Sham Rocks

Lucien Laurin, wearing a bright burgundy sport jacket, bent down to tighten the girth on Secretariat, and then placed the colt’s familiar blue and white checked blinkers on his head. Big Red stood motionless on the Pimlico grass course saddling area staring straight ahead, his muscle lines rippling and his golden chestnut coat as radiant as ever.

Standing only a foot away, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, so I reached for my camera and quickly got the shot before the horse moved. Just as I clicked the shutter, Big Red, hearing the sound that had become so familiar to him, turned his head and looked at me, as if to say, “Here’s a better shot.” I clicked again, and as it turned out, he was right. My second photo of Secretariat staring right at me through his blinkers remains one of the most special shots I’ve ever taken.

To be that close to Secretariat and see him in all his splendor was as good as it gets. I then turned around to check out the other horses being saddled, and there before me was a vision as breathtaking as Secretariat.

This horse, however, was dark seal brown in color, with a coat that glistened like burnished copper. Like Big Red, he was big and powerful with an air of nobility about him. But he was more refined, like a chiseled sculpture. The horse was Sham, and having only seen him in the flesh from the grandstand in the Wood Memorial, I had no idea what a magnificent creature he was. He was an athlete in the purest sense. That image of Sham in the Pimlico saddling area remains as indelible today as it did 36 years ago. I still have to wonder if two more spectacular-looking colts ever stood on the same track together.

Last year, I paid tribute to Secretariat on this blog on his 35th anniversary. Now it is Sham’s turn.

It is said that a warrior’s greatness is measured by the courage of his opponents. The same applies to athletes. Beyond all of Secretariat’s record times and winning margins lies the horse who pushed him to three track records and helped secure his place in history. Sham will forever live in the shadows of Big Red, but once every few years he deserves to be thrust into the spotlight he was denied more than three decades ago.

When an athlete pushes another to perform great feats, and still stands apart from the others, it suggests a fine line between himself and the history books. Going strictly by the numbers, take Secretariat away and Sham wins the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by eight lengths, both in blazing-fast times. It has become a cliché to say “in any other year…” But there is no denying that Sham, like Alydar, was born in the wrong year.

Let’s not forget that there is much more to Sham’s resume than finishing second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Before he came face to face with his nemesis, Sham won the Santa Anita Derby in a stakes record-equaling 1:47 flat and captured the Santa Catalina Stakes over a deep, muddy track. Prior to those races he won a pair of 1 1/16-mile allowance races by six and 15 lengths. In his six-length score, his time of 1:41 2/5 was only a second off the track record. In his final start at 2, he broke his maiden at Aqueduct by six lengths, also in the mud, in hand the length of the stretch.

Some were down on him for getting beat a head in the Wood Memorial to Secretariat’s stablemate Angle Light, even though he finished four lengths ahead of Big Red. But the track had been playing dead all week, and Sham had worked four days before the race, blazing five furlongs in :58 flat. By comparison, Secretariat worked a mile the same day in 1:42 2/5, with Angle Light also working a mile in 1:42.

In the Wood, Angle Light controlled the pace with slow fractions of :24 3/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12 1/5, with Sham sitting 1 1/2 lengths back the whole way. Secretariat, as was learned later, had an abscess in his mouth and was in great discomfort from the bit. Jorge Velasquez could have taken on Angle Light whenever he pleased, but he felt he needed to save as much horse as possible to brace for the oncoming assault of Secretariat, which never came. By the time he realized it was just him and Angle Light, they were inside the eighth pole and by then it was too late. And let’s not forget that Angle Light was coming off a good third, beaten only a length, in the Louisiana Derby, and before that romped by 10 lengths in a one-mile allowance race at Aqueduct, run in a swift 1:35 3/5. In his previous start, he was beaten two heads in the Flamingo Stakes, by Our Native and My Gallant, after going head and head the entire race. So, this was no easy opponent by any means, especially when loose on an easy lead.

Sham was owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and trained by Woody Stephens as a 2-year-old. When Claiborne owner A.B. “Bull” Hancock died in late 1972, the racing stock was put up for auction. Among the 2-year-olds on the block was Sham, a son of Pretense, out of the Princequillo mare Sequoia, who was purchased by Sigmund Sommer for $200,000.

Sommer, a New York businessman, was looking to expand his breeding operation and saw Sham as a potential major stallion prospect. Stephens told him he was very talented horse, but he didn’t fully blossom until he was three. Sommer turned Sham over to his regular trainer Frank “Pancho” Martin, who brought him to California for the winter.

Sommer’s wife, Viola, recalled several years later, “The Santa Anita Derby was really a high point. I remember, he was so relaxed while he was being saddled I turned to my husband and said, ‘Doesn’t he know he’s about to run in a very important race?’

“But that’s the way he was. After he ate up every afternoon, he’d lie down in his stall and take a little siesta. He was a lovely, beautiful animal and we enjoyed him so much. He was so well-behaved, you had to love him.”

In the Kentucky Derby, his regular rider Laffit Pincay was back on him, and this time they weren’t about to have a repeat of the Wood. This time there would be no waiting; Pincay would get the jump on Secretariat and make him try to catch him. Pincay moved Sham up from fifth to second behind the fast sprinter Shecky Greene. Around the far turn, Pincay felt it was time to try to bust the race wide open and asked Sham for his move, feeling he could blow right on by Shecky Greene, who was coming off a five-length, wire-to-wire victory in the seven-furlong Stepping Stone Purse a week earlier. But although Shecky Greene was a fast sprinter, having won the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes in 1:20 4/5, he did follow that up with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth Stakes over a “slow” track.

So, when Sham moved up to challenge for the lead, he found a stubborn Shecky Greene, who wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. He pushed Sham through a fourth quarter in :24 2/5, softening him up for Secretariat’s big closing kick. Big Red came charging up on the far outside nearing the quarter pole and looked as if he were going to draw off, but Sham still had plenty left. He ran with Secretariat until inside the eighth pole, but he couldn’t keep pace with Big Red’s spectacular record final quarter in :23 1/5, which resulted in a track-record final time of 1:59 2/5. Not only had Secretariat smashed Northern Dancer’s track record of 2:00, Sham also bettered the record, going in 1:59 4/5. It would take 28 years for a horse to equal his time. Sham was beaten 2 1/2 lengths, but was eight lengths ahead of third-place finisher Our Native.

What made Sham’s performance all the more impressive was the fact that he had hit his head on the side of the starting gate at the break with such force he knocked out two of his teeth and returned bleeding heavily from his mouth. When he returned to be unsaddled, his two teeth were dangling, held together by only a thin strip of his gum. Back at the barn, it took three-quarters of an hour to stop the bleeding and cauterize the wound.

The Preakness was pretty much the same story, as Secretariat again beat Sham by 2 1/2 lengths, with a gap of eight lengths back to Our Native in third. This time, Sham’s misfortune came when he banged into the rail going into the clubhouse turn, just as Big Red was beginning a spectacular last-to-first move on the first turn that caught everyone by surprise. He opened a clear lead on Sham down the backstretch and maintained it to the wire.

By the time Belmont day rolled around, it became apparent that Sham was not the same horse. He became uncharacteristically nervous before the race and was wringing wet by the time he got to the gate. He outran Secretariat early, as planned, but had little challenge for Big Red when he moved alongside down the backstretch, especially with the blazing fractions they were running. After three-quarters in an unheard of 1:09 4/5, Sham faded into the footnotes of history, while Secretariat kept pouring it on, shattering the record books and establishing his place in the pantheon of the immortals.

Several weeks after the Belmont, the unfortunate Sham suffered a fractured cannon bone. Following a two-hour operation, in which three screws were inserted in his leg, the prognosis looked good for a complete recovery. But later in the year, it was decided it would be in the colt’s best interest to retire him.

“We all cried because he was such a brave horse and had his career end so early,” Viola Sommer said. “All I kept thinking was ‘What if?’”

