Horse Racing History and the Triple Crown
Excellent analysis. Dr. Fager was an exceptional thoroughbred, who raced in an excellent period. Some of his fellow competitors were Arts and Letters, Buckpasser, Majestic Prince and Damascus, who were also winners of the Horse of the Year. Dr. Fager never won a Triple Crown Race, but was a strong veteran horse. I believe that his owner named him after a Doctor that saved the owner's life. But Kelso was an excellent veteran horse that won Horse of the Year honors for 5 straight years 1960-4, which has never been replicated. In fact only Forego won it three years in a row from 1974-6. Kelso retired as the top money winner, but another gelding John Henry, who raced on and on, shattered his records.
The top horses of all time have to be judged by Triple Crown wins, times, domination of an era and percentage of wins. Man-O-War, who won 19 of 20 races with great record times and certainly would have won the Kentucky Derby, but the Preakness, was in conflict with the Derby in that year as it was in other years. Man-O-War won the Preakness and Belmont and his only loss was in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, where he came in second to Upset, when his jockey, who was probably part of a fix, held him back.
Citation and Secretariat were fabulous horses. Secretariat set records in each of his Triple Crown winning efforts. His records still stand in the Derby and the Belmont. His 35-length victory in the Belmont was awe-inspiring. He was only beaten carrying a significant weight disadvantage in a handicap race. He was great! Citation also was a record setting dominant horse. My last great horse would be Native Dancer who won a very high percentage of his races, including the Preakness and the Belmont. He did not win the Derby in 1953 that was won by Dark Star. But he was Horse of the Year in 1952 and 1954. He lost the title to in 1953 to another outstanding older horse, Tom Fool that never won a Triple Crown race. Tom Fool, as an older horse had never had beaten the Dancer. Native Dancer’s only loss was in the Derby and he finished his career winning 21 out of 22. These horses were retired to stud early and therefore did not have racing careers past age 4. Native Dancer sired the parents and grandparents of all of the 16 entrees in this year's Derby and though he did not win the Derby, he was the sire to 8 of the last nine winners. He sired Northern Dance who won the Derby and the Preakness.
Therefore my list would be: Man-O-War, Secretariat, Citation, Native Dancer, Kelso, and Nassua, who was upset by Swaps in the Derby, but won the Preakness and the Belmont and I believe beat Swaps in a Match race, and was Horse of the Year in 1955.
Meanwhile I loved Empire Maker and picked him over Funny Cide. Funny Cide was a bit of a fluke. Empire Maker was not prepared for the Derby and was a bit injured for the Preakness. It was smart to rest him and we all saw the results. To win the Triple Crown is quite an effort!
So that's it for now! rjg