Spectacular Days

With the tragic epilogue to Wanderin Boy’s career causing many a heavy heart in the racing world, I feel gratified to have been able to tell this courageous horse’s story in a previous blog.

Still reeling from the sadness of seeing Wanderin Boy break down, as well as the brilliant young filly Springside, I will take one final look back in history, having prepared this blog last week. After this, I will return to current issues for a while, so as not to inundate readers with too many historical columns. So let’s throw in this final one before returning to current issues. Like Graustark and His Majesty, this is more of a personal nature. After taking bit of a break from storytelling I’ll return at some point with more tales of the turf.

People are always asking me who is the greatest horse I have ever seen. I tell them that in my opinion, Secretariat and Damascus had the most incredible 3-year-old campaigns, and Dr. Fager, in 1968, was the greatest horse who ever set foot on an American racetrack. But over the course of an entire career, at ages 2, 3, and 4, Spectacular Bid was the greatest horse I have ever seen.

There have been better looking horses than The Bid. There have been better moving horses, and better bred horses. But he had one quality that separated him from the others – he could do everything. He was as close to the perfect racing machine as any horse in my time.

He won grade I stakes on the lead and he won coming from 10 lengths back. He ran seven furlongs in a near-world-record 1:20 flat and 1 1/4 miles in a world-record (on dirt) 1:57 4/5, a time which has not been equaled in nearly 29 years. He broke seven track records and equaled another, and he did it at 2, 3, and 4. As a 2-year-old, he won the World's Playground Stakes at Atlantic City by 15 lengths, running the seven furlongs over a dead racetrack under wraps in an astounding 1:20 4/5.

After nailing down the 2-year-old championship with his victory in the Champagne Stakes in 1:34 4/5 for the mile, The Bid hardly rested on his laurels. In fact, he hardly rested, period. His trainer, Buddy Delp, called him “The greatest horse to ever look through a bridle,” and he felt there were more worlds to conquer. Only 11 days after the Champagne, Bid won the Young America at the Meadowlands, then came back only nine days after that and shattered the track record in the Laurel Futurity, beating General Assembly by 8 1/2 lengths, with Clever Trick another 12 lengths back in third. He was back 13 days later, winning the Heritage Stakes at Keystone by six lengths under wraps.

Spectacular Bid won at 15 different racetracks in nine different states, and carried 130 pounds or more to victory five times. To demonstrate his dominance, and the respect the public had for him, he was sent off at odds of 1-20, that's 1-20, an unheard of eight times, and 1-10 six times. Beginning with the World's Playground, he won 24 of 26 starts, rattling off 12-race and 10-race winning streaks, while facing such classy grade I winners as Flying Paster, General Assembly, Coastal, Glorious Song, Cox's Ridge, and Golden Act. His only two defeats came at 1 1/2 miles, when he stepped on a safety pin the morning of the Belmont, almost losing his foot after a bad infection set in, and in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when he was beaten by Hall of Famer Affirmed after being forced to miss his prep in the Woodward Stakes due to a virus.

And he accomplished this being ridden as a 3-year-old by a little known and unaccomplished rider who was having cocaine problems at the time. Bid also suffered from a nagging sesamoid problem that was present throughout his undefeated 4-year-old campaign. When the Woodward Stakes was run in a walkover, Delp told Bill Shoemaker to just let him canter around the track so he could get one more race in him, concluding his career in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But Shoemaker, despite never asking him to run at any point, still allowed Bid to close each of his final two quarters in a mind-boggling :24 1/5. Horses rarely come home that fast in a normal race, never mind running against no one. By running his mile and a quarter in 2:02 2/5, faster than Buckpasser, Kelso (in 1962), and Sword Dancer, Bid re-aggravated his sesamoid injury, which forced his retirement.

So much for statistics. As incredible as they are, Spectacular Bid went far beyond statistics. As his coat lightened as a 4-year-old, he was like a ghostly figure hurtling down one stretch after another in isolated splendor. With his head held high and his powerful legs stretching across the racing universe, he not only went undefeated in nine starts in 1980, there was never a horse in front of him at the eighth pole.

My wife Joan and I have always felt a close kinship with The Bid. He was a part of our early life together, and his passing in 2003 unleashed a flood of memories.

In 1979, a week before Joan started working as public relations coordinator for the New York Racing Association, we were hired by a weekly racing publication to photograph the Preakness Stakes. One of the unforgettable images was The Bid coming off the track on Preakness morning, bucking and lashing back with his hind legs, with his groom, holding on for dear life, telling the horse, “Damn, you're as crazy as the boss.” Another was The Bid walking the shed later that morning, stopping in front of Davona Dale’s stall. The great Calumet filly had just won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes the day before, and each time Bid walked by her stall she would pin her ears back to her shoulder and eyeball him. And each time, Bid would stop right in front of her stall, pick his head up and stare right back at her, flashing the whites of his eyes.

For the Preakness, Joan was stationed on the rail, while I was up in the photographer’s stand shooting from the inside. It was quite a sight standing right over The Bid as he crossed the finish line 5 1/2 lengths in front, missing Canonero’s (official) track record by a fifth of a second.

The following year, Joan and I watched from her Belmont Park office overlooking the finish line, as The Bid concluded his remarkable career with the first walkover in 31 years. Eight days later, we were married.

In 1998, we went to visit The Bid at Milfer Farm in Unadilla, N.Y., along with our then 14-year-old daughter, Mandy. I wanted to make sure she saw the "greatest horse to ever look through a bridle," at least once in her life. The Bid, now 22 and milky white, was led out of his stall and proceeded to nuzzle up against my daughter. He no longer was among the elite roster of stallions, as he had been when he was retired to Claiborne Farm with such great promise. And he no longer bore even the slightest resemblance to that charcoal gray 3-year-old with the star on his forehead. But he still held his head high with pride, and when he looked at you, that fire and spirit of his youth still shone through. He was Spectacular Bid, and he still knew it. And you knew it.

Milfer Farm owner, Dr. Jon Davis, told us at the time, "I still get goose bumps standing next to him." His devoted groom, Tim Stewart, added, "All you have to do is be around him to know he's something special."

The last image I have of The Bid is of him standing outside his barn, his white mane blowing in the breeze, with my daughter standing alongside, patting him on his neck. That moment rekindled memories of a very special time, not only for my wife and me, but for Thoroughbred racing.

Affirmed died in 2001, then Seattle Slew in 2002, and The Bid in 2003. Just like that, they were all gone, and with them the end of a golden era. We will never see the likes of Spectacular Bid again. But at least I have a photo album I can open and show my daughter. And I can tell her, "You remember these pictures of you with this magnificent white horse named Spectacular Bid? Well, his trainer once called him the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle. It was quite an outrageous comment at the time. But, you know what? He was right."


Leave a Comment:


Absolutely fantastic steve. I also saw the artical you wrote on Wanderin Boy, and cried. I couldn't believe he broke down and was euthenized. He was one of the gamest horses to ever step on a racetrack, and unluckiest. I never saw the Bid, i only have been watching racing for nine or ten years, but i'm learning quickly, and know a great, excuse me, good horse when i see one. For example, the first race i saw Curlin in was the replays of the AK derby and Rebel, i said then and there that horse is gonna be great, this was after i had liked Nobiz like Shobiz since his two year old season. I still liked the Biz especially when they swapped him to turf. I liked Colenle John, i know i spelled that wrong, since his two year old season, as well as Court Vision. This year in the Remsen, i'm trying to look at what good happened that day, i saw the easiest 71/4 length romp i will ever see. Old Fashion, dominated, i couldn't believe it. I never saw his first couple races, this is the first time i have ever seen him. I don't know what kind of horses he beat, but from what i saw right there, he has a good chance at the derby. I know it's two early to start thinking about the derby, but i like this colt, and his connections. Larry Jones is all class, and there is no denying that man can train a horse, Hard Spun for example. Plus I only saw that Ramon Domingez was in the saddle, and the guy can ride. This horse is right at the top of my list for the Derby, and right now even over Square Eddie. Well what did you think of Old Fashion's Remsen, am i getting a bit overboard?