Although Sham came along in the wrong year, as everyone agrees, Sommer still has fond memories of his battles with Secretariat. “The rivalry was so good for the sport,” she said. “It gave racing a real revival. Penny Tweedy was a great ambassador, and everyone got caught up in it.”

Sham was retired to Spendthrift Farm, and then later moved to Walmac. In the early morning hours of April 3, 1993, the nightwatchman checked in on Sham and found the 23-year-old stallion dead in his stall, the victim of an apparent heart attack.

“I was really saddened, but I felt good that he had a very peaceful, happy life and didn’t endure any pains or illnesses,” Sommer said. “He wound up being an excellent broodmare sire, and all things considered, I feel warm about his place in history.”

After his death, an autopsy revealed that Sham’s heart weighed an incredible 18 pounds, more than double the normal Thoroughbred heart, which is 8.5 pounds. By comparison, the great Eclipse’s heart weighed 14 pounds, which was unheard of. It was so large, a London surgeon decided to weigh it following the horse’s death in 1789. The only heart believed to have weighed more than Sham’s was, you guessed it, Secretariat, whose heart was estimated at 22 pounds by Dr. Thomas Swerczek, head pathologist at the University of Kentucky.

Even in death, Sham broke all records, only to finish second to Secretariat.


Leave a Comment:


Thank you for giving Sham a little time in the spotlight. :)

09 Jul 2009 1:30 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for another GREAT article. Through your words, Sham came to life again. You showed us what a courageous, beautiful horse he was.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the "winning big horse" that we fail to give credit to the "loser" for a magnificent effort.

Sham was truly unlucky to be born the same year as Secretariat, but your article gives us a greater appreciation of his talent, his beauty and his accomplishments.

It's a shame that some people belittle the "losing" horses to elevate their favorite. You reminded us what courage and heart horses have, even in defeat. Thank you!

09 Jul 2009 1:41 PM
Loved Sham

Thank you for remembering Sham.  I loved Sham and was lucky to see him and his sire Pretense at Spendthrift.  He was a great horse and had so much heart.

09 Jul 2009 1:45 PM
Cowboy Bobtangobell

I was the swingman at the Spendthrift stallion complex when Sham was there.Sham and Mickey were  my favorites. Kennedy Road was my least favorite. If any of my fellow bloggers know who Mickey was or why KR was my least favorite they deserve some respect as true students of the sport.

09 Jul 2009 1:48 PM

Thank You Steve!  This horse deserves this respect!

09 Jul 2009 1:57 PM

Thank you so much for bringing Sham to the spotlight!  I always loved him and was probably one of the few that was genuinely sad that he lost to Secretariat.

09 Jul 2009 2:01 PM
Lady Ruffian

As always Steve, amazing writing. Great tribute to a champion.

09 Jul 2009 2:04 PM
Twin C Stables

Thanks Steve.  This horse has always intrigued me and I always wonder what he would have done on the track if Secretariat hadn't wore him down as a 3 year old.  I was unaware that he was as good looking a specimen as you say and that he was kind and gentle.  It makes him even more likeable and I'm glad that he lived a long life.

09 Jul 2009 2:05 PM

Thank you for your great writing! It actually makes us fans feel like we were right there!

09 Jul 2009 2:20 PM
Ernie Munick

"...having only seen him in the flesh from the grandstand in the Wood Memorial..."

Nine years old, I was there too, in the grandstand,  at the rail with my dad, who thought "they stiffed Secretariat so they could push up his price for the Derby." This was a Ph.D talking.

Forgot about the details of the week leading up to the Wood---dead track, Sham blazing work, Red's abscess---I didn't know Woody had trained Sham!

Sham's bloodied dangling teeth after the Derby---amazing detail.

Thanks for the story, and for the passion, as always.

Interesting that Red and Sham were both out of Princequillo mares.

09 Jul 2009 2:22 PM

I have to admit, I saw Sham at Spendthrift, but at the time I thought General Assembly was much nicer! It wasn't until recently that I can say I even likely Sham. Thanks for a great insight on an overlooked horse

09 Jul 2009 2:25 PM

Thank you for such a wonderful article.  I always had a soft spot for Sham.  I thought that if he had been born any other year than 1970 he would have had brighter spot in racing history.

09 Jul 2009 2:40 PM

Thanks so much for the Sham tribute.  He was no less of a racehorse because he ran second to Secretariat in the Derby and Preakness.  Even Penny Chenery said she felt sorry for Sham.  Sham earned the right to be called a really great horse.  What would have been had he not been born the same year as Secretariat, we will never know, but I will always remember Sham.  One day in 1983 a friend of mine and I were visiting Spendthrift Farm and got there just in time to tag along on the tour that was proceeding just ahead of us.  As we passed by J. O. Tobin's stall, the groom asked if anyone would like his two horseshoes, since he had just been shod.  I was too far back to have the groom recognize me, and dejected, I lagged behind the group, as we walked toward the next stallion.  Another groom tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I wanted Sham's two horseshoes, as he had just been shod as well.  I was elated, took them and profusely thanked the groom for giving them to me.  I don't know the name of the groom, but I still remember him and the joy I felt for having shoes that once were on Sham, second only to Secretariat in two jewels of the Triple Crown.  And yes, I still have them on a wooden plaque!

09 Jul 2009 2:57 PM
Virgil Fox

Very nice.

Thanks Steve.

09 Jul 2009 2:58 PM

Thanks for bringing Sham to life for us, Steve.  His story makes me feel very sad for him.  It sounds as if racing against Secretariat just demoralized him.  He deserves all the recognition you just gave him and more for all the spirit, courage and heart he had.  

09 Jul 2009 3:07 PM

Great article, Steve!  Thanks for the vivid detail and for giving Sham his due!!!

It kinda reminds me of the hockey rivalry between Ovechkin and Crosby.  Crosby may have won the Stanley Cup but Ovechkin tends to win all the individual awards and accolades.

Wouldn’t it be great to have more rivalries like this today in horseracing?  It’d be great for the sport!  :)

09 Jul 2009 3:31 PM

Next to Alydar, I cant think of another horse that played the "bridesmaid" role as well as dear old Sham.

I thought that there was a book out there about Sham. I check my favorite book seller site, to no avail. Can anyone tell me if there is, and who the author is? Thanks!

09 Jul 2009 3:35 PM

Great story Steve. Do you, or anyone else here, know of a web site that has pictures of Sham? Every time I do a search I end up with a bunch of pictures of Secretariat. Thanks again!

09 Jul 2009 3:36 PM

Steve....excellent writing as always.  Thank you for helping to keep alive the memory of the great Sham.

09 Jul 2009 3:40 PM
Ted from LA

Great article.  Secretariat and Sham= two monsters.

09 Jul 2009 3:43 PM
Soldier Course

Thanks, Steve. With the information that you have given us, we can watch our 1973 Belmont Stakes videos a million more times, now with some additional insight and appreciation. I'd like to think that Sham was not demoralized by Secretariat, but rather challenged to bring out the best in his foe. This he did, and admirably so. Now we have something good to remember.

09 Jul 2009 3:45 PM
steve from st. louis

Sham was bred by Kentucky royalty (Claiborne Farm), trained by hardboot royalty (Woody Stephens) bought by New York royalty (Sommer was a huge real estate developer), then trained by claiming "royalty", Frank "Pancho" Martin. It still is hard to feel pity when the horse kept coming up short against Big Red. Pancho always had an excuse until the Belmont. Then? (crickets chirping).

09 Jul 2009 3:49 PM

Thank you for the article on Sham.  I always wondered what happened after he was retired.  You mention he was a broodmare sire, yet in the years I have been visiting this web-site I have not seen his name in a pedigree.  Who are some of his descendants?

09 Jul 2009 4:13 PM

Cowboy Bob, how 'bout if I put some P.R. spin on Kennedy Road and just say he had a mind of his own. ;)

09 Jul 2009 4:16 PM

Thanks for that nice recognition of Sham.  I remember watching the TC series that year. Sham was my pick and I hated that he lost to Secretariat.  He was beautiful.  More handsome than Secretariat to my mind.

