Great Horses and their Greatest Sons

December 09, 2014 06:18am
Secretariat 615 X 400


Yesterday, I wrote about Texas Red, as a top young horse looking to follow in his sire’s impressive footsteps. While Afleet Alex was certainly one of the best horses so far of the 21st century, he falls a far way short of matching the accomplishment of some of the Gods of racing that roamed American racetracks in the previous century. It got me thinking about who their best sons were, and if any of them came close to the greatness of their famous sires. Looking at the current Horse Racing Nation Top 10 of all-time rankings, as voted upon by the fans, I took on the task of identifying of each of their top sons on the racetrack. Kelso and Forego are excluded for obvious reasons, but here are the rest ...


1) Man o’ War - War Admiral - Whether or not you believe Man o’ War was the greatest of all American thoroughbreds, as many do, it would be hard to argue that War Admiral is not the most distinguished son of a champion on this list. The smallish Hall of Famer may have famously lost a match race with Seabiscuit, but as a Triple Crown champion, and winner of 21-of-26 lifetime, the Samuel Riddle owned great’s place in history is firmly established.


2) Secretariat - Risen Star - He may have only run 11 lifetime races, but the Louisiana based runner was able to clinch an Eclipse Award with a Belmont Stakes win that may well have been the most impressive since Big Red himself clinched the Triple Crown by 31 unbelievable lengths. Risen Star’s 14 ¾ length runaway followed up an impressive Preakness victory, and only a premature retirement may have stopped Secretariat’s best son from becoming a racing legend in his own right.


3) Spectacular Bid - Lay Down - Unfortunately for the racing world, Spectacular Bid was one of those great horses who never came close to reproducing himself in the stallion barn. Slim pickings among his best sons, so I will go with the multiple graded stakes winner, Lay Down. The Phipps-McGaughey runner’s biggest win probably was the 1990 Forego Handicap at Saratoga.


4) Dr. Fager - Dr. Patches - Dr. Fager’s breeding career was cut way too short before a sudden death, but he did sire a few champions before he was gone. His best son was the Champion Sprinter of 1978, Dr. Patches. Among his 17 career wins included a famous Paterson Handicap victory over Seattle Slew one evening at the Meadowlands. Later that fall, he added wins in the Vosburgh and Meadowlands Cup on his way to a championship.


5) Seattle Slew - Slew O’ Gold - Unlike fellow superstar of the late 70’s, Spectacular Bid, Seattle Slew was one great who brought it to the breeding shed. So much so, that picking his singular best son was tough. Slew O’ Gold gets the nod over A.P. Indy and Swale for his racing longevity, which included back-to-back Jockey Club Gold Cup wins, a 3yo Championship in 1983, and the Older Male award in 1984. Had I included breeding prowess, as well as racing, fellow Hall of Famer, A.P. Indy would have moved right on by Slew O’ Gold.


6) Citation - Fabius - Certainly the greatest offspring of the great Citation was the super filly, Silver Spoon, but of the boys, I will go with the 1956 Preakness winner, Fabius. From Citation’s first crop, Fabius was half of an excellent Triple Crown rivalry with Needles. His speed proved best in many stakes, including at Pimlico, but he could not hold off his rival in either the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont. The championship also went to Needles.


7) Affirmed - Peteski - Gallant Fox was not the only Triple Crown winner to sire a Triple Crown winner. Of course, Affirmed’s best son’s Triple Crown came north of the border. One of the all-time greats in Canadian racing history, Peteski ran in only 11 lifetime races, but among them included a dominant run through Canada’s Triple Crown, as well as, a victory in the rich Molson Million. In that race, he easily defeated America’s Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero, and Belmont winner, Colonial Affair.

8) Native Dancer - Kauai King - Part of the excellent foal crop of 1963, which included Buckpasser and Graustark, Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, before losing his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes by two lengths. His 9-of-16 racing career came to an untimely end when he was injured while running in a showdown with Buckpasser in the 1966 Arlington Classic. 


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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