A Championship Gift Package for Christmas

Our Christmas gift to everyone this year is a game of Championship Trivial Pursuit that hopefully will enlighten and entertain. And what better day to post it than Monday, December 18, the 50th anniversary to the day of Secretariat being named Horse of the Year, as well as Champion 3-Year-Old Male, and Champion Male Grass Horse. ~ Steve Haskin

A Championship Gift Package for Christmas 

By Steve Haskin

It is Christmas time and in the world of horse racing that means it is time to start thinking about championships. Who wins the 2023 Eclipse Awards has no bearing on this column, as we are just using it as an excuse to provide some interesting facts about past champions, some of them I’m sure most racing fans did not know. So try to keep up, as they will be coming fast and furious, and along the way you can test your knowledge about our champions over the years.

Let’s actually begin with a horse who did not win a championship, and that is because I consider her the most accomplished horse to hold that dubious honor. Alydar may be the most talented non champion, but no horse was more accomplished than Optimistic Gal.

Just imagine a filly winning the Adirondack Stakes by 9 ¾ lengths, the Matron by 6 ½ lengths, the Frizette by 3 ¼ lengths, the Alcibiades by 21 lengths, and the Selima by 2 ¼ lengths and not being voted 2-year-old Filly champion. This was back in 1975 when these were basically the biggest races in the country. Although she won seven of her nine starts, her only two defeats were second-place finishes to Dearly Precious in the six-furlong Sorority and Spinaway Stakes. Dearly Precious went eight-for-nine in her juvenile season, winning her last eight starts, seven of them stakes.

The following year, Optimistic Gal, who was trained by LeRoy Jolley for the Firestones, won the Ashland, the Kentucky Oaks by 4 1/4 lengths, the Alabama by 16 lengths, and then defeated older fillies and mares in the Delaware Handicap and Spinster Stakes, the latter by five lengths. But once again she lost the championship to Dearly Precious, who beat her in the Acorn. Dearly Precious, as brilliant as she was, never won a two-turn race and when she tried to stretch out in the Mother Goose Stakes, she finished fifth, beaten 22 lengths, finishing 21 lengths behind runner-up Optimistic Gal.

This was in some ways reminiscent to 1969 when Shuvee became only the second filly to sweep the NYRA Filly Triple Crown (Acorn, Mother Goose, and CCA Oaks) and then romped by four lengths in the Alabama, won the Cotillion Stakes, and beat older fillies and mares in the Ladies Handicap. But she did not receive a single vote for 3-Year-Old Filly Champion, an honor that went to the great Hall of Famer Gallant Bloom, who had defeated Shuvee in four of their five meetings at 2 and 3, and beat her decisively in the Delaware Oaks and their championship showdown in the Gazelle Handicap, en route to a 12-race winning streak.

Now onto some quick facts about past champions, some of them in question form.

** The French filly Trillion is the only horse to win an Eclipse Award without ever winning a race in North America. In 1979, she made four starts in North America, finishing second in all of them – Canadian International, Turf Classic, Oak Tree Invitational, and Washington D.C. International.

** What horse not only was named Horse of the Year, he was the only horse to defeat Sunday Silence and Easy Goer? It was Criminal Type, who won four consecutive Grade I stakes at four different distances at four different racetracks, defeating Easy Goer in the Met Mile and Sunday Silence in the Hollywood Gold Cup in consecutive races. He also captured the Grade 1 Pimlico Special and Whitney Handicap.

** Who was the first pure grass horse to be voted Horse of the Year? That was Fort Marcy, who won top honors in 1970, closing out the year by winning the three biggest grass races in the country – the United Nations Handicap by five lengths over his arch rival in California Fiddle Isle, the Man ‘o War Stakes, and Washington D.C. International.

** What Horse of the Year equaled or broke 16 track records? It was the great Round Table, the first superstar on both dirt and grass.

** Name the only champion and Hall of Famer to go off at odds over 100-1 twice as a 2-year-old? The answer is racing’s first Filly Triple Crown winner Dark Mirage, who went off at 101-1 in a maiden race and 112-1 in the Gardenia Stakes. Weighing less than 750 pounds as a 3-year-old when she swept the Triple Crown by an average margin of 8 ½ lengths, just imagine what this mighty mite looked like at 2.