09 Jul 2009 4:22 PM

Thanks, Steve, for a wonderful and uplifting article on Sham, who would have won the Triple Crown in 1973 if not for the immortal and incomparable Secretariat!!!

If my memory is correct and my facts are straight only Secretariat, Monarchos, and Sham raced under two minutes in the Kentucky Derby.  Sham helped push Secretariat into greatness and Sham's name and fame  certainly belongs with the greats of Thoroughbred racing.

Much gratitude for writing such a moving tribute to another champion!!!

09 Jul 2009 4:23 PM


Thanks for giving Sham his due.  While many feel sorry for him always falling short of Secretariat - he has his place in history because of those Triple Crown races.  Grant beat Lee, after all - but it didn't diminish Lee's overall greatness as a general.  Sham proved his worth, and then some.

I'd always understood the Preakness to be a "surprise' move for Sham - that Pincay hadn't anticipated Big Red making such an early and explosive move.  Because of that, he'd been caught off guard.  I didn't recall the rail bumping incident.

Thanks for another great walk in the footsteps of history! (You should have the B-H showcase some of your photos!)

09 Jul 2009 4:37 PM

Mickey perhaps was Our Michael

Sham was a family fav, liked enough to bet on in all three races even with the Big Red horse.

09 Jul 2009 4:40 PM

Great story Steve.

Another great warrior that was underappreciated.

09 Jul 2009 4:44 PM


There is a book written on Sham by Mary Walsh, entitled

SHAM: In the Shadow of a Superhorse.

It is available at


09 Jul 2009 4:45 PM

Cowboy Bob:

Could it be thatg Kennedy Road was one of the meannest horses around?

09 Jul 2009 4:45 PM

Sorry, Steve: this is not about Sham (although I always felt sorry for him in the Belmont - it did look like his heart was just ripped out of him by Secretariat's move and I thought he didn't deserve that)


Kennedy Road is one of the most cleverly named horses ever (if you know Toronto roads)

Sire = Victoria Park (a major north-south road in eastern Toronto)

Dam = Nearis (

Kennedy Road is another north - south road just a couple of roads  to the east of Victoria Park.

And as another completely irrelevant comment: Steve: you ever thought to do a piece on Native Diver?

09 Jul 2009 5:30 PM

Would you consider posting that picture of Secretariat that you mentioned?

09 Jul 2009 5:47 PM

I had heard of a horse named Sham but, did not know who he I know the rest of the story....and its a heart tugger...thanks for bringing that story to the front....

09 Jul 2009 6:09 PM
Lloyd Smith


As a child I was thrilled to read Margerite Henry's book "King of the Wind" about the Godolphin Arabian named Sham. I always thought Sham the race horse mirrored the grit of the historic horse depicted in Ms. Henry's book. I consider it a privelage to have watched Sham in action, and glad that he is finally being recognized for his place in history.

09 Jul 2009 6:16 PM

Thank you Steve for bringing a wonderful memory back to life. I  was 13 when Secretariat and Sham  dished it out in the 1973 Triple Crown. I cherish the memory.

09 Jul 2009 6:37 PM
Cowboy Bob

Mickey was one of all time greats, Nashua. So given the nickname by his long time groom Clem Brooks. When I knew him he was a perfect old gentlemen and had the wisest eye of any horse at Spendthrift. Tiznowbaby to say Kennedy Road had a mind of his own is just being polite. Lazmamanick use of the word 'meannist' is on the mark. Yeah thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil because I am KR. Big, bad and my last recllection was KR carrying his groom in his mouth as he sprinted to the breeding shed. After he did his business I think he planned to eat the groom. Keep in mind a fellow named Raise A Native was lurking about and he was no shirker when it came beating you up. Sham was one of the good guys and I'm proud to say we were pals.

09 Jul 2009 7:04 PM
Steve Haskin

Scharm, I would love to share my photos with everyone -- and I have photos of almost all the great horses that I write about on this blog -- but they are all 8x10 prints and I don't have a scanner, or any technology, so I am unable to post them on the Internet.

09 Jul 2009 7:05 PM

I am reminded of the previous year when I went to the Preakness ready to bet Key to the Mint.  It was raining heavily and the horses were saddled inside.  One of the colts carried himself so confidently generating a "presence" and stood out among the others. I thought it was Riva Ridge or K2M or even No Le Hace.  It was Bee Bee Bee who went on to win in a major upset, obviously loving the slop.  His looks convinced me to change my bet, by the way.  That "presence" became part of my handicapping for years and paid off many times.

As for Secretariat and Sham; I was a big Linda's Chief fan at the time.  And I loved, loved, loved La Prevoyante, the brilliant filly.

09 Jul 2009 7:21 PM
s lee

I was a Sham Fan too.  He and Secretariat always reminded me of kids in a classroom - Big Red was the talented brilliant kid who never opened a book but was so smart he always got good grades.  Sham was the kid who was smart but who had to work hard for his grades.

I always thought it interesting that Secretariat fussed and finished third in the Wood with an abcess in his mouth (undoubtedly painful), but Sham knocked 2 teeth out in the gate, swallowed his own blood around the track and ran the 2nd fastest Derby in history to that time.

Thanks for the history of these 2 wonderful legends.

09 Jul 2009 8:17 PM

What a wonderful column, thank you!  I have been a great admirer of Sham since I first read an article about him written not long after his death. It was very elegaic, and I remember it concluded with words to the effect of he died of a heart attack, "but his heart was broken long ago."  I lost the article when an old computer finally crashed, and have never been able to re-locate it, as I cannot recall the author.

I remember in the special about Secretariat, I was struck by Turcotte recalling hearing Pincay beating on Sham in the Preakness.  The announcer noted it too - "that strong left-handed whip again," was, I believe, his phrase.  I was disgusted and appalled - surely, the horse was giving all he had?

It was interesting to read your account of Sham not being himself before the Belmont.  It's a good thing that by the end I am brought to tears by sheer joy and awe at Secretariat's performance, because I find Sham's race heart-breaking to watch.

Thank you also for having something good to say about Angle Light and Sheckey Greene.  "Steve from St. Louis" could take a lesson from you in understanding that it is not necessary to sneer at other competitors in order to praise a great one such as Secretariat.

To Colorado Reader - I always look for Sham in the pedigrees as Derby Prep season progresses.  I have found Sham a few times, though I don't think that any of the descendants I found ever actually made it to the Derby: unfortunately, the only one I can remember off-hand is Scrimshaw.  I keep hoping that one of these days one of his descendants will win it.  

Again, wonderful article.  

09 Jul 2009 8:52 PM

Sham certainly was a true champion. To bad his trainer wasn't. It's a damn shame the way the human element can sully the reputations of great horses.

09 Jul 2009 8:59 PM
Soldier Course


I have asked this question on a previous thread, but is there an effort underway, somehow someway, to restore and improve the original footage of Secretariat's races? It is a shame that this footage is so degraded. If it is a matter of money, just get the word out among our bloggers. Thanks.  

09 Jul 2009 9:08 PM
Soldier Course


You'll never know what you have done for our perspective here. Thanks again.

09 Jul 2009 9:11 PM
John T.

 Sham was a great racehorse in his own right, as you point out when he finished second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby his time was good enough to win any previous Derby and it would take another 28 years for another horse to better it.What it really means is what a very special horse

Secretariat really was as he would go on to prove in the Belmont.

09 Jul 2009 9:13 PM

Great story as usual Steve. Sham was a great horse too. I'll always love Secretariat most of all but as with Alydar and Affirmed there were alot of horses that were as great as the Big Red One. They were great on their days others on their days. Unfortunately there always has to be a loser but they never should be forgotten. Their greatness will live on in all of our hearts.

