Great Expectations for Dan and Delta

Wise Dan and Royal Delta are two of racing biggest stars. Wise Dan already has a Horse of the Year trophy and more, and Royal Delta has brought home a pair of Eclipse Awards herself. Both can be considered great horses. But will both be mentioned among the truly greats; the superstars of the Turf? Will they be listed in the next edition of Blood-Horse’s top 100 horses of all time (if there was one)? At this point in their careers, probably not.

Both have made it to the steps of the pantheon. But there is a big difference between sitting on the steps and actually being allowed to pass through the hallowed gates.

Is it necessary to enter in the grand scheme of things or from a monetary standpoint? Once again, probably not. It just depends on where their owners and trainers want their names etched for posterity. Are the connections of Royal Delta content to have a tremendous filly with a monster bankroll or do they aspire to have her name mentioned with the all-time greats? Are the connections of Wise Dan content to have arguably the greatest American mile turf horse in history or do they aspire to have his name mentioned with geldings such as Kelso, Forego, John Henry, Armed, and Exterminator?

Both horses are only one or two races away from achieving such an exalted place in history. But they must be the right races. In Royal Delta’s case, she has to beat the boys or at least be right there against the best. In Wise Dan’s case, he has to win a major race on dirt, preferably the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His Clark Handicap score two years ago won’t do it.

At this point, both horses have pretty much taken the same path they did last year without attempting to conquer new worlds and striving for true greatness. We already know Royal Delta can probably whip any filly in the country on her best day. And we know Wise Dan feasts on mile turf horses and is virtually unbeatable at that distance on the grass. Now that that has been established, it is time for them to get up off those steps and start pounding on the gates. The bottom line is, there is nothing to lose, especially for Wise Dan, who as a gelding can always return to what he does best if it doesn’t work out. But the rewards, if successful, are too bountiful to measure.

Many consider John Henry the greatest grass horse ever in America. But he still managed to win two Santa Anita Handicaps, the first horse to do so, and a Jockey Club Gold Cup. Forego became the only horse in history to win the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup and be named champion sprinter the same year. Kelso never stopped trying to win the Washington D.C. International and finally accomplished it at age 7, sewing up his fifth consecutive Horse of the Year title and setting a new American record for 1 1/2 miles.

These horses stepped out of the proverbial box, and history has rewarded them because of it. The fact is, no one ever mentions their defeats, and there were many. It’s all about the victories.

All over the world, fillies have become beloved national heroes, but only after running against and defeating the boys in major stakes, in many cases more than once. A victory in a classic or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or a Breeders’ Cup Classic, Turf or Mile or the Japan Cup or Melbourne Cup can elevate a filly to superstardom.

We currently are witnessing the era of the filly. In the past eight years, the racing world has seen a large number of femme fatales, such as Rags to Riches, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Goldikova, Black Caviar, Zarkava, Makybe Diva, Vodka, Danedream, Buena Vista, Gentildonna, and Havre de Grace among others. This list has become so extensive there simply is no room for fillies who don’t beat the boys. Royal Delta’s connections at least tried it twice; they just picked the wrong race in the wrong place at the wrong time. The right race is still to be run.

During the past eight years, these amazing Amazons have conquered the boys in the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (three times), Breeders’ Cup Mile (three times), Melbourne Cup (three times), Japan Cup (three times), Woodward Stakes (twice), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Dubai Sheema Classic, and Haskell Invitational, not to mention a slew of other major stakes and a United Arab Emirates Derby victory by Khawlah and a Queens Plate score by Inglorious. And Larry Jones in another year might very well have added the Kentucky Derby with the ill-fated Eight Belles, who finished second to superstar Big Brown in the Run for the Roses.

Royal Delta would seem a natural to be added to this exclusive list of champion fillies, but her only two attempts against the boys came in the Dubai World Cup, run over the Tapeta surface. She failed badly on both occasions. But both defeats have been forgiven and forgotten. It should be obvious by now that she does not handle the Tapeta surface, especially having to travel halfway around the world to run over it.

With her tour-de-force in the recent Delaware Handicap, Royal Delta is pretty much going through the motions. Yes, winning three straight Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classics would be unprecedented. And if the connections are content with that, so be it. No one can blame them. It would be a great feat. But, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, she’ll still have those two Dubai matzo balls hanging over her head, as well as the ‘what ifs.’

But those gates are still right there waiting for her.

For Wise Dan, there is more pressure on him to rip off his Raccoon coat and cap and try to become the next Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler (for all those non Honeymooners’ fans who have no idea what that means, trust me, it’s a great line).

Like with Royal Delta, if the gelding’s connections are merely content to have him keep winning and earning money, by all means remain on the straight and narrow path on which you are currently traveling.

But this magnificent horse is so immensely talented and has so much more to offer, and if they want to secure his deserved place in history, then at least one time reach for the stars when the whole world is watching. Even if he’s not as good on dirt as he is on grass, so what? No one will hold it against him if he gets beat, and there is a full year of grass races for him in 2014. But just going by his Clark victory and his narrow defeat in the Stephen Foster against a very good horse in Ron the Greek, he’s still capable of achieving great things on dirt and should love the Santa Anita surface.

Yes, they also have his big brother, Successful Dan, also a gifted horse, whose career has been compromised by injuries. But even if Successful Dan should win the Whitney or another major dirt race this fall, that shouldn’t deter them from giving Wise Dan his chance at immortality come Breeders’ Cup time. They have already won Horse of the Year with him and they’ve already won a Breeders’ Cup race. That gives them the luxury to now have some fun with him and treat the fans to something historic. Morton Fink, who has been one of the classiest owners in racing for the past four decades, will be the first to tell you that horses like this, or even close to this, rarely come along in one’s lifetime. And at age 83 he’s saved the best for last and has a chance to leave a lasting legacy to the sport, just as Sam Rubin, Allaire duPont, and Martha Gerry did.

There is also Horse of the Year to consider. Of all the female Horses of the Year – Busher, Twilight Tear, All Along, Lady’s Secret, Azeri, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and Havre de Grace, only Azeri did not defeat colts. And she was awarded Horse of the Year mainly because there was no one else to give it to thanks in good part to megabombs Sarava and Volponi, who did a number on the most likely contenders in the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic, respectively. But she was accorded more respect for her solid 5th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Ghostzapper two years later. And finishing fourth in the Classic didn’t prevent Havre de Grace from being named Horse of the Year following her victory in the Woodward.

Last year, Game On Dude’s self destruction in the BC Classic, I’ll Have Another’s injury and premature retirement, and Point of Entry’s unlucky defeat in the BC Turf all aided Wise Dan when the voting came around.

This year, a victory over what promises to be a brilliant group of horses for the Classic would send Wise Dan’s star into orbit and put him on a different plateau, right up there with the all-time greats.


Leave a Comment:

Tiz Herself

Awesome points as always Steve! Would love to see both Royal Delta and Wise Dan (both Dans) in the Classic!

Anyone know if Kauai Katie exited the Prioress okay?

30 Jul 2013 12:28 PM
Tiz Herself

Also cannot wait to see how good Eastwood is :-)

30 Jul 2013 12:31 PM

Nice piece! but now it seems like you are seeking a race between Royal Delta and Wise Dan in the BC Classic... alonwith the others?

30 Jul 2013 12:47 PM

You raised some excellent points, Mr. Haskin. Will the owners of these two magnificent Thoroughbreds be content to travel a familiar road, or will they attempt to take a road less traveled? There is always the threat of injury to a racehorse but these occur in all races, sadly. Perhaps this is why Royal Delta's connections have not run her against the colts. Perhaps this is not the reason. After her wins over the boys, Rachel Alexandra was never quite the same on the track. I would imagine that owners of star fillies worry that their horse might suffer the same fate. An owner has to ask himself/herself if it is worth it to put their horse into increasingly more and more difficult races so that their animal might achieve racing super stardom? The answer is different, depending on the owner's point of view. I would love to see both Royal Delta and Wise Dan run in the BC Classic. If they both ran as we know they can, it would be a great race and should decide who is named Horse of the Year.

I was so glad to see that you mentioned Exterminator's name when listing great geldings, Mr. Haskin. He is one of my all time favorite horses and I am always glad to see him get the recognition he deserves.

30 Jul 2013 2:02 PM
steve from st louis

I can't see either in the Racing Hall of Fame. They just don't belong in the same sentence with a  Forego, who dominated on just three good ankles or a Lady's Secret, who ran every other crack off their feet.

30 Jul 2013 2:16 PM

Perhaps the respective owners of Wise Dan & Royal Delta are content with the status of their stars & don't want to push the envelope. Royal Delta has been on shaky ground since Dubai, Wise Dan continues to progress as a 2012 repeat prospect. To have the opportunity as HOY Royal Delta needs to continue her winning ways & catapult herself to a BC Classic win. Wise Dan could have a tougher challenge as HOY for 2013. The competition appears stronger this year. Among them is Graydar. He's back in training. If he can duplicate his successes earlier this year, he'll be one tough customer in the Classic. But the field for the Classic should be extremely competitive & make for an extraordinary race.

