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Zipse At The Track

Spectacular Bid Stands Alone: A Moment in Time

The date was September 19, 1980. The United States was about to elect a former actor as the Commander-in-Chief, and in the world of thoroughbred horse racing; a truly remarkable season of racing would culminate in a most unlikely way. From the beginning of the racing year, Spectacular Bid did nothing if not dominate. The greatest horse to ever look through a bridle, as his trainer Buddy Delp called him, was a fantastic horse in 1978 and 1979, but in 1980 he would take things to a whole new level.

The season began at Santa Anita with the seven furlong Malibu Stakes on January 5. The Bid used an explosive move to romp by five lengths. His time of 1:20 established a new track record and was only 1/5 off the world record.  Running 2nd in the Malibu was the excellent California horse, Flying Paster. The two met again in the San Fernando Stakes and Flying Paster gave Bid his best shot, only to fall a length and a half short. Next came the Stub Stakes and the Bid was simply at his best. Turning back Flying Paster by 3 ¼ lengths, Spectacular Bid finished the 1 1/4 miles in 1:57 4/5 establishing a World Record.

Flying Paster would try him once more, this time in the Big Cap, and despite carrying 130 pounds Spectacular Bid finished five lengths in front of his familiar rival. The Bid would run his record in California to 6 for 6 with easy wins in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap and the Californian Stakes. In the two races at Hollywood Park, Bid carried 132 and 130 pounds respectively, and in the latter he blazed the nine furlongs in 1:45 4/5. 

On his way back east, Spectacular Bid stopped in Chicago to take the Washington Park Stakes by 10 lengths in track record time. Next came New Jersey, where he bested champion mare Glorious Song in the Haskell, despite giving her 15 pounds. 8 for 8 already in 1980, Spectacular Bid would pass on the prestigious Marlboro Cup due to a 136 pound assignment.  He would wait instead for the weight for age conditions of the 1980 Woodward Stakes. Problem was Spectacular Bid was so respected at this time that not one horse would dare enter the starting gate with him. In fairness, Marlboro Cup winner Winter’s Tale, likely would have entered, but was injured before the race, leaving Spectacular Bid, with rider Bill Shoemaker, to stand alone in one of America’s most important races of the time.

All Spectacular Bid needed to do was start and finish to win the Woodward, a public workout if you will, but the Bid did much more than that. Under Shoemaker, and in front of a large Belmont Park crowd, he sprinted home the final quarter mile of the ten furlong affair in just over 24 seconds, to finish the one-horse show in 2:02 2/5.

Spectacular Bid left this world at the age of 27, back in 2003, but his legacy lives on. All in all, Spectacular Bid won 26 out of 30 lifetime races. He was rewarded with an Eclipse Award after each of his three seasons, and was the 1980 Horse of the Year. He was quickly ushered into the Hall of Fame at first opportunity, and resides in most everyone’s list of Top 10 horses in American racing history. That fall afternoon when he won the Woodward Stakes would be the great horse’s final race, thereby serving as more than just another win, but rather the Coronation of a King.


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Older Comments about Spectacular Bid Stands Alone: A Moment in Time...