09 Jul 2009 9:20 PM
Judy B

Thanks for the great article on Sham. What a lot of memories it brought back. I was just a teenager in '73 but I grew up in a racing family. I was a Sham fan before I got on the Secretariat bandwagon and I was still rooting for him in the Preakness. I remember seeing the sweat on Sham in the Belmont post parade and knew he didn't have a chance so I switched my allegiance to Secretariat who just looked so calm and in control. I also remember my parents saying after the Belmont that Sham was done they could tell by the way he switched leads. At the time I wasn't sure what they meant but I wasn't surprised to learn that he had been retired not long after the Belmont. Would love to see that Secretariat pic you mentioned.

09 Jul 2009 9:32 PM

i saw sham in santa anita in the mornings working out and running in two races- i still call him home when i see the running of the derby, preaknes and belmont - i still remember lafit saying in tv before the preakens saying that he will be very disapointed if secretariat beat him in the race.- and regarding pancho martin he was as good very good -

09 Jul 2009 9:56 PM

I don't think it's an overstatement to say there isn't anything much sadder in racing - save for a catastrophic breakdown -than a great horse beaten off by an even greater horse.  Sham layed his body down in the Derby and Preakness and just wasn't up to facing Secretariat again in the Belmont.  I agree with others who believe he didn't deserve such a fate.  Unfortunately, that's how life goes sometimes.

09 Jul 2009 10:18 PM

Horse racing is a very unusual sport, unlike other sports our equine heroes come and go so quickly. In the blink of an eye they are gone, but they leave us with lifelong memories of either glorious times or sad times. Sham was the latter for me. I really adored him and was heart broken when that Big Red mean beast of the east beat him up. Probably why I was never a fan of Big Red. Today we hear that Pioneer of the Nile has been retired, it comes and goes so fast, it is like getting the wind knocked out of you. One could argue that Alydar deserved better, and in most any other year he wins the Triple Crown not Affirmed. Our dreams are taken from us so fast, but we wait another day to see the yearlings grow and blossom only to repeat the cycle all over again............

09 Jul 2009 10:21 PM

Steve, when I watch replays of the 1973 Belmont, I can actually see Sham's legs turn to mush as he tries to maintain that insane pace. Is there any connection between what even this blind man can see and Sham's fractured cannon bone?

09 Jul 2009 10:24 PM
Matthew W

Steve I'm in agreement with Soldier Course when I say it's GREAT to have a blogger with that "image as good as yesterday" kind of memory! Sham's Derby/Preakness combo, while both losses, was and is TOP TEN of all time as Secretariat has been the standard by which all  race horses are measured--Sham pushed Big Red and look what we saw! Thank you, Sham! Thank you, Steve!

09 Jul 2009 10:32 PM

This is a great article.  I'd forgotten about Sham's teeth getting knocked out breaking from the Derby gate.  They just don't make them like that anymore and it's a shame....but maybe someday we'll see something close to the likes of Sham and Secretariat again.      

Do you know who were Sham's best (on the track) offspring?

09 Jul 2009 10:44 PM

My favorite memory of Spendthrift, however, was not of seeing Sham in the flesh the day after seeing Secretariat.  It was of seeing Caro.  This was the summer after Cozzene won the Breeders Cup Mile.  Our guide introduced Caro and explained that he is "a flea bitten gray".  The lady standing behind me exclaimed "Poor thing, can't they do anything about it".  My husband and I still laugh over that.

09 Jul 2009 11:14 PM
Matthew W

mz: There's a real story about your very own Kennedy Road, one of the ALL-TIME best Canadian-Breds.....1973 (the year of Secretariat/Sham) Bill Shoemaker, the regular rider for Cougar II, is (very publicly) replaced in favor of Laffit Pincay--"by" owner Mary Jones-Bradley--I say "by" in quotation cuz I just had the feeling Whittinghan himself wanted a change as any rate, here's Shoe getting the job done on 7-1 shot Kennedy Road, over both Quack and Cougar---as Harry Henson said, "...and the crowd went wild...."....Afterward, Shoe said in cool deadpan, "I couldn't have won it without Mary....." he was good...

09 Jul 2009 11:17 PM
Matthew W

Deacon how right you are...not to mention Arts And Letters in 69, who had a monster year, or Easy Goer, what a year he had if not for Sunday Silence...were it not for Sunday Silence Easy Goer might be rated "best ever", he was that dominant.....THAT is why we "need" Rachel/Zen...cuz we wanna know.....

09 Jul 2009 11:32 PM

Mr. Haskins, you have captured the tone, and the tension, of those long ago races, and did so well.  The sense of the great horse, Sham, overshadowed only by the greater Secretariat, is tragic; a poignant memory is all that is left of those races.  The courage Sham displayed, with a mouth full of blood, and teeth, is epic, and moved me.  Knowing what these horses will do to win makes this the greatest sport.

10 Jul 2009 12:12 AM
Ranch Hand

I remember the 1973 Santa Anita Derby so well. Sham was a monster against Linda's Chief and Ancient Title, two very nice horses.

The way Sham ran that season at Santa Anita and the first two legs of the TC places him in my personal top 10. He is without a doubt one of the most underappreciated stars of the past half-century.

Thanks for a great article.

10 Jul 2009 12:56 AM

Thanks Steve for remembering a truely great horse. Whenever I think of Secretariat I can't help but think of Sham. I just can't stop thinking that this horse was run into the ground by a trainer who had to beat Secretariat in a Triple Crown race

10 Jul 2009 2:23 AM

Steve, awesome article. I was a huge Sham fan growing up and was at Santa Anita in 1973 when he won the Santa Anita Derby, beating Linda's Chief and Out of the East. I heard that Pincay didn't want Martin to run Sham in the Belmont, that he didn't feel he was 100 percent. After the race, Martin allegedly went up to Pincay to berate him about the ride and Laffit said later it was the closest he'd ever come to hitting a trainer. Sham will never be forgotten by the people who saw him run and Secretariat's Triple Crown is even more impressive considering he beat such a great colt to win it.

10 Jul 2009 2:33 AM

I believe that Sham sired a filly named Arewehavingfunyet back in the early 1980s.  She was a stakes winneer at 2, not sure about at 3, but she's the only offspring I remember being sired by him who won in stakes company.  Surely, there must have been more.  I remember thinking her name was cute.

10 Jul 2009 4:29 AM

Excellent, most excellent.  Thank you for bringing Sham into the spotlight again.

So, you can't share you fabulous pictures because you don't have a scanner and you don't have any technology?  ROFL.  The kid next door has one and knows how to use it, go ask! Thanks for making me laugh.  At least I can find something amusing at 3AM as my just cut hay is getting rained on...

10 Jul 2009 6:23 AM

It took me until about 2 years ago before I could watch the Belmont again, I was such a Sham fan, I never thought Pincay rode him right and the Belmont ride makes CB and KD look like geniuses.

He shouldn't have run in the Belmont after two banged up rides in those fantastic Derby and Preakness efforts...he should have been put in a position to develop into the champion he was, and faced Secretariat at the end of the year. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

10 Jul 2009 6:30 AM

In 1973 was a horse crazy 12-year-old girl, delivering newspapers before school each morning, cleaning stalls and taking trail rides out after school and weekends to pay for the board and care of my own horse.  She was a bay grade mare named Gypsy.  Every day at the end of my paperoute I would stop my bicycle and search the sports page for Thoroughbred horse racing news.  I loved Sham from the moment I saw him.  He was beautiful.  I was tired of the hoopla over Secretariat, and blinded by Sham's bay beauty.  I chose Sham in all three triple crown races that year, and didn't allow myself to appreciate Secretariat until 30 years later.  A little piece of my heart broke over Sham's losses to Secretariat.  Thank you for this piece on Sham, I always loved him.

10 Jul 2009 7:39 AM

In 1973, Sham was my favorite horse, not Secretariat. I kept praying that he would finally get by that big red horse, but after the Preakness resigned myself to the idea that maybe Sham would win a 2nd place Triple Crown. At age 13, I remeber being horribly disappointed that it didn't happen.

Every so often when I'm looking at the pedigree today, I'll see his name in it and get a little thrill.  I never learned all the details about him (teeth, rail bump, fractured cannon bone, heart size) until now. Thank you so much for putting more "flesh" to my memories!