30 Jul 2013 3:08 PM


I think that Sucessful Dan is going to take down Wise Dan's main rivals of the older horse division in the Whitney, paving the way for a possible repeat HOTY title if crackerjack 3YO colt Verrazano stumbles along the way.

I don't think that Royal Delta is a colt-beater type.  She'll have her hands full trying to contain this crop of 3YO fillies later in the year.

30 Jul 2013 4:55 PM
Pedigree Ann

Wise Dan is 6 years old. He is fully mature and unlikely to develop new racing talents, the way young horses can. He is what he is. Retailing dreams of glory available to him if he were a different sort of horse seems sophomoric to me.

John Henry had shown at two that he could handle dirt by winning the Lafayette Futurity at Evangeline Downs (then a bullring). Coming to the big leagues at 3 and switched to turf, he won Arlington's G3 Round Table H. At 4, he showed that distances would be beyond him, as he was second in the 12f Sword Dancer and the 10f-G2 Burke at Oak Tree. At 5, he was all grown up and had his first championship year.

I fully agree that Royal Delta needs to move up to open company and perform well to establish any kind of claim on greatness. Otherwise she will have to be satisfied with the status of a top mare, like Susan's Girl or Bayakoa, not a great one.

30 Jul 2013 5:19 PM

I don't faith that Wise Dan will run on the dirt in the Breeders' Cup Classic.  His owner had a chance last year to run his horse on dirt and didn't do it - why would he take a chance & do it this year?  His comfort zone, and Wise Dan's, is to run on turf at distances that around 1 mile in length.  That Wise Dan was entered in races that he never had to stretch himself as a challenge on different surfaces or race at longer, much more challenging Classic race distances was the reason I never got behind his winning Horse Of The Year honors last year.  I felt both I'll Have Another & Fort Larned stretched & challenged themselves far more than Wise Dan did.  It seems many others are starting to question it now, too.  Last year, I seemed to be the only voice out there asking why a horse with Wise Dan's talent & credentials was not being entered against the best dirt horses at classic distances.  The refusal to run Wise Dan on dirt is proving to be an Achilles' Heel issue.  Racing on a dirt track against the best G1 racers is where Wise Dan will receive his best challenge.  In 2013 there are many voices out there, especially among the racing press, who are calling for the same thing I was calling for in 2012.  Frankly, the press should have been calling for the same thing last year instead of meekly accepting the status quo.  There was no outcry as there should have been for Wise Dan to challenge himself, but every other G1 horse out there was always being called upon by the racing press to be placed in races that would challenge their abilities - to prove themselves to be up to the hype.  Not so with Wise Dan - that was reserved for this year.  I am hoping Wise Dan's owner will enter him in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but I don't believe his comfort zone will ever be breeched.  Wise Dan will continue to race on the turf and win scads of money.  That may be more than enough accomplishment for Wise Dan's owner.

30 Jul 2013 5:47 PM
Steve Haskin

Pedigree Ann, I'm glad John Henry established his ability to run on dirt in the Lafayette Stakes, but Wise Dan didnt by winning the grade I Clark Handicap and getting beat a head in the grade I Stephen Foster. You say he is what he is at age 6. Tell that to Einstein, whose first dirt victory of his career came at age 7 in the Santa Anita Handicap. What did you say about sophomoric?

30 Jul 2013 6:39 PM
John from Baltimore

Why don't you buy your own horse if you want to manage a horse's careers.  The owners and connections of these horses have taken the risks and don't need help from all the people in the peanut gallery.  I think they are doing just fine, they are winning races.

30 Jul 2013 6:54 PM
The Deacon

Excellent points made Steve. My two cents worth are that neither Wise Dan or Royal Delta are Hall of Fame inductees for the reasons you mentioned.

Wise Dan didn't deserve HOTY in 2012, I'll Have Another was more deserving but I won't get into that east coast bias thing here.

Wise Dan is an excellent miler, no argument. I would put my money on Goldikova in her prime at a mile though.

Royal Delta may be the best older mare racing now but she isn't in Zenyatta, Rachel's or Rags to Riches class in my estimation.

I would take Harve De Grace over her as well.

John Henry was one of the greatest turf horses in American racing history, you are so right about that Steve.

I would however rank Round Table up there with him. I saw Round Table many times race, he was a beast on the turf. He had some great battles with the mighty Sword Dancer and Hillsdale to boot.

Hard to argue who is better when horses race in different eras. To measure greatness,

I look at the weight a horse carries, the time of the race, the ability to run either in front or from behind and how they run on different race tracks.

The horses today pale in comparison to our stars from the past.

This is why I marvel at your passion Steve to continue writing about a product that is broken.

Watching a great performance by Verrazano Sunday in the Haskell but after seeing a 150:3 9 furlong race time just confirms how average these 3 year olds are. Oxbow looked like a very tired horse to me. Everyone has their own opinion on this so I won't say anymore.

Thanks Steve for these wonderful blogs..............

30 Jul 2013 7:45 PM
JB Crichton

Dear Mr. Haskin, you are indeed the Emperor of All Raccoondom.  

30 Jul 2013 8:19 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Prior to Wise Dan's last two races I was thinking that if I owned him that I would take the Classic route this year with him, but I now think that he is so phenominal on turf that I would go with the turf mile again in the BC. Nothing wrong with being one of the greatest turf milers in history.

    I absolutley loved Royal Delta's race in the Delaware while running off of lasix. It seemed to me that she loved running on dirt off of lasix. She was happy, healthy, and easily won, running more relaxed than ever. You can completely toss the Dubai races run on synthetic. She clearly despises synthetic. Royal Delta is a dirt horse, first or second in her last 12 dirt races, and if they continue the no lasix path and run in the Classic then she has as good of a chance as anyone to win it, and she would be my top pick and top rooting interest. Off of lasix, she wins the Classic and cements her spot in the top 100 of all time. I reckon so.

30 Jul 2013 8:27 PM
Steve Haskin

John, if you don't believe people should have opinions, why are you reading this column? I am not telling anyone what to do. I am saying what I would like to see them do. It's called an opinion. That's part of what I do. If opinions weren't welcome I'd be writing only news stories. And I always wanted to be in the Peanut Gallery as a kid.

30 Jul 2013 8:33 PM
Steve Haskin

Dr. D, you're right, there is nothing wrong with being one of the great turf milers in American racing history; I said as much. And that's what he'll be; nothing more. If they are content with that, then the subject is closed. And just to keep it in perspective, being one of the great American turf milers cannot be compared to being one of the greatest European milers. Over there, milers have been revered for over a hundred years and have had their own championship division. Some of the great group I stakes are at a mile and run throughout the year, unlike in America.

30 Jul 2013 8:36 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Deacon

    Verrazano got rave reviews because he won by so much but he faced a weaker field than Palaca Malice did in the Jim Dandy, and he won in 1:47.37. Nothing wrong with that time is there? Palace is number one in the division. Verrazano is number two or three, and certainly capable of a faster time than he ran in his last. I think Royal Delta is underrated. She has already won the Ladie's Classic twice and if she wins The Classic this year then there is no way that she isn't in the Hall of Fame and up there with the other females you mentioned. I'll take Wise Dan over Goldikova. It's close but I think he prevails by a head. It's a bet.

30 Jul 2013 8:39 PM
Steve Haskin

Royal Delta is a definite for the Hall of Fame. I'm just saying she has more to accomplish in order to even be mentioned with Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra and the other truly great fillies. Again, if the connections are OK with that and are content to win another Ladies Classic, there's nothing wrong with that.

30 Jul 2013 8:47 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


    They could switch gears now with Wise Dan but it appears to me that they have already chosen the path. Shouldn't they have already started the dirt route path if they were to go for The Classic? Let's assume you are the owner, what path would you take from this point to run in The Classic? And I would certainly take a mile turf win over a Classic loss. I do think they have something to lose. Back to back turf mile wins is a lot more impressive than one win. I would want to be convinced that he can win The Classic. Maybe he can but I guess I would have to see a 10f dirt win this year to be convinced.

30 Jul 2013 8:51 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Actually with what I saw from Royal Delta in her last race I think there would be something wrong with not going for The Classic !!!!! But I think she clearly prefers not running on lasix. If they want to run her on lasix then they may as well be satisfied with another Ladie's Classic win. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Seinfeld) BTW, I think The Honeymooners and Seinfeld are the top two shows of all time.

30 Jul 2013 8:55 PM

I tend to agree with your points Steve.  But people seem to be forgetting a couple of things.  

First, Wise Dan came off his winter break and knocked off the dust in a Grade 1 event in the Makers Mark Mile.

