Fans of Thoroughbred Racing have been blessed this spring and summer with some sensational performers, events and accomplishments, more so than any time in my recent memory. The truly fantastic span of the past few months has me as excited about the sport as any time in the past, and for newcomers to the game, welcome, you have impeccable timing.
Triple Crown: For the first time since 1978, we witnessed a Triple Crown, accomplished by the “mighty” American Pharoah. The Bob Baffert trainee had to work hard in an oddly-run Kentucky Derby, but left little doubt in steamrolling his foes in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and continued his surge with a most facile tally in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth. I said with some colleagues during the running of his tour-de-force in the Arkansas Derby that he may be the “best horse I have ever seen run,” and the statement still holds true in my opinion.
Behold the Greatness: Dual champion Beholder, who was nearly sold and retired in November, was already a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in my view, but her most dominating romp in the Pacific Classic over the weekend cemented it. The five-year-old mare has now moved her lifetime mark to 19-14-3-0, including a pair of Breeders’ Cup wins and her spectacular 8 ¼-length tally over the boys at 10 furlongs. The Richard Mandella trainee is not done yet, either, but is clearly among the best of our generation, a generation of standout female performers to boot.
Rachel the Broodmare: 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was surely among the top female race horses in some time and proved her mettle against the boys on a few occasions, winning the Preakness, Haskell Invitational and Woodward Stakes during a magical season that would be hard for any to duplicate. But racing is not done hearing the name Rachel Alexandra. This summer at Saratoga, her first two foals both came home debut winners, with the two-year-old filly Rachel’s Valentina (Bernardini) and the sophomore colt Jess’ Dream (Curlin) each carrying on the legacy of the mare. Dare to dream with these two!
So High: Much less ballyhooed and possibly not on the same level of others, a horse from across the pond I saw in person left me awestruck, Solow. The five-year-old son of Singspiel may never run on U.S. soil and is far from a household name to most, but his win in the Dubai Turf in the spring was a thing of beauty. He has since followed it up with a trio of huge Group 1 scores, doing so with relative ease despite the smaller margins of victory. The middle-distance monster has now bagged eight races in succession and 11 of 12 dating back to 2013, and it’s possible to imagine that he will ever lose again given the way he toys with rivals.
American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography