Best Losing Performances in a Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown Race

Steve Haskin's Look Back at the Decade 

Editors of The Blood-Horse challenged senior correspondent Steve Haskin to fill in the blanks on several “best of” lists for the decade of 2000-2009. While several of them appear in the Dec. 26/Jan. 2 combined issue of the magazine (mailing on Dec. 29), there wasn’t space for them all.

Over the coming days until the end of the year, all of Steve’s lists will be posted here with readers of encouraged to comment.

Best Losing Performances in a Breeders’ Cup or Triple Crown race

Due to a major mix-up, Presious Passion's 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf should have been No. 1 on this list, but was regrettably ommitted.

1. Smarty Jones 2004 Belmont Stakes

2. Rock of Gibraltar 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile

3. Thunderello 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint

4. Hard Spun 2007 Kentucky Derby

5. Lookin at Lucky 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

6. Medaglia d'Oro 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic

7. Congaree 2001 Kentucky Derby

8. Giant's Causeway 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic

9. Dunkirk 2009 Belmont Stakes

10. Cloudy's Knight 2009 Breeders' Cup Marathon

Honorable Mention:

Point Given - 2000 BC Juvenile

The Cliff's Edge - 2004 Kentucky Derby

Honest Lady - 2000 BC Sprint

Xtra Heat - 2001 BC Sprint

Octave - 2007 BC Distaff

Previous Lists:

12/21/09 - Most Physically Impressive Horses
12/22/09 - Most Memorable Triple Crown Performances
12/23/09 - Most Memorable Breeders' Cup Performances
12/26/09 - Greatest Training Achievements 


Leave a Comment:


You left out perhaps the best of the decade. Presious Passion's loss in the '09 BC Turf was a stunning display of speed and the ability to hold his speed over a mile and a half.

27 Dec 2009 5:56 PM

I really think Presious Passion should be on this list for sure. He's such a gutsy horse with an exciting running style, and he gave Conduit a good fight in the BC. He never gives up and has so much heart. He definitely deserves to be on this list.

27 Dec 2009 5:59 PM
Mike Costello

Xtra Heat 2001 Sprint

27 Dec 2009 6:01 PM
Afleet Treet


As always, THANKS for such thought provoking, memory inspiring, and discussion prompting topics here through the end of the year. I find myself eagerly anticipating each list. I am in agreement with nearly all of your suggestions, although I am perhaps a bit biased. I thought of a few losing performances that stick in my mind that you may or may not agree with but that I figured were worth a fond mention so here goes:

2005 Kentucky Derby...Afleet Alex

2007 Belmont...Curlin

2009 BC Turf: Presious Passion

2009 Preakness: Mine That Bird

Just a few memorable ones that stuck in my mind in addition to those you mentioned above.

Thanks Again!

HorseRacingMania Loves you!


27 Dec 2009 6:11 PM
richard hackerman

I thought Precious Passion's effort in the 2009 Turf was remarkable and should be second on the list behind Smarty Jones's Belmont.

27 Dec 2009 6:14 PM

Completely agree with Hard Spun's Derby, Steve. I was rooting him home that day- too bad the rail opened up like the Red Sea for Street Sense.

27 Dec 2009 6:23 PM

I could watch Tiznow win his BC Classics all day. A definite favorite horse of mine, and that call with Giant's Causeway was as good as it gets.

Curlin's loss to Rags to Riches in the Belmont arguably could've been on the list I think. I was jumping up and down in my living room like a maniac rooting for Rags but wow he just kept coming back.

An honorable mention: Mine That Bird to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness.

27 Dec 2009 6:33 PM
Backside Sweetie

For me,it is Cloudys Knight as he is from my barn.I would call it the best losing performance because he gave it his all and it was an exciting race to the end!usually if one of ours loses,I feel low,but I was so proud of his performance that I felt so good and yelled and jumped up and down it caused my dog Klaus to howl with joy also.At first I started to choose Smarty Jones,he gave a great performance but,since he was a local horse,born just a few miles from my house and followed his career from the beginning by the local horse workers and vets,all gathering together to watch him race.We were a sorry lot,to say the least.Many tears were shed and we all went home feeling down,it was not a happy time.Thus why I pick Cloudys Knight and he came back and has won twice since,he's not a quitter.Thanks again Steve for these best of the decade.  