** Champion Older Horse Pleasant Tap is the only horse to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Breeders’ Cup Turf, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. To demonstrate his versatility even further, he finished second in the Sprint and Classic, the latter to Hall of Famer A.P. Indy.

** While on the subject of the Breeders’ Cup, Sprint champion Kona Gold competed in the Sprint a record five times, finishing first, second, third, and fourth.

** In the “Horses of the Year can come from anywhere” department, consider that All Along debuted at Amiens in France, Criminal Type debuted at Clairefontaine in France, Mineshaft debuted at Newbury in England, Invasor debuted at Maronas in Uruguay, and John Henry debuted at Jefferson Downs in Louisiana. Other champions and where they debuted include Theatrical (Gowran Park in Ireland, My Juliet (Fonner Park in Nebraska), Hawaii (Benoni in South Africa), Canonero II (La Rinconada in Venezuela), Cougar II (Club Hipico in Chile), Nodouble (Hazel Park in Michigan), Noor (Birmingham in England), Riboletta (Gavea in Brazil), Johannesburg (Fairyhouse in Ireland), and Candy Ride (Hipodromo in Argentina).

** In the toughness, durability, and speed department, Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Skip Away won or placed in 32 stakes, while recording a record 29 Triple-digit Beyer speed figures. He went 26 consecutive races without finishing out of the money, earning 25 Triple-digit Beyers, and on top of that he turned in 53 bullet works in his career.

** Three-time Horse of the Year Forego is the only horse to win the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup and be voted Champion Sprinter the same year (1974).

** A similar achievement and one of the great displays of speed and versatility was Sprint Champion Precisionist winning the 1 ¼-mile Hollywood Gold Cup in 1:59 4/5 and the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1:08 2/5.

** The greatest family run of championships was Dr. Fager and his half-sister Ta Wee winning the Sprint Championship in 1967, ’68, ’69, and ’70. The Doc’s record weight assignment of 139 pounds in the ’68 Vosburgh Handicap was bettered by Ta Wee when she closed out her career in the Fall Highweight and Interborough Handicaps under 140 and 142 pounds, respectively.

** Speaking of Ta Wee and the Vosburgh, can you name the other two filly champions and future Hall of Famers who competed in the seven-furlong race against the boys? It’s a tough one, but Ta Wee, Shuvee, and Gamely all ran in the 1969 Vosburgh Handicap, even though the last two were pure distance horses. It was a cavalry charge to the wire, with Ta Wee winning by a head, Shuvee finishing sixth, beaten only 1 ¾ lengths, and Gamely eighth, beaten only 2 ½ lengths in her career finale.

** We saw something similar in 1980 when future Hall of Famers Bold ‘n Determined, Genuine Risk, and Davona Dale finished first, second, and fourth, respectively, in the Maskette Stakes. Finishing third, and a worthy champion in her own right, was the speedy Love Sign, winner of the Alabama, Test, and the Beldame twice. Although Bold ‘n Determined beat Genuine Risk by a nose and won two legs of the Filly Triple Crown, it was the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness and Belmont runner-up who was voted 3-Year-Old Filly champion.

** What do champions Spend a Buck, Princess Rooney, Smile, Blind Luck, and Jewel Princess have in common? All began their careers based at Calder Race Course.

** One of the most underrated displays of speed and stamina was by 1985 3-year-old Filly Champion and Hall of Famer Mom’s Command, who won the NYRA Filly Crown wire-to-wire after setting fractions of :44 1/5 and 1:09 in the one-mile Acorn, :45 and 1:09 2/5 in the 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose, and :46 1/5 and 1:10 3/5 in the mile and a half Coaching Club American Oaks. She would go on to win the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes setting fractions of :46 4/5 and 1:10 4/5.

** Champion 3-Year-old Filly Blind Luck made nine cross-country trips from her base in Southern California during her career, six of them at age 3. Her record in those trips was six victories and three seconds.

