well over 50 times, incredible streak of graded races…plus Cougar didn’t like off tracks.

    • Coldfacts says:

      Excellent rebuttal post.

      The supporter stated he hasn’t seen a horses as great as Secretariat in his life time.

      Gigar – Won 16 consecutive races over 2 years after languishing on turf in the earlier phase of his career. How good would he have been if he raced on his proffered surface earlier?

      Zenyatta- Won 19 consecutive races. Her only loss was by a heartbreaking HD.

      Arrogate – As a last out Allowance winner he destroyed the 9F track record at Saratoga against one of the best assembled field in Travers history. Two races removed from an Allowance win he won the BCC against the top rated dirt horse in the world. After walking out of gate in the Dubai WC with a victory appearing hopeless. He summoned his greatness to win. That harder to do than winning the Belmont in in a NWR over a weak field.

      That just 3 great horses used as an example.

      My response wasn’t an attempt to minimize Secretariat and offend the horse supporters. Greatness can be measure differently. Greatness exist outside the the boundaries of the USA. But American nationalism appears to hinder the expansion of focus.

      The great Australian race mare Winx won 33 consecutive races that included 25 group ones. Frankel was undefeated in 14 starts and considered as much of a wonder horse as Secretariat. But I suspect the supporter was in a coma when said horses were racing.

      I fully realized my post would have offend some. But context matters. Greatness can be manifested differently. If only we can see and acknowledge it.

      Mr. EddieF,

      As usual, your contempt for my views and perceived absurdities is well placed. But no offence taken. I consider such rebuttals a part of the process.

  14. Coldfacts says:

    I wish I possessed the intellect of most of the supporter of this space.. It is obvious I am severely impaired because I am incapable of understanding why Medina Spirit deserve to be on the list with the following defeats:

    San Felipe – Beaten 8L by Life Is Good
    S A Derby – Beaten by 4 1/4L by Rock Your World
    Preakness – Beaten by 5 1/2L by Rombauer

    Life Is Good romped in the BC Dirt Mile in his 2nd start off the lay off. He would have beaten all the top 3YO by a street. Of the top 3YOs only Medina Spirit was demolished in 3 stakes races. He avoided the big post TC races at Saratoga for the lesser Share Belief and Awesome Again. With a better trip Essential Quality would have been the winner of the KD.

    Whilst MS was hiding out in CA. Essential Quality contested the grueling Belmont Stakes that featured an all-out war with HRC. He followed up with equally tough races in Jim Dandy and Travers. Those races in combination involved 31F. In all of those race EQ ‘s will to win was in evidence. The pace and less than favorable trips could have resulted in narrow defeats. But he was able to find ways to win.

    Despite Essential grueling’ s schedule. I considered it a mistake not to have given him a start after the Travers and ahead of the BCC. It’s always difficult to contest a 10F race approximately 10 weeks between starts. It has been tried successfully in the past with several including AP and Arrogate. However, those horses’ running style allowed them to negate any negatives from being 10 weeks without a start. They had good tactical speed.

    Essential Quality is bit of a grinder and on any speed favoring surface will always be at a disadvantage . There is no way he could have won the BCC on speed bias surface and 10 weeks between starts. He wasn’t race sharp and being on the dead rails didn’t help.

    The connection to Medina Spirt is not necessarily associated with his performances but rather his back story. If back stories are not the focus of the “Vox Populi” Award, this year. Then the Medina Spirit doesn’t belong on the list. Neither does Hot Rod Charlie.

  15. John Goggin says:

    Much appreciated the outlet for posting our opinions Steve….it is valued and recognized as a great site for horseracing aficionados.
    That said, I’m in the camp, perhaps unwise and imprudent, that Medina Spirit should have been included in this list of derserving horses.
    Yes, I know of the possible consequences if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission decides to drop MS from the winner’s position but just the acknowledgement of this $1,000 auction purchase is still the recognized Kentucky Derby Champion and came back to replicate his effort against the best three year olds in the country in the BCC covers the “racing excellence” part.
    Regarding the popularity part….it seems that KD situation was the story of the year….and this horse has had to endure, directly but mostly indirectly, resentment and indignation most of the year despite just showing up on race day and pouring out his heart on the track…whether against the best three year olds in the country or older horses or chasing the best horse in the country.
    Again, you don’t have to vote for him but at least include him and let the fans decide.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you, John. I agree in one way that the voters should decide, and they can. All they have to do is write him in. If enough people write him in he has as much chance as any of the finalists. But I can see the trepidation of the committee members if he should win and what repercussions there might be and how people will look at this as a popularity award. As for his popularity it sounds more like youre against the lack of respect he’s been given and I totally agree. But from a popularity standpoint, youre the one who used the words resentment and indignation, and its hard to vote a horse the most popular who is resented and causes indignation in people. Its just a messy situation.