27 Dec 2009 6:56 PM

love the list, was just curious if you did a list of  past 20 years, where would Real Quiet's belmont loss rank? i will never forget that day as I was literally on my knees in front of the tv, after it was announced that victory gallop was the winner, i fell over in exhaustion, it felt like i rode "the fish" myself...was a stretch run for the ages in my book!

27 Dec 2009 7:06 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

     You pretty much got it perfect(IMO), BUT, If not in the top ten, Presious Passion's heartbreaking loss to Conduit in the Breeder's Turf this year, Well, It at least deserves Honorable Mention?  I just love his, "Catch me if you can" style, It looked like the whole field was going to pass him at the top of the stretch, But, He showed all heart to almost hang on!

Here is the replay:

27 Dec 2009 7:34 PM

Thanks Steve, was real nice to see those races again!

27 Dec 2009 8:07 PM

"There is nothing that can be said here that hasn’t already been said about the amazing performance of Presious Passion in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in what very well may have been the greatest losing performance in Breeders’ Cup history, and one of the greatest losing efforts ever"

What happened?  

The McKnight?

27 Dec 2009 8:07 PM
Soldier Course

Thank you for No. 1.

27 Dec 2009 8:47 PM
Afleet Treet

Backside Sweetie~

Cloudy's is AMAZING! I was at the BC this year and got some GREAT pics of him just as he was walking to the paddock! What a gorgeous horse he is (a BIG boy) and he is truly a fighter as his finish in the Marathon was awesome and we were screaming for him all the way! Congrats on his latest victory!

27 Dec 2009 8:51 PM
Paula Higgins

Smarty Jones-Belmont, Precious Passion-Breeders Cup Turf, and Mine That Bird- Preakness are my top three.

27 Dec 2009 8:53 PM

Glad to see Honest Lady's BC Sprint was at least recognized as an honorable mention. I still get upset thinking about it. I would have given anything for her to have nipped Kona Gold (RIP) in that race.

27 Dec 2009 8:53 PM

I'm so happy someone else remembers Congaree...he was my pick for all thre legs of the Triple Crown.  And thank you for choosing Cloudy's Knight...what a spectacular performance from a 9 year old!  And he just won the McKnight at Calder...way ahead of Presious Passion. (5th)

27 Dec 2009 8:56 PM
Brian Appleton

Curlin's 2007 Belmont loss and Presious Passion's 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf are the only one's that I think should have been added onto this list.

27 Dec 2009 8:57 PM

Curlin's loss to Rags To Riches in the 2007 Belmont will stick in my mind forever.

27 Dec 2009 10:34 PM

It killed me when Xtra Heat lost the sprint. Just loved her. Felt really bad for Rock of Gibraltar -- probably one of the best horses to lose a BC along with Giant's Causeway (yea Tiznow!).

27 Dec 2009 11:37 PM
Judy ~ Burbank, CA


Thanks for a look back in time.

I also like MINE THAT BIRD's gutsy loss in the 2009 Preakness... he just about got there in time.

27 Dec 2009 11:48 PM

How about Sakhee in the 2001 Breeders Cup? The only other one that I can think of is Bernardini in the 2006 BC Classic.

28 Dec 2009 12:09 AM

Although I was rooting for Storm Flag Flying, how about Composure?   She was very good in the  2002 Juvenile Fillies race.    

28 Dec 2009 2:43 AM

Not a TC or BC race, but one of the races that will always stick in my mind was Sun King's valiant battle with the mighty In-Vah-Sor!

Curlin's/Rags Belmont stretch run as they fought each other down that looong stretch...

Street Sense 'nose' loss to Curlin in their record equalling Preakness.

Both Sahkee and Giant's Causeway's battles with Tiznow...

Xtra Heat, never afraid to take on the boys...

Mine That Bird's "missed it by that much" Preakness...

Smarty's Belmiont

Rock of Gibralta

Cloudy's Knight and Presious passion

Ventura's mad run that ran out of room...

28 Dec 2009 7:25 AM

How did Presious Passion not make it on here, yet Lookin at Lucky and Cloudy's Knight did??