** Everyone is well aware of champions Secretariat and Riva Ridge finishing first and second in the inaugural Marlboro Cup in 1973, but are you aware that there were five champions in the field – Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Grass Champion Cougar II, 3-Year-old Champion Key to the Mint, and four-time Canadian champion and Horse of the Year Kennedy Road?

** The first European horse to come to America for a full fall campaign was the 1974 Grass Champion Dahlia, who won the Man o’ War Stakes and Canadian International before finishing third in the Washington D.C. International, a race she won the previous year at 3. Dahlia also made history by becoming the first horse to win group or grade 1 stakes in five countries – France, England, Ireland, United States, and Canada.

** Another international pioneer whose U.S. campaign outdid Dahlia’s was All Along, who was voted Horse of the Year in America after an amazing six-week run in which she won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Canadian International (then called the Rothman’s International), Turf Classic, and Washington D.C. International.

** While on the international scene, we all know that Goldikova won the Breeders’ Cup Mile a record three times and finished third in her final attempt, but did you know she won the group 1 Prix Rothschild four times leading up to the Mile?

** What trainer took over the ownership of a future Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer on the morning of his career debut? It was Jimmy Croll, who became owner of Holy Bull when the colt’s owner and breeder Rachel Carpenter died and left him her horses. Croll, who was unaware of his inheritance until that morning, was going to scratch Holy Bull when he found out about her death, but was told she loved that colt in particular and would have wanted him to run. Holy Bull won that day and went on to greatness.

** The first horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race twice was grass champion Miesque, who captured back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Miles. Name Miesque’s broodmare sire who upset four future Hall of Famers in a three-week period. It was none other than Prove Out, who defeated Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Cougar II, and Forego from August 24 to September 15 in 1973.

** One statistic that will always be lost in all the hype surrounding Secretariat and his 2-year-old Horse of the Year campaign was the perfect 12-for-12 record by 2-year-old filly champ La Prevoyante.

** Most people remember Coaltown as Calumet Farm’s undefeated colt who finished second in the Kentucky Derby to stablemate Citation, who went on to become one of the greatest horses in history. But how many people know that Coaltown went on to win 14 stakes, break four track records and equal another, and win three championships, including the Turf and Sport Digest Horse of the Year.

** Who were the three greatest champions to compete in one race? Some may feel it was Round Table, Bold Ruler, and Gallant Man in either the 1957 Kentucky Derby or their rematch in the Trenton Handicap later that season. But in the 1967 Woodward Stakes, dubbed the Race of the Century, there was Damascus, Dr. Fager, and Buckpasser. Like in 1957, you had three Horses of the Year and three Hall of Famers, but unlike 1957, all three were regarded as all-time greats who between them would capture an amazing 12 championships, equal or break 11 track records, set two world records, and win carrying 130 pounds or more 12 times. Six of those records have never been broken in the past 55 years. Buckpasser at one point won 15 races in a row; Dr. Fager won nine of his last 10 starts, his only defeat coming at the hands of Damascus while carrying 135 pounds; and Damascus, who won that Woodward by 10 lengths, came within two noses and a head of winning 14 consecutive races.

If you enjoyed these quick-fire facts and anecdotes please feel free to include whatever trivia questions you find interesting in the comments section and we can all play along. As we close out the year, we want to wish everyone a joyous remainder to your holiday season and have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. 

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



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144 Responses to “A Championship Gift Package for Christmas”

  1. Nic says:

    Steve thank u I’ve been saving this classic horse racing history buffs dream article as the holidays were busy thank u so much I’m saving part 2 for another day I just can’t thank you enough for all the memories you stir up best wishes always

  2. Cathy Rosennberger says:

    I linked for Bud Delp. We were at Pimlico and we had a horse named What A Summer. She had won 3 but was wrapped way too tight. So I asked Delp if Lyn and I could take last in AM training. Delp said you girls do what you want just gallop her schedule. So we walked around hung out trot gallop,etc. He did not tell us he put her in the Black Eye Susan. Yikes! She beat Dearly Precious by a whisker. Took about 12 minutes to make it official. This was one of my most exciting races

  3. Lynn Taylor says:

    Loved your last two articles, especially the mention of bold n determined!

