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Dueling Down The Stretch

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

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.


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Older Comments about Dead Heat's Top Ten Countdown: Monsters of the Green...

No Better Talk Now??? He won the Breeders Cup Turf, Sword Dance, United Nations, Man O' War,Manhattan and he was considered a top horse for multiple years. He is most certainly on my list. I would also give consideration to The Tin Man. Cool to see Presious Passion on the list
I don't recall her saying he won the BC Classic. I think you need glasses.
hmmmm, I don't recall Little Mike winning the BC Classic.... I think you mean the Turf
Goldikova was 3-4 in North America, she was 3rd in her final Mile attempt
Goldikova ran once a year, while Cape Blanco ran three times, out of six during one season. He ran three consecutive races in the United States, 50% of his campaign. That is why he was included and she was not.
No GOLDIKOVA?! Considering she was 3-for-3 in North America (won BC Mile 3 times), how can you have Cape Blanco (also 3-for-3 in N.A., but no BC wins) on this list and not "Goldie"?!
Gelded, exactly why i said turf "miler." He has won his best races from 8-9f, which is why i said that. Gio Ponti was besta at 10f, English Channel 10f-12f, they were not milers. And when you are a turf miler, he has not been conservatively campaigned. BCM, Shadwell Turf Mile, Woodbine Mile, Woodford Reserve. For a turf miler, that is not conservative by any means. A horse of his talent and potential, yes, but within his division, not in the slightest.
Best turf miler? Wise Dan probably. Overall, Gio Ponti and English were better. Gio Ponti was good from 8 - 12 furlongs in his prime. Wise Dan's been campaigned conservatively so we don't know much beyond 8 furlongs on grass.
As I said, this list was particularly hard to rank. You could make a case for anyone in the lower half to be higher. Kitten's Joy never ran worse than second, save once. I have two major things, one, he was retired way to soon. Two, his record, while impressive does not feature some of the most important turf races in the nation. On the east, you have the Man O War, United Nations, Arlington Million, Sword Dancer, the Joe Hirsch. He only raced in two of those, only ran in one. To be honest he reminds me of Paddy O Prado, brilliant, so much raw and natrual talent, but didin't race long enough to accumulate the accomplishments of others. I have Acclamation that high because of what he accomplished and how he did it. The horse won by running on the pace, not something always seen in turf racing, and he did it consistently. Yes, he was just in Cali, but he was simply a beast. He won seven in a row, 5 being grade ones. He raced in some of the best races for his division, and not one horse could keep up with him.
Acclamation is by far one of my favirites such a beast on the turf at a one mile and half. he was late blooming. never gets respect.
Thank you for including Acclamation, Dani. It's not like I didn't understand those that would let's politely say explain that he won at 10 or 12 f by keeping up a steady pace,and dteractors or okay those being factual, would say his winning also depended on him not being asked to run at faster paces, it's that I thoroughly enjoyed watching him run. I like my cali favs. I like their pool tables. I thought Acclamation was practically magical, and here's why: he made me happy. Analyze that.
i feel it to zatt
Not at all. Retired too early was the main thing. Had a hard time ranking these guys.
I'm sensing a lack of respect for Kitten's Joy here.

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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,, 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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