28 Dec 2009 7:37 AM

I agree with the others who rate Curlin's loss to Rags in the Belmont as one of the best losing performances; "losing" is too hard of a word for that race - they both showed the champions they are that day and it was only the human's need for a finish line that defined them as "winner and loser".  They're both winners to me.

28 Dec 2009 7:46 AM


    What happened was an 80-1 shot was whipped a mile before the finish line in order to come on even terms with PP, just to put pressure on him. I wrote a blog about it and have a replay of the race on my blog. Here's the address if you want to see/read, . It really upset me not only what was done to PP but the measures taken to make sure LS pressured him. No horse should be whipped that far from the finish, and I would bet from that performance he will no longer race, or at least race well. The race probably fried him.

28 Dec 2009 10:13 AM

Two of my favorites on there are Dunkirk's Belmont and Octave's Distaff. I also agree with Hard Spun's Derby, but I would have included Presious Passion's Turf.

28 Dec 2009 10:40 AM
Virgil Fox

Apologies for being off topic, but after reading the comment from da3hoss, I feel compelled to second (no pun intended) Sun King’s loss to Invasor, by a nose in the Whitney.

Valliant indeed. What a stretch.

Two incredible and likeable athletes.

Nice pick da3hoss

- Peace

28 Dec 2009 10:43 AM

So glad to see the Rock on the list.  When I saw the title of this, he was the first who came to mind.  Dunkirk's Belmont really was something else.  Every time you thought he'd spit the bit, he just kept on going.  He earned my respect that day.

28 Dec 2009 10:45 AM
Steve Haskin

There was a major screw-up on here, and I just had them add an explanation at the top of the list. Presious Passion's 2009 BC Turf should have been #1, but was ommitted.

28 Dec 2009 12:24 PM

Virgil Fox, thanks.

Sun King: The best horse that never won a Grade 1...

28 Dec 2009 12:39 PM

What about Tiznow's other nose BC Classic victim, Sakhee, who looked more like the winner in deep stretch than Giant's Causeway?

28 Dec 2009 12:54 PM
Greg J.


   The jockey on Livingston Street(Luis Saez) thought it was a short race and was racing to the finish line the first time around!!!     Elvis looked over at him DURING the race and asked him, "What are you doing?, We come back around!!!"  You can see this during the replay, Then he pulls Livingston Street back!, Unreal...

28 Dec 2009 1:05 PM
Paula Higgins

Also, add to my list Curlin and Cloudy's Knight. So it should be Smarty Jones, Presious Passion, Mine That Bird, Curlin, and Cloudy's Knight. Amazing performances. You sure can't call them losers.

28 Dec 2009 2:16 PM
The Beav

This just puts some of my fav's i.e. Smarty Jones, back in my mind.  This last decade has been exciting and we have seen some great races!  Thank you again.  

28 Dec 2009 2:26 PM

To me, Smarty Jones was the horse of the decade.  He was the most exciting thing to come along in several years.  That horse was just in a class by himself.  I'll never forget how he gave me thrill after thrill and how gallant he was against a fresh Birdstone.  I have a very special place in my heart for Smarty.

28 Dec 2009 3:00 PM

Cloudy's Knight won a lot of fans on BC day, and it has been fabulous seeing him get two more wins to finish out this season.  

Presious Passion is all heart, too. (Greg J., that explains a lot about Livingston Street!)

28 Dec 2009 3:37 PM

How do you mistake a 12 furlong event for a four or five furlong event??? That is unreal.

28 Dec 2009 4:54 PM

I'm glad Hard Spun made the list! I thought he'd win that day, and was so excited when he almost did. I couldn't believe it when Street Sense passed him.

28 Dec 2009 5:22 PM
Virgil Fox

How lucky we were to have the 2007 class of 3YOs.

Hard Spun – talk about an appropriately named horse!

The Derby gods just had something else in mind that day.

And what a thrill to see the three of them turning for home in the BCC.

So glad he got his King’s Bishop.

All heart, all guts.

- Peace

28 Dec 2009 5:35 PM
Backside Sweetie

Afleet Treat,Slew, and everyone else who agreed about Cloudy's Knight.You made my day!When you work and care for these horses ,as I once said to his trainer,Jonathan Sheppard,it's like watching your children graduate.It's the best feeling ever!

