February 24, 2010

Extraordinary Thoroughbred Crops

I started a poll, there on the left, a few days ago and the more I considered the votes coming in, the more I realized it required a little write-up. These are the ten crops that I have identified as the best in American racing history. To qualify, the horses did not need to be bred in America, but they did need to have made a name for themselves on American racetracks. I highlighted each year by listing the top five runners (not an easy task in many cases) of each year. The year represents the standouts' three-year-old season. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did researching it, and please let me know what you think…which year did I leave out? What horse should I have included in my top fives?


1948 - You do not need to look much farther than the roster at Calumet Farm to realize the excellence of this crop. Citation, Coaltown, and Bewitch were all Calumet runners. Throw in handicap star Noor, and the filly Miss Request, to complete a special crop.

1955 - Swaps and Nashua were true superstars of 1955. Summer Tan, Dedicate, and High Voltage round out this year’s top five.

1957 - Round Table, Bold Ruler, and Gallant Man were all Hall of Fame runners and great sires. Gen. Duke was a star before injury and Clem became a top handicap horse, making this class possibly the greatest of all time.

1967 - Dr. Fager and Damascus were two all-time greats. Include Gamely, Fort Marcy, and In Reality and you have one of the greatest crops in American history.

1969 - An underrated crop…Everyone remembers the Triple Crown match-up between Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters, but do not underestimate the greatness of a couple of fillies Gallant Bloom and Shuvee. Ack Ack gets the five spot by a whisker over Ta Wee.

1973 - Secretariat, Forego, Sham, Dahlia, and Desert Vixen…enough said.

1978 - Affirmed and Alydar will be remembered forever, but speed merchants Sensitive Prince and Dave’s Friend were members of this crop, and oh yeah, a plucky gelding named John Henry.

1987 - Depth was the word for the word this top class crop. Narrowing it to five is not easy; I will go with Alysheba, Personal Ensign, Bet Twice, Miesque, and Java Gold.

1997 - See 1987. Forced to narrow this crop down to five, I went with Silver Charm, Free House, Touch Gold, Awesome Again, and Kona Gold. Captain Bodgit loses the photo one last time.

2007 - Led by sure to be Hall of Fame runners Curlin and Zenyatta, 2007 was the best crop of the young century. Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Rags to Riches cement that standing.

24 comments:

Abitaamber said...

My vote is already in for 1997 (big surprise there, lol!), but I'm thinking that it's impossible to leave Daylami...I suppose he just had the one big win on American soil, but he was 1999 Champion Older Turf Horse.

Anonymous said...

My vote is for 1957. I guess comparing horses from different eras is pointless and silly but it is so much fun. The history of this sport is such an important part of why I'm drawn to horse racing. Keep up the good work, Brian!

Brian Zipse said...

Daylami was also considered strongly Abitaamber, but like I said, that was one hard year to call the Top 5.

Thanks Anonymous, I think you hit on something important there, The marvelous history of horse racing is unlike any other sport in the world. We are talking about true superstars here, and ZATT will never forget our sport's rich past.

Celeste said...

Wonderful insight, Brian. I guess I got confused by the original poll question because you were asking about the three year old season rather than birth year and ...oh, well...let's call it old-timers - ha!

Brian Zipse said...

Sorry Celeste...You got it now though, right? The year represents their three-year-old seasons, i.e. Secretariat is 1973, not 1970.

LDP said...

I recognize all of the names, but I hold a soft spot for the year I was able to actually see, especially since it holds Curlin, an all time favorite of mine. I know you said three year old standouts, but in 07 Midnight Lute was unbelievable in the BC and Lawyer Ron was one heck of an older horse.

Brian Zipse said...

Good horses in 2007 LDP, but this is strictly about crops, so Midnight Lute and Lawyer Ron do not qualify for this particular conversation.

C T Coleman said...