30 Nov 2008 8:58 PM
Will W

Wanderin Boy deserved a fitting tribute after his tragic end which I sadly viewed live on HRTV. Your previous column did him justice - a horse who overcame simply incredible odds to become an elite race horse who faced the likes of Curlin, Invasor, Bernadini, et al., and whose story just had to be told to the larger racing public. I was sorely hoping his horrific demise would not pass with just a brief line or two in the DRF. Sick all day about Wanderin Boy's cruel fate, I went to the Bloodhorse website tonight hoping you would not let his passing fade away in indifference and apathy. You didn't disappoint. Wanderin Boy was treated with the dignity and respect he so sorely deserved from the racing world  thanks to you, Steve. Kudos !!!

30 Nov 2008 9:13 PM

Six weeks before Spectacular Bid died, my family and I were able to visit him at Milfer Farm. Even at that age, giving him peppermints could have been dangerous. He was truly a great racehorse. As the old boy was walked back into his stall, tears swelled up in my eyes to remember how great he was; Bid, thanks for the memories.

30 Nov 2008 9:25 PM
needler in Virginia

OK, Steve.......that's IT! I take full responsibility for reading your words, be they in a column or here where you allow comments. HOWEVER, I want stock in Kleenex for Christmas if I'm going to read one more word.

The Bid always drew me in; the way he moved and handled himself, the way he held his head at just the right angle, his eye, his demeanor... all that fascinated me, and then there were times he almost spoke. If he could have, I'm certain we all would have gotten more than earful. You just brought him back again, on this saddest of days for Wanderin Boy and the Hancocks.


I'm off to treat the puffy eyes yet again, Steve, and while I LOVE your words and memories, it's getting hard to explain why I always seem to have come off a crying jag.......

30 Nov 2008 9:34 PM

I didn't appreciate Bid when he was running because General Assembly was my man. In fact, I didn't like him at all. After I got some years on me, I came to understand just what he accomplished and just how truly good he was. Not, in my opinion, the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle, but darn near close.

30 Nov 2008 9:48 PM

Please, please do not deny us, your devoted fans, of the joy of reading your historical stories.  Your stories enable me to gain a greater, deeper appreciation of the many wonderful horses that I missed out on when I was busy raising a family and did not have the time to pay much attention to horse racing, although I have always loved horses.  Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and I hope your daughter will appreciate that treasured photograph and consider that a very special memory.  Thank you.

30 Nov 2008 9:54 PM


Great memories of the Bid - I have a pic with him at Claiborne in '87 that has always been on of my favorite shots - neither of my pics of Secretariat came out as well as that shot with the Bid.

He was pure hickory and pure talent - and I was thrilled they put a new marker at his grave - well deserved.  He'll never be at the top in my heart (Secretariat's owned that since '73) -but he is definitely in the pantheon of greats.

My heart is broken over Wanderin Boy.  He was so honest and so deserving of a Grade I - and it is just so tragic and sad.  He just tried and tried and gave so much of himself - he deserved a better fate than what was dealt.  He will never be remembered as the Bid or Secretariat are - but I'll always remember - and a little part of my heart will always be lost with his sad end.

He was - at the end of the day - just a wonderful, honest running horse.

30 Nov 2008 10:19 PM

Hello Steve..Another elequent and poignant piece of prose..I personally believe its long overdue that the National Musuem of Racing in Saratoga finally establish an Fourth Estate category for members of this elite tribunal..commencing with the 2009 voting as you have my vote..along with your legions of fervant fans all voting to have you inducted on the initial ballot....You unquestionably belong in these hallowed halls.. An tribute to an equine artist...Continued great success Steve as we await your next tale...Thank you always for your kind window...Regards..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey

30 Nov 2008 10:26 PM

Love your tribute to the Bid. It is beautiful.  And thanks also for acknowledging Wanderin Boy.  I watched the Cigar Mile on TV too, and was so dismayed that no mention was made that he he had broken down, even though we could all see what had happened to him.  It seemed disrespectful to the gallant warrior. Sometimes I wonder why I am a racing fan, and then I read your columns Steve, and I remember why I love this sport.  

30 Nov 2008 10:27 PM
russell maiers

Wanderin Boy was a great racehorse. Great in every way! This is so sad. Thanks for allowing me to get to know him with your recent blog! I agree with your thoughts on the Bid. It took me many years to get it,to say he was better than all those great horses of the seventies. Eventually I came to believe, and its just my opinion, that Spectactular Bid was the best of the best. And with the horses we are comparing him to, wow!

30 Nov 2008 10:32 PM

Wow, did this bring back some memories. First of all I'm glad I'm not the only one who has said over the years that I think The Bid was the best horse ever if you consider a whole career of 2,3, and 4.And I was never a Bud Delp fan at all. In 1978 I was working as a groom at Delaware Park for the great Dickie Dutrow. The big rivalry on the long gone Delaware/Maryland circuit in those days was us against Delp and Leatherbury for the training titles at Delpark, than Bowie, Pimlico and Laurel. The summer meet in Delaware was always my favorite. One day I was finishing up my horses and my girlfriend came along and said "Let's go over to Delp's barn and see that new 2yo sensation he has" I had never seen him in person before-we took the short walk over and The Bid had just come off the track after a work and was being given his bath in front of the barn. I didn't know the groom but as he saw us standing there with our Dutrow jackets on-he smiled and said-"hey Dutrow-you got anything like this over in your barn" And we didn't. This big gray horse had "the look" even as a 2yo. I was so impressed with him I stayed and watched until he was done and than watched him walk around the shedrow. He knew even than that he was something special. I knew at that time he would be a great horse-and he certainly was. Except for a stupid groom mistake he most certainly would have been a TC winner-despite the awful jock he was stuck with. So many people forgot about this wonderful horse when he didn't do much at stud but I will never forget him or those long ago days at Delaware Park. Thanks Steve for bringing back the memories. I'd sure like to buy you breakfast or lunch one day at Saratoga next year. We seem to think so much alike about some of the old greats-I'm the one who sent you a note about the courageous Dark Mirage.

30 Nov 2008 10:49 PM
Brian Appleton

That was so great Mr. Haskin! I've read the Bid's story many times, but your short synopsis here was beautifull.  Thank you so much!! And Kudos to you for recognizing Wanderin Boy as a remarkable talent just a little while before he died.

30 Nov 2008 11:08 PM

I had been riding out in Euroup for a year - Newmarket and Chantilly.  I wanted to stay for the Arch but I missed home; I wanted to eat a real hamburger and I wanted to watch the World Series.  When I landed at JFK, instead of hopping a connecting flight home I decided to go to Belmont and watch the JCGC.  I didn't know it was going to be a walkover.  I sat up in the grandstand and watched the big horse as he glided over the track, all my himself .... with Shoemaker up, as if it was in the moring with silks. Something about loading a horse into the gate,  with no other contenders,  everyone quiet and  completely professional.  No horse accept a champion has that kind of prestige.

01 Dec 2008 12:08 AM

give us one 1/2 as good as "The Bid" & we still have a CHAMP!!!...something SPECTACULAR for ALL...its time in Oh! Nine!!!...Horses like "THE BID & THE BOY" are one reason WE say...Long Live The King!!!

01 Dec 2008 1:09 AM
John Boudreau

GREAT Story Steve>>>>He Was >> The GREATEST Horse to EVER Look through a Bridle>> and as Shoe ALWAYS Said " The Bid" was the best horse he EVER Rode>> Enough Said

01 Dec 2008 7:57 AM

Wanderin Boy deserved better, Steve.  Zito really had a bad, bad weekend.  Da Tara and Commentator lose at odds on and then this happens.  Racing can be a really cruel game at times.  Let's remember him as the gallant warrior you portrayed in your piece recently.  You captured his essence and then some.  Thank you.

