American race goers always remember betting on great horses and can often cite race results they had through live wagering or their favourite online sports/race book. Unfortunately, the last twenty years have not delivered many stars that achieved legendary status due to injuries or early retirement. That wasn’t always the case.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, American horse racing was filled with “true champion” horses that stayed around long enough to become legends. For better or worse, this time period was and still is considered the best three decades of horse racing results in American racing history.
The Run on the Triple Crown
The 1970s will forever be known as the decade of Triple Crown winner. After enduring 25 years without race results bringing a Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes) winner, the 1970s witnessed three amazing animals that were able to achieve this historic horse racing results feat. They included:
Secretariat (1973) – By anyone’s standards, “Big Red” is considered one of the all-time great horses in history. He wasn’t particularly durable, but he was fast. During his career, he amassed a record of 21-16-3-1 on his way to being named “Horse of the Year” in both 1972 and 1973. His biggest accomplishment was setting stakes record in all three Triple Crown races (won the Belmont by 31 lengths), records that still stand today.
Seattle Slew (1977) – Over three years of competition, “The Slew” was only able to reach the starting gate on 17 occasions. However, that didn’t stop him from winning 14 of those races including the Triple Crown. If fact, Seattle Slew became the only horse in history to finish off all three legs and still be undefeated. After retirement, Seattle Slew went on to establish himself as a great sire, accounting for several champions throughout the years.
Affirmed (1978) – Racing fans only had to wait 364 days to witness another Triple Crown winner. This time, it was the “iron” horse Affirmed. During his three years of competition, Affirmed had a record of 29-22-5-1. Amazingly, ten of those races pitted him against his arch rival Alydar. Alydar was a regally bred bay colt that handed Affirmed three of his seven losses. During the most amazing three Triple Crown races in history, Affirmed beat Alydar each time by a combined total of 2 1/2 lengths, making Alydar the greatest bridesmaid of all-time.
The Warriors of the 1980s and 90s – As the Breeders Cup came into being in 1984, horse racing was treated to continual list of great equine stars. At the risk of missing important names, there are three horses whose accomplishments can never be forgotten.
John Henry (1978-1985) – From modest beginnings, John Henry rose to become the “people’s champion.” With his blue collar connections and pedigree, not much was expected of the horse who won 10 of his first 30 races against modest company. In 1980, he was sent to the west coast to be trained by legendary trainer Ron McAnally. The combination was magic as John Henry went on to become a two-time “Horse of the Year” and finished his career with a record of 83-39-15-9, most of it against the best horses in the world on both turf and dirt.
Personal Ensign (1986-1988) – During her three-year career, this amazing filly/mare only ran 13 times. However, she proved herself to be a true champion by winning each and every race, retiring undefeated. On a cold rainy night in 1988 at Churchill Downs, she closed out her career by beating Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the final strides of the Breeders Cup Distaff in one of the greatest horse races in history.
Cigar (1993-1996) – As the #18 ranked thoroughbred in American horse racing history, Cigar’s achievements on the racetrack will never be forgotten. During one of the greatest stretches in history, Cigar rattled off 16 consecutive wins against the best dirt horses in the world. By the time he retired with a record of 33-19-4-5, he had become the highest earner in history, a record that stood until 2008.
This article was written by Tony Samboras who is a sports writer with a passion for horse racing. Being a big fan has led him to become a professional sports writer who writes for online publications such as www.racingresults.com.au