Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh provided important updates this week regarding highly regarded 3-year-old colts Extra Anejo and Loggins.
Extra Anejo, a $1.35 million auction purchase, was a dazzling 9 1/2-length maiden winner at about seven furlongs when unveiled Oct. 13 at Keeneland. The Into Mischief colt was being pointed for Fair Grounds’ Gun Runner Stakes on Dec. 26, but he was forced to miss that race after undergoing hind ankle surgery for the removal of a chip.
On my first 2023 Kentucky Derby Top 10 list in late November, Extra Anejo was No. 1. But I took him off the Top 10 following the news of his ankle surgery, which indicated his participation in the Run for the Roses was doubtful.
“Extra Anejo, the highly promising newly turned 3-year-old, is on his way to Fair Grounds from Kentucky after being cleared this week to resume training,” Hersh reported.
“Late last year, Extra Anejo had successful surgery to remove a bone chip from a hind ankle. Monday, Extra Anejo had a PET (positron emission tomography) scan and after a full evaluation of the colt’s condition, noted veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage gave the go-ahead for Extra Anejo to go back into training with Steve Asmussen.”
Hall of Famer Asmussen said on Tuesday that Extra Anejo was on his way to New Orleans.
“We’ll start by jogging and go from there.”
Is Extra Anejo’s return to training too late to make the May 6 Kentucky Derby? Probably. The way I see it, it depends on whether he were to come around quickly enough to have a published workout in early February. Using American Pharoah as a case in point, I don’t think the Kentucky Derby would be out of the question for Extra Anejo if he pops up on the work tab sometime early in February.
American Pharoah, who was scratched from the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile because of a bruised foot, recorded his first workout as a 3-year-old on Feb. 2, three furlongs in :36.20 at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. American Pharoah not only went on to win the Kentucky Derby, he swept the Triple Crown to end a 37-year drought in the series.
It appears that it is even more unlikely that Loggins can possibly run in the Kentucky Derby. While Extra Anejo is about to go back into training, there is no word from trainer Brad Cox as to when Loggins will resume training.
Loggins won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs by 8 1/2 lengths on Sept. 17, then finished second, a neck behind Forte, in Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 8.
Forte subsequently won the Grade I BC Juvenile and is odds-on to be voted a 2022 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
Cox told the DRF’s David Grening after the Breeders’ Futurity that Loggins would skip the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile because they were not “wanting to do too much with him too early. We want to have a 3-year-old, as well.” In late November, Cox told the DRF that he hoped to have Loggins “back in the barn by the end of December.” But that didn’t happen.
When Cox was asked via text message this past week if there was any news on Loggins, the trainer replied, “Not yet.”
On my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list in late November, Loggins was No. 4, below No. 1 Arabian Knight, No. 2 Forte and No. 3 Cave Rock. In light of Hersh’s Loggins update this week, I have decided to take the Ghostzapper colt off my Kentucky Derby Top 10 this week.
While Loggins exits my Top 10 this week, another Ghostzapper colt, Banishing, has moved up to No. 4 this week after debuting at No. 10 in late December. I really think Banishing is a serious Kentucky Derby candidate following the colt’s 8 1/2-length victory in a Fair Grounds maiden race on Dec. 26 in his second career start.
Banishing worked four furlongs in :48.80 at Fair Grounds last Saturday (Jan. 7) for trainer Brendan Walsh.
Also exiting my Top 10 this week is National Treasure, who was defeated as an odds-on favorite in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes last Sunday (Jan. 8). The Baffert-trained Quality Road colt can earn his way back onto the Top 10 down the line if he comes up with something better than his Sham performance.
Baffert entered four in the Sham, then ran three after scratching Speed Boat Beach.
A phrase you hear from time to time in Southern California racing is “the other Baffert,” a reference to when a Baffert trainee wins at higher odds than a Baffert trainee at a short price.
In the Sham, it was “the other other Baffert” who won, as Reincarnate pulled off a 16-1 upset over the Baffert-trained Newgate at 5-1. National Treasure had to settle for third as the 3-5 favorite.
Baffert trains Arabian Knight, who is No. 1 on my Top 10, and Cave Rock, who is No. 3.