travel_vic You trash the Bid because his owners were"snobs"? And Delp had "one horse"? First of all the Meyerhoffs were often seen in jeans and walking around the grandstand with the regular folks. And they liked to have fun, quite the contrast from the typical blue-bloods associated with the game. And Delp? Over 3600 wins, 'nuff said. The Bid was one of the all time greats by almost everyones account who knows even a little about the game.
Delp, a trainer with a monster that allowed him into racing prominence.....Lynn Witing, Cam Gamboliti, and Louie Roussel were thrown into the lime light just the same but handled it much much better
If you won't take The Shoe's word for it, why let him get off without a *Mr Sobriety* shot?
now did that come out SINCE...Can't see the content of the note
I loved the K-rap that old full of himself Buddy Delp used to spew to the media. Saftey Pin???What a joke and then there was the yelling for the match race after the Jockey Club Gold Cup when Shoe put him at Affirmed's NECK 4 separate times and couldn't go by him. The best horse ever to look through a bridle...maybe for a claiming trainer who never got to the newspapers once in Maryland BEFORE or SENSE might believe that but not those with historical perspective...Was an amazing animal and wortrhy of the top 25, but the connections, and the trainer were claimers as compared to the animal
I believe that both the Bid and Dr. Fager were both short changed on the Bloodhorse top 100 list, but then when you look at it, every horse on that list was exceptional, probably each capable of winning a 10-F ten horse race with that top ten at some point. It is also doubtful if any of them would have dominated. As for Secretariat at four, he showed late in the year just how prolific he was on grass. I would say that he was good enough to win the Arc most years and if he would have raced at four and ran in the Arc, I don’t see him losing it.
^change history.
You and me both Icy..Can't history but Red would have been something at 4 Y.O. Now it is a trending pattern for owners to retired 3 year old. I would have love to see Union Rags at 4 with that huge frame of his running his rival.
A Big Fan of the great Affirmed. But to anybody who has studied the Champions and has viewed the race between Affirmed and Spectacular Bid on You-tube. Wlll clearly acknowledge the exact point where the BID lost the bit. He virtually stopped on the final turn and was passed by 3 horses. Looks like he is done completely. But somehow found the bit and begain to reassert himself after losing at least 4 lengths. He passed all that had passed him on the turn and came within a length of beating the other great, older champion! The losing of the bit and the rediculously slow early fractions were the bids downfall that day. The last race he would ever lose. As a 4 yo. he was 9 for 9 carting huge weight and winning those races by a combined 40 lengths. 7 track records, 2 world records and in reality looked like he was improving with each start. I saw a comment here, "I would have liked to see Secretariet run as a 4 yo" To be honest, I would have like to see the Bid run at 5. For he was hardly ever even asked to run as a 4yo. The Bid ranks up there with any horse in history. His records, and the ease in which he achieved them is his resume. , Swaps, Round Table, Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Dr Fager, Damascus, Seattle Slew John Henry,Kelso, and Forego were all ridden by Shoemaker . A he stated in his biography..."Hands down, the Bid was the greatest I ever rode" Tough to argue with that.
While Dr. Fager is my personal favorite and I believe him to be one of the best 4yos Spectacular Bid really reached maturity in his 4yo season but I believe horses like Kelso,Slew,Affirmed did also and probably others I missed. Would have loved to see Secretariat run as a 4yo.
Fager set a world record for a mile CARRYING 139 LBS, HOW THE HELL CAN YOU COMPARE BID TO HIM?
both Delp and the owners got a bug does of irrationality with that one. Fairly defeated by Affirmed they screameda nd yelled match race as their charge's name was not longer on the front page.
@icyhotboo. Kelso was incredible in person and when he retired, it just wasn't Saturday at Belmont or Aqueduct without him. I loved Buckpasser, which is obvious, but I agree I think Damascus and the great Doctor Fager might well have gotten the shock of their lives running a fit and uninjured Buckpasser. I never thought he reached his potential due to his recurrent quarter cracks and other problems.. Richard Sone Reeves always said conformation-wise Buckpasser was close to the perfect horse.
@buckpasser- Kelso was awsome!!! he ran on anything at any distance if someone were to say he was the best it would be hard to argue against him. Curious I never saw Kelso live but I did see almost all of the others and Buckpasser was the best looking of them all, not to mention one of the best and a personal favorite of mine. If Damscus and Dr. Fager had caught him in his prime when he wasn't worn down from years of injuries I think it would have been a rude awakening for both.
The Doctor was a once in a lifetime horse no question about it. My only point with Kelso was that he dominated the scene from 1960 to 1964 regardless of the exploits of any three yr old in the triple crown races or any other horse on grass or dirt
Dr. Fager was named Horse of the Year, champion sprinter, champion grass horse and champion older male -- the only horse in history to capture all four honors.
did not care for Gtover, one horse makes me a hall of famer Delp and the owners were real slobs new to raicing and newbies about all manner of race etiquette. I reacall after Affirned handed him his head (after thre moves whie Affirmed just kept cruisng0 they were screming for a match race. Barrera just laughed......Did not care for him does not mean I do not know all about him as he tired to bite me several times in the barns at Claiborne
  • Mr. blue · You are ill informed sir, one horse did not place Mr. Delp in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps you should go to the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame web site to read the individual training record. Spectacular Bid Mr. Delp was leading trainer multiple times in some cases, Laurel, Bowie, Pimlico, Delaware, Monmouth, Atlantic City, Arlington, Santa Anita. He trained fillies for Windfileds Farms that became dams of great sires. He never had the luxory of training for clients that spent a great deal of money at the sales however Market Watch used the Meyerhoff's as an example of a stable with very modestly priced horses was capable of graded wins and million dollar earners on a consistant basis. Look carefull at the race with Affirmed, that was not a stellar ride on Shoemakers part. If Mr. Delp appeared arrogant or the bragging type, in reality he was astounded he found himself to be in the position to train such an incredibly talented race horse. · 2171 days ago
That should've read no threeyr old regardless of triple crown performance was able threat horse of the year honors from Kelso for 5 yrs. that says alot about Kelso's dominance
Was horse of the year for 5 straight years.
To put Kelso's accomplishment in a different perspective no matter how good any three yr old was, or well they did in the triple crown races or after

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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, and American Pharoah. 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. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, 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 co-hosting the popular racing show, 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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