The date was September 19, 1980. The United States was about to elect a former actor as the Commander-in-Chief, and in the world of thoroughbred horse racing; a truly remarkable season of racing would culminate in a most unlikely way. From the beginning of the racing year, Spectacular Bid did nothing if not dominate. The greatest horse to ever look through a bridle, as his trainer Buddy Delp called him, was a fantastic horse in 1978 and 1979, but in 1980 he would take things to a whole new level.
The season began at Santa Anita with the seven furlong Malibu Stakes on January 5. The Bid used an explosive move to romp by five lengths. His time of 1:20 established a new track record and was only 1/5 off the world record. Running 2nd in the Malibu was the excellent California horse, Flying Paster. The two met again in the San Fernando Stakes and Flying Paster gave Bid his best shot, only to fall a length and a half short. Next came the Stub Stakes and the Bid was simply at his best. Turning back Flying Paster by 3 ¼ lengths, Spectacular Bid finished the 1 1/4 miles in 1:57 4/5 establishing a World Record.
Flying Paster would try him once more, this time in the Big Cap, and despite carrying 130 pounds Spectacular Bid finished five lengths in front of his familiar rival. The Bid would run his record in California to 6 for 6 with easy wins in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap and the Californian Stakes. In the two races at Hollywood Park, Bid carried 132 and 130 pounds respectively, and in the latter he blazed the nine furlongs in 1:45 4/5.
On his way back east, Spectacular Bid stopped in Chicago to take the Washington Park Stakes by 10 lengths in track record time. Next came New Jersey, where he bested champion mare Glorious Song in the Haskell, despite giving her 15 pounds. 8 for 8 already in 1980, Spectacular Bid would pass on the prestigious Marlboro Cup due to a 136 pound assignment. He would wait instead for the weight for age conditions of the 1980 Woodward Stakes. Problem was Spectacular Bid was so respected at this time that not one horse would dare enter the starting gate with him. In fairness, Marlboro Cup winner Winter’s Tale, likely would have entered, but was injured before the race, leaving Spectacular Bid, with rider Bill Shoemaker, to stand alone in one of America’s most important races of the time.
All Spectacular Bid needed to do was start and finish to win the Woodward, a public workout if you will, but the Bid did much more than that. Under Shoemaker, and in front of a large Belmont Park crowd, he sprinted home the final quarter mile of the ten furlong affair in just over 24 seconds, to finish the one-horse show in 2:02 2/5.
Spectacular Bid left this world at the age of 27, back in 2003, but his legacy lives on. All in all, Spectacular Bid won 26 out of 30 lifetime races. He was rewarded with an Eclipse Award after each of his three seasons, and was the 1980 Horse of the Year. He was quickly ushered into the Hall of Fame at first opportunity, and resides in most everyone’s list of Top 10 horses in American racing history. That fall afternoon when he won the Woodward Stakes would be the great horse’s final race, thereby serving as more than just another win, but rather the Coronation of a King.