  4. Bill Dawson says:

    As expected, Snead made a nice closing effort, but failed to catch Track Phantom. He could improve improving forward, possibly in Lecomte Stakes, at the Fair Grounds, on January 20th. I love his pedigree going long, the 1 3/16 Louisiana Derby should suit him just fine.
    Not sure what to make of Nash’s 3rd place finish, you might say he failed the class test.

  5. Bill Dawson says:

    Knightsbridge, an impressive maiden winner, first out, going 7 furlongs in 1:22.96, hasn’t had a recorded work since that race at Churchill, on 11-4. It’s possible that William Mott is just giving him a long rest before returning to his regular training regimen. However, his colt could have an issue that is preventing him from working.
    I’d appreciate hearing from anyone out there that might know what’s going on with Knightsbridge.

  6. Matthew W says:

    I like Snead, as well today–on top….used Next Level and Nash, I don’t expect more than 4-1 on Snead…

    • Matthew W says:

      Check that—his pick three will-pays are fourth choice, he might fetch a good price—GOOD!..

      • Matthew W says:

        Snead is currently 7-1….but with Nash underneath—the exacta is paying 12-1…..that’s the play, if you like him….

        • Matthew W says:

          Thought Snead was going to blitz them at the top of the stretch….Nash didn’t get the easy, no-pressure trip against winners, and he looked like a different horse! One paced throughout, usually on dirt–a horse debuts at one turn, maybe he’s a long-winded distance horse…..

          • Ms Blacktype says:

            Matthew W.: one of the FanDuel announcers said they tried to rate Nash today and it didn’t work. Pretty obvious — especially since I sped through the tape delay — speed lasted today at Fair Grounds. Not to knock Track Phantom. I was thrilled that he won (also impressed with Snead).

            I’m sure they’ll give Nash another chance. He’s got the pedigree to be more than a one-dimensional horse.

            • Davids says:

              I liked the win by Legalize today but he looks too green for an attempt at the Derby but you never know. Hope they bide their time with him, just sprints/mile races this year then stretch him out as a 4 year old.

  7. Davids says:

    I saw the award winning Old Vic production of “A Christmas Carol” last night which was fun then Manchester City defeated Fluminense 4 – 0 to take the FIFA Club World Cup. Let’s hope the good cheer keeps up in the races tomorrow.

    Does anyone know when Santa Anita is going to draw their December 26 card?

    • arlingtonfan says:

      Santa Anita’s Dec. 26th entries are currently posted on, though they haven’t listed odds for them yet.

  8. Bill Dawson says:

    Granted, Nash appears to be the most likely winner of tomorrow’s Gun Runner Stakes, at the Fair Grounds. However, when comparing pedigrees, relating to stamina influence, I would say the dam side of Snead is much stronger than that of Nash’s dam side. Snead’s broodmare sire, A.P. Indy needs no introduction, but his 2nd dam, Cara Rafela, won or finished in the money in several graded races. Seattle Slew appears in Snead’s 3rd generation, along with Quiet American. In his 4th generation, he has Secretariat, Fappiano, Bold Reasoning and Spectacular Bid.
    Bottom line, if there’s a colt in the Gun Runner field that has a chance to upset Nash, it’s Snead, IMO.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I am with you Bill about Snead offering the best value in tomorrow’s Gun Runner Stakes. The son of Nyquist is the sole reason I now plan to play a Trifecta box which includes Nash, Risk It and Catching Freedom. Not sure what to do with Track Phantom … I feel like the outer PP will be a bit detrimental to his chances specially knowing that he will have to contend with Nash and Next Level in a possible speed clash.

      Good luck in all your pre Christmas bets…

  9. john b says:

    Hi Steve. Just expressing my heartfelt thanks for ALL the columns, stories and helpful nuggets you enlightened us with in
    2023 and truly can’t wait for LOTS more in 2024! Have happily followed you for years, rarely post, but not only read yours but also all the comments that follow along. Blessings to you and your family!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you so much John. I really appreciate you coming on. So glad you decided to comment. We all hope you come back and join in the fun. Happy Holidays

  10. Steve Haskin says:

    Because there have been good responses to this column I am going to do a Part 2 for next week.