As always ZATT hits the nail on the head. Noticed a trend 2007 1997 1987. Just think it’s interesting too bad we will never see another great breeding year do to the fact that Darley/Godolphins owner the Sheik isn’t doing as well finically as he was. Zyat has got big bills to pay and all the Wall Street tycoons are hurting so I don’t think we are going to be seeing the Blue Blood foals being bred soon. The money isn’t there to be made in the consignment sales or the huge auctions credit markets are tight so banks don’t want to be investing in the volatile bloodstock market. Call it doom and gloom its not financially prudent to be breeding Blue Bloods in Kentucky. In FL there is no tax on stallion fees, New York has a great state bred bonus program that is on its way of being wiped out and PA slot bonus is also reducing. If you look at the purses structures around the nation some states such as PA have large purses for cheaper claiming horses; this is a big reason why Doug O’ Neil now has an East Coast string. The big breeders (Lanes End, Three Chimneys, Taylor Made et. Al) are lowering the stud fees KY is loosing money on the stallion tax and purse supplements. Something needs to be done to protect the future of the breeding programs or the level of the juvenile centered bouquet meets (Saratoga Del Mar and especially Keeneland fall meet) will lose major prestige and perhaps the energy of our beloved “Triple Crown Trail” will suffer. In reality horse racing is only hip to a majority of this nation due to the Triple Crown Hype and road to the derby.

Brian Zipse said...

Interesting comment C T C. I will reply with a simple...does the current freefall of stud fees mean that we will be breeding less well bred horses?

C T Coleman said...

The fall of stud fees are a knee-jerk reaction to curb the decline in the breeding industry. Overnight purses are being slashed, states purses cut, and state-bred bonuses rolled back. With those reductions less owners are able to stay in the game without cutting there operation. Fewer horses and less big money horses. Mares staying in trainer longer fewer breeding (cough Zynatta cough cough). Who knows what the state bred bonuses will be in two years? Some states may barely have them. Some people will still buy the “blue bloods” but the stakes have risen as the profit margins fall and the group severely impacted would be the big time operations the ones cutting stud fees and the Newer Sires of the future the Big Browns and Curlins who might not be the best sires or remain a HUGE gamble because we don’t know just how good their foals well be? Honestly I think all breeding will be hurt across the board.

CiarĂ¡n said...

i think the current economic climate will actually strengthen the quality of crops, in that , money is tight, if you want to get a good price for a yearling it needs to be well bred. less horses will be bred but I think the industry is focusing on quality over quantity now and that can only be a good thing...for the quality of breeding and produce... not for all the people who are losing jobs in the industry because of less demand.

Brian Zipse said...

The fall in stud fees is right in line with supply and demand. Ciaran, I can't agree with you more...for the first time in years it is a buyer's market, i.e. quality over quantity.

Anonymous said...

I would put the three year olds of 06 right up against any of these... Barbaro, Bernardini, Lawyer Ron, George Washington, and Discreet Cat. Even 2000 was a great class of three year olds.

Anonymous said...

Bad news Brian. But Why Not was a 4yo in 1948. Good luck in trying to find a replacement.
RG

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks RG...my editor was just fired. Want the job?

Anonymous said...

2009 may turn out to be a great year too. Its got Rachel, arguably the greatest filly ever, and Quality Road, who could turn into a great as well. Not to mention the return of The Pamplemouse and I Want Revenge this year. Throw in Summer Bird, and you have a nice group of horses. Its to soon to say how well all of these horses will do, but there's potential.

Anonymous said...

The two best sires from the 1957 crop???
RG

Brian Zipse said...

RG,

#1 - Bold Ruler

#2 - is tougher, but I would go with Round Table.

mvlach77 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mvlach77 said...

Brian, I love these polls and your take on them. If you haven't done it already it would be fun to get your thoughts (or a poll) on the greatest field ever assembled for a horse race in the U.S. I'd be interested in hearing how well the 1973 Marlboro Cup would hold up.

Brian Zipse said...

mvlach77,

Wonderful idea...that will make for an excellent column in the future!

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Brian
I guess a good argument can be made for Bold Ruler as an excellent sire but look what Nearctic started.
RG

Brian Zipse said...

RG, Good call...as a grandsire, I would say Neartic is the best of the class, and his line endures. Strictly as a sire though, I firmly stand by Bold Ruler...who had some pretty good grandsons and great grandsons as well (Spectacular Bid & Seattle Slew).