Second, he ran back 3 weeks later, almost specifically to take on the other best turf horse in the country, Point of Entry.  You can't fault him that POE scratched.  He risked injury to the horse by having him run in the bog at 9 furlongs and he still dominated a solid, if overmatched group.  

Finally, although certainly superior to his competition in the Firecracker, he again ran into terrible conditions, got run into the hedges and still came out on top, incidentally delivering what should be the photo of the year with that shot of him running in the driving rain.

I'd love to see him try the dirt again, and I'm sad that it seems unlikely.  But let's not sell his efforts this year too short.

30 Jul 2013 11:50 PM
Jean in Chicago

Come on, smarie, Rachel Alexandra was fine after beating the boys in the Preakness and the Haskell.  It was after the Woodward and in the 2010 season that things got weird.  And no wonder.  She ran her heart and soul out in that race and got whipped by Borel non-stop while she fought off everybody.  Why try your hardest when its just going to get you physically punished?  

As for Royal Delta, Steve is right.  Until/unless she takes on the boys, she won't get that extra level of R-E-S-P-E-C-T Aretha sang about.

31 Jul 2013 12:34 AM

I love a good debate!  I'm in full agreement with Steve, re: John's comment.  If you don't want to read a column that encourages opinions, you are participating in the wrong blog!

I also agree that neither Wise Dan or Royal Delta have yet assumed the mantle of greatness.  IMO "greatness" is earned by running fast, winning big, conquering different tracks and/or surfaces and distances, all while exhibiting  consistency, dominance and courage.

Wise Dan is a great turf miler but, while he has won and placed in big dirt races, he has only shown true brilliance at middle distances on the turf.  Royal Delta is awesome when at her best, but she is somewhat inconsistent and doesn't seem to fight when headed.

Since both are still running, they still have the chance to step up their games. Whether this happens or not, depends on how much risk their connections are willing to take.  There is always the chance they are content with having very good horses with hefty bank rolls.  

I will add that certainly the connections of Royal Delta have attempted to give her the opportunity for greatness; it was a huge risk sending her to Dubai - twice!  If the World Cup were still run on the same track Cigar conquered, we might not be having this discussion.

31 Jul 2013 1:02 AM
The Deacon

Dr. D:  I always respect what you say but I wouldn't agree it was a weaker field but maybe you're right.  I said Verrazano was outstanding in that race, we agree. I am just saying and it's only my opinion that 150.3 makes him an average race horse. I won't disagree that Palace Malice is the best 3 year old racing right now either. So what does that say about the entire crop?

I for one am not going to lower my ideals on what makes a great race horse.

Goldikova won 3 BC miles, Wise Dan has to equal that.

Like you, I am still one of those old timers who hopes we get another Triple Crown winner.

Wouldn't we all like to see another Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid or even a Cigar....

31 Jul 2013 3:13 AM
steve from st louis

My Good Doctor: While I agree The Honeymooners is as funny and ground breaking as anything still on tape, Seinfeld can't be considered ahead of either I Love Lucy or my number 1, The Three Stooges.

31 Jul 2013 9:59 AM
White Plains Eric

If anyone wants to understand why an owner would take the same route as the prior year to try to win a HOTY title, one only has to look to Zenyatta's less than inspiring 2010 campaign in which she beat the same fillies all year that she beat the year before.  In the end,Zenyatta ran the same race she always did at CD against boys in the BC Classic and was no better than Blame, a very good but not a hall of fame horse,and she won HOTY.  It was proof that you don't have to do anything exceptional to win the title.  You can't fault the owners of Wise Dan for trying to win two titles for their thoroughbred using the same logic.  As a fan, I agree with Steve and many others here that I would like to see Wise Dan, and Royal Delta, whose description of her campaign above by Steve fits Zenyatta's 2010 to a t, attempt to do something exceptional - to see if either of these horses should be held in the same breadth as the legends of the sport.  Much like I rooted for Zenyatta's handlers to do the same in 2010.  I know Queen Z defeated males in 2009 BC Classic, but it was on pro-ride and two turf horses finished behind her for 2nd and 3rd so that win has always had an asterisk next to it for me.  I'm anticipating the backlash, but just an opinion, right?

31 Jul 2013 10:45 AM
Pedigree Ann

Steve - What you are asking is for Wise Dan to show himself as a 10f horse on dirt. His longest win on dirt or turf is 9f, the extended miler distance, and IMHO he had hit the wall in the Foster when Ron the Greek came up and got him. It isn't in him to run 10f with the best, his connections know it, and they aren't going to ask him to try it.

Einstein had won at distances of 10f or more on turf; but he broke his maiden on dirt, in an off-the-turfer one-turn mile at CD (muddy). And he passed his n2x condition in another off-the-turfer at Gulfstream (sloppy). He was still an actual 3yo at the time of both races, as he was a September foal (born on Southern Hemisphere time).

31 Jul 2013 11:02 AM

"paving the way for a possible repeat HOTY title if crackerjack 3YO colt Verrazano stumbles along the way."

Wise Dan has made three starts in 2013 and all have been victorious.  The second place finishers in these races were Data Link, Optimizer and Lea. On the basis of the competition he defeated he is nowhere near to the HOY title for 2013.

Neither is Verrazano with whom you have entered your latest love affair. Orb leads the 3YO pack and might very well be the leader in the HOY category. He won the Derby and was on the board in all three legs of the TC.

While I acknowledge he was sub-par in the Preakness and Belmont, he is the 3YO with the best TC record. Add the G1 FL Derby and G2 FOY and he has the best resume of his peers. A win in the Traverse, JCGC or BCC will assure him HOY.

I know you are overjoyed at the performances of Verrazano and Palace Malice but you should not forget that neither won the premier race for 3YOs. The Kentucky Derby is globally the hardest race to win. Both failed miserably at their attempts.

What makes you believe their victor will not return stronger and improved animal?

31 Jul 2013 1:01 PM

Steve, agreed on all counts. The interesting thing about RD's connections is that they're willing to take a risk of trying the DWC two years in a row, but not trying the boys here in the U.S. - how about the Donn, or the S. Foster, or now, at this time of year, the Whitney or the Woodward? Does her reputation improve if she wins the Personal Ensign, or the Beldame after that? Why not try something daring now, and if it doesn't work out, there's time to revert back to the Beldame or Ladies Classic?

With Wise Dan, same concept applies. What more will he gain by winning the Fourstardave or Bernard Baruch again? What about trying the Arlington Million, Whitney, or the Woodward? They could always switch back to the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Mile if their experiments go off track in this next race.

Of course, I'm salivating thinking of the BC Classic. In a dream world, you have the Dans, Royal Delta, Oxbow, Orb, Verrazano, Palace Malice, Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man, Ron the Greek, Game on Dude, and Paynter?!

31 Jul 2013 2:56 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve from St Louis

   Those are great ones too and I've watched tons of them too in my life. I also love Ozzie and Harriet when the boys were young, Leave it to Beaver, all episodes, and The Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts episodes only. You're right- in general, my top two can't be considered to be ahead of your top two. It's a matter of personal tastes and what stands the test of time best for the individual.  Now, back to our regular programming- Tremendous BC Classic shaping up. If Royal Delta enters, and a few top 3yo, and the top older males it will be something special, and with a fast pace that could set up for a closer at big odds. I'm a big no lasix fan so I'd love to see Royal Delta go that route and win it.

31 Jul 2013 2:56 PM

Jean in Chicago, I stand by my opinion of Rachel Alexandra's decline after beating the boys. But you are certainly

welcome to your opinion as well. As Mr. Haskin pointed out, that is what this blog is all about.

And while I'm on the subject of opinions, White Plains Eric, IMO, you could not be more WRONG about Zenyatta. It always amazes me that people can find fault with this amazing horse. Again, just my opinions.

31 Jul 2013 4:16 PM

For some reason I think Wise Dan is a powerhouse who really hasn't revealed his potential. Today's horses aren't pushed very hard, too much fear they will lose or break down. Great horses have lost, we know that. In fact, a few great horses have been known to lose often, but those losses are long forgotten. It's amazing to me how Seabiscuit managed to strip the Admiral of all his glory in one race. Oh, and it has stayed that way through the years. Frumpy Seabiscuit took a piece of Man O' War's best son and never gave it back. Ofcoarse I love the Biscuit, I'm just making a point. Wise Dan has nothing but time to run those big races that will make everyone forget the ones he lost. Longevity and unforgettable races is a recipe for greatness. I think Wise Dan has the stuff but I don't know if we will see it transpire. As for Royal Delta, same story. She has to run big races against her male counterparts and win in order to  rise to glory. The bar for fillies and mares is pretty high. They are expected to be as good or better than the boys and rightly so, this is the animal kingdom. The same rules don't apply to human athletes of different sexes. Good luck to both horses. I'd like to see Wise Dan run in the BC Classic this year. In fact, I expected him to. Seems to me, that's the road that leads to Horse of the Year. Presti did say he'd like to have back to back HOY honors.