  11. Bill Dawson says:

    Merit, by Mastery, out of a Vindication mare, broke his maiden a first asking, going 7 furlongs in 1:25.21, at GP, on 11-4.
    This Peter E. Blum homebred, eats up ground with long easy strides that seem effortless. He has two Triple Crown winners in his 3rd generation, (Seattle Slew and Secretariat), so you would think he has an abundance of stamina in his genes.
    Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., I would think the Holy Bull might be under consideration for his next outing.
    BTW, Merit won that MSW race by 10 1/4 lengths, and should only get better as the distance increases.
    That said, I will add Merit to my top ten 2yr colts for this week, and drop Otto the Conqueror (for now)

    1) Fierceness
    2) Nysos
    3) Nash
    4) Muth
    5) Merit
    6) Honor Marie
    7) Locked
    8) Knightsbridge
    9) El Capi
    10) Dornoch
    11) Sierra Leone
    12) The Wine Steward

    • Bill Dawson says:

      As an added note, Merit is currently listed at 150-1 (Caesars Sportsbook) and 200-1 (Circa Casion).
      A saw buck ($10.00) investment might be worth the risk. Just saying.

      • Bruce says:

        Hey Bill, I’m with you on the Merit bandwagon….although we might be the only two, LOL!! I thought his mdn win was pretty impressive….so I put a couple bucks on him in the KDFW, and a couple more bucks on him at Circa. Looking forward to his next start. Good luck!

    • arlingtonfan says:

      Sounds like an intriguing horse. You know what else I find intriguing? The fact that so many top colts in this crop have extremely short (four- and five-letter) names. It’s unusual for Thoroughbreds and kind of refreshing.

    • Counter Point says:

      I am puzzled as to why Sierra Leone is ranked so low. Let’s see what a deep dive into the colt’s performances to date reveals:

      Sierra Leone won on debut over 8F after bobbling at the start and was piloted 4W at the top of the lane for his stretch run. Despite his troubled trip, he won in hand. A debutant that gives up ground at the start and on the turn and then wins easily, is no ordinary debutant. His winning time of 1:36.94 albeit over a 1turn mile is within range of the average 8F split of the last 20 KDs.

      He made his 2nd start in a graded stake over 9F. He trailed the Remsen field by 12 1/2L. He lost several lengths due to being piloted 7W for his stretch run. He lost further ground by drifting to the rail. It was obvious that Dornoch rallied to regain the lead from a tiring Sierra Leone. Fatigue would be in play at this point of the colt’s race, given he had to close a 12 1/2L gap against a speed bias and whilst covering the most ground on any entrant in the race.

      No deep closer won on the speed favoring surface at the Big A on Remsen day. The fact that Sierra Leone was able to close a 12 1/2L gap and lost ground twice and was only beaten by a NK. Bears testament to his exceptional performance albeit in defeat. Further, his performance reflects the immense potential the $2.3M colt possesses.

      Given the details above, any objective analyst would lead to the conclusion that Sierra Leone deserves to be raked much higher.

      The colts you have ranked from 3 to 10 haven’t deliver a performance under the adverse conditions, speed bias and ground loss that combined to form challenges Sierra Leone had to overcome en-route to his NK defeat.

      Compiling KD top 12 list is not an easy undertaking. However, rankings should be based on critically assessed performances. Emotions, speed figures, trainers and wide margin wins against overmatched opponents shouldn’t play a significant role.

  12. Mike Sekulic says:

    This is great! Lots of good and interesting information here! And it’s always great when COUGAR II gets mentioned.

  13. Matthew W says:

    Steve remember when they couldn’t find Sweet Catomine, because Julio Canani snuck her off the track grounds? Mr Cox moved his foursome out in the middle of the night, and it was hush hush—for five days—and now comes the “splaining”?….Does this pass the smell test, for you? It doesn’t, for me..

  14. Todd Vaughn says:

    Integration, a 3 yo turf horse trained by Shug McGaughey, is expected to run in the Pegasus Turf in January. Based on his last race, he could be a real star next year. With Up To The Mark retired, we could use a real high level turf horse.