Arabian Knight has not raced since his 7 1/4-length triumph in a seven-furlong maiden race when making his career debut Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
A $2.3 million auction purchase, Arabian Knight has recorded six workouts, all at Santa Anita, since his impressive debut that produced a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
Below are Arabian Knight’s six latest works:
Date Distance (Time) Rank/Number in Rank
01/07/23 5f (1:01.60) 41/67
12/30/22 6f (1:12.20) 1/6
12/24/22 4f (:47.80) 6/79
12/14/22 4f (:48.20) 12/35
12/05/22 4f (:48.20) 8/64
11/28/22 4f (:48.60) 26/57
In addition to his BC Juvenile and Breeders’ Futurity victories last year, Forte won Saratoga’s Grade I Hopeful Stakes. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the Kentucky-bred Violence colt does not yet have a published workout since the Breeders’ Cup.
Forte won the BC Juvenile by 1 1/2 lengths at 5-1. Cave Rock finished second as the 2-5 favorite. Going into the Breeders’ Cup, Cave Rock had been three for three, with the Arrogate colt winning each of those starts by 5 1/4 lengths or more.
Cave Rock, like Forte, does not yet have a published workout since the Breeders’ Cup.
The Cox-trained Giant Mischief kicked off his racing career by winning a maiden sprint at Horseshoe Indianapolis on Sept. 16. In his next appearance under silks, he won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming affair by three-quarters of a length at Keeneland on Nov. 4. And then Giant Mischief ran well in defeat to finish second despite a horrible start in Remington Park’s Springboard Mile on Dec. 17.
Giant Mischief has not recorded a workout since the Springboard Mile.
Arabian Lion is yet another Baffert-trained 3-year-old on my Top 10.
A son of the Baffert-trained Triple Crown winner Justify, Arabian Lion won a Santa Anita maiden sprint by three lengths at first asking on Oct. 9. He then ran second to Giant Mischief in the aforementioned Nov. 4 race at Keeneland, with Arabian Lion finishing 17 1/2 lengths clear of third.
In Arabian Lion’s most recent start, he finished fifth as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 17. I have kept Arabian Lion on my Top 10 mainly because Baffert told me that he still believes Arabian Lion is a quality colt.
Instant Coffee, fourth behind Forte and Loggins in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, won Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 26 despite a wide trip. The Bolt d’Oro colt is scheduled to make his next start in Fair Grounds’ Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 21. He worked five furlongs at that New Orleans venue in 1:01.80 on Sunday (Jan. 8).
Below is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10:
1. Arabian Knight
3. Cave Rock
5. Cyclone Mischief
6. Giant Mischief
7. Instant Coffee
8. Arabian Lion
9. Corona Bolt
10. Victory Formation
Bubbling Under My Top 10: Angel of Empire, Blazing Sevens, Classic Catch, Curly Jack, Hejazi, Hit Show, Jace’s Road, Litigate, National Treasure, Newgate, Please Be Nice, Point Proven, Practical Move, Reincarnate, Signator and Tapit Trice.
Cyclone Mischief debuts on my Top 10 this week. The Into Mischief colt rolled to a 5 3/4-length win in a one-mile allowance/claiming contest at Gulfstream Park last Sunday (Jan. 8). He received a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
In Cyclone Mischief’s victory last Sunday, he drubbed a number of foes who possibly might be stakes material, such as runner-up Litigate (trained by Pletcher), third-place Mr. Ripple (Saffie Joseph Jr.) and fifth-place Rudder’s Men (Pletcher).
Cyclone Mischief won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race by 5 1/4 lengths at Keeneland on Oct. 19, but he finished seventh in the ensuing Kentucky Jockey Club before rebounding last weekend for trainer Dale Romans.
“This is a real racehorse. He’s the real deal,” Romans said following Cyclone Mischief’s big win last Sunday. “He’s one of the best I’ve had in a long time.”
Corona Bolt, who is two for two, and Victory Formation, three for three, are two more newcomers to my Top 10 this week. They both are trained by Cox. Even though the Cox-trained Loggins left my Top 10 this week, Cox has four on the list in Giant Mischief, Instant Coffee, Corona Bolt and Victory Formation.
When last seen in action, Corona Bolt won Fair Grounds’ six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on Dec. 26. The Bolt d’Oro colt was credited with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
Victory Formation registered a three-length win in Oaklawn Park’s one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on New Year’s Day. The Tapwrit colt recorded a 91 Beyer.
