Thoroughbred Racehorses

Pets/Animals - Horses
By: litetender    

Introduction:When my husband and I were dating, there came a point at which he asked me with real curiosity, "Are there not ANY sports that you enjoy?" to which I replied, "But of course! I watch the Kentucky Derby EVERY year!" The running of the 137th Kentucky Derby, Lord willing, will occur May 7, 2011. With this holy grail of horse racing fast approaching, I thought it apropos to highlight a few of the stories of some of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses that ever lived.

  • 01

    Man O' War

    Even people who care nothing for the world of thoroughbred racing know the name of Man o'War. Arguably the most famous racehorse to ever live, he set the gold standard against which all other thoroughbred racers have since been measured. Man o'War was born in Lexington, Kentucky, at the Nursery Stud owned by August Belmont Jr., the builder of New York's Belmont Park racetrack. He was the second of five foals born to his mother, Mahubah, and his sire, Fair Play. He grew from a gawky foal to a tall (16.2 hands) and magnificently muscled adult horse with high head carriage and a charismatic "presence". Man o'War was a bright chestnut with a white star on his forehead like his sire's, and was nicknamed "Big Red" by the public. He was a fiery natured, difficult to break horse (he threw his first jockey forty feet), but came into his own once he realized that his destiny was to run. Man o'War won 20 of his 21 races, with one second. In that race (before modern starting gates}, he started behind the rest of the field, ran faster and farther than they, all while carrying an additional fifteen pounds of weight to earn his second place finish. Man o'War distinguished himself as a sire, with over 64 stakes winners including the 1937 Triple Crown winner, War Admiral. Man o'War died at the age of 30, from a heart attack, and was embalmed. He lay in state as his fans came and mourned. Almost 2000 people attended his funeral. Blood-Horse magazine listed Man o'War as number one in its list of the top 100 race horses of the 20th century.

  • 02


    Secretariat was perhaps the greatest race horse that ever lived, setting track records, two of which still stand, and winning the 1973 Triple Crown trio of races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat won 16 of his 21 races, with three second place finishes and one third. Born March 30, 1970, he was sired by Bold Ruler out of Somethingroyal. Like Man o'War before him, he was a bright red chestnut with a star and a narrow blaze, and once his racing career began, he became known to his fans as "Big Red." The same height as Man o' War, 16.2 hands; he weighted 1200 pounds. "Secretariat" was the eleventh name submitted to the jockey club by owner Penny Chenery, the previous ten having been rejected for a variety of reasons. He was trained by the great Lucien Laurin and ridden primarily by Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte. As both a two and three year old, Secretariat was named Horse of the Year. As a sire, he produced over 600 foals, and was particularly noted as a sire of excellent broodmares. In the autumn of 1989, Secretariat foundered, (became afflicted with a painful hoof disorder known as laminitis) and when he failed to respond to treatment, he was euthanized on October 4th. He was 19. Secretariat is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Prior to burial, he was autopsied, and it was discovered that Secretariat's heart was much larger than the average Thoroughbred racehorse's heart, due to a genetic phenomenon known as the "x-factor" because it is transmitted by the x chromosome, and thus is bestowed by the dams of the line. It was estimated that Secretariat's heart weighed in the neighborhood of 22 pounds, which is about two and a half times that of the average Thoroughbred. Blood-Horse magazine rated Secretariat as the number two horse in it's list of the top 100 race horses of the 20th century.