  16. Mary Darden McLeod says:

    I love ALL these mighty equine warriors. My vote goes to Hot Rod Charlie and The Coach. Chuck is tenacious and gives his all! You go, Chuck & Coach!!!

    • Matthew W says:

      Love that comment! Loved seeing Coach all fiesty, at Philly! And then Charlie poured it on–and for THAT matter….WHY not Coach! Why wouldn’t you honor a horse who won Gr1’s on dirt, on turf, and on three very different synthetics—won 10 fur Gr1s on all of those—then as #1 stable pony he accompanies I’ll Have Another. …Nyquist…and Hot Rod Charlie, Bravo, Coach!

  17. Dr. Robert Smale says:

    If we were doing this award up in Canada, it would be a tough choice between Pink Lloyd and the one eyed Mighty Heart, one a sprinter the other a middle distance horse. Both are hugely popular and have wonderful fan bases. It would be very hard for me to make a choice there, love them both.

  18. Dr. Robert Smale says:

    Some worthy contenders here. All have their own unique and special stories. Each horse has a huge fan base as well. Hard to make a choice this year from this list, but I probably am leaning in a particular direction.

  19. Judi says:

    I like ALL of them! Each has such a great story. Might have to pull a name out of a hat

  20. Steve Haskin says:

    Regarding Medina Spirit not being a finalist. Youre treading such a fine line with him. The repercussions if he wins most popular horse and then get DQ’d in the Kentucky Derby for a drug positive. The question of whether he actually was ever that popular. The Baffert connection, which shouldnt play into it at all. Under normal circumstances he definitely deserves at least a finalist spot based on his feel-good rags to riches back story of the recently divorced woman who sold him for $1,000 and the recently divorced woman who bought him (see my Derby recap). It’s all a shame, really, the way this story has unfolded since his Derby victory, because I admire the horse as much as any horse this year.

    • Sally Buechel says:

      Medina Spirit has my heart. I understand the conundrum re having the winner associated with a drug positive, definitely doesn’t reflect excellence in racing, but the horse had nothing to do with that and MS has shown since then that his win was no fluke. His connections let him down, but the award is not about the connections.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        As I said, its about repercussions. The horse is a victim. And connections can play a part in a horse’s popularity. Also as I mentioned, read by Derby recap and you will see how his early connections endeared him to the public even more than what they already knew about him.

  21. Winslow Kaalund says:

    Will probably never see a great horse like Secretariat again in my lifetime, I’m 66. What a magnificent, majestic horse.

    • Coldfacts says:

      I find your comment interesting.

      In the List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, Secretariat is second only to Man o’ War. There is only horse in recent memory that has been compared to the great the Man o’ War and that was Arrogate.

      One could argued that Arrogate’s brief stint on the track eclipsed anything Secretariat had done. But I hardly believe that such a conclusion will be remotely accepted by anyone beyond myself.

      Opinions! We all know the story regarding them.

      • Deacon says:

        Comparing Arrogate to Secretariat is blasphemy.
        You obviously were not around in the 1960’s & 70’s to see 6 of the greatest horses ever to step on a race track.
        1. Spectacular Bid
        2. Dr. Fager
        3. Secretariat
        4. Damascus
        5. Seattle Slew
        6. Affirmed

        Throw in Buckpasser, Ruffian & Kelso.

        I got no argument if folks believe Man O War is #1 overall. His stride was measured faster then Secretariat’s.
        Personally I just believe that Spectacular Bid & Dr. Fager were the 2 greatest races horses I ever saw run. I saw both in person, watched the “Bid” run several times.

        Problem with racing is that many of us old timers are gone now. All we see is hype from these networks that market the horse racing product.