I took the Curlin colt Faustin off my Top 10 this week. Don’t be surprised if he finds his way back onto my Top 10 at some point.
RANKING THE TOP PERFORMANCE OF YEAR 2004-2022
As I wrote last week, I’ve been compiling a list of the Top 10 performances in the United States each year for Xpressbet.com from 2004 to present. I noted that I consider Flightline’s win in the Pacific Classic to be the best performance of them all during this time period.
A Thoroughbred’s performance can make my Top 10 of the year for a variety of reasons, such as:
--A win by a big margin while showing brilliance.
--Recording a fast final time and/or speed figure.
--Being especially game in victory or defeat.
--Defeating a particularly strong group of opponents.
--Carrying more weight than usual and/or spotting considerable weight.
--Achieving something historic or unusual.
The importance of the race itself also plays a role in determining whether or not I believe a performance deserves to make the list.
As listed below, I’ve ranked my choice for the top performance of the year in this country from 2004 through 2022.
1. FLIGHTLINE in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2022. (Owned by Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing; trained by John Sadler; ridden by Flavien Prat; 126 Beyer Speed Figure.)
It was Flightline first, the rest nowhere.
Fabulous Flightline won the Pacific Classic by 19 1/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite in a sensational performance, one that a number of observers felt was the best in the U.S. since Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in 1973. Making this performance all the more awesome, it was Flightline’s first time going farther than one mile and the first time he had raced around two turns.
Flightline received a huge 126 Beyer Speed Figure for this performance. It’s tied for being the second-biggest Beyer since the figures were made public in 1991 (initially in the Racing Times, then in the Daily Racing Form).
The highest Beyer since 1991 was Ghostzapper’s 128 when he won Monmouth Park’s Grade III Philip H. Iselin Handicap on a sloppy track by 10 3/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles in 2004.
According to Andy Beyer, creator of the Beyer Speed Figures, three other horses have run a 126. They all did it in 1997. Those three were Formal Gold, Gentlemen and Will’s Way.
You can view the 2022 Pacific Classic on YouTube (Trevor Denman has the call).
2. AMERICAN PHAROAH in Belmont Park’s Grade I Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on dirt in 2015. (Owned by Zayat Stables; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith; 105 Beyer Speed Figure.)
At a time when many believed there would never be another Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah won the Belmont by an emphatic 5 1/2 lengths as the 3-5 favorite. Inasmuch as there was a growing movement to change the spacing and/or distances of the Triple Crown due to it seemingly becoming impossible to achieve, American Pharoah, I believe, saved the series by ending the 37-year drought. If American Pharoah and Justify had won a differently constructed Triple Crown than Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1970s, I don’t think American Pharoah or Justify would receive the same credit that they do for sweeping the Triple Crown as we have come to know it.
You can view the 2015 Belmont Stakes on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).
3. ZENYATTA in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2009. (Owned by Ann and Jerry Moss; trained by John Shirreffs; ridden by Mike Smith; 112 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Rallying from last in the field of 12, Zenyatta prevailed by one length as the 5-2 favorite to make it 14 wins from 14 career starts at that point in her stellar career.
As Zenyatta charged home to victory, track announcer Trevor Denman described it wonderfully, saying: “This is un…bah…lieveable! Zenyatta, what a performance, one we’ll never forget! Looked impossible! But it is Zenyatta, still unbeaten, under Mike Smith. Gio Ponti second, Summer Bird, then Richard’s Kid. What a dramatic performance, one of the most sensational ever, Zenyatta wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
You can view the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic on YouTube (as noted above, Trevor Denman has the call).
4. ARROGATE in Saratoga’s Grade I Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2016. (Owned by Juddmonte Farms; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith; 122 Beyer Speed Figure.)
In a smashing stakes debut, Arrogate won at odds of 11-1 in front-running fashion by 13 1/2 lengths in 1:59.36 or 1:59 1/5 in fifths. I characterized it as a Secretariat-like performance. When Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby at the same distance in 1973, his final time was 1:59 2/5, which broke Northern Dancer’s track record at Churchill Downs by three-fifths of a second. Secretariat still holds that record all these years later. Arrogate broke Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile track record set by General Assembly (a son of Secretariat) in the 1979 Travers by four-fifths of second.