31 Jul 2013 5:05 PM
Mary McLeod

Hi Steve!

As always, your essay is well written and well thought. I love both these horses, and I hope they can safely show if they are able to achieve the goals you set forth.

Keep writing and thinking, for you have lots of fans out here.

Thank you, and take care,

Mary in Boone

31 Jul 2013 8:33 PM
White Plains Eric

Smarie, I didn't find fault with zenyatta, I found fault with her handlers.  

31 Jul 2013 9:40 PM
Ted from LA

One of these days, Dr. D, one of these days.  POW!  Right in the kisser.  Hummmana hummmana hummmana...

31 Jul 2013 10:31 PM

The sleeper for Horse of the Year is Princess of Sylmar.  She's the horse I want to see in the Breeder's Cup Classic come the first weekend in November.

01 Aug 2013 12:57 AM

Wise Dan reminds me so much of his great grandsire, on both sides of his family:  Secretariat. He has Big Red's girth, shoulder, and chest; and I'm sure his big heart.

Although he isn't a distance horse, I have a feeling we will get to see some of what Big Red would have been able to accomplish as an older horse.

It would be awesome if they took him to Royal Ascot next year and beat the Euros on their own turf. Then they will appreciate his greatness.

And Royal Delta is certainly royalty. I think it would be awesome if she ran against the boys in the Classic this year. And I really appreciate that Bill Mott and Mr. Leon don't dodge any races or venues. However, I think two trips to Dubai is enough; she doesn't like the Tapeta surface.

Thanks for another wonderful article about these fabulous older horses.

01 Aug 2013 3:06 AM

Forgive me, but I thought the great grass (turf) horses ran in the European Classic races. The Japanese, Australians et al test their great grass horses against the Europeans.

Animal Kingdom, for whatever reason, didn't fair so well in Europe which was unfortunate. Is Animal Kingdom a great horse?

01 Aug 2013 3:19 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Ted from LA

   I've got a new superfecta system and it can't miss. I already have The Classic superfecta all figured out, and I'm going to hit it big. I'll get a brand new car for me, no more subway, and I'm getting a new fridge for you so you can plan on cancelling your ice deliveries starting in December. I know you're tired of warm beer when the ice melts. Well that's all going to change my friend. Your pal is going to make sure you are well taken care of in just a few more months. Oh by the way, do you have a few bucks I can borrow?

01 Aug 2013 9:08 AM
Golden Gate

Wise Dan is wonderful and since I have a Wiseman's Ferry grand filly I really hope he gets better and better and is allowed to run in the races steve mentioned.

As far as being totally mature at age 6 goes I have seen some that do better when they reach 8 or 9 years old. It really depends on the horse from what I have seen.

Thank you Steve for this insightful article.

01 Aug 2013 10:32 AM
Pedigree Ann

Eric - I'm with you; Zenyatta was probably capable of doing much more than she was asked to. Her turn of foot would have been devastating on turf, where she could have run at the longer distances she was crying out for.

I've already made my thoughts on Wise Dan clear. I have to wonder - his half-brother Successful Dan is quite unsound, perhaps Wise D has some ouchy joints as well? AW and turf are kinder on such infirmities; maybe his connections worry about him being injured if he runs on dirt too much?

01 Aug 2013 10:45 AM
Steve Haskin

Ann, "worrying about running on grass too much."

Possibly and understandable IF he is indeed unsound. But the key words are too much. I'm talking about one try on dirt in the Classic. I doubt running one time on dirt would be too much. He has after all run big in grade I stakes at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. If he cant handle the distance, no problem, go back to mile grass races. Raven's Pass and Henry the Navigator were strictly mile turf horses and 1 1/4 miles on Pro-Ride didnt bother them. no one is saying they should make a dirt horse out of him. But I would like to see one time what he really is capable of.

01 Aug 2013 11:09 AM

David, Animal Kingdom exhibited stud behavior in the show ring and paddock when he saw the filly, Elusive Kate at Ascot. Barry Irwin saw what was happened and hid. AK was no longer interested in running his race and became rank. It had nothing to do with Ascot itself, it had to do with him being a stud. Wise Dan, a gelding, will not have this problem when confronted with a filly or mare.

01 Aug 2013 11:41 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve, I had read your post on  Dan and Delta before anyone had commented. Just glad i came back again to read the comments and to say something about your article on another favorite (you all must snicker every time i say that, truth be told, they all are my favorite) SMARTY JONES, who get's not enough 'type' time. Back for his third year on foreign soil an hour and already taken down one broodmare!  Way to go Smarty Jones. I still luv ya' man and always will.

And so good to see Dr.D's words of wisdom and wit. A friend was wondering about him the other day and also Ted from LA. We got a twofer there! She will be tickled to see their posts i am sure.

Verrazano looked good in the post parade and frankly i was glad to see him win to have him save a little face for himself and his connections. I am not as good at timing as Deacon and so many are, because they are detail men and i am all about looks and heart. A good mix makes for a great conversation and learning session.

I think Oxbow needs a rest and now with his ankle issue he gets one.

Take Charge Indy, heal up fella and bring on the babies. I would say 'almost made it on Satuday,' but almost can be a terrible word. TCI looked good until - almost.

John, i like Baltimore, why give it a bad name? Flashpoint - (pardon the pun) John, you will find that all of the blogs are filled with opinions, that is what makes this so interesting. Bring on the opinions because I have a motherload list of my own.

I love racing when it includes fairness and responsibility on all parts for all the horses by all peoples! :)

Thanks Steve. Are you going to Saratoga for The Whitney? Allow me to mention the web site. Great looking art work and comprehensive schedule of the races for the week end, lists everything you need to know. Very Nice NYRA and thanks.

01 Aug 2013 1:23 PM


Wise Dan can stay in his comfort zone (winning turf races), remain undefeated and repeat as HOTY provided that: 1)his main (dirt)rivals in the older horse division keep defeating each other and 2) none of the 3YOs prove capable of defeating the older horses in races like the Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pacific Classic or Breders Cup races.

I put it to you that, on quality of performance so far, only Verrazano and Palace Malice have shown the potential to deal successfully with a rather tough set of older horses this year. Orb won the Derby but he needs to step up a couple knotches in his next outing to really contend. The Travers should indeed answer a lot of question and settle our dispute.

01 Aug 2013 1:32 PM
Old Old Cat

Steve, congratulations on creating another though-provoking blog at a time when it seems none are available.  While we are on the subject of corny old-time TV shows (in black and white), I went to the movies to see the white horse, (and I only go once a year at most).  If you want to have some good chuckles instead of seeing a serious movie, watch the Lone Ranger.  Lots of horses and trains and action and Lauren and Hardy/ Three Stooges/ I Love Lucy situations.  

Getting off the main topic and back to the horses, Wise Dan was not my choice for HOY, it was I'll Have Another.  I think his treatment by American voters and breeders is pathetic.  I would breed my mare to him anytime.

I love Royal Delta.  She would have been my second choice for HOY.

I think Wise Dan has found his niche in racing.  But that is all it is, a niche.  As you indicate he has to expand his racing to ever be considered great.

01 Aug 2013 4:28 PM

I have "A-L-L  T-H-E  R-E-S-P-E-C-T" for a horse that can run on "ANY" surface. I do not have respect for horses that do not try multiple surfaces.

Take for instance, Zenyatta. She ran on multiple dirt and synthetic surfaces and passed all the tests at distances ranging from 6.5 furlongs to 10 furlongs.

She never threw in a clunker.

Let's say that again:

She never threw in a clunker.

She never allowed any other female to earn a Grade I victory in over 36+ months.

Zenyatta was the morning line and post time favorite in two Breeders Cup Classics. It's unheard of.

She came within a head of winning two 5 million dollar Breeders Cup Classics

Zenyatta is the only filly or mare to win a Breeders Cup Classic.

Zenyatta is the only filly or mare to finish second in the Breeders Cup Classic.

I've seen some of the best fillies and mares in the world and there is "noone" greater or better than Zenyatta. I saw Ruffian 4 times (in person).

Zenyatta is unequivocally the best filly or mare to ever set foot on a North American ractrack.

01 Aug 2013 4:45 PM

TerriZ, yes I read the same article about Animal Kingdom's 'desires' at Royal Ascot. :)

I was more posing the question is Animal Kingdom still a great horse for failing at  Ascot but triumphing elsewhere? I definitely think he is.

For failing to triumph under extreme difficulty means very little, oh, well, better luck next time. I am a great admirer of BI. Life is for living, not 'what ifs....

