Dead Heat's Top Ten Countdown: Monsters of the Green

Dead Heat's Top Ten Countdown: Monsters of the Green
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Turf racing seems to be a lost art, when it comes to American racing. Dirt is where the most lucrative and prestigious races are run. All the attention goes to horses that run on the dirt; that is until a truly spectacular horse steps up on the turf. It is hard for Turf horses to outshine their dirt counterparts, but every once in a while, they step up and do just that. Over this last decade, there have been several talented and brilliant turf runners. Let’s take a look and see who would be some of the best.

10.) Kitten’s Joy- The son of El Prado was nothing short of impressive on the track. He only finished worse than second once, and after breaking his maiden, he won three consecutive stakes. After a second in the Jefferson Cup, he came back to win the Secretariat and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, to Better Talk Now, before finishing his career with a second in the Arlington Million, in 2005.
9.) Presious Passion- Not the most consistent of horses, but when he was on he was one of the most brilliant turf runners in America. Remembered most for his 2009 season, he set a track record in the United Nations, ran the competition off the feet in the Clement L. Hirsch Turf, before bravely running second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, to defending Champion Conduit.
8.) Little Mike- This horse never gets the respects he deserves, but never fails to just keep on coming. He won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, against a stellar field, one of the best in years. Earlier that year he won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Arlington Million. Overall, the little engine that could has won four grade ones and seven graded stakes. Not bad for an underdog.
7.) Artie Schiller- Has only one grade one to his name, which is the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but just look at the races he ran in, prior. Many have been deemed grade ones, just a few years after he participated. During 2004 and 2005 he simply dominated, only finishing worse than fourth once. Consistently good, always showing up, not a trait displayed in many of today’s top Turf runners.
6.) Cape Blanco- He only ran in the US three times, but they were three grade ones, and each time he struck the wire in front. Cape Blanco, decisively beat Gio Ponti, America’s best turf male, twice. In his third start, he won by a desperate nose, only to come out of the race injured. Fans still remember the courage he showed that day, refusing to let the other horse by, despite running with an injury. In his three grade ones, he accomplished more than most top turf males do in an entire career.
5.) Gio Ponti- He may have lost to Cape Blanco, but take nothing away from the ever so consistent Gio Ponti. He ran second in the Breeders’ Cup races, while winning 10 graded stakes and 7 grade ones. He was a competitor in every sense of the word. He won grade ones going a mile, and would turn around and win a grade one going 10 furlongs. Easily one of the best American based, turf males, in the last decade.
4.) English Channel- During 2005 and 2006 they didn’t come much better than this son of Smart Strike. He won 6 grade ones during that time period, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf, two Joe Hirsch Turf Classics and two United Nations. One of his most memorable performances was in the 2006 Turf Classic, when he was seemingly trapped on the rail, before bulling his way through, and drawing away to win by better than two lengths.
3.) Acclamation- There has been no better horse on the California Lawn, this decade, than Acclamation. The son of Unusual Heat took a while to get his bearings, but when he did he was simply uncatchable. During 2011 he was the terror of the turf, winning three grade ones on the turf, while also winning the Pacific Classic, on Polytrack.
2.) Point of Entry- Between 9-12 furlong on the grass there was no horse able to come close to Point of Entry, during this decade. In 2012, he reeled off four graded stakes wins, three being grade ones. He was an unlucky second in the Breeders’ Cup turf, after being bottled up on the rail, but returned in 2013 to win the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in thrillers. He ended his career with a total of 5 grade ones.
1.) Wise Dan- He may not run at the Classic distance, but from a mile to nine furlongs, there is no doubt, that he is the best American turf runner, this decade. He owns two course records, two Breeders’ Cup Mile victories, and 7 grade one wins over the turf. He has showed no weakness when running over the lawn, for two seasons straight. He is the reigning Horse of the Year, with two more Eclipse Awards to his name. On paper, and on the track, there is no better horse running, on the lawn, than Wise Dan.

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 2002. At 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 Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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