You can view the 2016 Travers Stakes on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).
5. RAGS TO RICHES in Belmont Park’s Grade I Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on dirt in 2007. (Owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith; trained by Todd Pletcher; ridden by John Velazquez; 107 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years. She won by a head at odds of 4-1 despite stumbling at the start and having a much wider trip than runner-up Curlin.
A filly winning the Belmont is more of a rarity than a horse sweeping the Triple Crown. There have been 13 American Triple Crown winners. Only three fillies have ever won the Belmont.
Prior to Rags to Riches, the only two fillies to win the Belmont were Ruthless at 1 5/8 miles in 1867 and Tanya at 1 1/4 miles in 1905. Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the Belmont at 1 1/2 miles.
Rags to Riches’ half-brother Jazil won the Belmont in 2006. Her sire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont in 1992. Her paternal grandsire, Seattle Slew, won the Belmont in 1977.
You can view the 2007 Belmont Stakes on YouTube (Tom Durkin has the call).
6. JUSTIFY in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on a sloppy main track in 2018. (Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing; trained by Bob Baffert; ridden by Mike Smith; 103 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Despite zipping the opening quarter-mile on a sloppy track in :22.24, Justify had enough gas still left in the tank to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths as the 5-2 favorite in 2:04.20. Television commentator Randy Moss pointed out just how outstanding this performance was by Justify in that no horse in the 144-year history of the Kentucky Derby had won it after running the first quarter as fast as he did.
Justify’s :22.24 now ranks as the second-fastest first quarter in the history of the Run for the Roses. Shortly after last year’s 148th running, Moss called attention to the early fractions being a scorching :21.78 for the first quarter and :45.36 for the half.
“This is a historically fast, suicidal, radioactive Kentucky Derby pace,” Moss said.
A bit later, Moss noted that the :21.78 clocking by Summer Is Tomorrow made it the fastest opening quarter in Kentucky Derby history. Summer Is Tomorrow finished last in the field of 20. Rich Strike rallied from last to win at odds of 80-1 in the second-biggest Kentucky Derby upset, topped only by 91-1 Donerail’s victory in 1913.
Not only did Justify manage to capture the Kentucky Derby in spite of running so fast so early, he became the first horse win it without having raced as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. Justify thus thumbed his nose at the so-called “Apollo curse.”
You can view the 2018 Kentucky Derby on YouTube (Travis Stone has the call).
7. AFLEET ALEX in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on dirt in 2005. (Owned by Cash Is King; trained by Timothy Ritchey; ridden by Jeremy Rose; 112 Beyer Speed Figure.)
This was nothing less than an amazing performance on the part of Afleet Alex.
Scrappy T ducked out suddenly when he was in front turning into the stretch. Afleet Alex, who was closing with a rush, clipped Scrappy T’s heels, stumbled badly and very nearly fell.
Remarkably, Afleet Alex recovered quickly and, shortly after the scary incident, he ran right by Scrappy T to get the lead with a furlong remaining. Afleet Alex then drew away in the final furlong to win by 4 3/4 lengths as the 3-1 favorite. Scrappy T held on for second. Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo ended up third, 9 3/4 lengths behind Afleet Alex.
Jockey Jeremy Rose somehow managed to stay aboard and also kept his cool when Afleet Alex nearly fell. Rose also rode a tactically smart race by moving his mount down to the two path soon after leaving the starting gate from post 12 in the field of 14.
You can view the 2005 Preakness Stakes on YouTube (Tom Durkin has the call).
8. BLAME in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2010. (Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider; trained by Al Stall Jr.; ridden by Garrett Gomez; 111 Beyer Speed Figure.)
During Zenyatta’s illustrious career, 99 different horses tried to defeat her. Only one ever succeeded -- Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Seventh early, Blame rallied to take command with a little more than a furlong left. He opened a clear advantage, then responded gamely in the final dramatic strides to win by a few inches at odds of 5-1 over even-money favorite Zenyatta, one of the sport’s all-time great female Thoroughbreds.
That ended Zenyatta’s undefeated winning streak at 19 in the final start of her illustrious career.