The Bid.  What can you say about this magnificent animal that hasn't already been said?  As a long time Maryland racing fan I was there the day he blew the field away in the Laurel Futurity and remember seeing jockeys, agents, grooms, owners, you name it crowding the apron of the track as post time for that race approached.  I asked Herbie Hinojosa whether he had ever ridden anything like the Bid and he nodded and said, "Spring Double". People don't remember that horse today, but they sure did back in the day.  Still Spring Double was no Spectacular Bid.  The point I'm trying to make is that everyone at Laurel that day knew how special the Bid was and his performance was nothing short of spectacular.  General Assembly was no slouch, but he didn't belong in that race nor did any of the others.  The other vivid memory I have is the week before the Preakness when Pimlico wisely opened its' doors for a public workout by The Bid.  More race fans showed up that day just to watch a workout than usually showed up for the races.  The buzz was unbelievable.  You would have thought some sort of religious experience was at hand.  The workout was unremarkable if memory serves, but the vibes that horse sent out were not.  Never forget him.

01 Dec 2008 9:53 AM

They don't make horses like "The Bid" anymore. As I recall i don't think the horse establishment was to keen on his connections either, which may have led to his not getting the recognition he deserved,(at the time)... In regards to Wanderin Boy, let see,sesamoid fracture,two cannon bone fractures,bad ulcer,etc etc.Talk about squeezing the lemon dry.That poor horse deserved a better fate.

01 Dec 2008 11:51 AM
Karen in Texas

Your historical accounts are always well written and accurate, but with your personal perspective to make them so real! Thanks for coming through for Wanderin Boy and Nick Zito as well.

01 Dec 2008 1:06 PM

  What a tragic weedend this was, two breakdowns at Aqueduct. So very sad about Wanderen' Boy what a champ he was running his heart out every race reminds me of Hard Spun last year. Fortuneatly H.S. was retired sound.

  Steve, good article about the Bid. You,re so very lucky to have been around the horses in the 70's and 80's who are no longer with us but will always be in our hearts as well as those who have passed recently.

  Rest in peace Wanderin, Boy.

01 Dec 2008 1:21 PM

The Bid was truly a gifted racehorse and I loved your comments about his coat.

When I was living in OZ, I was following the career of a racemare named Magical Miss who was being trained by Bart Cummings for the Melbourne Cup.Observing her pedigree, I wrote to Dr. Jon and received a nice note back asking to get an update from time to time.

01 Dec 2008 3:00 PM

Spectacular Bid was spectacular.  If only the younger generation Big Brown fans had had an opportunity to see a truly great horse then they would know what us old people know,  but I won't tell them,, they'll have to find out on their own.

01 Dec 2008 3:26 PM

I was a teen ager at the time living in Lexington. I got to see the Bid 3 times. He had a public work between races before the Blue Grass. He went a mile in 1:34 and change if my memory is correct. I followed him back to the barn and watched him cool out.And took some pictures. I also got to see him win the Blue Grass and Derby. What a special machine of a racehorse he was!

Wish they would make then like him again. He was one of the last that was a race horse that actually raced. Most of todays trainers think that running them once a month is coming back quick.

Question for you Steve. His exercise rider was a man named R.A. Smith. I used him as a jockey when I trained horses. Do you have any idea where he is or what he is doing. I always figured that after being on the Bid he knew what a good horse felt like. Too bad I was never able to put him on one.

Also as for the Belmont, maybe he did step on a safety pin, but his major problem in that race was an inexperienced rider on a one of a kind racetrack, getting race ridden by pros who got him chasing a 100-1 shot. Coastal could not make Spectacular Bid break a sweat otherwise.

01 Dec 2008 3:32 PM

I was working at the DRF in Chicago and The Bid was running on my birthday, July 19, 1980, at Arlington in the Washington Park Handicap. My boss, John McEvoy, asked if I would work on my birthday so he could go to the track and see The Bid run. I told him I would, but only if he would get Buddy Delp to show me Bid that Thursday in his stall after he jogged the track. He was a leggy colt, nickering and bucking while the exercise boy (don't remember who it was) took him to the track. All I could think was what an athletic horse he was. He reminded me of a deer, the way he skipped over the track. I remembered thinking how Buddy Delp didn't deserve such a horse the same way I felt Frank Whiteley didn't deserve Ruffian. Both trainers were kind of jerks to us members of the media, nothing like Charlie Whittingham, who was so gracious to me when he brought Perrault to Chicago.

01 Dec 2008 3:34 PM





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01 Dec 2008 3:56 PM

I have been reading all of your articles for a very long time, and it never ceases to amaze me how similar our opinions are on almost every aspect of the racing industry.  

And here I thought that I was the only one that thought Spectacular Bid really was the greatest to ever look through a bridle;).  Fantastic writing as usual!

01 Dec 2008 4:38 PM
Mike S

I was about 9 years old when we started going to the races in 1972, and COUGAR II was my first favorite racehorse, and what a great racehorse he was. Of course the 1970's also brought us horses even greater than him, in SECRETARIAT, FOREGO, AFFIRMED and SEATTLE SLEW. I can't say that I can easily pick the greatest of the bunch, because they were incredible racehorses, and I love them all. But I would definitely put SPECTACULAR BID right in the midst of those four great horses, and I think I would agree with Haskin that The Bid's accomplishments at 2, 3 and 4 make him the greatest horse who raced from 2-4 (SECRETARIAT retired at 3).

Good horses come and go. Some really great horses have raced since SPECTACULAR BID's retirement in 1980. JOHN HENRY, SUNDAY SILENCE, EASY GOER, HOLY BULL, CURLIN, etc., are all great horses. BIG BROWN is a very good horse too, I must admit. None of these horses, as good/great as they are, can compare to The Bid.

Since SPECTACULAR BID retired there has not been a horse as good as he was (no one can match him), and there certainly has not been one who is better (that's an indisputable fact).

We've seen great horses over the past 25 years...and we'll see more great horses in the future. I guess it boils down to this: We have not seen the likes of SPECTACULAR BID since SPECTACULAR BID. Will we see another one in the future? Only time will tell.

01 Dec 2008 4:56 PM

The first first horse race I attended was the 1979 Derby, and I have been a big fan since, in large part because of the Bid. I must confess I bet against him in the Derby, but I have the excuse of not knowing what I was doing. We have all been blessed to have seen many, many great horses over the years, but I will agree with Steve and say the Bid was the best I ever saw.

I was watching HRTV when Wanderin Boy broke down and felt terrible as he has been a favorite of mine since he won on the undercard Oaks day several years ago. I know how bad his injury was, but I kept hoping he could be saved one more time. Thank you, Steve, for all the great articles about the wonderful horses, some of whom lay down their lives for our enjoyment.

01 Dec 2008 5:09 PM
Silver Charm

I cried when Wandering Boy broke down. I was almost sick when i heard that Shakis too was euthenized. I guess being relativly new to racing, its hard to take these things in, but i doubt anyone ever gets used to it. These two game boys were staples on the track, and i do have fond memories of them both. So glad you did an article on Wandering Boy, he more then deserved it. I am not old enough to 'remember' the true greats like Bid, Secretariat & Ruffian <-my personal heroine... but an early memory for me was watching the '97 T.C. and rooting for Silver Charm... anyword on how that gray is doing?

01 Dec 2008 5:18 PM
Remember the Fog

Excellent write. The Bid deserves no less. A steel-colored colt with steely nerves and an iron will, who more than lived up to the promise of his magnificent name. His framed photo hangs on my wall above this desk, where I write these words, along with Secretariat's--I am not fooled by the annual equine pretenders hyped by the media and those short of

memory, as the latest "wunder-horse. The breed can no longer produce Pegasus'--they galloped off into history and mind.

01 Dec 2008 5:37 PM


Beautifully written article about one of my favorite horses of all time.  The Bid was as good as it gets and in my humble opinion, is definitely one of the top three or four horses all time!

On a more somber note, I have to agree with Mike M. on the awful demise of Wanderin Boy.  With all the history of injuries in this horse's profile, wasn't anybody suggesting, regardless of how game he was, that he may be better of retired?  It is nothing but tragic that this is the way his life had to end.  