10 Jul 2009 8:24 AM

Thank you, Don!

10 Jul 2009 8:47 AM
Linda in Texas

Thank You so much Mr. Haskin for your soul searching in depth articles, all of them, and especially this one on Sham. I was raising 2 boys in the 70's and did not read about those who came in second, or third, i would read the headlines, Secretariat always at the top. We all have experienced what Sham did in life, always the bridesmaid, rarely the bride. To wake up in the morning with my Blood Horse Emails waiting to be read is a special time of the day for me. To watch the sun come up and read your articles about the wonderful creatures you have devoted your life to is so calming and as an admirer of all horses, i thank you for your true insightful stories. You have a way with words like no sportswriter i have ever followed. Your memory of what you saw in horses at the races and off the track are a special treat to those of us who cannot be so close and i know appreciated by all the great troopers of racing about which you so eloquently speak. Thank you. There are so many more Shams past and present. We sometimes forget them and you don't let us.  

10 Jul 2009 9:04 AM

Sham was a great horse, and IMO  much better than the Big Brown everyone made such a big deal out of last year.

10 Jul 2009 9:50 AM
steve from st. louis

Myrtlewood:I was not "sneering" at Sham, who was a gallant foe to Big Red. I guess I'm just still miffed that Martin kept making promises and excuses for why his runner wasn't (a) given any credit for beating Secretariat in the Wood (b)given a pass for busting teeth in the Derby gate (c) the victim of a questionable response by Pincay in the Preakness. Pancho embarrassed himself and his horse in the end.

10 Jul 2009 9:54 AM

Steve, Thanks for the great article on Sham. I too saw Sham at Spendthrift - went during the gas crisis- remember odd or even gas fill up days - wasn't going to give up the great  opportunity to see the great horses - was going to get gas no matter how long it would take me to get from NJ to KY - went to Walmac in 2007 to see his grave & place roses on it to thank him for giving me such great thrills.  Keep up the great writing.  Kathy  

10 Jul 2009 9:59 AM

Lloyd Smith: thanks for bringing up "King of the Wind".  I knew that "Sham" had been used for another beautiful (at least according to the illustrations in the book) bay horse but I couldn't remember from where until you brought up Marguerite Henry.  I loved and still love all her books.  

Matthew W: thanks for the laugh - looks like Kennedy Road was a character and was ridden by a character

Re: Sham offspring: Jazeiro (Spelling?) - wasn't he later a sire in Europe?

10 Jul 2009 10:27 AM

Thanks very much for this.  I have a broodmare, long retired, 26 years old by Sham.  It is unfortunate that he was born in the same year as Secretariat, he does not get the attention her deserves.

10 Jul 2009 10:42 AM

You are, indeed, a national treasure, Mr Haskins.  Another great column.

Adding to the comments about the influence of Princequillo, it reminds me a column by the late great Jim Murray of the LA Times.  He wrote about the "blue collar" aspects of John Henry going up against the Blue Bloods.  Hmmm, Ole Bob Bowers, a grandson of Princequillo, with Blue Larkspur mares and Bull Lea on the bottom, in addition to the Double Jay mare on the bottom of John Henry.  Lots of a very blue color there, eh?  He was not much of a Cromwell sort.

10 Jul 2009 10:53 AM

Smartysgal, maybe you remember Colonel Moran? He was a 3YO in 1980 and own the Gotham, Withers, Bay Shore, Salvatore Mile and was second in the Wood and third in the Preakness. I had forgotten he was by Sham.

Arewehavingfunyet won the Oak Leaf (G1).

Safe Play won the La Canada Stakes (G1). She was dam of multiple G1 winner Defensive Play (Man O' War, Charles H. Strub, 2nd Pac Classic, Oak Tree Invitational, Californian, 3rd SA Handicap, Suburban).

Bottled Water was third in the Turf Classic (G1), French Stress was placed in a Group 1 in France.

Shamgo, from his first crop, ran in Spectacular Bid's Derby but was 8th of 9.

I found some others. Obviously he wasn't outstanding, but he was useful.

10 Jul 2009 10:53 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for telling Sham's story. I have always thought Penny Chenery was so gracious when she spoke of him in interviews. She was kind, and said he was wonderful but had the misfortune of being born the same year as her Secretariat.

10 Jul 2009 10:56 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks everyone for your comments. Sham is the broodmare sire of 64 stakes winners, three champions, and 18 graded stakes winners. They include Dixie Brass, winner of the Met Mile and Withers; Defensive Play, winner of the Man o' War, Strub and Excelsior, and 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap and Suburban; Lovellon, champion in Argentina and winner of the Santa Maria Handicap; Scrimshaw, winner of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes and 3rd in the Preakness, Odyle, winner of the San Felipe, and Owsley, a multiple stakes winner on grass in N.Y. He's also had several major stakes winners in Japan, France, Argentina, and Italy etc;

Soldier Course, there is nothing I know of regarding the restoration of Secretariat's races, but there certainly should be. The quality of those races is terrible. I'll see if there is someone who can get that done.

10 Jul 2009 11:07 AM

Thank you for recalling the great beauty & heart of Sham, Mr Haskins.

There's a paver at the base of the magnificent memorial statute of Secretariat & Eddie Sweat at the Kentucky Horse Park--& it really says it all (there are many moving pavers there).  The paver simply states:

"In Honor of Sham

Noble in Defeat."

Amen to that--& to your lovely recollection & story-telling.

10 Jul 2009 11:11 AM

I had a Tb gelding a few years ago whose broodmare sire was Sham. He looked just like Sham and had no quit in him either. Unfortunately, I lost him to colic. He did race in lower level claimers but only managed to win 1 race. After leaving the track, he became a hunter/jumper, and oh could he jump! I still miss him.

So, here's another Sham fan who is happy to see Sham get the credit he deserves.

10 Jul 2009 11:25 AM

In May of 1973 I was 9 years old, about to be 10. Sham was my Derby horse, King of the Wind was my favorite book and his tall, dark and handsome namesake had all my hopes and dreams riding on him. I was devastated when he ran second. As much as I love Secretariat, I would have loved him more if he and Sham had been born in different years. There, I've said it, it took me 36 years to make that admission.

10 Jul 2009 11:31 AM

Mr Haskins, thank you so much for writing stories like the one on SWAPS. I have my picture with Swaps statue at Holiwood park. I have all the races between Secretiat and Swaps and cherish them more than the races between Alydar and affirmed. I cherish them more now because of the problems you showed Swaps had in the Derby and Prekness. THANK YOU

10 Jul 2009 11:54 AM
Shawn P

Steve, thanks for that great story. For those who weren't around to 'see' it, you bring it to life.

Maybe there'll be some restoration done on the film for the movie? That would be great to intersperse the reality into the make-believe and the studios can certainly afford to do so.

So nice to read a blog, and the comments not beating up the industry which has been beat up about more than it can stand.

Heck even those who are beating you up for your great article about the great Sham don't do it on here! Keep em coming Steve!

10 Jul 2009 11:58 AM
Soldier Course


Your story about Caro, the flea-bitten gray, is hilarious. I can see this moment captured in a New Yorker cartoon!

10 Jul 2009 12:17 PM
Soldier Course

Kennedy Road brings to mind the 1973 Canadian International at Woodbine, Secretariat's last race. It is featured in a wonderful documentary at the end of the well-known DVD on Secretariat's life.

I enjoyed seeing Secretariat just play with Kennedy Road. For a moment it looked as if the Canadian horse had the best of Big Red, then there's a burst and Secretariat leaves him in the dust. What a race.  

10 Jul 2009 12:27 PM
Pedigree Shelly

     Sham was a horse who obviously showed alot of heart ! It's a shame that he was born on the same year as Secretariat ! Although both horses didnt reach their expectations at stud ,Secretariat has been great as a broodmare sire ,AP Indy and Storm Cat For example! The Bold Ruler line is alive and well thanks to AP Indy and his son Pulpit !