01 Aug 2013 5:34 PM
The Doctor

The Deacon -

Com'on now my friend who did you forget in your earlier blog when you mentioned the great one's (excluding Cigar). Clue - Mr Haskin took a picture of him during his first visit to Saratoga with his brand new Kodak Brownie Instamatic camera. If I give you the year I give you the ANSWER.  Go to Steve's archives, you'll find a fabulous article regarding Saratoga memories 2007. By the way Steve your pictures in the 7.27.2013 edition of Bloodhorse Magazine were priceless! 2nd.clue!

01 Aug 2013 8:09 PM
Paula Higgins

WOW great thread Steve!!  Secretariat you defended Zenyatta beautifully, not that you should have had to. As for Rachel Alexandra, she shouldn't need a defense either. She was a rock star too. So let it go folks. This woulda coulda shoulda from a few of you is just getting old. Lets try this: just be really grateful for what both Zenyatta and Rachel did accomplish. Their legacies are impressive enough. There are people that actually play that game with Secretariat's legacy too and it is mind boggling. As for Royal Delta, I am not sure she will be able to beat a solid group of boys but I do agree that they should try it one more time on a different surface. Not sure it should be the classic though. She is a great filly but not an immortal like Zenyatta or Rachel, at least not yet. As for Wise Dan, I agree that they should try him on dirt at a longer distance. Why not? You are right Steve, it can only enhance his reputation. As for the "Dubai Matzo balls" you are hilarious! Loved that.

01 Aug 2013 11:36 PM
Paula Higgins

One last comment, to the poster who mentioned Smarty Jones: you go girl. We need a thread on Smarty. He was one heck of a horse and as far as I am concerned, he essentially won the Triple Crown.

01 Aug 2013 11:38 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Of course I concur. Very well stated. My theory is that she would have won two if warmed up properly pre-race in the cold at CD although there is no guarantee that Blame wouldn't have answered the challenge if given time to do so. I jus don't think he would have had time to do so.

Linda in Texas

   That is a very special compliment. Thank you, and I'm glad you enjoyed our two for one special of the day. Now it's off to listen to CBS Mystery Theatre with EG Marshall.

02 Aug 2013 12:12 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

It's just crazy that we are still losing so many thoroughbreds in fires. Maddening and depressing. Why can't the barns be more fireproof or have doors that open so they can escape when there is a fire? Or have a good sprinkler system? I also think that it's a disgrace that horses that shouldn't be running are forced to run in low level claimers when they should be retired because of a multitude of physical problems. Take care of the horses or get out of the business.

02 Aug 2013 12:26 AM
The Deacon

The Doctor:  My bad, I was just given a few at random. Point was the mediocrity of our so called stars of today.

When was the last time a miler was HOTY, runs mostly on turf to boot.

Maybe I drink too much Napa Valley Cab but man O' man what happened to our standards of greatness.

Dr. D is right the Andy Griffith Show was awesome.

Anybody remember Mister Peepers circa 1952-1955 with Wally Cox ??

My dad loved that show.........

The Doctor: Please say it isn't Damascus or Secretariat. I speak of Damascus all the in these blogs.

Watch the 1967 Travers, one of the greatest performances by a horse I have ever seen.

Steve's photos are legendary, he should do a picture book just of these photos. I'd buy 20 copies......

02 Aug 2013 3:42 AM

Secretariat, amen, to what you said about Zenyatta. I think she thought she won her last race as she couldn't see  the finish line with the mud in her eyes and those bright lights. She went past  Blame AFTER the finish line.

And Secretariat was the ultimate horse to run on any surface.

David, AK's loss at Royal Ascot did not diminish his greatness as a race horse. He's already lined up to breed with Australian royalty. I hope the same thing happens when he comes to Ky. If Darley has to go out and purchase some fine mares, then it will get done.

02 Aug 2013 5:00 AM


“Zenyatta is unequivocally the best filly or mare to ever set foot on a North American racetrack.”

Zenyatta is from the foal crop of 2004. This crop included Street Sense Curlin, Rags To Riches and Hard Spun. Not to offend the fans of Tiago, Dreaming Of Anna and Octave they also merit special mention.

Dreaming of Ann was the first to defeat boys with her victory in the Summer Stakes contest over a mile. She was followed by Rags To Riches in the Belmont. One of Zenyatta achievements featured a victory over males in the BCC, this shouldn’t be overblown as she was merely emulating those from her batch that previously achieved same..

Zenyatta made it to the races late in her 3YO season. As a consequence she did not compete against some of the best fillies in her crop in some of the top graded races on the calendar. Rags To Riches was of Amazonian proportions like Zenyatta and dominated her rivals while Zenyatta was sorting out her physical issues. Dreaming Of Ann was the BC Juvenile Champion who was not push over. Octave was a brilliant filly.

To assume that Zenyatta would have defeated these fillies every time they met would be a stretch. Rag  To Riches contested the 12F Belmont and defeated the subsequent HOY Curlin. Behind her in the Belmont was the extremely talented and highly regarded Hard Spun who finished runner up to Curlin in the 2007 BCC.  Zenyatta had an opportunity to contest the 2008 BCC containing Curlin and passed for the Ladies Classic.

Based on Zenyatta entry into racing and the early retirement of the champion 3YO filly RTR and a number of the top colts, the coast was made clear for her to dominate. Would she have been undefeated had she experienced a regular 3YO season? Unlikely!

Genuine Risk is one of three fillies that undertook the ultimate test for 3YOs (Triple Crown) and finished 1-2-2 against boys. For each leg of the TC there was a fresh set of males teaming up on the sole female. Only two proved to be victor. The magnitude of her achievement in the TC series contested over 5 weeks cannot be displaced or discredited by a sequence of managed victories mainly against overmatched opponents.

02 Aug 2013 9:01 AM

Ok, here I go again. I just have to stop defending a horse who's record speaks for itself. Big Z was an amazon of a mare, the best of this generation. She had it all, a personality that captivated fans, speed, thrilling style, beauty, grace, and she was A WINNER. Thing is, her style was what made her so special, snatching victory at the wire and making your heart stop. It was also her Achilles heel. Eventually you will lose running like that regardless of how great you are. She toyed with her rivals, lolly gagging behind. Amazing how she won as many times as she did. Zenyatta ran only as fast as she needed to to win the game. If her company was a step up, she would move two steps up. My opinion, better competition would've only resulted in a better faster Zenyatta. It's unfair to judge her by saying she never really beat any  good horses. Perhaps we could get into a time machine and conjure up Man O' War for a romp with Z. She beat the best horses during her reign. We can't expect anymore than that. I think she was a bottomless pit of potential. We never got to see what she was really capable of doing, and I still believe that she is one of the greatest. I can't wait to find out if her magic will be passed on through her bloodline.

02 Aug 2013 10:04 AM

Even though we may all debate great fillies and mares, hasn't it been wonderful to see them run? And what a pleasure for the world to see these great girls. And one of the great moments at last year's Royal Ascot races was seeing an injured Black Caviar pull off a win. Like Steve Haskin has said, the girls have really gone wild.

02 Aug 2013 10:59 AM
The Doctor

The Deacon - Go to Haskin's series 3 - Clash of the Titans. You blogged that he was your favorite horse of all time! I'm flabbergasted that you can't recall. I do like your Ca. Napa Valley Cabs so that must be the reason!

02 Aug 2013 1:42 PM
The Doctor

Paula Higgans / Secretariat - Paula I believe immortal is a very ambitious adjective to describe Zenyatta and Sec, "best of all time" I don't believe she runs down Ruffian on her very best day!! But as Steve says we all have our opinions. That's what makes it fun.

02 Aug 2013 1:57 PM

To The Deacon:

Totally agree with you regarding I'll Have Another winning Horse of the Year last year.  He should have won it and in a fairer, less biased voting year he would have.  

To Coldfacts:

Totally agree with you about Genuine Risk.  She was off the chain in her greatness!  She is greatness personified and deserves far more respect that she is given.  What an incredible horse she was - her incredibleness should never be discredited.

02 Aug 2013 2:14 PM
Ted from LA

Linda in Texas,

I left you a gift on Steve's blog Haskin Series Part 4: Meadow's Grooms Remember Big Red.  Dr. D, you little sweet talker.  You could sell white gloves to a woman eating a ketchup popsicle.  I'd lend you money anytime.  Is anyone besides Ted from LA and Bob from Boston going to the Arlington Million?

02 Aug 2013 3:06 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

Cold facts,

an interesting perspective on Zenyatta's career.  I consider her a great older mare that was exwuisitely managed.  That she ran as an older mare allowed us to see her greatness rather than her being sent to the breeding shed unraced as so many are.  But I do agree she didn't face the cream of her crop of either sex.  

02 Aug 2013 4:30 PM

To see Wise Dan ship across the pond and face the Euros at Royal Ascot on the grass would be more fitting for him than switching to dirt. I could see him going close to their track record in that straight mile (previously won by Frankel, where Animal Kingdom flopped this year). If he can stay undefeated this year on the turf, that would be a better way to send Wise Dan stocks soaring among the immortals.