  15. Dewey Hebert says:

    Steve, your Championship Gift Package was a pleasant surprise to find in my Christmas stocking. These trips down memory lane that you take us on are very precious to me. I’m 80 and in poor health, yet, I am sustained each and every day by reading your columns and the comments by your brilliant group of followers. This is, hands down, the best horse racing site to be found anywhere for thoughtful viewpoints and information.

    I met you once at a handicapping seminar you gave at Rockingham Park just a few years before its demise. You were still writing for the Daily Racing Form at the time. It was then that I started following you by becoming a faithful reader of your columns. I don’t comment much, but I do read you regularly like many others who enjoy your thoughts.

    Steve Haskin, you are a blessing to me and you are a gift that keeps on giving. Thank you so much for making my day.
    Your pieces from trips down memory lane to the Derby Dozen and all the human interest stories in between are a treat to me and others who appreciate exceptional writing on our favorite sport. Got a feeling that the 2024 Derby Dozen will be special as we have had a lot of exciting 2 yos preview their talents this year. Looking forward to your first DD column.

    To you, your family and all the great group of readers/commentators here, happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year!

    • Steve haskin says:

      Hi Dewey, I cant express how much your words mean to me. Thank you so much. I’m so glad you decided to comment. This was a great Christmas present. I hope you feel better soon. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    • Bruce says:

      Dewey, what a great post from you! Its people like you that make this site so enjoyable! And I couldn’t agree with you more, this site is absolutely the best!

      Happy Holidays to everyone!!

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Thank you, Bruce. I must say you give me too much credit for making this site so enjoyable, as I have contributed very little over the past few years. I receive much more than I am able to give back here.

        Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    • Davids says:

      Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays Dewey, hopefully your health improves next year. I always enjoy reading your fun posts.

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        “Fun posts”? Me? lol. It’s been a while, Davids. Thank you for your good wishes. Merry Christmas!

        May 2024 bring us all renewed hope as we contemplate the contenders that Steve will offer us on the Derby Dozen. I know that the approaching months will do a lot to recharge the batteries of this veteran punter’s heart. Sometimes I feel that the anticipation is more fun than the event itself. Go figure!

        • Davids says:

          I think you’re right, Dewey. How often do you see a horse like Flightline? Once in a century? The anticipation is the ‘event’ in most cases. Waiting for the progeny of Tacitus, Essential Quality, Flightline et al to hit the sales then finally race can seem like a lifetime these days with the internet speeding you through history.

          Are there any 2 year old colts you have taken to for the roses in 2024?

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            I’m with you Davids on the anticipation of our favorites’ progeny. Waiting for the dams to deliver, it’s almost like the expectant father syndrome. ha ha!

            As for my early short list of 2 yos. that I’ve taken a shine to for the roses, I’ve given attention to the following….

            FIERCENESS Very impressed with his winning move in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. The one to beat (when in the mood).

            HONOR MARIE Intrigued by his breeding (by Honor Code/A.P. Indy, out of Dame Marie/Smart Strike). Bred to go long and only needs to improve his speed figures. Reminds me a bit of Tapit Trice (oh oh!)

            DORNOCH Showed a lot of heart when putting in a second rally to nip Sierra Leone in the Remsen at a 1 1/8 in the mud.

            SIERRA LEONE Put in an eye catching rally from last to first and just missed the nod for the win when Dornoch came on again. His rally was seven wide and that cost him the win. The Remsen was one of the most exciting finishes that I witnessed this year.

            THE WINE STEWARD By Vino Rossi (I love the name). I was disappointed when he was a late scratch for the Breeders Cup Juvenile. I have high expectations for him on the Derby Trail.

            Of course, the above list is subject to change. I just hope that they remain healthy and fit to race in 2024.

            Do you fancy any of these, Davids?

            • Davids says:

              Dewey, over the past 30 years I’ve learned not to get too excited about 2 year old form as you once did. Nonetheless, you can’t help but having hope in some colts over the winter period.