10 Jul 2009 12:29 PM


Nice article, as always, and it was very cool to reminisce about good old Sham. I always liked the trick question (pre-Monarchos) "Who ran the second fastest Kentucky Derby?" Most fans would say Northern Dancer (assuming that the question referred to Kentucky Derby WINNERS), but the correct response was Sham. I want to say that Sham was actually the betting favorite in the 1973 Derby and Secretariat was the second choice. I know that the betting was very close. Another testament to what a great horse Sham was -- after all, how many horses ever went to the post favored over the great Secretariat?

10 Jul 2009 12:33 PM

Odd as it may seem Sham was always my favorite--thank you, thank you for remembering what a great horse HE was. I always wondered what might have been if Secreatariat had not come along the same year.

10 Jul 2009 1:05 PM

Thank you Myrtlewood for stating my feelings about the Belmont perfectly:  "It's a good thing that by the end I am brought to tears by sheer joy and awe at Secretariat's performance, because I find Sham's race heart-breaking to watch."

About Sham getting struck with the whip even though he was giving his all, it reminded me of one of my favorite current horses Monterey Jazz.  Flores, his previous rider, instructed Tyler Baze to not hit him because he always gives 100%.  I love that.

10 Jul 2009 1:16 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

    Thanks for giving the unsung hero, Sham, The respect he earned and deserved.  Sham has and will always be one of my favorites.  He had the courage and heart of a true champion, it is just a shame he had to live in the shadow of the immortal "Big Red".  I truely believe that historians and true fans of this great sport realize numbers don't always tell the real story of a great champion!  With that said, I still need to repeat what some have already stated, Sham's time in the Kentucky Derby is the fourth fastest ever recorded(Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Monarchos, and Sham).  Also, Only Sham, Secretariat, and Whirlaway ran the final quarter in the derby in under 24 seconds!  Finally, Some of Sham's progeny included Jaazeiro, Arewehavingfunyet, and Safe Play.

      Here is a great nine minute video devoted to the Great Sham:

     Lasty, Here is a video of an interview with Sham's Jockey,  Laffit Pincay, Jr., Taken right after he rode Sham to second place behind Secretariat in the 1973 Preakness, You can sense his amazement of the great Big Red...

Thanks again, Mr. Haskin...

10 Jul 2009 1:51 PM

In 1969 John Longden told McMahon (owner) not to run Majestic Prince in the Belmont. This gorgeous colt by Raise A Native was undefeated going into the Triple Crown. The Prince beat some pretty good horses that year in the Derby including Arts and Letters and highly regarded Top Knight. He also won the Preakness and had a great chance of becomming a Triple Crown winner. However, he came out of the Preakness with a right tendon issue and Longden wanted to shut him down for awhile, but Frank McMahon would have none of that and the rest is history. The Prince in my mind was one of the all time greats, at least in the top 50.

Matthew W you are right Sham is a forgotten champion and hero. This story by Steve has stirred memories and helped us to apporeciate him. There are no losers here, only horses that were either not sound or beaten by horses who was just better. That is what makes and defines history. Someone is always better in sports, and it does not diminish anyone else or their performance it is just how we measure greatness. Smarty Jones should have won the Triple Crown as well except for a dumb and cocky ride by Stewart Elliot.

Again thanks Steve............

10 Jul 2009 2:11 PM

I sure hope Sham can feel all the love flowing out there for him.  

SoldierCourse, Secretariat's race at Woodbine is one of my favorite to watch on the DVD.  I love how you can see his breath and that incredible shot of him running past the glowing lights of the boards behind him.  It just takes my breath away.

Also, had to laugh at the descriptions of Kennedy Road.  I worked with a yearling colt named Red Flush who loved to flip has walkers on their backs.  He didn't rear up or anything, just all of sudden he'd be looking down at you with a smile on his face - as if to say "HA, did it again, sucker!"

10 Jul 2009 2:11 PM
Soldier Course


Isn't that footage with the lights at the end of the race just breathtaking? So glad to see that you like my favorite moment in the documentary. I also love the earlier scene when Secretariat's working in the morning fog.

Do you remember the "Elvis Lookalike" at Woodbine in the DVD? I laugh every time I see him.

10 Jul 2009 2:45 PM
Kevin K.

Had the great thrill of seeing all three tc races in person in '73.Thanks so much for a wonderful telling of an incredible tale of two great throughbreds.

10 Jul 2009 3:49 PM

So much today-Hollywood Park demolition and Magna bankruptcy-is a downer; Steve Haskin restores racing to its greatness-and great days.  And Bill Nack's classic on BigRed has great Sham color (Penny Tweedy's pre-Preakness visit to Sham: Class!)  Thanks Steve, for your "classy" and classic memories.

10 Jul 2009 3:52 PM

I do remember the Elvis look-alike.  There were a lot of brave souls out there in the cold to watch that last race.

Steve, you should get your pictures all sorted out and put them in a book.  I certainly would buy a book like that.  A walk through recent racing history through your eyes would be such a treat.  Maybe you could sell it at all the big races through the season - I just love looking through all the pictures at the booths and they are just racing shots.  Yours would be more personal and unique.  What do you think?

10 Jul 2009 4:07 PM

Thanks for bringing Sham into the spotlight. I, too, have always been a big fan of this brilliant horse. Please feel free to visit my website

10 Jul 2009 4:48 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you for a wonderful article about an under-rated horse. I knew the Triple Crown info about him, but was glad to read the rest of the story. Pun intended :-)

10 Jul 2009 5:09 PM

Your words are incredibly moving while you are honoring one of these greats from the past with such beautiful stories.  I can't say enough how much I appreciate your giving us these special treats into your memories.  Yes, a book with your photos as well as your stories would be very well received!

10 Jul 2009 6:16 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks for the website link, Mary. I enjoyed it very much. I'm glad to know you wrote a book on Sham. I will make sure I get one.

I guess from the number of heartfelt comments on here, Sham certainly has his fans, which is reassuring to know. It's great that he is still appreciated.

Txhorsefan, thank you. I would love to share all these photos and put them in a book with some of these stories. But it's not easy getting a good publisher for a racing book.

If anyone has Ray Woolfe's book on Secretariat, turn to page 73. There is a photo of Secretariat walking to track with Turcotte up and Penny Tweedy and Lucien Laurin walking with him. Also there, walking alongside, is a weird-looking guy with long hair (hey, it's the 70s) and a mustache, carring his trsuty camera. I hate to admit it in public, but that is me.

10 Jul 2009 7:19 PM
Lee H.

The book is called "Sham ... In the Shadow of a Superhorse." It was written by Mary Walsh. I believe it is available on Amazon

Steve - great article. Loved Sham

10 Jul 2009 8:32 PM
Soldier Course


Somewhere I have a picture (in one of my racing books) of a group in and near the winner's circle, and one of the guys looks like you with your camera. It looks like the 1970s era.

10 Jul 2009 9:39 PM

A wonderful tribute to a great horse.  Thanks.

10 Jul 2009 9:59 PM
Cowboy Bob

Steve  I just went out to the barn and dug out the book Secretariat by Mr Ray Woolfe signed by hin in 1974. Wow, thats you! I remember that picture and I always thought the fuzzy looking guy was Andrew Beyer in mufti. Who are the two people in the background.

10 Jul 2009 10:10 PM
Paula Higgins

Beautiful tribute to Sham, a truly great horse. I believe that racing against Sham made Secretariat even greater. Whenever I think of Big Red, I think of Sham.

10 Jul 2009 11:29 PM
Matthew W

Greg J Great footage! They had much less technology back then and yet they did it much better! How about that footage of Frank Wright along 1/2 mi pole rail watching them warm up! Wow! Secretariat and Sham, up close--and Laffit Pincay in his macho-prime! Best athlete ever!!!

10 Jul 2009 11:34 PM
Steve Haskin

Greg, that is a terrific video. Thanks for linking to it. I felt like I was right back in the saddling area again. I was looking for myself. Wonderful memories. I watched the Preakness from the roof and got a great bird's eye view of Secretariat's move.