02 Aug 2013 5:36 PM
Senator L

Does Mr. Lopresti read your columns? I doubt he'll change his mind, he seems pretty hard-headed. The owner sounds like he would take a chance though

02 Aug 2013 6:42 PM
The Deacon

Secretariat:   Well my opinion is that Ruffian is the greatest filly I ever saw run. I saw Zenyatta run several times. Big Z is obviously in the top 10 all time .

When speaking of all time, we need to pause and think out with clarity what we say. Some pretty

awesome fillies have graced us over the decades.

Well stated on these blogs that everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Who's to say that Lady's Secret, Rachel Alexandra, Rags to Riches, Susan's Girl, Ta Wee, Landaluce, Winning Colors, Azeri, Busher, Regret, and many others aren't someone else's favorite.

For me its Ruffian.....takes nothing from any of the other great fillies.

02 Aug 2013 7:17 PM
Your Only Friend

From the peanut gallery....Kelso,John Henry were two of the greatest...but you cannot compare athletes from the past with those who are running training methods....think I will put my money on Kelso, John Henry.......

02 Aug 2013 8:28 PM
John from Baltimore

Appears to be a column in the Racing Form in regard to Wise Dan and this blog.  LOL.

02 Aug 2013 8:40 PM
Paula Higgins

You know Coldfacts, those were not "facts" that you just expressed about Zenyatta, but merely your opinion. The fact is that no one knows for sure if Zenyatta would have beaten or lost to Curlin, Rags to Riches, Dreaming of Anna etc. But my opinion is this: she would have beaten them all. Not one of the horses you mentioned was her equal in any respect. If, hypothetically, one of them had beaten her, it would have been by sheer luck. Pretty much like Blame's sheer luck. Her peak years were 2008 and 2009 and I think she would have smoked all comers. My other opinion is this: I felt like she had lost a little of her edge in 2010. Inspite of that, she still performed brilliantly and better than any other U.S. horse out there. It is just amazing to me that there are  people who still dont't get it and want to play the "what if" game.

02 Aug 2013 9:43 PM

Steve -

I always enjoy reading your writing and this article was no exception.

I'm a big Wise Dan fan and was so happy to see him win HOY last year. Would love to see Royal Delta win one as well.

Anyway, I was feeding some carrots to a (horse) friend of mine and mentioned what you said about him, and he asked me to send you the following. Thought you might enjoy... ;-)

Take it easy -

Rick Capone


Dear Steve -

Another great article, but...

Honestly, I don't consider myself a megabomb. After all, I did win the Belmont Stakes - that's a pretty big accomplishment.

Thanks for listening.

Your friend (now living) at Old Friends,


ps. Please come and visit me (and all the other horses) at Old Friends when you get a chance. We miss seeing you.

pps. Please bring carrots!

03 Aug 2013 5:36 AM

I really must come back and read all of the comments, so forgive me if I become repetitive.

Lately, life has been intruding terribly on my keeping up to date on the blogs, but I have been watching racing.

And every fan here has an opinion.  I believe that's what a blog is all about.  And no one does it better than Steve.

I think Wise Dan is an awesome miler; and his connections are keeping him in the type of races that suit his ability.  That's more than I can say for Quality Road, the best miler of his day, who was "thrown to the wolves" so often in 10f races.

I think Royal Delta is the top mare.  I would throw out her Dubai races. Since the surface change, few of the American dirt horses have done well.  Euro trainers seem to know enough to send their horses to Dubai one or two months prior to the Winter carnival.  US trainers expect their horse to adjust to track and weather in days. To me, that's a no-go.  And while Animal Kingdom won on dirt, he was essentially a turf horse.  He was nothing less than awesome this year.

I tend to favor Classic horses as opposed to milers, but you have to recognize any horse outstanding in his own field.  Frankel was outstanding...but...I tend to favor Sea The Stars because he won the Arc.

While I keep an eye on times, I find it more impressive to watch how a horse moves in any race.  And for my money, I think this year's 3 year old crop is good, but also good and tired.  To me, the best is Orb, and I can't wait to see him again.  But I also can't deny the performances I've seen that have blown me away.  I'm really looking forward to the Travers.

(And I'm hoping the real Ron The Greek shows up today in the Whitney.)

In my opinion, both Wise Dan AND Royal Delta deserve Hall of Fame status.  They've both earned it.

03 Aug 2013 12:00 PM
Linda in Texas

Saturday-August 3,2013- came here with happy intentions to send Paula Higgins a link to a very nice article on Smarty Jones. Only to see the article that Rockport Harbor, big beautiful dark roan gray had to be put down. Laminitis at the age of 11. Sired by Unbridled's Song.

I cannot understand how a horse just develops Laminitis unless there were other issues. I loathe that disease for horses as i loathe cancer for humans. Those 2 diseases kill far too many good horses and people. Rockport Harbor i am sure Skip Away will find your dad when you reach the paddock in the hereafter. Rest in Peace.  

Paula, please at your leisure go to and you will read about how well his progeny are doing. Smarty came along at a time when economics were writhing in pain. He survived and the Chapman's who cared about Smarty kept him as an American owned horse, regardless, when he could have been sold. It makes me smile for Smarty to hear the track announcers broadcast that a horse racing on a particular day is the son of Smarty Jones.  

Thanks Steve. Hope you are at Saratoga as I believe this makes your 46th year right? Give or take a year.

03 Aug 2013 12:42 PM
Pedigree Ann

Wise Dan is a miler, who is especially good on turf, and lucked into a Horse of the Year award last year when the senior divisions were muddled. His major wins were all turf mile races. (I still think Little Mike deserved an award for his prowess in longer turf races.)

So this year, Wise Dan is again being campaigned as a turf miler, running in the better turf mile races (8f-9f) in his region and people are outraged. ????

People, Wise Dan is not campaigning for Horse of the Year; he is running in races which suit his particular talents. Last year, winning such races got him HotY; this year it may be different. So what else is new?

03 Aug 2013 2:10 PM

Why do people always seem to forget Genuine Risk when talking about great fillies and mares?  How else could she be described but "Great?"  

04 Aug 2013 10:15 AM

Did anyone else notice the Cross Traffic at Saratoga?  At 19-1, I'm guessing not.  And hooda thunk Successful Dan would do so great after rearing up, falling, and rolling over? My poor Ron is not back in step yet, and I think Fort Larned fell asleep in the gate.

But how about my little Jackson Bend?  Brave and courageous at all times. Given another furlong, he might have done it...or not. That boy is all CLASS! He never quits.

If they could give HOY singularly to Havre de Grace without including Blind Luck in the honor, than I can't give much credit to the voters.

Secretariat was a champion on dirt and turf. But when you want to talk about a horse who won G1 races on all 3 surfaces, the legend is still with us...LAVA MAN with Einstein a close runner up.

I don't need to see any horse leave its comfort zone to prove its greatness to me. I don't understand why every one else is so insistent on it. Goldikova was the best miler in the world. She didn't need to do anything else to prove herself. Jackson Bend excels at a one turn mile. Big Drama was a great sprinter. What about Midnight Lute?

I can't even begin to qualify the great females on the track. Regret, Gallorette, Bayakoa, Go For Wand, Ruffian, Lady's Secret, Ta Wee, Azeri, La Pevoyante, RA, and the mystical Zen. Etc.,etc. It's impossible to choose the best when we've been so fortunate to have such an abundance of talent.

Why argue about the best when we should be counting the blessings of so much talent, courage, and ability? So much poetry in motion? So much bravery?

04 Aug 2013 11:00 AM

To the ultimate comparison of "Why insist a horse can prove they're great only by stepping into the the race YOU want?"

Makybe Diva, Australian HOY who won 3 straight Melbourne Cups. (That's over 2 miles, folks.) Was she not great because she didn't carry the same weight as Phar Lap? (She did carry the most weight for any female.)

Black Caviar, World champion sprinter, Australian HOY, 25 straight wins, no losses.  Would any one of you insist she can't prove she's great unless she runs in the Melbourne Cup?

All the wudda, cudda, shoulda baloney is merely a wordy distraction that seeks only to tarnish our rising stars, when we should be polishing them by singing their praises.

04 Aug 2013 6:22 PM
The Deacon

The Doctor:  It was too obvious for me, Dr. Fager.....

I concur, Ruffian wouldn't be caught.

Slew: Good points but folks like to discuss greatness and all time bests. It's done in every sport.

Totally agree though, lets enjoy them but like handicapping a race,

we all like to discuss the all times greats.

