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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Dead Heat Debates Top Ten: Classic Males

Curlin Woodward 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Racing fans like to whine about how we haven’t seen any brilliance over the past decade. We like to compare the horses of today to the horses of old, and say how much better they were. We like to say that there is no spark in the male division anymore, and note how far it has fallen.
I listen to this, and in my mind think how on earth can American fans think this? Over the past 10 years we have seen some of the most brilliant male runners to contest over the classic distance. We have seen records shattered by both speed and accomplishment. We have seen greatness and brilliance. Let me refresh your memories, by recounting the top 10 males to race, over the last decade.

10.) Fort Larned- He may not have been the most consistent, but when he was on his game there was not a horse running today who could match him. A three-time grade one winner, he won his Breeders’ Cup Classic while winging it on the front end, before fighting off Mucho Macho Man, in an epic stretch duel. Also on
his resume are dominating, laughably easy wins in the grade one Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicap.
9.) Bernardini- He raced but one season, but in one season, he showed more brilliance and dominance than most do over an entire career. Winner of the Preakness, Jim Dandy, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, it took another titan by the name of Invasor, to finally put the youngster in his place.
8.) Pleasantly Perfect- A Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup winner doesn’t always get a ton of respect, but to take those two races while also winning a couple Goodwoods and a Pacific Classic, is quite the list of accomplishments.
7.) Medaglia d’Oro- Danced every single dance there was to dance, only placing worse than second twice. The handsome stud won three grade ones, while placing second in the Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic. At three he won the Travers, while finishing second in the Belmont. At four he won the Whitney and at five the Donn. They don’t make many others like him.
6.) Game on Dude- The California Monster is the perfect nickname for this one. Just this year, he became only the second horse to sweep California’s big triple, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic. He has also taken his show on the road running second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Clark Handicap.
5.) Mineshaft- Came to America to try his hand at dirt and the son of AP Indy only lost twice. Winning four grade one races and just a head shy of winning five grade ones in a row. He may not have a Breeders' Cup, but with a resume that includes the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, the Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, that can be excused. He came, he saw, he conquered, plain and simple.
4.) Lava Man- Doesn’t get a whole lot of respect outside of California, despite the fact he is the only horse to win a grade one on dirt, turf, and synthetic and that he was the first horse to sweep the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic. Oh, he also won seven grade ones, including three Hollywood Gold Cups and two Big Caps. He was easily the most dominant California horse this past decade, on any surface. He was a true sensation, in every sense of the word.
3.) Ghostzapper-If you like raw speed, power and brilliance, look no further than this freak of nature. He could outsprint the sprinters, run the milers off their feet, and decimate the classic runners. Many believe that based on ability, that he was the best horse since Spectacular Bid, but don’t take my word for it, look at his resume yourself. He won the Vosburgh, running his final 1/16 in a dizzying 5.97 seconds. He won the Woodward in 1.46.38 after being carried out into the parking lot. Then he won the Classic in 1.59 flat, a new Breeders Cup Classic, in his first time ever trying the Classic distance. His only flaw was his fragility.
2.) Invasor- Much like Mineshaft, he came he saw he conquered, the only difference, he came to America and did not lose. Winner of the Breeders Cup and Dubai World Cup, against some of the best runners in America and the world. Who could forget his epic battle in the Whitney, as he dueled with Sun King down the stretch, or how easily he overcame a horrendous trip in the Donn to win with his ears pricked? A great horse, who during his reign, had no equal.
1.) Curlin- Brilliant, Accomplished, Dominant. He ran everywhere over everything. He went from unknown maiden to Preakness winner to Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, to Horse of the Year in one season. In his next season he flew to Dubai and added the Dubai World Cup to his lists of conquests. He won the Woodward and Stephen Foster before winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup for the second straight season, while becoming America’s leading money earner. Overall, he won 7 grade ones out of 12, finishing worse than third only once. He was the modern day Iron Horse, you just don’t see them made like him anymore.


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Older Comments about Dead Heat Debates Top Ten: Classic Males...