              Fierceness, could be any kind but what if it rains on Derby day? I’m on the fence about him until next year. Honor Marie is one I really like, rough n’ tumble type willing to go through tight openings. Dornoch and Sierra Leone both impressed in the Remsen Stakes but that race has not been the best indicator of future possibilities in the Derby, wait and see for me. The Wine Stewart another wait and see.

              One that has my heart fluttering is Parchment Party but you can’t get too serious on a colt that has yet to win a stakes race. Another is Legalize, who won a stakes race on Saturday, but he may be restricted to sprints/mile races next year. There are quite a few others I like but let’s wait until they win a stakes race or two before we’re all in on them. Fun times though.

              • Dewey Hebert says:

                I also like Parchment Party and, like you, I’m waiting to see what he does in stakes competition. He did look very professional for a 2 yo. in his two wins. Like Honor Marie, he is the type who is not easily intimidated and should have a bright future.


  16. Matthew W says:

    I’ll throw on my pick this Sat in the Gun Runner….#1 Next Level (20-1) not sure how I’ll use him but I think he has talent….he is large framed, looks like a two turn horse, and he’s in good hands—and is doing well right now…..

    • Davids says:

      It’s an intriguing race with many unknowns. Good luck with Next Level. The two Constitution colts have my interest, if not my wallet. Ha ha The weather appears to Bo ok as well.

  17. Jim Tierney says:

    Thanks Steve for this interesting and insightful article! Similar to Pleasant Tap and Precisionist both placing in a Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Classic, 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair was third in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Sprint before winning the Classic in 1991.

  18. Nelson Maan says:

    The case of Optimistic Gal reminds me of super capable horses like Mister Gus, Summer Tan, Crozier, Sham, Linda’s Chief, Exceller, True Knight, Ancient Title, General Assembly, Big Spruce, Arbees Boy, FlyingPaster, In Excess, Colonial Affair, Devil His Due, Cox’s Ridge, Desert Wine, Bet Twice, Seeking the Gold, Java Gold, Stella Madrid, Life At the Top, Gentlemen, Free House, Formal Gold, Medaglia d’Oro, and even Hard Spun and Life is Good most recently. These outstanding horses happened to compete against the greatest runners ever or have failed in just one big race after some exceptional performances … all got championships within arm’s reach at some point but ended up playing second tiers …

    A good example is Copelan who won the three most prestigious 2-year-old Grade 1 races in the East (Hopeful, Futurity and Champagne) and the Sanford… but Roving Boy took the title after defeating Copelan in the Hollywood Futurity.. venturing to the West cost the son of Tri Jet the title…

    Good memories indeed…!

    • Todd Vaughn says:

      It is good to remember each of those horses, but it is also a reminder of the current state of the breed. Each horse on your list would be a runaway division champion this year, and in many cases HOY.

    • Davids says:

      Princess of Sylmar comes to mind. She had beaten Beholder and winning in the Kentucky Oaks and even Royal Delta a bit later. Had Princess of Sylmar not gone to California and run badly in the Breeders Cup Distaff she would have won the Three Year old Fillies title hands down.

      Notably, on both occasions that Beholder stepped outside of California she was defeated and, in both those occasions, Princess of Sylmar was ahead of her. Who’s the better horse?

      • Matthew W says:

        Beholder won by five in the Breeders Cup…

        • Matthew W says:

          Beholder flipped over backwards on the track, before The Oaks, where she set torrid fractions….in the Just A Game it was turf, and she was off eight months after the race, and she finished fourth, so I’m guessing she got hurt…Beholder was a great mare..

          • Davids says:

            I’m not knocking Beholder just pointing out that Princess of Sylmar’s owners threw away a certain 3 year old championship by running in California

            • Matthew W says:

              You really think Beholder winning the Distaff by five lengths wouldn’t have won her the 3yo filly Eclipse? She was 2nd, in the Oaks, to Princess—-but that was their only other race as three year olds, you really think a 3yo filly winning the Distaff by five was not enough?…

              • Discopartner says:

                Princess of Sylmar was a very good horse who gave her all every time and won the top 4 filly Gr. 1’s for fillies that year, including a 10 f. race, so YES, I REALLY DO think she might have won the Eclipse that year, had she not gone to the BC Distaff. She passed Beholder and won going away in the Oaks, it wasn’t that close.