2012 HOTY,  I'll Have Another, I agree with all those knowledgeable bloggers as well.

04 Aug 2013 7:19 PM
Linda in Texas

Ted from LA - Thanks for the video shot of the cornfield! Just read this blog as i get the withdrawals on Sunday afternoons with the races over and saw your post.Took me a minute to find the blog but i did.

A thought, as big as Texas is every owned acre is barbed wire fenced. But in Iowa you can drive along I 80 for miles and miles with fields of corn and soy beans growing on both sides of the highway right to the edge and never see a fence. I think that amazed me the most. They do though park their John Deere's snug against the barns close to their homes and believe in property rights and self defense the old fashioned way, usually found leaning against the kitchen door.:)

04 Aug 2013 7:28 PM
Paula Higgins

The Doctor and Deacon, there are other old timers who saw both Ruffian and Zenyatta race and they place Zenyatta ahead of Ruffian. To me, they are very close on the pedestal, but they raced at different distances. Zenyatta would have beaten Ruffian at the longer distances and Ruffian would have beaten Zenyatta at the shorter ones. They are both immortals of the racing world in my opinion. As for the all time best, I think it is problematic saying anyone is the greatest of all time. But when you have that conversation, Secretariat is at the top of the list along with Man O' War, Seattle Slew, Dr. Fager and Citation. A case could be made for any one of them. Zenyatta is in my top 10.

Linda in Texas, thanks for the link! He is one of my all time favorites. A truly great horse and I don't think he has gotten the recognition he deserves. The Chapmans were wonderful and it was a very sad day for them when Smarty came so close in the Belmont but didn't quite get there.

04 Aug 2013 11:44 PM
The Deacon

Paula Higgins:  I always respect what you say and your insights about the game. However I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of who the filly of all time is. I have not read where old timers such as myself state Zenyatta is a better filly then Ruffian. Perhaps you have but mostly I hear that the so called expects don't take a stand.

Ruffian won at 12 furlongs, Big Z never ran that far. Of course we know she would have loved the distance but people forget distance didn't bother Ruffian in the slightest. The Coaching Club American Oaks used to be run at 12 furlongs, she still holds the race record. The past 4 years or so it has been run at 9 furlongs. Totally thought this was a bad decision to change the distance.

Ruffian was almost never headed in a race, no filly ever got close to her. Lucien Laurin said she was better then Secretariat. She was leading Foolish Pleasure in that ill fated match race when she broke down. Horse racing broke my heart that day. I remember it as it was yesterday.

Me and a buddy saw Jose Santos, her jockey in Florida many years ago. My friend is a trainer at Portland Meadows in Oregon. Santos said that Ruffian would have won that race by daylight and she was the best horse he had ever ridden.

In respect to Big Z, most of her races were on a synthetic surface and the race times were average to slow (not her fault). She also primarily raced out west here. My point is her connections should have done more to insure her immortality. She was handled with kid gloves over a 4 year period.

She should have been greater but I do rank in my top 5 of all time.

Nevertheless I respect your opinion and hope you keep sharing your views............

05 Aug 2013 2:54 PM

Deacon: Yes, people will always debate about the greatest...and it's fun to discuss, advance, and defend the horse's best abilities.

What I find objectionable is when people continue finding fault with a horse because..."they didn't run in the Classic"..."she didn't run against the boys"..."he hasn't run farther than a mile"..when the horse people are discussing is already great by virtue of what that horse has already acomplished in his/her field of expertise.

In 1977 Seattle Slew was not appreciated for what he accomplished.  He was called mediocre.  He was called OK in a poor crop of 3 year-olds.  History has proved his critics wrong, not only on the track, but definitely in the stud barn.

All I'm saying is let's not wait 35 years to appreciate the accomplishments of the horses running today.  Wise Dan and Royal Delta deserve their accolades now, and deserve them for the divisions in which they excel.

05 Aug 2013 5:54 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

An individual person that saw two horses in person at different points in their life cannot say which one was the best because their perspective at those different ages was very different. For instance, someone that saw Ruffian live at age 25 then saw Zenyatta at age 59. Some will be smarter and more perceptive at 59 than 25 and vice versa. I only saw both on TV but since I was smarter, wiser and more perceptive at 58 than 24 I give the nod to Zenyatta. She is also the most amazing horse of any sex and any era that I know of even if she couldn't beat Secretariat (maybe she could, I don't know) but the way she won her races is astonishing beyond belief. In any sport it is actually impossible to say who was best from different eras because of a multitude of different variables involved. Even times don't tell the whole picture. It is always a guess and a matter of personal tastes. However, what you know is what you know and it doesn't matter if someone else knows something different. I reckon so.

05 Aug 2013 5:55 PM

the best breed

I have no desire to transform this blog into one on Zenyatta. However, the greatest mare ever to race in NA is a stretch when all facts are considered.

I recognize where Zenyatta stands in history. No one can deny the fact that she is the first female to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and her sequence of G1 victories is ultra-impressive.

Very few thoroughbreds retire with one loss from 22 starts. The great Native Dancer lost once in 22 starts and that loss came in the  KD. The Preakness and Belmont were amongst his 21 victories. As a 2YO he won 9 consecutive races with four in one month. Would it be appropriate to compare a male and female with a similar race record as it relates to wins and losses?

Zenyatta is an exceptional racehorse. However, I am of the opinion that there are females who do not have her record but have gone where she has feared to tread.

Genuine Risk took on colts/gelding in the hardest race in the world to win and came away victorious. The connections of many male horses avoid contesting all 3 Triple Crown races because of enormity of contesting 31.5 furlongs in 5 weeks. It is a series of races where only the strong survives. This filly achieved what few supposedly stronger males have in what is considered the ultimate test for 3YO.

Zenyatta’s BCC win, runner up finish and 21 consecutive victories is exceptional. However, are these achievements enough to supersede those of Genuine Risk during the 5 weeks where she took up the challenge to be the first female TC winner? As ludicrous as it may be viewed, it is exceedingly easier to win 21 consecutive races than winning the TC. Native Dancer was the greatest of his and several generations and his failure represents a profound reminder of the enormity of the task.

There are exceptional mares and there are great mares. Greatness cannot always be measured in wins and losses.

05 Aug 2013 6:23 PM
The Deacon

Great points by all. I would say that recent memories usually stays with a person. Ruffian ran almost 40 years ago, hell I can't even remember what I had for breakfast. I respect the opinions of every blogger so I won't debate what horse was better. We can just agree to disagree.

Slew: I wasn't debating whether Wise Dan or Royal Delta were very good horses. WD is an excellent miler, probably ranks up there with the all time bests. RD is a fine filly, not an all time great but excellent nonetheless.

I just feel Wise Dan didn't deserve HOTY......

Discussing all time greats of the past is a fun topic.

05 Aug 2013 9:04 PM


Your too stuck on 3 yr olds. There is a lot more to horse racing than 3 yr olds.

06 Aug 2013 6:43 AM

The Deacon,

Zenyatta did it all.

She raced the best in the world going 10 furlongs (twice).

Her connections were afraid of "nobody".

In fact, she showed up for the Apple Blossom to run for 5 million dollars and somebody else didn't.

She took on everyone that wanted to take her on. The rest ran and hid.

In fact, Bob Baffert got so tired of having his brains bashed in by Zenyatta, he ended up shipping "Tough Tiz Sis" to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Ruffian and she destroyed those east coast fillies/mares by a dozen lengths.

06 Aug 2013 6:53 AM

Wise Dan’s career is being managed along the similar to that of Zenyatta’s. It appears  his connections are comfortable with picking off the low hanging fruits and building up a bank roll and a win streak. At least Zenyatta left her comfort zone when it was advantage to so and won the BCC.

If she had left her comfort zone in 2008, she would have run into Curlin, Henry The Navigator and Ravens Pass. Could have closed from so far back and defeat the one, two finishers in 2008? Highly unlikely as the winner ran 1:59 and a bit. I guess timing is everything.

Are the connections of Wise Dan content to have arguably the greatest American mile turf horse in history? A very interesting question but is he considered same in the public domain? Animal Kingdom had a problem plagued 2012 and came of along respite to finish an electrifying second. The greatest turf miler should not have allowed him to get that close.

Animal Kingdoms next start was against a horse that also finished 2nd in a NTR on the same card. He suffered narrow loss but at least he did not seek low hanging fruits to pick he challenged one of the best. Animal Kingdon then went to Dubai and won the $10M World Cup. His next stop was Ascot. Wise Dan might have won the 2012 HOY title but Animal kingdom won the hearts of the world.

Wise Dan will never be considered great as his body of work is void of serious challenges. In a sport that is becoming more and more global, horses considered great have to do more than just beat up on mostly over matched opponents.

06 Aug 2013 4:05 PM
The Doctor

Paula Higgins & Secretariat - I really love your writing and you opinions, but you really have to get your facts together. Simply read The Deacon's response to your blog he's absolutely correct. Short and long distances Zenyatta never ran 12 furlongs Ruffian won from 5 to 12 furlongs and set records,  so much for distance!!!

