I’m not much of a horse racing fan, but I admire the courage of jockey’s and the competitive spirit of the horses. The recent record setting win at Belmont by Rags to Riches brought this to mind. Only two fillies before Rags to Riches had ever won the Belmont one, Ruthless, in 1867 and the other, Tanya, in 1905. The June 139th Belmont stakes was an amazing win for this great horse.
When reading about the race, I thought of some of the other great horses in the past. One of my favorites was the horse named after the city of Seattle, Seattle Slew. Purchased in 1975 for the bargain price of $17,500 the horse went on to set records in winnings and races won. Trained by Billy Turner, the horse made it’s start in 1976 and in 1977 won six consecutive races including the Triple Crown, only the tenth horse, among eleven to accomplish that feat. But, Seattle Slew is the only horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated.
Then there is another local horse, Real Quiet. Michael Pegram lived in my former home town of Mount Vernon and owned several MacDonald’s restaurants in the area. Known by everyone in town Mike bought the horse, Real Quiet, for only $17,000 because of the colt’s crooked knees. But, the horse went on to win the 1998 Kentucky Derby and the Peakiness Stakes making both the horse and Michael Pegram famous.
Among racing fans, the argument still goes on about who was better, Man of War or Secretariat? Man of War, born in 1917 and died in 1947 held a race record of twenty one starts and twenty wins setting three world records, two American records and three track records. Secretariat, born in 1970 and died in 1989, had a race record of twenty one starts and sixteen wins with two world records and three track records. But these statistics don’t tell the story of the great heart of these two horses who became famous over their life times.Native Dancer became a famous race horse. It won all nine of his starts in 1952 and was named Horse of the Year. He lost the 79th Kentucky Derby in an upset to Dark Start in a wire to wire defeat, but still is regarded as one of the great horses of the sport.
Probably the most well known horse today is Seabiscuit who has been featured in a books and two movies. The last film, Seabiscuit, was made in 2003 was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Born in 1933 and died in 1947 this famous horse was an amazing competitor with very unlikely looks for a race horse. It’s records of wins and it’s competitive desire to win made it a fan favorite. During the depression the horse was a national hero and featured on the cover of magazines as well as in the newsreels. As the book and movie relate, the most famous race was on November 1, 1938 when Seabiscuit raced War Admiral in what was called "the match of the century." The grandstands were jammed with an estimated 40,000 fans and another 40 million listening on the radio. War Admiral was the favorite and the Triple Crown Champion. When the bell rang, however, Seabiscuit ran away from the other horse, but down the stretch gradually pulled even with Seabiscuit and even slightly ahead. When two hundred yards from the wire, Seabiscuit pulled ahead and extended the lead wining by four lengths. He was named Horse of the Year, following the race.