I love racing with all my being, but at some point, somebody has to be looking out for what is in the best interest of the horse.  Your thoughts Steve?

01 Dec 2008 5:49 PM

My interest in racing took root in that great era of the 70's, though I'm shamed to admit I saw "Bid" at the time as a threat to the "insurmountable triple crown" notion, as he would have been three in a row.  With the sickening news about Wanderin'Boy, I cling to those 70's moments when even including the great Ruffian, breakdowns on the scale we now see in major races were unthinkable.

01 Dec 2008 6:09 PM

Secretariet,Seattle Slew,Spectacular Bid. All related.

01 Dec 2008 6:14 PM

To answer Silver Charms question, he is doing very well in Japan, if you go to the Three Chimney's site they have pictures of him, they finally got a new one in October and he looks absolutely great as they keep updating him constantly.

I saw the Bid run and yes you are correct I really do think he was the most incredible horse.  In fact I have just finished reading he story this weekend and can't believe as many times as he ran with very little rest, amazing times and speed.  Yes I think you are truly right he was the best.  Thanks so much for the blog and the blog on Wandering Boy as he really deserved it.

01 Dec 2008 7:20 PM

Thanks, Steve for your two touching tributes to Wanderin Boy, the first in early October and sadly, your second, yesterday.

Wanderin Boy was a very special and beautiful horse who gave the phrase "paying your dues," a whole new meaning. He raced 24 times, something that many illustrious horses don't do these days; and he earned over a million dollars, traded jabs with the best of the best, and also won some very nice stakes races himself. And he did all that after going back and forth to the shelf, after one injury and malady after another.

Wanderin Boy always had it tough, beginning when he was a baby; but he never quit, always laid his heart on the line, and his life, ultimately losing it. He was a fighter, and he deserved a long,  beautiful life. He didn't get it, and it isn't fair, but as we all know, life isn't always fair.

Wanderin Boy was really loved and will be affectionately remembered by a lot of people, myself included. His death leaves a hole in the sport.

Thanks again for your tributes to our beloved Wanderin Boy.

01 Dec 2008 7:47 PM

The way you qualified your rating,i.e. considering his campaign at 2,3 & 4 years old, I wouldn't dispute that  Spectacular Bid was the greatest with a student of the sport as erudite and thorough as you Steve, but it is awfully close between "The Bid" and Secretariat in my opinion.  I have long held the view that if Buddy Delp had resisted the temptation to try and outdo Secretariat's performance in the Belmont with Spectacular Bid he would have easily won the Triple Crown.  The hair pin accident however provived a slick excuse.  

01 Dec 2008 8:16 PM

I am saddened about Wanderin'Boy to I always love the under dogs.I started thinking about all of my thoroughbred legends books all of these horses the BID,Secretariat, Damascus,Dr.Fager all of them are great. In fact they all were different but all in this series were the greatest of all to me. There have been some good and great ones before them and some that's came after but when you read these books and also the book The Greastest 100 of the 20'th century then you know you've read about the best of the best.I love all your stories Steve please keep it up.Some good old ones maybe with sad to happy stories like Nearatric.Thank you so much.

01 Dec 2008 8:34 PM
Douglas Amos

Beautifully written and so true. The only thing Ronny Franklin ever got right was calling Bid the greatest. May be a bit remiss not to have included the also great Alydar. Thanks again.

01 Dec 2008 10:27 PM

Oh what a great story, to relive the achievements of one of the sports very greatest.  And you always amaze me with details that I never read about,even though I've been following racing since the days of Ruffian.  Now, I was a teenager when Bid came on the scene and living in Southern Cal at the time, I was a Flying Paster fan.  I hated Bud Delps cocky attitude, and I never once rooted for The Bid when he ran.  But as someone else eluded to in an earlier post, you don't always recognize greatness when you are young.  Sometimes you have to wait until you are, shall we say, "mature" to appreciate it.  Almost grudingly I came to accept, as the decades wore on, that Bid was truly GREAT.  Right up with Secretariat, Affirmed, Ruffian and the rest of the magnificant ones.

02 Dec 2008 12:13 AM

I was 20 when I fell in love with the BID. Well, I fall in love with all of the horses and Wanderin Boy was a special love. Now I just feel punched in the stomach. Somehow, Steve you can make me feel better with anything you write. The more poignant, the more healing. I guess because the tears wash away a lot of the initial hurt. But you are right about the BID. Spectacular says it all.

02 Dec 2008 12:14 AM
Steve Haskin

Once again, thank you all for your comments. I appreciate every one of them. I'm so glad these retrospectives jog so many memories. It's always great to look back at special times and relive special horses. I hope to continue them, while adding different perspectives to the horses we've all witnessed or read about, and some that are unfamiliar to many like Jim French.

02 Dec 2008 2:52 AM
Steve Haskin

LDP, you had to be impressed with Old Fashioned's race. He has the talent and now has the foundation you want going into next year.

Needler, there is nothing more complimentary to a writer than to be associated with a box of Kleenex. I thank you for that.

Steve Stone, you are way too kind. But I think there a few hundred writers that are lined up ahead of me. But thank you for your thoughts.

Richie, look me up at the Spa and we can do pancakes at Beverly's.

Sherrie, I remember R.A. Smith. He was the one walking Bid during his encounter with Davona Dale. I don't know what became of him. It's sad that we lose touch with so many people in racing.

Easy Goer, I wish there was an answer and a person who could set rules and get things done. But all we can do is be thankful there are more and more people stepping forward who do right by the horses and take care of them after they retire. We never used to have those people in the sport. Trainers and owners have to be more cognizant now of the backlash from the public whenever their methods are put in question.

02 Dec 2008 3:03 AM
The Deacon

Spectacular Bid was truly one of the 5 or 6 best ever. Also in the mix would be Damascus, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Man O' War, and Seattle Slew. I want to remember them all, for who they were, how I felt when they raced, and the great thrills they gave me. It does not matter who among these 6 was the best. At the end of the day it is just each persons opinion anyway. It's like comparing great baseball players of the past. Everyone was touched differently. The real treasure here, is that we get to relive the old memories through Steve's pen, and have our hearts touched by it's ink. Steve, somewhere down the road please do a blog on the great South American of the past. It could act as a follow-up to the wonderful story on Canonero II. How in the world do you remember this stuff?    

02 Dec 2008 3:06 AM

to Mike S...time will tell...times up...we need another BID!!!...N Oh! NINE!!!

02 Dec 2008 3:31 AM

could not agree with you more steve, the greatest horse not to win the triple crown.the grey tornado never lost between 7 furlongs and a mile and a quarter.i rest my case

02 Dec 2008 6:30 AM
Mike R.

Great article on "The Bid."  I knew his exercise rider (RA Smith) and Bobby told a group of us before the Champagne that he would win easily.  Recall him saying that he felt that the horse was pulling his arms out of his sockets when he worked him in the mornings.

02 Dec 2008 7:24 AM

As always, great column. Thank you for the story of Wanderin Boy. I think those of us who love our sport are just devastated and sick at the loss of a horse who deserved so much.

And I too, look back in fondness at Spectacular Bid. I remember the first time I saw him early one morning at Keystone (now Philly Park). It seemed everyone on the backside dropped everything to run to the track to see this young colt. He was Spectacular.. :).

Thanks again.

02 Dec 2008 8:40 AM

Steve, that image of Davona Dale and Spectacular Bid reacting to each other in the shedrow was amazing.  She was one of the greatest fillies to wear the Calumet red and blue.  I remember how easily she defeated Phoebe's Phylly  [sic?] ridden by Sandy Hawley and trained by Bill Boniface[?] in the Black Eyed Susan that year. Davona Dale was all class and I don't think Jorge Velasquez had to use her much at all to win that race.  

02 Dec 2008 9:31 AM

The best horse since 1950 was BOLD RULER who totally dominated both sprints and middle distances (and it doesn't hurt that his trainer was the beloved "Sunny" Jim; his jockey, Eddie Arcaro; and his owner, the inestimable pillar-of-the-turf, Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps.)