Sec- "Z raced the best in the world twice", ....  I think those fields left a little to be desired. Afraid of nobody .... her connections barely brought her out of CA. One of the most "coddled" careers in history. To put it in perspective the last immortal to grace us with his presence was Spectacular Bid 1980.

06 Aug 2013 6:27 PM


You don't know what your talking about when it comes to the 2008 "Breeders Cup Classic".

Zenyatta would of made Ravens Pass, Henry The Navigator and Curlin look like amateurs in that race.

Zenyatta ran the second fastest "Breeders Cup Distaff/Ladies Classic" in the 29 year history of the event. She stopped the teletimer in 1:46.85 in the 2008 "Breeders Cup Distaff/Ladies Classic". Add 12 seconds onto that (1/8 mile) and she wins the 2008 Breeders Cup Classic in 1:58.85.

What you "fail to realize" is that Zenyatta was the fastest (as a 4 yr old). Do yourself a favor and do a little research on Zenyatta.

Zenyatta set a stakes record in the 2008 "El Encino Stakes". She set a track record in the 2008 Grade I "Clement L. Hirsch" and she set a stakes record in the 2008 Grade 1 "Lady's Secret".

06 Aug 2013 6:45 PM

The Doctor,

Let us not forget that Ruffian stayed in the state of New York all her life. Her campaign leaves a lot to be desired.

During her whole career, she left the state of New York once (running next door in the state of New Jersey).

06 Aug 2013 10:05 PM
The Deacon

The Doctor:  110% agree with your assessment............I love Zenyatta as well,  but Ruffian in my HUMBLE opinion was the greatest filly I ever saw.  I have lived my whole life out west, if anything I try to favor our west coast runners as much as I can but in truth the eastern horses seem to be a little better these days.

I know when I see immortality and I saw it with Ruffian. I traveled far a few times to watch many ofthese great ones.

It was a joy to when Seattle Slew come out west as well as Buckpasser and the great Spectacular Bid. Of course the Doc as well. But that was a long time ago.

Eastern horses rarely come out here anymore. Only the BC seems to draw them away. West coast racing has become mostly an after thought.

07 Aug 2013 2:15 AM


It was never my intention to anger you. I considered your assessment of the brilliant mare a bit over the top and I have specified why.

Another contributor specified that she was the best mare she had seen in her life time. Has technology not allowed us the opportunity to see the likes of Black Caviar & Zarkava. There are many of us that remain grateful for the opportunity to see the likes of Goldikova who not only beat the boys in Europe but beat them handily on three occasions in the US and ran creditable 3rd in her quest to beat them on a 4th occasion.

She could have been kept amongst her gender and who knows how many races would have won in succession.

Many brilliant mares did not have their careers managed in a fashion to ensure long win streaks.

Many contributors are sentimental and emotional regarding Zenyatta. Their views of the mare are significantly influenced by their state of mind. The requisite cure for their condition lies in the expansion of their horizons.

07 Aug 2013 10:49 AM

I was very focused on the recently concluded Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. I was hoping to see even one yearling sired by Invasor. Sadly I waited in vain.

Invasor won the 2005 TC in Uruguay.  He also won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 2007 Dubai World Cup. His racing record reflects one defeat in 12 starts with career earnings of $7.8M. He was voted American Horse of the Year and rated as one of the top horses in the world in 2006.

He was undefeated in six G1 starts in the US. He contested four 10F races and won all. The Dubai WC and Pimlico Special he won were contested at 9.5F, the distance of the Preakness. He won the Gran Premio Nacional-Uruguayan Derby contested at to 12.5F. A distance that exceeds the Belmont. His record of distances won spans the US Triple Crown.

The recently concluded TC saw many of the participants in each leg stumbling home like drunken sailors grasping for air. None were sired by Invasor.

In 2011 Invasor bred only 38 mares in 2011. If ever there was a horse that deserves a chance at stud it has to be Invasor. There are not many stallions standing in the US that has either his record or heart. Is there any reason why breeders are not supporting this stallion?

07 Aug 2013 4:33 PM
The Deacon

Secretariat:  No disrespect, but your point doesn't hold water. Zenyatta ran most of her races on synthetic and in California. The great Personal Ensign ran every race in New York if my memory serves me. She is considered one of the top fillies of all time.

New York has many tracks, Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, and Monmouth next door in New Jersey.

Travel was much harder back then  and there wasn't any Breeders Cup races to lure horses across the country. Eastern purses were usually higher then out west as well.  You're talking semantics here. None of us are minimizing Zenyatta as a great horse, my is that I thought Ruffian was just better. Obviously she didn't in 21 races because she broke down in the process of beating Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

So, she never got the chance.....

Like I said, we can agree to disagree.

Keep up the great blogs......

07 Aug 2013 8:03 PM


Were you a Cigar fan? Is that why your so upset about Zenyatta's record (19 wins in a row - which includes 13 grade I victories?

Don't be upset. Embrace it.

07 Aug 2013 8:36 PM
Greg R

Royal Delta's record is spotty, even against females.  Awesome one race, dull and mediocre the next race.  I would simply like to see more consistency from her in defeating her own gender, in order for her to consolidate her credentials.

As for Wise Dan, I don't recall, but did you bug Lure's connections to run him long on the dirt?  I'm wild about Dan, but I'm not sure he has quite equaled, let alone surpassed Lure, even in his specialty.  If you want him to eclipse (no pun intended) Lure as a turf miler, he needs to keep mowing them down on the grass a little longer.  Anyway, I thought the Woodward had already been talked about for Wise Dan.

07 Aug 2013 10:46 PM
Greg R

I wholeheartedly agree with Cold Facts about Invasor.  So his pedigree is not currently the most fashionable.  How fashionable was Seattle Slew's pedigree when he started out in life?!!  Yet he became an extremely important sire influence, simply because he was a great horse in his own right and passed his qualities along.  If breeders don't give Invasor sufficient opportunities with top-rate mares, they'll never know if he could have done the same and his genes will be lost to racing posterity.

07 Aug 2013 10:54 PM

Kindly substitute the verb grasping with gasping in my post regarding Invasor.

08 Aug 2013 8:22 AM

Coldfacts: I've seen Invasor, and he was great.  (But I was upset with him the day he beat up my Bernardini in the 2006 BCC...of course Invasor earned that win.)

I too, have been watching for his progeny.  Last year I followed Photon, one of his sons. He did well, but he wasn't G1 like his Daddy.  There were 2 others who ran, but my Swiss cheese memory fails me at their names.  (Heck, I rarely get my own kids' names right.)

I'm so tired of the same old arguments about the Zen.  It remains love/hate with no in between.  She was great! period!  Rachel Alexandra was great too.  Why couldn't everyone just accept those 2 little facts without demeaning either?

When I consider the best horse in the 20th Century, I automatically exclude Secretariat AND Ruffian.  I think they were from another planet.  Horses don't run that fast.  They were unbelievable and totally amazing.  No other horse can compare to either one.  They've become legends of mythic and epic proportions.

Everyone is aware that my true love is the Slew; nothing will change that.  BUT, in fair consideration, the greatest horse I have ever seen was the horse that magnetized me to the sport of racing, and was the one and only Citation.  His accomplishments supersede all others. This is not said to diminish any other greats, because we have been so abundantly blessed with true thoroughbred talent.

And great horses often throw in a real klunker.  I'm supposing our personal evaluations very much depend on which race we watched, and sometimes whether we won or lost a bet.  

How often does an Allowance horse win 22 consecutive races? Rapid Redux won 19 straight races in 2011, continuing his streak that began in 2010 and reached 22 races in a row in January 2012. How can you not love that?

And how do you measure the talent of Alydar when he was simply born in the wrong year. (might say the same for Sham.)

08 Aug 2013 8:16 PM
The Doctor

Secretariat - Ruffian's career "leaves a lot to be desired' you should be ashamed of yourself and apologize profusely to all of us knowledgeable bloggers, what kind of statement is that????? There was no incentive in 1974/75 for a filly to travel out west. The Deacon has it right, the money and prestige was on the east coast. Everybody knew where she was, she won the New York Triple Crown for fillies against all challengers....There was nothing more for her to win among the fillies. Unfortunately the connections decided to test the colts and the rest is history.

10 Aug 2013 11:55 AM

Why is it turf horses must win on dirt to be considered great but dirt horses are not required to win against the best turf horses to earn the same honor?

10 Aug 2013 6:31 PM


"Why is it turf horses must win on dirt to be considered great but dirt horses are not required to win against the best turf horses to earn the same honor?"

It's called Steve Crist and his DRF boys. They have "brainwashed" the public into believing it. We have a stigma... here in the states. We feel like we have to be different from the rest of the world.

12 Aug 2013 1:29 PM

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