Garrett Gomez rode an absolutely perfect race. If he had made just one mistake somewhere along the way, Zenyatta would have won her second Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Blame rose to the occasion to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over six Grade/Group I winners (Zenyatta, Lookin At Lucky, Paddy O’Prado, Espoir City, Haynesfield and Quality Road), three Grade II winners (Fly Down, Etched and Musket Man), a Grade III winner (Pleasant Prince) and the Grade I Preakness runner-up (First Dude).
You can view the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic on YouTube (Trevor Denman has the call).
9. GHOSTZAPPER in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star Park in 2004. (Owned by Stronach Stables; trained by Bobby Frankel; ridden by Javier Castellano; 124 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Sent off as a 5-2 favorite, Ghostzapper did not let his many backers down. He won by three lengths in 1:59.02 to break Lone Star Park’s track record for 1 1/4 miles.
Among the vanquished were Roses in May (who won the rich Dubai World Cup the next year), Pleasantly Perfect (the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner), Azeri (the 2002 Horse of the Year), Birdstone (the 2004 Belmont Stakes winner) and Funny Cide (the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner).
Ghostzapper’s 124 Beyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is tied with Sunday Silence for being the highest figure in the history of this prestigious race. Sunday Silence won the 1989 renewal.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel told me on more than one occasion that Ghostzapper was the best horse he ever trained.
You can view the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on YouTube (Tom Durkin has the call).
10. FLIGHTLINE in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt in 2021. (Owned by Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing; trained by John Sadler; ridden by Flavien Prat; 118 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Flightline won the Malibu by 11 1/2 lengths as the 2-5 favorite. Even though he just sauntered home, his final time was 1:21.37. According to Prat, Flightline “was in cruise control the whole way, galloping freely.”
The 1:21.37 clocking was more than three seconds (three seconds!) faster than Kalypso’s 1:24.78 when she won Santa Anita’s Grade I La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 4 3/4 lengths at the same distance earlier in the afternoon.
Flightline’s 118 Beyer in the Malibu was the top figure of 2021.
Not surprisingly, Flightline’s exhibition of sheer poetry in motion in the Malibu elicited rave reviews. There were Twitter tributes by the likes of:
--Broadcaster Britney Eurton (Flightline = Freak. “That gave me goosebumps” said Flavien Prat. Us too…Us too!)
--New York broadcaster Andy Serling (Flightline gallops home in 1:21.37 in his expected Malibu triumph. That’s 3.42 seconds faster than the La Brea. He is an absolute monster. Maybe better than advertised. Wow!)
--David Aragona, my morning-line oddsmaker counterpart at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga (Flightline possesses the sort of talent we’ve seen only a handful of times over the past few decades. I just hope he stays healthy so we get to see him strut his stuff in even more prestigious races next year.)
--Churchill Downs track announcer Travis Stone (I’m trying to think of a more powerful and impressive performance and keep going all the way back to Ghostzapper. It’s high praise but what Flightline just did is worthy of it. Wow!)
--1ST/BET.com analyst and handicapper Jeff Siegel (Fortunate to have seen in person Buckpasser win the Malibu in 1966, Damascus in ’68 and Spectacular Bid in 1980. All became Horse of the Year. Flightline has that type of talent but there’s still plenty of work to be done. With @johnsadler in charge, he’ll have his chance)
One of the highest compliments paid to Flightline regarding his performance in the Malibu came from Bob Baffert, trainer of Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify.
Flightline “looked like [American] Pharoah coming down the lane,” Baffert told me. “Same stride.”
You can view the 2021 Malibu on YouTube (Frank Mirahmadi has the call).
11. GUN RUNNNER in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2017. (Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm; trained by Steve Asmussen; ridden by Florent Geroux; 117 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Gun Runner won by 2 1/4 lengths as the 2-1 favorite to complete a 2017 campaign in which he was a perfect five for five on American soil during the year. His lone 2017 defeat occurred when he ran second to Arrogate in the Group I Dubai World Cup. But by virtue of Gun Runner’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Arrogate finished in a dead heat with Gunnevera for fifth, Gun Runner was able to gain sweet revenge for his loss to Arrogate in Dubai.
In addition to beating a strong group of opponents in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Gun Runner beat a track bias. A pace factor from the outset, Gun Runner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic while racing on the inside part of the track throughout. Many observers believe that the inside was not the place to be that day on the Del Mar main track.