Cowboy Bob, Andy on the backstretch? :) I don't think so. And carrying two cameras? If you didn't have long hair back then, you were considered a nerd.

Soldier Course, I don't think so. Even I didn't look like me back then, so I doubt anyone would have recognized me.

11 Jul 2009 10:07 AM
Cowboy Bob

Steve,  Summer of 76 0r 77 there was an event staged on the main track at either Belmont or Saratoga, I can't remember which track. Billed as the Sokolov? Gold Cup(Grd 1}. Once around the main track for humans. 6 or 8 went to post and a late entry was Andrew Beyer. He won wearing his leather strreet shoes by 4 lengths. One of the few times he's been on the winner.

11 Jul 2009 11:04 AM

You know, Steve, it's really not fair for you to talk about these cool pictures you have and not share them! :)

11 Jul 2009 11:07 AM

Superb story once again!

I think Sham would've been a superstar in this day and age but Secretariat in that race? NO horse could have beaten him on that day, I'll remain convinced forever.

Several guys from that era still have longish hair, just less on top than below the ears LOL.

I've been trying to remember but my mind is a blank and I don't have time to look it up on the Jockey Club website right now.

But, have you had a horse named after you? It's driving me batty trying to recall.

Reason being Kinsolving, the 2 year old filly. Got me wondering if she's named after the author, William. Man that book will make you think life is great compared to the subject.

Great job as always,and for those who choose to disrespect Sham? (and you know who you are D)Tell me you wouldn't LOVE to have that horse running in your silks?

11 Jul 2009 11:42 AM

Mary: I went to the web site, www.Sham Race

learned,ordered the book on "Sham" just sorry it took so long to find out....I knew the name Sham but, did not know why...

11 Jul 2009 12:35 PM

I love Sham, thanks so much for the tribute.  Being 11 at the time, I waged and won the battle to name the new family dog, an all liver, german shorthair pointer, after him.  

11 Jul 2009 12:40 PM
Linda in Texas

GREG J   Thanks for your efforts with the videos.  For someone who started watching TV before color, these were just fine and done with a great deal of care and respect for not only SHAM but those who pulled for him.

11 Jul 2009 1:15 PM
Ann in Lexington

Aside from his US runners, Sham actually had a lot of successful offspring in Europe. Jaazeiro won the Irish 2000 Guineas and two other G1 mile races and became a sire. Other Euro group winners were Lafontaine (Cumberland Lodge S), Sham's Princess (Prix Fille de l'Air), American Stress (Prix du Bois), Nile Hawk (Prix Conde), Stramusc (Criterium Nazionale), and French Stress (Prix Perth,etc.) But like his sire Pretense, he is probably going to be remembered best as a sire of broodmares.

11 Jul 2009 2:15 PM

Ah, this is the opportunity I've been waiting for.  I am positive that's you Steve in the HBO Barbaro documentary standing next to the Jacksons leaning against a railing, watching horses I would imagine.  Never thought the opportunity would present itself for me to bring that up!  Sad about Lawyer Ron.  Geez, colic  is worse than laminitis in a lot of ways.

11 Jul 2009 2:42 PM
Steve Haskin

I'm trying Alysse. Any suggestions? Maybe when I go the Blood-Horse next I'll see if someone can scan them onto a CD.

11 Jul 2009 8:41 PM
Old Timer


I have a request. Can you do one of your great columns on Black Tie Affair? I see where he has now been pensioned. I watched him in 1991 win both the Michigan Mile at old DRC and the Breeder's Cup Classic at CD. What a great horse, who could win sprinting as well as at the classic distance. Not to mention he gave us Evening Attire.

12 Jul 2009 11:08 AM

Greg J - Thanks for the videos.  I thought I'd seen them all!

Didn't Mine That Bird come home the last quarter in under 24?

12 Jul 2009 12:45 PM
Windy City

Steve - is there any chance you would know how many mares dated Big Brown this year? I just cannot wait to see his babies!

12 Jul 2009 2:26 PM
August Song

Steve it was a really touching story on Sham. Come to think of it, all of your stories are truly knowledgeable and priceless and touching in some shape or form. People get used to reading the standard newspaper articles about a horse or a race but, with the superb research that you put in Steve, your articles always show the rest of the story that most of the public doesn't know about.

I made a copy of your article, "The Unbeatable Horse", one of my favorites by you. I asked a friend of mine to show it to the Chief, to see if he had ever seen it. He hadn't but, read the article and was extremely pleased with how well it was written.

Speaking of articles and stories about horses, I have a request for you to write an article about a really great horse, who also happens to have a truly incredible story attached, and I can think of absolutely no one but you, who could tell this astounding tale as well. The horse is Ipi Tombe. I know some of the story, and I do not want to spoil it for readers. You have a great gift for storytelling, and you would be the only one who I would trust to do justice to it. As an aside, her second foal is slated to race at Belmont this Friday. Her name is Pin Turn.

12 Jul 2009 6:24 PM
Matthew W

Think Life Is Sweet is a turf horse based on her turf races as well as pro ride wins---she'll take some beating in Breeders Cup but would like to see her turf---Hol Park plays like dirt, don't sell her short, she passed most of that (weak) field but the top two ran big/think the Ellis horse is for real....

12 Jul 2009 6:58 PM
Julie L.

I've been waiting a long time for this blog to do a tribute to the mighty Sham...thank you!!! He was my favorite and my heart broke when he came in second to Secretariat, someone else on this blog mentioned that they were tired of all the hoopla surrounding Secretariat and chose Sham instead and I remember thinking at that time how beautiful Secretariat was but how much I loved that bay horse from California. His grit and determination was so wonderful to watch and at least he did beat Secretariat once though many will say that Secretariat had an excuse that day and it may have been so but at least Sham had that one race. He was a very useful sire and I believe his daughter Arewehavingfunyet was voted champion 2 year old filly. Not positive but I believe so. A friend of mine stood a grandson of Sham's and I just loved going and visiting him. His sire was Shamgo who was one of my favorite sons of Sham. Again, thanks Steve for the memories.

12 Jul 2009 7:35 PM
Ida Lee

I'm one of those people that once I saw Secretariat, I didn't see any other horse. I was so in love with his beauty and talent, I couldn't see straight. So I want to thank you for writing about Sham. I completely ignored him and now I'm sorry I did because he was obviously a beautiful and talented animal and so endearing and that was my loss. I'm so glad he had people who loved him and gave him a good life. Today, I do try to spread my attention and admiration around for these great athletes. P.S. RIP Lawyer Ron. You were a great Champ and we'll miss you.

12 Jul 2009 8:23 PM

Beautifully told story, Steve, as always.

About those big hearts. How do they differentiate between a pathological heart condition (enlarge heart) and a healthy heart that is larger? In other animals when you hear "enlarged heart" it indicates a disease process, yet we've always heard about the heavy hearts in TB being an indication of health. Then again, this horse died of a heart attack...

13 Jul 2009 6:18 AM

One more question, who are some of Sham's descendants? The story notes him as a broodmare sire, who were those daughters?

Who running today has him in their pedigree?


13 Jul 2009 6:23 AM

I am not a regular reader of this Bloodhorse blog but plan to become one one.

One thing has struck me is that  most of those who have responded on Sham's legacy truly appreciate Steve's work in recapturing the story and its power to move their soul. This is so rare in sports today - even racing - where it is pretty much a continuous digital flurry of event after event - some 'graded'- but where the heart and the story is lost because it is too much, to shallow. Horse racing, as sport, is superior to most others because the horse mirrors the human - in our quest for victory and excellence, while more often than not just tasting defeat but drinking it in bitterness.  We find ourselves in Sham - in our own strengths and defeats even despite pouring ourselves out in our best efforts sometimes.

It is this aspect of racing might will save it, because people's hearts can be engaged in it in a way that is not only thrilling, but meaningful.  It's so much more than a nice trifecta or a big bankroll.

