Man o' War ran the first six panels of the 1920 Travers Stakes in 1:10. No other Travers winner has ever gone that fast that early.
This great performer had the nervous habit of chewing on his own hooves when in his stall, but that didn't stop him from racking up an illustrious race record that earned him entry to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame and many other accolades. Among his other accomplishments, he still holds the record for the fastest 6-furlong split by a Travers Stakes winner, getting the opening six panels in 1:10 flat. Name him.
In the 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup (USA-G1), Affirmed became the first racehorse to earn over US$1 million in a single season. Spectacular Bid, who finished second by three-quarters of a length, became the second horse to do so a fraction of a second later and the first horse to earn more than US$1 million during his 3-year-old season.
Don't engrave American Pharoah's name on the golden Eclipse Award for 2015 Horse of the Year just yet. The Triple Crown winner has a good claim, make no mistake about it. But if Beholder roars into the Breeders' Cup with anything like the form she displayed today in the TVG Pacific Classic (USA-G1), Pharoah will have to fight for his crown.
Richard Mandella doesn't often run females against the boys, which should have been warning enough to the nine hapless males entered in the Classic. Not that these were bad horses; while the West Coast handicap division has been weakened by the defections of Shared Belief and California Chrome, the field still included Grade 1 winners Bayern, Hoppertunity and Hard Aces as well as Grade 1-placed Grade 2 winners Catch a Flight, Imperative and Midnight Storm. Nonetheless, Beholder made them look as though they had anchors tied to their tails when she took off on her own initiative with three-eighths of a mile to go. All Gary Stevens had to do was keep her mind on business as she loped home.
To be sure, Beholder couldn't have had a sweeter trip. Bayern had no chance to play his favorite catch-me-if-you-can game as he was hooked early by Midnight Storm, and the mare was unhurried and unmolested all the way around until she swung out and casually inhaled the tiring leaders. After that, it was simply a matter of how big the margin was going to be. Her final time of 1:59.77 was racehorse time, and she did it for fun.
Beholder still has questions to answer; after all, she hasn't met Honor Code or Tonalist (arguably the best of the East Coast males); this was only her third start of 2015; and she has yet to win a stakes outside California. But American Pharoah has questions to answer as well, having yet to face his elders, and it may be a lady from the Golden State who is on course to hand him his stiffest exam.
This important fall race on the New York racing calendar was the setting for two earnings records being broken within a split second of one other. The first-place horse became the first runner of any age to earn over US$1,000,000 in a single season; the second-place horse became the first 3-year-old to do so. Name the race and the horses involved in this historic event.
Prior to this year's Saratoga meeting, Curlin had zero juvenile graded stakes winners. He now has two. After coming up with Schuylerville Stakes (USA-G3) winner Off the Tracks, the stallion now has a similarly precocious son in Exaggerator, winner of the Saratoga Special (USA-G2) on August 16.
On pedigree and performance, Exaggerator looks like one to keep an eye on. His dam, Dawn Raid was stakes-placed as a juvenile and is a half sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Embur's Song (by Unbridled's Song) and Grade 3-placed listed stakes winner Ten Flat (by Meadowlake). Broodmare sire Vindication (Seattle Slew x Strawberry Reason, by Strawberry Road) was the American champion juvenile male of 2002 but was bred to run all day, while second damsire Bold Ruckus was a solid sprinter in his own racing days and a perennial Canadian champion sire. Second dam Embur Sunshine took after her sire, but her broodmare sire is The Minstrel, winner of the 1977 Derby Stakes (ENG-G1) and Irish Sweeps Derby (IRE-G1). There is a nice balance between speed and stamina elements in this pedigree that gives Exaggerator a good chance of continuing to improve as he matures and the distances stretch out.
Exaggerator's race also showed that he has the right stuff mentally as well as physically. His willingness to follow his jockey's guidance and split horses is just as important to his future prospects as the agility and turn of foot he displayed.
As for Curlin, the emergence of two good juveniles can only improve an already rising reputation as a sire. If these two youngsters continue to improve---and if more good runners keep coming in a year that already promises to be Curlin's best yet---expect the Lane's End stallion to be standing next year for more than the US$35,000 he now commands.
A foundation mare for Tartan Farms, Aspidistra rose from being a US$6,500 claimer to becoming the dam of 1968 American Horse of the Year Dr. Fager and two-time American champion sprinter Ta Wee. Through her Buckpasser daughter Magic, she is the third dam of 1995 Tokyou Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Tayasu Tsuyoshi and the fourth dam of 1990 Kentucky Derby (USA-G1) winner Unbridled.
A cheap claimer with bad knees and a nervous disposition doesn't seem like much of a broodmare prospect, but a mare with those characteristics helped prove that John Nerud could develop breeding stock as effectively as he could racehorses. The matings he planned for her yielded two champions and an ancestress of Derby winners in two different countries. Name her.
An African proverb tells us that "when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." If this is so, no one can measure the wealth of information lost to racing history with the death of John Nerud earlier today. His memories spanned eight decades of involvement in the Thoroughbred industry as a trainer, farm manager, agent, owner and breeder. To the end, he remained active in the sport he loved, pushing for needed change. Appropriately, the last racehorse to carry his colors is the winner Final Chapter, a homebred who won two races at Aqueduct earlier this year.
I did not know Nerud personally. Nonetheless, his legacy lives on in racing history and pedigrees. Without him, there would be no Dr. Fager, one of the greatest of the great. There would be no Ta Wee, and without her, no Holy Bull. There would be no Cozzene. And there would be no Fappiano and no Unbridled, a legacy that extends to American racing's newest superstar, American Pharoah. To me, that is praise enough.
Mad Play, a full brother to champion handicapper Mad Hatter, won the 1924 Belmont Stakes but proved completely sterile when tried at stud and never recovered his earlier form when returned to the race track. In his final start, a $600 claimer at Beulah Park, he went off at 98-1 and ran seventh.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan with a particular interest in Thoroughbred mares and their contributions to the history of the breed.