But when Bold Ruler conquered Round Table (the assumed 10 furlong champion) and Gallant Man (the best American marathoner maybe ever) at Round Table's chosen distance, he proved himself the horse for our lifetime. I'm not sure that his Trenton Handicap was not the finest assmeblage of horse-flesh ever going eye-to-eye to eye in America.  

So, laud "The Bid" but bow to The Ruler .  

02 Dec 2008 11:39 AM
mike c

Dr Fager was the fastest horse on an American racetrack.Spectacular Bid was not even in Fagers class from the standpoint of "fast"

02 Dec 2008 11:58 AM

If Bill Showmaker had been riding THE BID he would have been a triple crown winner,  no doubts about it.  Ronnie Franklin was a loser and a joke and HE cost the Spectacular One a triple crown,  that is sad.

02 Dec 2008 12:03 PM

I saw Bid run twice at Santa Anita and will always remember Joe Hernandez calling him Spec-TAC-ular Bid!  We then named our barn goat Spec-TAC-ular Bill, AKA Billy the Gut.

Bid's record is truly awesome.

02 Dec 2008 12:14 PM

while it is as futile a debate as comparing great boxers, one should have a specified set of criteria when attempting to GROUP the legitimate greats of history regardless of country and not be based on the age and attendance record of the assessor.  Seattle Slew and Secretariat cannot be excluded as the former defeated triple crown winners while the latter won GRI's on dirt and turf.

02 Dec 2008 1:04 PM

I was never a fan of Ronny Franklin, but he was no joke.  He was a leading apprentice rider in the late '70's and was not able to handle the pressure cooker Bud Delp put him in.  Delp was a father figure to Ronny and was extremely critical of him. That had its' good and bad points. Delp helped hone his skills and made him a better rider by far than he was when he first climbed on a horse. He also put a lot of stress on Ronny and publicly berated him which didn't help his psyche or riding.  Believe me, this kid could ride and really moved horses up when he got on them.  A good example of the kind of pressure he was under was demonstrated in the 1979 Florida Derby when Angel Cordero tried to ride the Bid and his own horse at the same time.  He herded the Bid way past the middle of the track going down the backstretch and did everything he could to keep him from winning.  The Bid still won and Cordero ruined his own horse's chances in the process.  People criticized Franklin for allowing Cordero to do this to him, but how many apprentices or young jockeys would have been savvy enough to avoid the Cordero trap?  Delp was publicly furious at Cordero's tactics and wasn't too happy with Franklin's ride either. Try withstanding the scrutiny of the world's media when you're a young insecure kid from a troubled background with a father figure like Bud Delp who was ready to jump down your back for every mistake or perceived mistake you make.  Unless you've walked in mile in his shoes.....

02 Dec 2008 1:31 PM
Will W

Further thoughts on Wanderin' Boy: Are you privy, Steve, to the details of his final moments ? Just what were the extent of his injuries ? He was vanned off. Was he put down in the van or elsewhere ? Who ultimately made the decision to euthanize the horse and how long after the injury was the decision made? From what I saw on HRTV it was certainly not a Larry Jones thing where the horse's injury and suffering was so devastating that the filly was put down by the vet before the trainer could even reach her on the track. The injury happened coming out of the turn and Velasquez had Wanderin' Boy pulled up and had dismounted at the head of the stretch. Hopefully, the fact that Wanderin' Boy was a gelding played no role in the decision to euthanize. I don't believe that was the case, but it would be nice to know more of the details of Wanderin' Boy's last moments so the racing public can rest assured he would have been saved if at all possible.

02 Dec 2008 2:16 PM
Mike S

I was on the Long Island Railroad, traveling from Manhattan to Belmont Park, for the Belmont Stakes where WAR EMBLEM was running (he finished down the track, just like he would later in the year at Del Mar), and a lady sitting across from me had a lot to say. She was so funny, partly because she didn't know what she was talking about, and partly because she was so misinformed. She was telling her husband things like, "WAR EMBLEM is one of the greatest of all time, probably the best since SECRETARIAT." A guy sitting by her said, "You forgot SUNDAY SILENCE...and much worse than that you forgot SECRETARIAT, AFFIRMED, SEATTLE SLEW, FOREGO and JOHN HENRY. Oh! And SPECTACULAR BID! What about him?" She said, "WAR EMBLEM is considered the best since SECRETARIAT, so I don't know what to tell you." I must have been laughing to myself, because I didn't want to be impolite.

The guy went on to tell her that AFFIRMED and SPECTACULAR BID had accomplished so much more than WAR EMBLEM had to the same point in their careers. She argued that AFFIRMED had come into the Triple Crown "on a major losing streak," when, in fact, he had won all his races as a three year old prior to the Derby. He then told her that SPECTACULAR BID had demolished his competition as well, but she said, "Everyone knows he was overrated." Finally the informed man quit talking to the ignorant lady. I can only imagine that that same lady must have been on the LIRR the day of this year's Belmont Stakes and must have been talking up BIG BROWN in the same way!  LOLOLOL!!!! SPECTACULAR BID was a good 3 lengths better than BIG BROWN, and probably 6 lengths better than WAR EMBLEM.

By the way, at distances of 1 mile or I think SPECTACULAR BID was very much DR. FAGER'S equal. And that's not a put down of DR. FAGER, I recognize what a great horse he was and I know he was among the very best. SPECTACULAR BID did run a 1:20 for 7 furlongs in the Malibu Stakes, and as a 2 year old he won by 15 lengths in 1:20-4/5, so let's not forget that. And I also truly believe that if Shoemaker had been riding The Bid all along he would have won the Triple Crown. The greatest jockey on the greatest horse...now that's a team!

02 Dec 2008 2:26 PM

What a perfect read, on a "perfect" horse.  

Spectacular Bid is the reason I watch horse racing; the reason I started, and the reason I still do. He remains the cornerstone of my passion for this sport. And yes, he is also the greatest racehorse I have ever seen.

As a young teenager back in 1980, I was thrilled when they came to CA (my home state), and was blessed to see him not only race, but out for works as well (including a public work between races one great afternoon). I remember being reduced to a weeping mess when he was retired.

In 2003, I attended the memorial for Bill Shoemaker at Santa Anita, just a few days before the Breeders' Cup that year. At the end of a glorious remembrance service for the great horse racing legend The Shoe, they showed a movie they had made for him. (Steve, I bet you remember it well, too!).

Towards the end, they had a close-up slow motion of Bid and Shoe, breaking from some long ago starting gate, off to another victory. In that moment, with the tears streaming, I said goodbye to them both. I like to think they're hanging out together in that big "somehwere", wherever it is.

Without Spectacular Bid, I don't think I'd have ever been a horse racing fan, or discovered the sport at all, except for maybe in passing. He made it possible to go on and fall in love with the likes of Genuine Risk, John Henry, Flawlessly, Paseana, Bayakoa, Ferdinand, and entirely too many more to name. In this current day and age of racing, where it's harder and harder to find a superstar, because they don't stay around, Bid still makes it possible to have begun new affairs, and have hope, with horses like Smarty Jones, Lava Man (obviously!) and the mighty Curlin, to name just three.

While I agree with you Steve, there may never be another like 'Bid, if for no other reason they're never given the chance...but once you have a Spectacular Bid in your racing memories, the hope never totally goes away, that maybe.. someday....

For me, Curlin has come the closest, and my appreciation for him rides on the back that there once was a Spectacular Bid at all...and he made it possible 28 years later for this race fan to "see" Curlin.

So many horses, so many memories...and I am deeply indebted to Spectacular Bid for them all.

Thanks Steve, this was a "Make My Tuesday!" read.

And thank you for remembering Wanderin Boy... that hard trying gutsy boy deserved better than his end, and he should be remembered always! RIP, brave one.