        May I add that Spectacular Bid still owns the world record at 10 furlongs of 1:57 4/5 in the 1980 Charles H. Strub Stakes, I was there at Santa Anita.
        Dr. Fager owns the world record mile of 1:32 1/5

        Both horses carried a lot weight as well. Horses of today as nice as they are & as much as we love them do not compare to the greats of yesteryear.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I hate to tell you this, Deacon, but the only reason he wrote that, which has nothing to do with this column, is to get a rise out of people and make them respond to him. That is why no one responded. Well, Eddie F. responded, but not seriously. He just likes to mess with him Lol. People on here know him too well. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, including him, but he knows his opinions are going to antagonize people. That is why he never responds to people when they do reply to him. Just like he wont respond to you or Eddie. Just a heads up for the future.

        • Matthew W says:

          I too, was on track for the 1980 Strub, my brother and I watched the race from Clockers Corner, where you could see horses in their leans, around the far turn, and after a 1:32 4/5 mile—Bid was still able to lean in, you just don’t see that, ever! I cannot say he was better than Secretariat, but in a best of seven—I would not pick any horse over The Bid, who ran huge races, over and over and over!

          • Deacon says:

            Breathtaking performance………..The Bid gave us the best 3 year old & 4 year old combined campaign in horse racing history.

            People forget or it doesn’t matter to them but horses like Dr. Fager, Kelso, Spectacular Bid to name 3 all carried enormous weight in their races. Secretariart never carried over 126 lbs. I do think weight would not have been an issue for him though.

            This is a very good blog Steve put together, lots of knowledgeable folks here.

        • Paula Higgins says:

          The Doc! One of the great loves of my life.

      • EddieF says:

        “There is only horse in recent memory that has been compared to the great the Man o’ War and that was Arrogate.”

        Your memory is quite faulty, CF. You seem to have forgotten that earlier in the year on this blog I compared the undefeated and future champion Nicky the Vest to Man O’ War. Not only that, but a quick Internet search finds 132 horses compared to Man O’ War over the past 10 years. Additionally, 3,768 horses have been compared to Secretariat during the same time period.

    • Lynda King says:

      Winslow, I totally agree with you…I will never see a racehorse like Secretariat in my time. We can only dream what he would have accomplished had he raced at age 4 or 5. There is no doubt that he would have won on turf in Europe and England (especially the Royal Ascot).

  22. Joe says:

    Hot Rod Charlie has been a favorite all year. He just seems to always be such a hard runner, giving it his all.

  23. Heather says:

    Letruska all the way. She started the year in what appeared to be the deepest division in thoroughbred racing, the older mares. Between Monomoy Girl, Swiss Skydiver and Shedaresthedevil, it was unclear which of the three would prevail, but it was sure to be an unbelievably exciting year for racing. Many hinted at Bonny South being the long shot that could possibly step up and give the big three a run for their money, but although many people respected what Letruska had done up to that point, few believed she could run with the big dogs. But she did. Again, and again, and again, until she was the last mare standing. At first, people were heartbroken to see their favourites get beat, but over time, she won over everyone’s hearts and you couldn’t help but root for her and the connections that believed in her. I honestly believe that had she won the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, she would have been a deserving candidate for Horse of the Year. Nonetheless, Letruska, the brave mare that she is, ran her heart out through impossible fractions, and fought a hard fight, losing nothing in defeat.

  24. Anica Holford says:

    Hot Rod Charlie

  25. pro vet says:

    EddieF says:
    November 15, 2021 at 12:39 pm
    That’s a pile of horse ****.

    Mike Relva says:
    November 15, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Seems a little hypocritical ………the response to a poster called Patti……..which of course this is……….

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I gave her a legitimate answer, but it wasnt very fair or nice to the say the committee lacks courage.

      • EddieF says:

        Dollars to doughnuts she/he is a troll. Never saw the name here before. Is that inflammatory comment a normal person’s first ever post on a blog? Highly doubtful.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          She has Pro Vet defending her. Need I say more? Lol. I dont mind her defense of Medina Spirit, but youre right. That is not exactly the kind of first comment to make if you want even a shred of credibility. When someone makes that kind of debut its usually a one shot deal. She probably wont come back, especially after seeing her only ally spell her name wrong.