I'll be looking for Sham in the pedigrees even more now - and I just might pick up that Defensive Play mare...

Sadly, I think the decline of the print media makes the recalling of this kind of story, more difficult in some ways. There's something about a yellowed newspaper clipping that must be kept because its worth keeping. Print media promotes the kind of storytelling that the few like Steve Haskin can still manage and their number is dwindling.

Keep up those stories Steve - and thanks


13 Jul 2009 9:31 AM
Soldier Course


Very wise comment. We ponder the mystery of this sport. You've given us something more to think about. Welcome aboard.

13 Jul 2009 10:24 AM

Thanks SC - years ago I read a book called "The Fireside Book of Horse Racing", ed by David Woods.(Simon & Schuster 1963) In addition to some wonderful old pix, it contained some of the same kinds of stories (fiction and non-fiction) that Steve writes today - written from that perspective of history that pulls out the true richness of the story from the past, lost in the moment but recoverable in perspective. We do well to remember that Secretariat came at a time when we needed a hero - losing Vietnam, Watergate and economic paralysis because of the oil crisis. (recalled by the gas line post above!).  

For those of us 'there' in those days, these stories remind us about our lives and can teach another generation about how life events like a horse race can inspire not only with the victor's glory, but with valiant efforts of those defeated.


13 Jul 2009 11:22 AM
Karen in Texas

Another couple of books that contain "Steve type" stories are C.W. Anderson's "Deep Through the Heart" and Marguerite Henry's "Album of Horses". Both had long been in print when I read them as a child, but that is where I learned about wonderful horses such as Black Gold, Johnstown, and Bimelech. Thanks for reminding me, Joltman.

13 Jul 2009 1:19 PM
Soldier Course


Yes, the inspiration and the hope ... but you have to live it to understand it.

This is why we so badly need a Triple Crown winner, now more than ever.

We have so many racing fans today who have never experienced a Triple Crown win in "real time". If a fan is under the age of about 45, chances are they don't remember what it was like to witness this glory. If a few more years pass without a Triple Crown winner, I am afraid this achievement will become nothing more than an old fogey's memory for the younger fans. They'll be saying, "What's all the fuss about?"

13 Jul 2009 1:38 PM

Welcome aboard, Joltman.  I started following these blogs a little over a year ago and have to admit I'm addicted.  People who express such depth of feeling and understanding about horses keep me coming back.  Once you feel that connection to a horse you are never the same.  I have the following quote taped to my monitor.  I don't even know where it came from but:

"Horses are giant yet generous with their strength, their power and their gentle affection.  By their very natures, they embody and resolve the contradictions we all struggle with:  They are strong and soft, calm and driven, wild and manageable, needy and independent.  In the presence of horses, our impulses of nurturing and our urgent needs of support, strength, and confidence come together, live together, and express themselves together without the noise of intellectualism. We see that the horse lives its own life, speaks in its own way, moves where it needs to go.  Its directness and simplicity offer a thousand-pound counterpoint to our own complicated and often less-honest human interactions.  The horse shows us how to be complete.

13 Jul 2009 3:55 PM

Soldier Course,  You are so right about how important it is to have a Triple Crown Horse.  I have this fear that things have changed so much and the younger generation is so difficult to impress that when there finally is a Triple Crown winner it will be like everything else of true value these days, barely noticed.

I was off-line all weekend and just saw the news about Lawyer Ron. So so sad - I loved him.

13 Jul 2009 4:02 PM

Thanks TerriV for the quote - very rich and so true. It won't make it onto my monitor 'cause I use a laptop, but maybe into the barn! I'll share it with some friends as well.

As for the Triple Crown, I would agree and disagree. The buildup of the last many near misses has been amazing and that tension is what 'makes' the Triple Crown so special.  The tension is inevitably broken - lately only by the disappointment of defeat.  In racing we know the 'near miss' oh so well.  But that's what keeps real fans coming back and why they know that because its so tough to win that its so special, and people start talking about it after the Breeders Cup. The format allows the great 'slugfests' like Secretariat/Sham, Affirmed/Alydar, Mine That Bird/Rachel Alexandra to capture a broader interst in the public. I think the multiple Triple Crowns in the 70s made it almost routine and it lost its luster in a way. To change it (shorten distances, weeks) would cheapen the accomplishment.

But I agree that if we don't get one soon, then whole generations might never had the opportunity to enjoy it in actuality.  Eventually you gotta get the enjoyment of actually winning one.  


13 Jul 2009 5:01 PM

Joltman,  Setting aside the freaky 70s, I truly believe that the Triple Crown is the most difficult challenge out there in any realm of competition.  Besides an extraordinary horse there are so many other factors that have to come together for a Triple Crown winner.  Very few outside the sport realize that it almost takes a miracle to win it. And, I agree - it shouldn't be changed.  If it were changed in any way there would be no glory for the next winner.  

14 Jul 2009 2:13 PM

Beautiful write. There is one more thing Sham did: he completed his last quarter in the K.D. in 23.6 seconds, equalling the record at the time set by Whirlaway back in the 40s. Whirlaway won the Triple Crown that year. Sham was no sham, he was the real thing and his trainer Frank Martin knew it. It was why he challenged Red 4 times, believing his horse could take him.

15 Jul 2009 12:27 PM


Here is another Secretariat offspring found at auction and rescued... ( Tour Of The Cat  foaled May 3,1998 ), earnings 1,094,558 hard earned bucks...Breeder::CVS Sales Co. what a shame...he was tossed aside....thankfully a rescue saved the GGGreat,Grandson of the Magnificient Secretariat....

20 Jul 2009 12:37 PM

How many horses work a mile anymore?

27 Jul 2009 11:08 AM

What a beautiful tribute to Sham.  He deserved those fine words. I'd luv to have  seen him. only a few times in history does contenders meet and give each other  the competition these two did. Alydar and Affirmed , the same goes for them. so majestic!!!

10 Aug 2009 10:51 PM
Matty Kay

 Really fun to read this!  I remember the excitement of the '73 K.D. as I watched it. I'm a Chicagoan, so I was rooting for Shecky Greene! Turns out I was watching history being made.  Good writing, you really caught the excitement of the times.

11 Sep 2009 12:15 PM

Re. Steve's piece on Sham, if anyone is interested, on YouTube "kierkegaard" has a lovely video tribute to Sham called Sham, Twilight of Greatness.  KatieM, the first comment, mentioned denegrating a "losing horse" to elevate a winner. Yes, people do this.  But take note, on YouTube Secretariat's fans pay strong, loving tribute to Sham.  When I read Bill Nack's 8 pg description of that Belmont my stomach ached. The jockey behind Sham could see his legs getting "rubbery" at the 3/4 pole when Secretariat started pulling away. He was "disintegrating".  It is so painful to read that passage.  

15 Dec 2009 1:19 PM

Steve, what a great story on Sham! Makes one remember other similar great cases of horses who lived at the shadow of other great horses. Makes me remember of Flying Paster (1976) and Jamie K (1950). Congratulations and keep on the good work!

18 Dec 2009 5:31 PM
al kessop

As big of a Secretariat fan as I am - I always have said that SHAM - was a great champion too - may he always get the respect and love he deserves and above all may his soul rest in peace.

27 Jan 2010 10:41 AM

I think Sham stole all our hearts . He was majestic, he was a true athlete. how many other horses would have kept going with two teeth ahnging?  does anyone know of any pictures of his Dma...rogue girl?

02 Feb 2010 3:15 PM

I am so heartbroken for Sham. He was a true class act and a champion

May your heroic soul rest in peace

dear one.

01 Oct 2010 2:50 AM

Thought you guys might like to know. I had been out of the business for many years and wrote back in 2009 that I 'thought I might pick up that Defensive Play mare'.  Well it took a year, but I did pick her up and breed her. She has a wonderful 2013 colt by Hold Me Back. I'm hoping that Sham's influence in Defensive Play shines through in this guy.

26 Sep 2013 10:34 PM

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