02 Dec 2008 2:48 PM

Reading this story brought back memories of a time when there were so many wonderful champions in racing. At Santa Anita, where I photographed the likes of Affirmed, Ancient Title, Cougar II, John Henry, Exceller, and so many others, I always felt a rush when 'The Bid' came through the tunnel and appeared on the track, the fans were excited and you could feel the electricity as the Shoe sat on this great champion going to the post. 'The Bid' was all business, and somehow, he knew the race was his. Today, there are young photographers who still ask, as to who I thought was the greatest thoroughbred that I have photographed, and with a smile, I tell them, ' There was one, Spectacular Bid, who was not the most beautiful horse, but he was the powerful horse that brought a wall of noise from the top of the stretch to the finish line, with thousands of fans cheering'. I guess  that I will have to wait for some time to see something like that again/        

02 Dec 2008 3:38 PM

Did you ever see Count Fleet Steve?

No horse had a better year at 3 than he did.

02 Dec 2008 4:43 PM
Mike S

BILLMO...you photographed COUGAR II? Do you have any great pictures you might be willing to sell? COUGAR was Mr. Personality, and a great racehorse to boot, and I'll always remember his flashy style and attitude.

02 Dec 2008 5:22 PM
Marc W

Good article as usual, love also when I get someone as well known as you to agree on my greatest horses-re:Dr Fager and I certainly wouldn't disagree on the Bid for 3 years-my choices and comments argued on other blogs.

I can't defend some disagreeing, as I never saw Citation or Man O War, and to comment on Hoist the Flag and maybe even Candy Ride is senseless as in some other thoughts as they are like gamblers shoulda-woulda-although they would be among the best in my racetrack lifetime although totally unprovable.

My sad thought is-in the past people cared-even those not in the game---Ask anyone who or what Man O War was in 1970--they knew. The people on these blogs know Seattle Slew or Affirmed but unlike Secretariat the general public doesn't and Secretariat's fame who not go nearly as long as Man O War's-my god, we even created a new word meaning for his only loss-Upset! Racing "was" important to John Doe Public in past days.

Steve, as sad as I am for Wandering Boy's mishap I am sadder that the game is dying and loyal fans like on this pages/blogs are fewer and fewer. Soon the arguments on who is the best will die out as unimportant because so few will care. It not "our game" but it is- "Horse Racing" in "Harness" two of best "EVER" raced this year and nobody but the small group of truly loyal fans really knew about it.

On another note.

Still pushing for a Avelino Gomez article if ever you have time. In all my time around the game I have never known a more colorful character. (At least no know with the great talent-he would make Charles Barley seem dull) I wish you would introduce him to some readers.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

02 Dec 2008 5:51 PM
Harry and Tom Meyerhoff

Steve, Thank you for your wonderful words. I know we have and always will cherish the thrills and memories that Bid brought us, and so appreciate such a great tribute.

02 Dec 2008 5:54 PM
Remember the Fog

I shouldn't have to present this, but sorry, I must: many people lie and B.S.--the clock doesn't, and to the knowlegable, who understand how to relate race clockings to how a track is playing, on a given day; speed differentials between different tracks, and how extended a horse was at winning in record time--one can arrive at informed decisions.

If three horses arrive at the wire, a head apart, and in record time, that's one thing; but it's completely another when one horse crosses the wire in record time and his nearest competitor is 10 lengths in arrears.

Also, one must consider the clockings of other races on the card, when judging records: Hawkster was not a great horse, yet he owned S.A.'s 11/2 mile turf record for quite some time.

By any reasonable measure, Spectacular Bid exceeds the necessary threshhold that garners entry into the pantheon of

greatness--into the top five of the 20th century--but that's just my humble opinion.

02 Dec 2008 6:43 PM

Citation had a pretty good 3yo year. The 57 Derby field turned out some tough handicap stars.

02 Dec 2008 7:02 PM

RIP Wanderin Boy. Thank you for including him in this post. I couldn't even enjoy Cocoa Beach's Matriarch win after reading about Wanderin Boy's tragic demise. Shakis too.......

02 Dec 2008 8:50 PM
A Canuck's Comment

Steve: The passing of 7-yr old Wanderin Boy is such a tragedy. He fought so hard to live. He will be remembered fondly and we thank you for your including him in this post. You have provided some your wonderful memories of The Bid. Where were you when Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in 1973. We're just curious, because he is our hero.

02 Dec 2008 11:47 PM

"Shoemaker, despite never asking him to run at any point, still allowed Bid to close each of his final two quarters in a mind-boggling :24 1/5. Horses rarely come home that fast in a normal race, never mind running against no one. By running his mile and a quarter in 2:02 2/5, faster than Buckpasser, Kelso (in 1962), and Sword Dancer, Bid re-aggravated his sesamoid injury, which forced his retirement". Great as he was, he is the same rider than ended Forli's career.

03 Dec 2008 12:22 AM
The Deacon

Just a thought here Steve, but you just said in the this blog that you were only going to write about current events for awhile. At the time I write this, there were 63 responses to this incredible story you wrote about Spectacular Bid. Maybe I am wrong here but what is exciting about today's current events regarding our great sport. We have essentially no quality handicap horses running in 2009, the Europeans will be back to win the Breeders Cup Classic again at Santa Anita, this years 3 year old crop (except Big Brown) was less then steller, and the best 2 year olds have been sold and shipped overseas. Please keep up with the nostalgia, it what keeps me interested in this once great sport. Horse racing is slowly losing it's fan base and it's idenity. We must hold onto yesterday's heroes so that we can show the owners and trainers of today how it was done right. Look Steve, 63 responses, nuff said..............

03 Dec 2008 2:46 AM
Steve Haskin

First off, thanks Harry and Tom for your comments and the best of luck to you.

Canuck, actually I wish I could say I was at the '73 Belmont, but I was working at the DRF that day. Sunday and Wednesday were my days off and I was often in the office for many big races back then. It was a lot fun watching the races on TV with all the editors and other fellow workers. Saturday was always a busy day needless to say. I was able to get to the track for plenty of big races, but for that Belmont I was needed in the office.

Deacon, I agree with you, but I just thought maybe it was too much and people were getting tired of them. I havent had any comments other than yours and maybe one other to stay with the historical/personal pieces, but we'll see. I'll play it by ear each week.

03 Dec 2008 10:07 AM
Gene Viti

I'll forgive you one lapse.  You left out the fact we also lost Bold Forbes in 2000, Affirmed in 2001, Seattle Slew in 2002 and Bid in 2003.

Great writing as usual!

03 Dec 2008 10:37 AM
marc W

I left one other thought off my post that another picked up on. Ronny Franklin was no Shoe, but in the year Bid was in Florida I saw him win a number of races on horses not so famous-he was a decent rider, quite fearless and a strong finisher. His Florida Derby which I saw (I was close to the group with Jean-Louis Levesque, and John Starr and they had the champion Canadian 2 yr old running that day against Bid)---it was one of the worst rides ever-and he/Bid won easily.

One of the great things about Jerry Bailey was not that he could win races with great rides-which he could sometimes-he just hardly ever got the best horse beat. I very much think J. Rose is a top flight and underrated rider but Afleet Alex should never have lost as a 2 yr old except by horrible decisions by the rider. Pat Day could/ should have maybe have 3 Ky Derby wins in my opinion before retiring and I am not counting Easy Goer as one because the better horse won that day. He was a great rider. Shoemaker is famous for the Gallant Man mistake but still could have won the bob -it was a nip and tuck race that could have still had the same result. BUT! His Preakness ride on Linkage was criminally bad, as the trainers decision not to run in the Derby-the horse never should have been beaten-he was much the best. Note- I consider Shoe the greatest ever. Naming Ronny Franklin as the fall guy if he lost the FL Derby which he didn't, is one thing-It was just fate that "The Bid" is not a Triple Crown winner-pin maybe? It just wasn't to be and he hardly lost by a nose, it wasn't close. Horses are not machines to be very unoriginal on a quote.

03 Dec 2008 12:01 PM

Steve, I am loving these trips down memory lane!  As far as I'm concerned, you can just keep 'em coming.