              • Davids says:

                Yes, for sure. When Princess of Sylmar defeated Royal Delta in the Beldame she had defeated the most dominant imposing female runner for the past 2 years. It was a watershed moment. Princess of Sylmar had won the Kentucky Oaks then defeated the Queen of US racing.

                Moreover, if Prince of Sylmar had not run in the BC Distaff it would have been perceived that the best filly/mare in the country was not entered.

                “Home town gal wins Distaff dethroning the Queen while the Empress is on holiday” I can see these headlines in “The Blood-Horse”.

          • Davids says:

            PS: It’s the Ogden Phipps Stakes on dirt that Princess of Sylmar and Closed Hatches at Belmont Park were ahead of Beholder. Beholder finished fourth in that race. That was her second and only other start she had outside California.

            Not sure which horse you are confusing Beholder with who ran in the Just a Game stakes.

            • Matthew W says:

              Kelso ran twice at Hollywood Park, both times fifth—Cox’s Ridge was beat 7 lengths in the Californian…-Sky Beauty, the unbeatable NY filly lost her Cali races …Cigar’s 16 race streak was broken at Del Mar—shipping 3000 miles ain’t easy…Before the advent of the Breeders Cup NY horses did not have to make that ship…

              • Davids says:

                Matthew, you left Seattle Slew’s demise as well. Yes, I agree with you how unfair it is for Californian horses having to go east for recognition. The Triple Crown no doubt being a prime example. However, the titled races of the US were established in the East first up so if you want to be in the game that’s where the big boys play, so to speak.

                The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is ‘the race’ that everyone wants to win in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, even some owners in the USA et al so to win it you have to prepare a horse all year and hope that you get an inside draw and a reasonable track otherwise the dream evaporates before your eyes.

                However, it never stops them from trying, some just have to try harder than others but the reward is everything, absolutely everything.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Yes Davids… Princess of Sylmar is a great example of a horse heading to a sure championship after four (4) Grade 1 wins in the year but lost every chance after finishing last in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff won by Beholder…

        I am sure there are many more cases …

        • Davids says:

          Pletcher didn’t want to run Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders’ Cup because she has been running without a break for an extended length of time. They are not machines.

    • Matthew W says:

      And that’s how it always was, before the advent of the Breeders Cup…eastern horses did not need to venture west—but once the cup was run in the west—eastern horses did need to ship—western based horses have ALWAYS needed to ship east … sometimes several times, in order to win an Eclipse, the Breeders Cup has made things a little more fair, of course when the Cup is held in the east that point is moot …

      • Discopartner says:

        So it’s New York’s fault that it’s in the east, was settled first, started racing first and set up all the big classics? Similar for Kentucky abd other middle west states. And they did ship west before the BC, but when they didn’t it was because they had bigger races at home or closer to home, at the same time.

        What’s your point? Shipping? Shipping 700 miles in a trailer isn’t easy either. Eastern horses ship all the time, to different tracks in the east. They don’t do that in California nearly as much. And I’m not talking about moving from one track to another for 2 months, I mean weekly shipping. Also, the weather is harder to cope with in the east, as you and other Californians love to point out whenever it rains on an eastern track. Training is harder, racing on wet tracks, racing in the cold, all things they don’t have to deal with much in California.

  19. Bill Dawson says:

    Suggested Trifecta play in the Gun Runner Stakes.
    Key Nash on top, with Risk It and Snead underneath.
    I watched Snead close like gang busters, in an OC 100K, 8.5 furlong race, at the Fair Grounds on Nov. 23rd, drawing off by 71/2 lengths, in 1:44 flat.
    Risk It, had traffic issues last out, and he has Rosario in the irons this time. I believe he’ll finish in the money and give Nash all he can handle.
    However, Nash looks much the best here, and it’s no surprise he’s the 7/5 morning line favorite.
    I’ll play a $20.00 Trifecta P/W: 6/ 3,7/3,7 (cost: $40.00)
    I gave Track Phantom a real close look, but with Rosario jumping off, and switching to Risk It, speaks volumes, IMO.