28 Dec 2009 7:28 PM

Steve, I love that you gave credit to these tough-luck losers, especially Congaree(01' Derby, he was up on a crazy pace, much closer than Point Given, and just missed 2nd by a nose), Medalgia d' Oro(won the battle with Congaree, who was brave himself, but lost the war), and Hard Spun(shook off all other speed before Street Sense put in a marvelous stretch run).

Some others to consider:

Triple Crown-

Ten Most Wanted- 03' Belmont.

Lion Heart- 04' Derby

Street Sense- 07' Preakness

Breeders Cup-

North East Bound- 00' BC Mile

Tout Charmant- 00' BC F+M Turf

Quiet Resolve + John's Call- 00' BC Turf

Spain- 01' BC Distaff

Milan- 01' BC Turf(faced a monster)

Sakhee + Albert The Great- 01' BC Classic

Falbrav- 03' BC Turf

Leroisdesanimaux- 05' BC Mile

Flower Alley- 05' BC Classic

Better Talk Now- 06' BC Turf

Hystericalady- 07' BC Distaff

Hard Spun- 07' BC Classic(ran Lawyer Ron, Any Given Saturday, and Diamond Stripes into the ground before giving way to Curlin's brilliant stretch kick)

Courageous Cat- 09' BC Mile(made Goldi work)

Gio Ponti- 09' BC Classic(the best American male ran a winning race, but had to face Big Z)

28 Dec 2009 9:02 PM

Steve, I knew there had to be a glitch somewhere when you left out Presious Passion, but if he should have been listed #1 (and I can't disagree with that), does that push Cloudy's Knight out of your top 10?  IMVHO, CK's marathon was a more impressive "best losing performance" - by a nostril in a 1 3/4-mile race - than Lookin at Lucky's juvenile or a couple of the others.

To the Cloudy's Knight fanclub, do read this article at ESPN for great background on how Sheppard came to be his trainer:

(hope it's ok to link another writer's article here!)

Backside Sweetie - I'm trying real hard not to be green with envy of you! ;-)

28 Dec 2009 9:05 PM

Thank you for this wonderful list... Each of these replays still make my spine tingle and the hairs raise each time I watch them. Glad to relive memories.

28 Dec 2009 10:11 PM

And where's Mine That Bird's awesome performance in the Preakness where he darn near beat Rachel ?

28 Dec 2009 10:27 PM
cat thief

2005 BC Sprint: Taste of Paradise gets shut off by Silver Train, then moves to the outside, passing the tiring Lost in the Fog (who was previously undefeated) and just misses the Belmont-master Silver Train.  Watch my money leave again at

28 Dec 2009 10:36 PM
Greg J.


    You got me!  I believe that Luis Saez is the leading candidate for apprentice jockey of the year, Or one of them, Still amazed a mistake like that was made, Chalk it up as a learning experience?, lol...

29 Dec 2009 9:00 AM

omg four races I suffered the tough beats are on this list.  so painfull lol.  

29 Dec 2009 11:57 AM
Karen Jones Lamb

I was extremely moved by Rosemary Homeister's loss to Joe Talamo as she wanted her older horse to win so badly in that 2009 race and she lost by so little. Her love for the dear old horse and her disappointment for him in coming so close to winning was touching. Horseracing has touching moments like no other sport.

29 Dec 2009 9:10 PM

How could Taste Of Paradise's 2005 run not made the top 10?  He gets stopped, shoved back almost 4 lengths in the stretch and still nearly wins (and would have if the finish line was about 15 feet further).  He even got the same Beyer as the winner, 114.

29 Dec 2009 11:12 PM

Karen...are you speaking of the BC?

Cloudy's Knight lost the slight edge to Man of Iron with Johnny Murtagh the jockey.  Joe Talamo won the turf sprint with California Flag.

08 Jan 2010 7:09 PM

i think if the preakness was a little longer mine that bird would have caught rachel and won.

14 Apr 2010 9:09 AM

One That I thought was one of the greatest second place finishes was the 08 Derby that Eight Belles lost. Nobody was going to catch Big Brown that day but she made such a big move and was the only one making up ground on him.

19 Oct 2010 12:54 AM

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