03 Dec 2008 12:19 PM

Tears and Chills, I started following racing in the spring of 1978, When Seattle Slew was 4, Affirmed was 3 and THE BID was 2. I thought that was what racing was about. Did not know how lucky I was to be around to see those 3 great Champions race. But you are right THE BID was and still is the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle. Thanks for reliving the memories. tears and chills again

03 Dec 2008 12:32 PM
Steve Haskin

Lovemylava, I'm a bit late acknowledging your comments, but thanks for sharing that story.

03 Dec 2008 2:50 PM

I know this is off topic but how's this for a 3yo season.

19 wins in 20 starts

Earnings 709,470 (1948)

Raced Feb to Dec.

Beat older horses from Feb. to Dec.

Won at every distance (6f to 2 miles)

Won at 10 different tracks,seven states.

Tracks labled fst,slop,heavy,mud and gd.

Won his races by cumulative 66 lengths.

Won Triple Crown by a total of 17 lengths.

At yearend his lifetime record was 29 27-2-0


03 Dec 2008 3:04 PM

One lingering thought on this great article: The revisiting of the immortals of the sport has generated the kind of responses that show how hungry we all are to witness racing greatness.  One thing we must be thankful for this year is that for the first half of the year most of us were salivating over the potential of Big Brown wondering (like Oprah Winfrey about Senator/ now Presedent-Elect Obama) if he was the one.  What a pity he didn't make it to the Breeder's Cup and will also lose out in the HOTY vote.  Now we wait for the next promising colt of 2009.  Looking forward to your early Derby Dozen Steve.  If Big Drama wins the Delta Jackpot this weekend he could be a special one inspite of stamina questions.  

The fact that it took Spectacular Bid three seasons to achieve immortality while Secretariat achieved it in two seasons gives "Big Red" the edge over "The Bid" for the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle...in the last forty years...not to offend the backers of Dr. Fager, Native Dancer and Man O' War.  

03 Dec 2008 5:22 PM

I'm just wondering how long it's going to take to turn this into a Big Brown vs. Curlin debate.

03 Dec 2008 8:34 PM
Steve Haskin

Mike, I can assure you the names Curlin and Big Brown will not appear again.

03 Dec 2008 9:08 PM
marc W.

Lukas accomplishments are mind blowing but I haven’t got him on the top of my list of greatest trainers-but I can’t look at a paper and say he isn’t-or win an argument (pre -1950 contract trainers great as they were, had monopolies on good horses which inflated their records)

Shoemaker is top on my list of jockeys because he had a magical touch plus brains to see how a race was setting up, he certainly couldn’t out strength or finish Pincay. Anyone putting Pincay, Bailey, Acaro or many others would be hard to fault.

Horses, Jockey’s, Trainers, it is all subjective with no definite right answers.

I know, I think I am right as other do, arguing is senseless with one little caveat.

Myself, and a few others have one thing in their favor-if in a self-righteous mode-We saw the great ones run- and are not just reading stats. I know without a program or entries at one time in the past I could tell almost every jockey in race a race by the way he looked in a race in New York and Toronto racing. Today maybe Gomez, Chavez, The Mig, and a few others still are easy to spot because of the way they whip, bounce, or sit on a horse. I have seen some trainers go in every stall every day, claimer or stakes horse, and perform miracles improving horses without vets or drugs just by a sixth sense and experience.  I have seen with my own eyes, which horses just refused to lose or just did things so effortlessly and were superior to the competition.

It’s a wonderful game even if it is dying-somebody is right every day and has boasting rights-all for $2.00.

04 Dec 2008 1:22 PM
Matthew W

The 1980 Strub was the only time I ever saw "Bid in person. It was all I needed to say he was the best horse I ever saw, and that still goes today.....My brother Pete said I "had" to see "Bid and Paster", so I got off work early that day--we got to Santa Anita around the 5th race, in time to see Radar Ahead defeat Double Discount in a supporting feature....It was a windy/cool day, I remember walking up the path between the barns and the saddling paddock...and there I was, virtually alone, and here comes Bud Delp in loud sportcoat, alongside his Spectacular Bid---I was taken aback by the lack of "class tells" in 'Bid---at least the physical ones, he was leggy and ordinary looking, and when they came out of the paddock, that long green paddock which I loved, they walked through the people on the way to the walking ring, the beautiful Santa Anita walking ring with the statue of Seabiscuit, I remember STILL not being impressed with Bid, even when I saw Shoe, the classic, stoic, manly Bill Freakin Shoemaker---the same man who was being shuffled through the croud one day as they need to do on busy cards, but stopped and ran back to sign my little sisters program---As Shoe mounted up, it was Flying Paster who was getting all the "ooohs and ahhs"---He was a powerhouse of a blood-bay and looked the part....Relaunch was a brilliant and large dirty light grey.....Valdez was also a class horse, chestnut....Spectacular Bid was a steel grey, a regal walking/head held high (which I have learned is often a sign of class/intelligence)...I did not bet the race--my brother played the Bid Paster one way exacta and I think it paid $13 for $5 and my brother still brags about it being the easiest 8/5 proposition he ever took.....we watched it from The Clockers Corner, where we watched all of our races as it was free" there--and you could really get a feel for a race when you stare down the far turn---Horses that tire will start to lose their balance in their stride/horses that are full of run are leaning into the turn---As they come out of the gate in front of us, somebody yells "attaboy Eddie!" as Eddie D guns Relaunch---but Bid makes a mid-race move into a fast pace---I'm thinking Paster is going to blow by them all as Shoe took the 1:32 and change one-turn mile---but it was there on the far turn, I saw what I saw--Spectacular Bid...having run that mile, was in full and relaxed lean on that final bend, and as he ran past us--with Flying Paster in full out pursuit---Flying Paster from 1 mi to 1 1/8 mi is the best Cal Bred I've seen----Bid just was so good that day--I knew immediately I was watching greatness, as if in slow-motion---Steve, I'm prejudiced as I never saw Secretariat/Dr Fager race---but put the 20 best in the Churchill Gate---The horse that wins more races than ANY other--is Spectacular Bid! To top things off, my boss had given me $30 to bet on Shoe in the last race--he said if Shoe's riding a race AFTER The Strub--it must be "live"....Future Swaps winner First Albert won the nightcap, Wm Shoemaker up...and I handed my boss $600---then he handed me back $200---What a memorable day! I saw "The Greatest Horse To Ever Look Through A Bridle"...Bud Delp....Bill Shoemaker.....and got paid!!  

04 Dec 2008 9:33 PM
Matthew W

Between 6 1/2 fur and 1 1/4 mi Spectacular Bid is 26 for 26---he's within two lengths of Dr Fager at 1/4 pole and he waltzs right on by---no, only Secretariat gives Bid a race--none of the others, in my opinion, get the best of Bid---and in a best of seven, Secretariat doesn't win four.....

04 Dec 2008 9:50 PM

Oh man the Bid! I had a t-shirt that showed Bid and Franklin superimposed over the state of MD and read 'the Bid and the Kid: MD's Triple Crown threat!' )Wonder if my mother still has it?)  I clearly remember the day he appeared at Bowie racecourse right after the fourth race: I can still see that big gray horse loping around the track!  I still have the two free photos the track was handing out. I also remember forgoing the 9th grade class trip to Hershey Park because it was scheduled on Belmont Day. For the want of a decent ride and a safety pin-free stall...

And the Woodward Walkover? How strange to see a one-horse race, but that's how powerful the Bid was--no one wanted to take him on. An incredible race horse--I'm glad I'm old enough to remember him!

04 Dec 2008 10:15 PM
The Deacon

Why can't you folks just enjoy the wonderful memories Steve provides for us. We always have to compare greatness. It's all subjective anyway. As I said earlier, each person is affected differently each each individual race horse. I have seen every great race horse run since 1956. In my opinion, Dr. fager was the best, up to perhaps 1 1/8 miles. Spectacular Bid and Secretariat were the best from that point on. Look at the weights each horse carried, the times of the race and the different track conditions. Spectacular Bid loved Santa Anita, look at his 1 1/4 mile world record of 1:57 4/5, still standing, and his brilliant 7 furlong time in the Malibu.