Just out of curiosity where would Zenyatta be on this list if mares were included? By the way great article and great job. This has really peaked my interest
Bernardini raced seven times. Blame ran 5 and was beaten badly in the Gold Cup. He beat some very very good horses, but he did it on a light schedule. Bernardini won the Withers, Preakness, Jim Dandy, Travers, and Gold Cup, and was second to a great horse in Invasor. His season was nothing short of dominating while Blame was not.
  • johnbarbaro · I agree Bernardini should be on the list so I don't understand the comparison. Blame won the Clark, Stephen Foster, Whitney, BCC in a years time beating the best mare(probrably horse that year) Zenyatta, best older male other than himself(Quality Road) and best 3 y.o Lookin at Lucky. I think a more equal comparison would be to Mineshaft who won the New Orleans, Pimlico Special, , Suburban, Woodward, JCGC. Yes he was more dominant in doing so and but he didn't win the CLASSIC like Blame did and he is number 5 on the list. Plus with all due respect, who did Mineshaft beat outside of Volponi? Moon Ballad?, he didn't even show up. No horse Mineshaft beat comes close to Zenyatta · 1376 days ago
1.Invasor 2.Ghostzapper 3. Curlin 4. Blame 5. Pleasantly Perfect 6. Bernardini. 7.Lava Man 8.Mineshaft 9. Roses in May 10. Game on Dude
he only got beat a nose to will take charge at churchill last out wwwowww
  • johnbarbaro · Yeah he got beat. Name one race outside of the Charles Town Classic that he's won outside of California · 1376 days ago
  • johnbarbaro · I'm not saying this to be cute, who is the best horse that Game on Dude has beaten? · 1376 days ago
he only got beat a nose to will take charge at churchill last out wwwowww
im a diehard will takecharge fan but the DUDe would destroy 9 of the top10
Game on Dude should be number 10 if he is on the list at all. He wins all of California's Gr.1 races other than the Breeder's Cup Classic. To met he is the west coast equivalent to Flat Out who wins all of Belmont's Gr.1's and also folds in the Classic. I'm also mixed on Lava Man, he dominated the California handicap division and did so for multiple years. Winning a Gr.1 on turf, dirt, synthetic should be of note but not a determining factor on this list if we aren't going to include other turf horses. He also never won a race outside of California, he actually never even lifted his foot up off the track outside Califronia, some horses don't ship well though and if one of those Breeder's Cups was in California and not New York and Churchill you better believe I'de have some money on him
I know it was touched on but Blame not being on this list is inexcusable, especially given the logic; he only had one season of fame? So did Bernardini and Mineshaft, plus that isn
  • johnbarbaro · plus that isn't even true he won the Clark at the end of his 3 year old season and at 4 won the Stephen Foster,Whitney and the Breede's Cup Classic over Zenyatta who if she were a male I bet she would be ontop or close to the top of this list. Plus he WON THE CLASSIC and this is a list of CLASSIC horses. · 1376 days ago
No arguement with top 3, although i would reverse the order
Big fan of Animal Kingdom...he got it done in Dubai all the way!
It is a shame we didn't get to see Union Rags hand around.
Union Rags, he could ver well make this list. His record lat this year is an amazing one. His record, outside of the TC series is nothing to sneeze at. Outside of those, he has a record of 8-5-2-0. In all honesty, I wonder if his Derby effort, off the layoff is what affected him i the other TC races. He did run a very good Derby, but had a very rough trip and was coming in off just an 8.5f race. So, he very well could have bounced in the other two. Outside of the TC he always showed that he had potential.
"You just don't see them made like him anymore" hint hint; Will Take Charge. I know he's hardly won any big races, but he's coming on fast, and he'll make this list in no time.
Big fan of Curlin, but Invasors record is superior. One loss, which the trainer took the blame for, said this horse should never have been beaten.
Opinions are like (name any random body part)--we've all got one, and this list is a reflection of that. Calm down, comrades. Although, I have to admit that the "Saint Liam only had one really good year and only ran on one surface" selective logic caused me to recall a similar list on this blog for the distaffers, and now I'm cursing violently at my computer screen...
Laz, never said he was best in NY. I said he won most of his races inside NY. Eclipse are not the only thing i used, and honestly, the main difference between the two is the dominance over time Lava man displayed in Cali over not just dirt but turf and synthetic as well. He is one of only a couple horses that has wins over all three main surfaces. He didn't like traveling, that was obvious, but he was able to run on anything. Saint Liam only had really one good year and only ran on one surface. Both have their merits, I just value Lava Man's More.
Candy Ride race just three times here. He was brilliant and a monster in those wins, but hard to put him over horses that accomplished much more.
Dont Forget Dubai Millennium he is a Master of The Speed
Ability wise, Candy Ride tops all but Ghostzapper and maybe Invasor
Dani, not to prolong the argument, but here’s a point. In 2005 Saint Liam was a double Eclipse award winner: HOY and Older Handicap Male Horse. Lava Man never won an Eclipse award of any kind. Saying that Saint Liam was best in New York isn’t really true as he won G1 races at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park as well as Belmont Park. The racing mainly in New York always gets me because many of the best horses at some point or other race there. Easy Goer’s best races were in New York and yet he won only the unlisted Swale stakes at GP in five starts outside of New York. He’s still considered one of the best N/A horses ever……As I recall, Forego didn’t race at two, and didn’t win a single graded stakes until his 17th start on Nov. 24-73 when three. In spite of this, Forego went on to be one of the greatest horses in N/A history. In a way, Saint Liam parallels Forego in that he was unraced at two, developed at three and then at four and five became one of the top handicap horses of his time, including winning a BCC and taking down a Dubai World Cup winner in that one’s last race before that World Cup. It took two extraordinary performances by Ghostzapper in the Woodward and Commentator’s 123 Beyer Whitney, both losses by a neck, to keep Saint Liam from winning six G1 races in 7 G1 starts. He also defeated horses that Lava Man was incapable of defeating and he won races that Lava Man was incapable of winning……The one thing that stands out about Lava Man, unfortunately in a negative sense, was that in spite of his dominance of mainly G2 and G3 horses in G1 races in California, both times he ventured east he lost, not by a length or two or finishing 2nd or 3rd, but he lost decisively, each time finishing 7th and beaten by many lengths, the first time at Belmont in the JCGC and then at CD in the BCC. And yet, in his first start back in California after those races, he showed vast improvement and won easily but against much weaker competition…..Conversely, during his four and five year old seasons, Saint Liam lost 5 races, one by 4 lengths, oddly in the SAH against Hard Rock Ten (a horse that Smarty dominated in the Preakness); once by 2 ½ lengths and three times by a neck or less and two of those in G1’s……As for turf, Curlin was zero for one on the surface; Fort Larned won an entry level allowance in five tries on turf; Pleasantly Perfect was zero for two on turf; Mineshaft won a single race in 7 turf starts in Europe and never raced on turf in N/A; and the remaining horses on the list never attempted to start on turf……I do agree about Candy Ride, a monster of a horse with unlimited potential, but unfortunately only three N/A starts.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track, TwinSpires.com, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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