Asmussen alluded to Gun Runner overcoming a track bias in the post-race press conference.
“We all watched races all week,” Asmussen said. “And being on the inside hasn’t had a lot of success.”
You can view the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).
12. BARBARO in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2006. (Owned by Leal Stables; trained by Michael Matz; ridden by Edgar Prado; 111 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Barbaro streaked to a 6 1/2-length victory over 19 opponents at odds of 6-1. He ran his final quarter in a terrific :24.34. Barbaro’s margin was the biggest by a Kentucky Derby winner in 60 years. Assault won by eight lengths in 1946 while on his way to a sweep of the Triple Crown.
Barbaro’s performance was one of the best in the Kentucky Derby since Aristides won the inaugural running in 1875. Sadly, Barbaro’s racing career came to an end when he was pulled up with an injury shortly after the start of the Preakness Stakes.
You can view the 2006 Kentucky Derby on YouTube (Tom Durkin has the call).
13. SWISS SKYDIVER in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness Stakes at 1 3 1/16 miles on dirt Oct. 3. (Owned by Peter Callahan; trained by Kenny McPeek; ridden by Robby Albarado; 105 Beyer Speed Figure.)
I wrote the following in my recap of the 2020 Preakness for Xpressbet.com:
“The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked considerable havoc throughout the world this year. But in a year in which it seems there have been so many more lowlights than highlights, a ferocious equine tussle all the way down the stretch in the 145th Preakness Stakes became a welcome diversion for Thoroughbred racing fans during these troubled times.
“The resolute and durable filly Swiss Skydiver and Kentucky Derby winner Authentic put on a terrific show last Saturday that no doubt will be long remembered.”
Another aspect to Swiss Skydiver’s Preakness was a marvelous ride by Robby Albarado.
“Approaching the far turn, Swiss Skydiver made an early move,” I wrote in my Preakness recap. “She came through between Thousand Words and Art Collector, then continued on willingly along the inside rail to take on Authentic. It was rather nervy of Albarado to allow the filly to make such an early run rather than remain in a stalking position. No doubt Albarado would have left himself open for being bashed (particularly in the Twitter-verse) for moving too soon if the filly had lost.”
When Swiss Skydiver poked her head in front with about four furlongs left to run, Authentic by no means threw in the towel. These two raced side-by-side for the remaining half-mile. During that entire time, Swiss Skydiver was able to maintain a slight lead in an exhibition of supreme bulldog tenacity. Authentic kept trying and trying for every step of the final four furlongs, but he just could never quite get his nose back in front.”
Swiss Skydiver won by a neck.
Authentic was sent away as the 3-2 Preakness favorite. Swiss Skydiver did not get much respect from the bettors, going off at 11-1.
Swiss Skydiver completed her 1 3/16-mile journey in 1:53.28 or 1:53 1/5 in fifths. The 1:53 1/5 clocking ranks as the second-fastest clocking ever registered by a Preakness winner.
The great Secretariat holds the record for the fastest final time by a Preakness winner. After making an electrifying move from last to first on the clubhouse turn, he won the 1973 edition in 1:53 flat.
These are the five fastest final times in the history of the Preakness:
1:53 flat Secretariat (1973)
1:53 1/5 Swiss Skydiver (2020)
1:53 2/5 Curlin (2007)
1:53 2/5 Louis Quatorze (1996)
1:53 2/5 Tank’s Prospect (1985)
Swiss Skydiver became the first filly to win a Triple Crown race since Rachel Alexandra captured the 2009 Preakness.
Only six fillies have won the Preakness: Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915), Nellie Morse (1924), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Swiss Skydiver (2020).
Swiss Skydiver not only beat the boys in the Preakness, she defeated the eventual 2020 Horse of the Year in Authentic, who went on to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic.
You can view the 2020 Preakness Stakes on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).
14. DREAMING OF JULIA in the Grade II Gulfstream Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on dirt in 2013. (Owned by Stonestreet Stables; trained by Todd Pletcher; ridden by John Velazquez; 114 Beyer Speed Figure.)
As a 2-year-old, Dreaming of Julia won her career debut at Saratoga by 10 1/2 lengths and Belmont Park’s Meadow Star Stakes by 16 1/4 lengths in her second start. She looked like a superstar.