Back in the day at Santa Anita old horseman would tell me that Citation and Man O' War were the 2 best. but I do not think Citation ever won a race carrying 130 lbs. Nonetheless, he was still brilliant. Perhaps one of the top 2 or 3 performances I ever saw was in 1967 when Damascus destroyed the competition in the Travers Stakes. I think he won by 22 lengths or so. No one ever talks about that race. How about in 1956, Swaps setting a world record in the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park under 130 lbs and running a 139 1/5 for the 1 1/16

miles. I was there, although only 7 years old, but I remember the race.

Let's just admire all of the great ones, and perhaps for just one race or for just one day, they were all unbeatable.

Merry Xmas and Happy New Years Steve................    

05 Dec 2008 3:10 AM
Monica V

Aaah, Steve, you've done it again!  What a great article and I totally agree with you, The Bid was the greatest and you're right, we will never see the likes of him again.  He was just magnificent!

I visited Claiborne Farm when I was in KY for the Breeder's Cup at Churchill in 1988.  The Bid was then in the paddock next to Secretariat.  The groom told me they used to race each other in the mornings side by side.  I visited again in 1989 and saw The Bid quite by accident.  I was leaving Stone Farm and was on a small road that ran along the side of Claiborne.  Standing in a small Paddock on this far side of the farm was the great one himself.  I stopped the car and got out and stood next to the little stone wall the runs around Clairborne.  I was taking pictures of him and stood there looking at me and was trying to talk to me, as though he wanted me to come closer and pet him.  I was really tempted to climb over the little wall to go see him but thought better of it.

Now I so wish I had done it.  How often are you in the presence of greatness?

05 Dec 2008 2:23 PM

I was alive but not racehorse aware in the 70s and so missed all of that greatness. "My" first Derby was Gato Del Sol's. I look back in wonder (and sadnesss) for what I barely missed. I am very appreciative of these "looks back" and while I enjoy the current events too I would hate to think Steve will stop doing them, I think you should throw out at least one a month.

As for Wanderin' Boy, my heart goes out to Nick Zito and the barn staff that loved him. I really liked WB and Sun King and they both came to sad ends.

Monica, I had to laugh about your story with the Bid in the field...with a stallion it's sometimes hard to tell if he's lonely and wants some love OR if he's bored and wants someone to chase around his field, lol. Lucky you to have been so close (and to Secretariat too!).

And lastly I wanted to say goodbye to Wild Again. RIP.

05 Dec 2008 4:53 PM

We have a limited addition print of the Bid, the Shoe up in the San Fernando Stakes. signed by the artist (S.Cruiana) and by Shoemaker. What's it worth? To us priceless.

The greatest horse to look thru a bridle with the greatest rider to ever ride. What a team!

05 Dec 2008 11:23 PM
Matthew W

Monica for years and years I thought about going out to visit 'Bid and never did---Your anecdotal story helps.....I always thought 'Bid MUST be intelligent, the way he ran, relaxed but always at the ready to unleash that burst of pure speed when straightened out---And there, as you gazed along the wall, looking at "The Great One" himself.....you simply took it all in, as I did the one and only time I saw him, before/during/and after his stirring Strub....So many awesome races that horse did run...General Assembly and Flying Paster were good horses---'Bid was better by so much, time after time, stamina with speed aplenty---In the face of Secretariat, Affirmed, Alydar, Seattle Slew---comes Spectacular Bid, who took it to another level, and cast his own shadow amongst those racing immortals---Truly, his OWN shadow: second to none!

06 Dec 2008 3:45 AM

One of my greatest racing memories is sitting on top of the fence surrounding the infield at Pimlico screaming GO BID ! GO BID ! as he flew down the strtch at Pimlico in the Preakness while security tried to remove me from the fence LOL ! What a day that was. He was indeed Spectacular.

06 Dec 2008 4:43 PM

When I was a kid, my Dad drove me from DC to KY and we went to Calumet Farm. They sent us to the award room which is now in part at the Racing Hall of Farm and Ben Jones had a glass encased saddle made of pure gold given to him by the Aga Khan. Past the room was the stallion barn and when I walked inside was Tim Tam, Yorktown, and Citation. He was all the way down at the end on the left. Back then you could just walk up and give him a carrot if you wanted to. He was very noble looking. Yorktown was interested in what we were doing there, and Tim Tam looked rough. He had every vein showing through his skin. My Dad said that was from running outside himself. That he tried so hard. We then went to Stallion Station and the groom Beatle showed us around. He was Carry Back's groom and had the scars to prove it. The owner had given him a silver lighter with his name on it because Carry Back had bit him in the hip so hard he walked with a limp thereafter. They had electric wire running the entire paddock for the horse because he had climbed the fence and attacked Tomy Lee. Tomy Lee was so tame they put my three year old niece on his back and gave her a pony ride. I was green with envy.

I can no longer recall all the other horses there at that time.

I returned to Calument a couple of years later and was there for the birth of Forward Pass. He was a beautiful horse. Later I returned again when Alydar retired. My last visit was outside the fenceline of the stallion paddocks alone the road the day of Nelson Bunker Hunts

auction. Affirmed was a Calument then in the paddock next to Alydar.

Days later Alydar was gone and the rest is history.

My favorite trainer is Carl Hanford. He conditioned Kelso better and longer than any one trainer in racing history. The idea that Kelso raced with the weights he carried and stayed sound as long as he did had alot to do with the care he was given by his owner and his trainer.

If Wandering Boy had had a owner like Mrs. Dupont he never would have raced after they found the ulcer. All the stress he was going through. He was a great and game fella. Someone should remember him for a long time.

Once I remember her in a grey and yellow suit waiting for Shoemaker to land in a helicopter she hired for him to fly from NY to Bowie for the Campbell. He landed right in the infield and walked in the paddock and got on Kelso. I don't recall if it was the race with Gun Bow or the one with Mongo. I went to both but I was a kid. They were exciting races. The DRF had drawings of two big soup cans on the cover, chicken Gun Bow and the other had creamed Kelso. I still have his framed picture they sold at Laure after he finally won the International in record time! It cost $5.00 and it was my entire savings for the year.

Anyhow if anyone has any available stalls Finger Lakes rescue is in dire need of a few. They have 24 retired race horses to find homes for and no time to place them as they normally would. I would go get them for people but I don't have a trailer big enough for all the horses. If anyone is interested in helping contact Finger Lakes rescue there barn is on the race track property and they have a website.

06 Dec 2008 8:14 PM
Remember the Fog

It troubles me not a whit hear the arguements: Secretariat vs Spectacular Bid. My paddocks each contain one chestnut, one grey--and they be them, never be saddled again.

By the way, the Bid blossomed into

an older horse of uncommon beauty, and at 26, to see his still sleek form galloping, ivory mane and tail billowing in the wind, backlit by the setting sun...well, beauty is in the eye....

06 Dec 2008 8:55 PM


You redefine what is the single greatest thing about thoroughbred horse racing:  the incredible impact this sport has on each person it captivates...many thanks for the memories...

08 Dec 2008 11:53 PM
R2 D2

Bud Delp was a class act.  Out of that entire Spectacular Bid crowd I respected the groom and Delp.  I remember the owners being pompous and nasty.

If you ever got to know Delp, he was the funniest people you could meet.  Not to mention he was the best dressed trainer on the racetrack in those days.    

09 Dec 2008 2:18 AM
Matthew W

Bud Delp walked the walk with 'Bid---and yes he was well (and loudly) dressed! Bud Delp was sincere and engaging--he wasn't one to gloss his horses--but when 'Bid came along--after Secretariat, 'Slew, Affirmed/Alydar---and this guy's saying he's "the greatest horse to look through a bridle"---and then it's startling good race after race...Flying Paster would've had some career but for 'Bid, he was always well clear---as was 'Bid!

10 Dec 2008 11:12 PM

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