A Century of the Best Thoroughbreds

December 21, 2012 12:44pm

Who were the greatest male and female horses, by decade, of the past 100 years? An impossible question, I know, but after weeks of research, and plenty of heart-wrenching decisions, I’m ready to take a stab it. For clarification, horses that raced in two different decades were placed in the decade of their most dominant season. The following lists include American based horses only, and are strictly for entertainment purposes.


The Males

1910’s  1) Sir Barton  2) Old Rosebud  3) Roamer

1920’s  1) Man O’ War  2) Exterminator  3) Grey Lag

1930’s  1) Equipoise  2) Discovery  3) War Admiral 

1940’s  1) Citation  2) Count Fleet  3) Whirlaway

1950’s  1) Native Dancer  2) Swaps  3) Tom Fool

1960’s  1) Dr. Fager  2) Kelso  3) Damascus

1970’s  1) Secretariat  2) Forego  3) Seattle Slew

1980’s  1) Spectacular Bid  2) John Henry  3) Sunday Silence

1990’s  1) Cigar  2) Holy Bull  3) Skip Away  

2000’s  1) Ghostzapper  2) Invasor  3) Curlin


The Females

1910’s  1) Regret  2) Pan Zareta  3) Milkmaid

1920’s  1) Princess Doreen  2) Black Maria  3) Cleopatra

1930’s  1) Top Flight  2) Myrtlewood  3) Black Helen

1940’s  1) Gallorette  2) Twilight Tear  3) Busher 

1950’s  1) Two Lea  2) Real Delight  3) Silver Spoon

1960’s  1) Gallant Bloom  2) Cicada  3) Gamely

1970’s  1) Ruffian  2) Desert Vixen  3) Ta Wee

1980’s  1) Lady’s Secret  2) Personal Ensign  3) Genuine Risk

1990’s  1) Go For Wand  2) Bayakoa  3) Inside Information

2000’s  1) Zenyatta  2) Rachel Alexandra  3) Azeri 


Rachel Alexandra  |  Spectacular Bid  |  Zenyatta  |  Citation  |  Cigar  |  Go For Wand  |  Twilight Tear  |  Equipoise  |  Regret  |  Native Dancer  |  Two Lea  |  Kelso  |  Dr. Fager  |  Man o' War
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Older Comments about A Century of the Best Thoroughbreds ...

I keep hearing how the 70's were so greatest but what about the 40's with Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Citation?? I haven't noticed anyone's list but mine would start out with the greatest, Man O' War!
Very nice choices/// As always, everyone has their favorite and there are "favorites" of each person. But thanks for the list... I miss watching them
the laws of randomness require that people realize all things great have NO linear acitivty to them. Some eras have many more representatives as do others
Affirmed is my favorite race horse ever - but that top 3 in the 70's is a tough group to crack.
I agree with your statement, Laz. I thought the same thing. I too, truly respect Zatt's take on the famous females of the 2000's.
I never called it "clever", but, if that's the way you interpret it, cool!!!!
CauseForConcern-Citing Tom Durkin's "clever" race call--seriously grasping at straws.
If Affirmed is not on a list I have lost all suggestion that the judge has any credibility whatsoever.
I would have to call upon the historians for further backing, but, Rachel Alexandra won three Grade 1's against boys, all in a sixteen-week span. I don't know if a filly/mare has ever beaten the boys three times in that short of a time span. Sandwiched in between those three races, was a stakes-record breaking Mother Goose, eclipsing the legendary Ruffian's record. Her 8-race win streak encompassed six different states. I know that Cigar won in 8 different states(including Dubai as a state) during his sixteen-race streak, but Zenyatta only won in two states during her 20-race streak. Not sure what the most states won in, is, during any streak, but she mustn't be too far off the record. And, Tom Durken called her "Rachel Alexandra The Great". Durken has seen many great ones, so, that compliment has to be at the top of the heap.
Didn't see Affirmed on this list? Is Rachel Alexandra really worthy based on one racing season where she barely held off the likes of Mine That Bird and Macho Again and never stepped up to race in a single Breeders Cup race??
i go for CURLIN for 2000!
Sire, yes, runner ... I don't think so.
A.P. Indy should have been selected for the 1990's. He was a much better horse then Holy Bull and Skip Away
This is a Great list Brian, and while you & I share the same opinion on most of them I have to say we differ in tow decades for males. The two greatest horses I have ever seen in person and in racing are The Great Point Given period, and The Great Zenyatta for the females. I really wish we could of seen my generation's version of Big Red continue throughout his career after being retired after his dominating win in The 2001 Travers Stakes (G1), and being the only racehorse ever to win four $1,000,000 races in a row. He was voted the greatest horse to of never one the triple crown, and I fully agree with that after seeing him in the flesh run a paid $750,000 workout in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Also what other horses go to the track for a blowout to calm them down on the training track in between races 3 races before they are expected to run??? He was truly amazing. The 1970's had to be a hard decade to choose from Brian as so many great horses came from that golden age of racing including three triple crown winners. I would of had all three of those triple crown winners as my top 3, but respect your opinion of The Great Forego. I wish I could of seen anyone of those great horses run, but they will always be legends for us future fans to admire for many years to come. :)
And a happy holiday season to the staff and contrubutors of HRN
Who would have voted Point Given above Spectacular Bid?
Thank you, CauseForConcern ... On behalf of all the great people that make this website go, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to the HRN staff, and, in particular, the Zipse family. Thanks for providing this website, and letting us share the Sport of Kings.
many breeder purists don't like those NOT bred to the purple like Stymie and John henry
As for that vote I was talking about with the greatest horse to of not won the Triple Crown, it was a feature among the writers among The Bloodhorse staff a few years ago for the magazine. I was a little surprised to not see Seabiscuit in the 1930's Top 3, but that is only because I am familiar with him and War Admiral. I'm sure the other two of Equipoise and Discovery have very valid reason why they are 1-2. I am going to have to do my reading on them then to understand why they were so great. :)

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