When Dreaming of Julia finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her final start at 2 and second in the Davona Dale Stakes in her first start at 3, she looked mortal.
And then, in her second start at 3, Dreaming of Julia won the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Oaks by an astounding 21 3/4 lengths.
Following Dreaming of Julia’s 21 3/4-length triumph, she was sent away as the 3-2 favorite in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks. However, her Kentucky Oaks was a nightmare right from the start and she finished fourth. All in all, Dreaming of Julia did not disgrace herself inasmuch as she lost by only 2 1/2 lengths despite so much trouble.
“I don’t really think she lost any credibility in the Oaks because she was annihilated at the start, and if that wasn’t bad enough, she got stopped later in the race,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I thought she ran very well in the race, considering everything she tried to overcome.”
Pletcher went on to say he hoped to get Dreaming of Julia “back on course” in the June 22 Mother Goose at Belmont. However, the mortal Dreaming of Julia showed up for the Mother Goose as she finished second, 7 1/4 lengths behind Close Hatches. The Mother Goose turned out to be the final start of Dreaming of Julia’s career.
Dreaming of Julia’s final time in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks was 1:48.97. On that same Gulfstream card, Orb won the Florida Derby at the same distance in 1:50.87. Orb subsequently won the Kentucky Derby.
I could not find a link to view the 2013 Gulfstream Park Oaks on YouTube.
15. BIG BROWN in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2008, (Owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.; trained by Richard Dutrow Jr.; 109 Beyer Speed Figure.)
In the Kentucky Derby, Big Brown won by 5 1/4 lengths while making only his fourth career start and despite having to break from post 20.
No horse had won the Kentucky Derby with fewer than four previous starts since Regret in 1915.
No horse had ever won the roses from post 20 in a starting gate. The only other winner from post 20 was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 before the starting gate had been invented. Rich Strike in 2022 became just the second horse to win the Kentucky Derby from post 20 in a starting gate.
You can view the 2008 Kentucky Derby on YouTube (Luke Kruytbosch has the call).
16. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness at Pimlico in 2012. (Owned by Reddam Racing; trained by Doug O’Neill; ridden by Mario Gutierrez; 109 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Bodemeister was perceived by most people to have a distinct tactical advantage in the Preakness in that he probably would be able to set a much slower pace than in the Kentucky Derby. Even though I’ll Have Another had won the roses, he did not get as much respect as Bodemeister in the Preakness.
Bodemeister was sent off as the 17-10 Preakness favorite. I’ll Have Another was the 3-1 second choice in the wagering.
In the Preakness, Bodemeister did set much slower early fractions (:23.79, :47.68, 1:11.72) than in the Kentucky Derby (:22.32, :45.39, 1:09.80).
“Twenty-three and three [fifths] for the quarter, forty seven and three for the half-mile, very reasonable indeed for Bodemeister,” Pimlico track announcer Dave Rodman noted during his Preakness call.
After being permitted to set such a reasonable pace while cruising along rather comfortably and easily for jockey Mike Smith, Bodemeister sported a three-length lead with a furlong to go. If the race was stopped at that point and you were allowed to make a win wager, I’d say about 999 people out of 1,000 would have put their money on Bodemeister, not I’ll Have Another.
With a sixteenth of a mile to go, Bodemeister was running strongly and led by about 1 1/2 lengths. Even at that late stage, if the race were stopped and you could make a win wager, I think the vast majority of people no doubt would still have put their money on Bodemeister.
But I’ll Have Another surged in the final yards to win by a neck. Under the circumstances, it took a special colt to catch such a talented Bodemeister after he had been able to get away with setting such a moderate pace. It was this performance by I’ll Have Another that finally won over so many who had knocked him and doubted him, such as Andrew Beyer.
“I’ll Have Another came into the Preakness facing one of the toughest possible tactical situations in racing,” Beyer wrote. “His most formidable rival, Bodemeister, was the solitary front-runner in the field and would be able to control the pace as his jockey dictated. That’s usually a formula for victory whether the scenario develops in a maiden race or the second leg of the Triple Crown.
“So when I’ll Have Another made his last surge in the Pimlico stretch and caught the leader, this wasn’t simply a case of a stretch-runner overhauling a tired leader. Bodemeister is a superior speed horse, and he ran as well today as he has ever done in his short career. I’ll Have Another’s performance -- though the winning margin was only a neck -- was much more impressive and authoritative than his triumph in the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier.
