Spectacular Bid Overcame Everything in the Florida Derby

Spectacular Bid Overcame Everything in the Florida Derby

In an interesting comment thread today on Horse Racing Nation, we were asked which horse, barring Secretariat, was the most talented we ever saw in person. I’ve been lucky enough to see all the American greats of the last 40-plus years, yet still, I did not need to think long about my answer. It was Spectacular Bid.


A stunningly talented juvenile champion, Spectacular Bid’s first stakes win came by 15-lengths, over stakes winners, while running seven furlongs in 1:20 4/5 at Atlantic City, he only got better with age. In fact, his string of prep races was the most impressive march to the Kentucky Derby that I have ever seen.


Noteworthy among them was the Florida Derby. In one of the worst rides a good horse ever had to endure, the Bid was banged, and checked, and frankly, put directly into harms way. Ronnie Franklin looked like he had never ridden before, doing everything he could to get his heavily favored mount beaten. The Bid would have none of that. Finally on his decisive attempt to display his superiority, Spectacular Bid swung out and won the important 1979 Kentucky Derby prep for fun. His winning margin of 4 ½ lengths that afternoon almost seemed silly. He should have won by 20.


Incredibly, young Ronnie Franklin would ride the great horse five more times, before finally being replaced for good by the Hall of Famer, Bill Shoemaker. Together that pair would partner for a 13-12-1-0 record to finish his career.

Perusing through some old videos of the Bid, I came across this excellent Wide World of Sports segment of Jim McKay and Eddie Arcaro examining  Spectacular Bid's Florida Derby. Watch for yourself as an incredible horse overcomes a ride too poor to be believed. 

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 HRN, 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 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 webcast 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 on the Board 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 and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

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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