  • 03


    Seabiscuit was one of the "heroes" of the Great Depression, an improbable champion who carried to victory the hopes and hearts of the depression era people. He was foaled on Claiborne Farms in Paris, Kentucky, May 23, 1933, to dam, Swing On and sire, Hard Tack, a Man o'War son. Seabiscuit was a small, unprepossessing, ungainly looking bay foal. His first years of racing were not without promise, but they were nothing spectacular, either. His early trainer was preoccupied with the training of another horse, Omaha, son of Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and himself the 1935 Triple Crown winner. As a two year old, Seabiscuit started in 35 races of which he won 5. As a three year old he won 9 of 23 races before being sold to Charles and Marcella Howard, whose trainer, "silent" Tom Smith, had taken an interest in the horse. In less than two years, Seabiscuit had raced not quite sixty times, and he was sore, underweight and cantankerous by the time he was acquired by the Howards. Smith, who was something of a depression era "horse whisperer" recognized Seabiscuit's need for rest, restoration, and friends. Smith babied Seabiscuit's legs and provided him with an extra large stall and companions: a spider monkey, a stray dog, and a quiet natured pony by the name of Pumpkin, who became his traveling companion for the rest of his career. Once recovered, Smith hired the Canadian boxer turned jockey, Red Pollard, to ride Seabiscuit, and the pair became fast friends. Pollard's nickname for Seabiscuit was "Pops". In 1937, Seabiscuit, as a four year old, was the leading Thoroughbred money winner. He was not named Horse of the Year, however; that honor went to the three year old Triple Crown winner, War Admiral, son of Man o'War, who was Seabiscuit's grandsire. As a five year old, Seabiscuit beat his younger relative War Admiral in an even weight match race for a $15,000.00 purse and was named Horse of the Year. Seabiscuit spent most of his six year old year recovering from a tendon injury to his left front leg. As a seven year old, at nearly twice the age of some of his competitors, he won the Santa Anita Handicap. This was a race he had twice attempted in the past, garnering seconds After winning the Santa Anita, Seabiscuit was retired. Seabiscuit spanned 89 races.. He finished in the money 61 times, with 33 wins and 16 track records. Seabiscuit died of a heart attack at the unusually young age of 14. Seabiscuit was featured in a 1949 film, The Story of Seabiscuit, as well as a 2001 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and a 2003 film entitled Seabiscuit, which received a nomination for the Academy Award of best Picture. Seabiscuit was buried on the Howard's ranch at an undisclosed location. Seabiscuit is listed as horse number 25 in Blood-Horse magazine's list of the top 100 race horses of the 20th century.

  • 04

    Seattle Slew

    Sired by Bold Reasoning out of My Charmer, Seattle Slew was the two time great, great, great, great, great grandson of Man o'War. He was the only horse to ever win the Triple Crown while undefeated. Slew's racing record stands at 17 starts, with 14 firsts, 2 seconds and total earnings of $1,208,726.00. Seattle Slew was born February 15, 1974 at White Horse Acres Farm in Kentucky, and sold the following year to Karen and Mickey Taylor of White Swan, Washington. Seattle Slew was known for his ability to triumph over even the worst adversity. He conquered viral infections, a collapsed left jugular vein in 1978 and as a four year old, a suspensory ligament injury that would have finished the career of most horses. Seattle Slew was retired to stud in 1979 and he was at least as successful as a stud horse as he was a racehorse. He is known as the "sire of sires" and his successful legacy lives on. Seattle Slew died in his sleep, 25 years to the day after he won the Kentucky Derby in 1977. Blood-Horse magazine ranks him as the 9th best horse in its list of the 100 best of the 20th century.

  • 05


    Barbaro is perhaps the most recent Thoroughbred racehorse to capture the hearts and imagination of Americans. Sired by Dynaformer out of La Ville Rouge, Barbaro was born April 29, 2003 at Springmint Farm in Nicholasville, KY. He was only the sixth horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby as a three year old with an undefeated racing record behind him. The Kentucky Derby was his sixth race. Heavily favored to win the Preakness, he broke down in the first furlong of the race, fracturing his right hind leg in twenty places. He underwent over five hours of surgery at New Bolton Center at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and had a titanium plate and twenty seven screws put into his broken leg. His veterinarian gave him a 50/50 chance of survival. For some months he appeared to be beating the odds, and his broken leg did almost completely heal, but ultimately he was put down on January 29, 2007 due to laminitis in his other hooves that was caused by added weight bearing stress. After his accident, Barbaro's gallant heart and calm disposition captured the hearts of Americans. His stall was decorated with thousands of get well cards, and press reports as to his condition were issued regularly. Barbaro's owners have repeated the breeding that produced him, and there are at least three full Barbaro brothers on the ground, some of whom have begun their own racing careers.

Final Thoughts

There is no animal so beautiful as a horse, and nothing quite as emotional as a horse in motion, it's like poetry. It has been a privilege to write this tribute to these magnificent animals!

Supporting Links


  • goodselfme 3/19/2011 Flag This Comment

    I have known some things you have listed about thoroughbred race horses because I have a fondness for these animals. Thank you for the wonderful details about each of these beautiful and accomplished racehorses to learn from your well presented information.

  • SondraC 3/19/2011 Flag This Comment

    sounds good to me

  • clewand550 3/19/2011 Flag This Comment

    We love going to the horse races every now and then and watch the horses and how fast they can run. We love looking at how beautiful they really are. Nice list of 5. Well written list.

  • Jeanniemaries 3/19/2011 Flag This Comment

    We watched Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby and then the Triple Crown. That was the first time I watched the Kentucky Derby and have watched every year since then.

  • sparkybates 3/18/2011 Flag This Comment

    These are all great horses ... thanks for the awesome list!

  • hummingbirdee 3/18/2011 Flag This Comment

    This list on thorough bred race horses is extremely interesting and I read every word. Awesome!

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