“I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister both ran fast and trounced the rest of the field by almost nine lengths, erasing the impression that is a mediocre group of 3-year-olds.”
Unfortunately, the Preakness turned out to be the final race of I’ll Have Another’s career. Instead of running in the Grade I Belmont Stakes, in which he was a 4-5 morning-line favorite to become the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner and the first horse to sweep the series since Affirmed in 1978, I’ll Have Another was scratched and retired from racing due to tendinitis in his left front leg.
You can view the 2012 Preakness Stakes on YouTube (Dave Rodman has the call).
17. CITY OF LIGHT in Gulfstream Park’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup at 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy main track in 2019. (Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Warren Jr.; trained by Michael McCarthy; ridden by Javier Castellano; 112 Beyer Speed Figure.)
City of Light concluded his racing career with this brilliant performance.
Prominent from the start, City of Light splashed away from his opponents in the stretch and won this $9 million event by 5 3/4 lengths at 9-5 in the wagering. Seeking the Soul, who was sent away at 34-1, ran second. Accelerate, the 3-2 favorite in the field of 12, finished third.
City of Light and Accelerate were both coming off a Breeders’ Cup victory at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. City of Light had won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Accelerate had been victorious in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic.
After the Pegasus, City of Light and Accelerate both headed off to stud.
A compelling case can be made that City of Light’s Pegasus was the best race he ever ran during a career in which he posted six wins, four seconds and a third from 11 starts. He was credited with a career-best 112 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pegasus performance. His previous top Beyer had been 110 in his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile triumph.
City of Light’s 112 Beyer in the Pegasus turned out to be the highest 2019 figure in a dirt race longer than one mile.
You can view the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on YouTube (Pete Aiello has the call).
18. ANIMAL KINGDOM in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on dirt in 2011. (Owned by Team Valor International; trained by Graham Motion; ridden by John Velazquez; 103 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Twelfth early, Animal Kingdom closed with a rush to win going away by 2 3/4 lengths in a 20-1 upset, leaving 18 foes in his wake.
Animal Kingdom became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having previously raced on dirt. He was the first horse to win the Run for the Roses off a six-week layoff since Needles in 1956. Animal Kingdom also was only the second horse since 1919 to win the roses with four or fewer starts.
To this day, there have been only six horses in the history of the Kentucky Derby to win it with four or fewer previous career starts:
2018 Justify (3 starts)
2011 Animal Kingdom (4 starts)
2008 Big Brown (3 starts)
1918 Exterminator (4 starts)
1915 Regret (3 starts)
1902 Alan-a-Dale (4 starts)
You can view the 2011 Kentucky Derby on YouTube (Larry Collmus has the call).
19. WISE DAN in Saratoga’s Grade I Bernard Baruch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf in 2014. (Owned by Morton Fink; trained by Charles LoPresti; ridden by John Velazquez; 104 Beyer Speed Figure.)
Once again displaying his tremendous will to win, Wise Dan prevailed by a scant nose in a race he just as easily could have lost for any number of reasons. He won this Aug. 30 race:
--Despite not having started since May 3.
--Even though his 2014 campaign was rudely interrupted by colic surgery on May 16.
--Despite becoming fractious in the gate before being backed out and then reloaded prior to the start.
--Even though he carried top weight of 127 pounds.
--Despite conceding 11 pounds to the runner-up, Optimizer.
Not only did Wise Dan win the Baruch as the 4-5 favorite, he completed 1 1/16 miles in a splendid 1:39.08, which was just .17 off the Mellon turf course record set by Fourstardave in 1991. Keep in mind Wise Dan carried 12 pounds more than Fourstardave when he set that grass-course record.
Appropriately, Wise Dan received an ovation from the appreciative crowd as he jogged back to the winner’s circle after his Baruch victory. The crowd then again applauded the 7-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding as he was led away from the winner’s circle.
“He’s been through a lot,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said after the Baruch. “I knew he was training good and I knew he was going to run good. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if he was beat today. It would have been something to build on. He showed today why he is the two-time Horse of the Year.”
You can view the 2014 Bernard Baruch Handicap on YouTube (Tom Durkin has the call).