The 6 Biggest Rivalries in Horse Racing

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Part of the excitement that comes with sports is the competition it brings. Whatever game you’re watching, you can be sure that two or more participants are jockeying for dominance. In sports, rivalries are common and are the stuff that legends are made off. Without a rivalry, competitions become one-sided, boring, and just not fun to watch. 

In basketball, the deep rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics has been cemented as one of the best rivalries in sports. In boxing, the power and talent of Muhammad Ali clashed with the strength and dominance of Joe Frazier. The match between these two fighters was a classic. 

Just like the sports mentioned above, horse racing too has intense rivalries. When two horses are neck and neck of reaching the finish line, you can be sure that the millions watching at home and thousands in attendance will surely erupt. Here are some horse racing rivalries that captured the imagination of crowds all over the world:

Seabiscuit v.s. War Admiral – 1938

Before we get into modern rivalries, let it be known that Seabiscuit and War Admiral’s rivalry was the greatest. There was a lot of drama involved with these two. Seabiscuit was poised as the hero with War Admiral portraying the villain. The United States was trying to climb itself up from the Great Depression, and the race was the perfect way to capture the public’s attention.

Most Americans heavily favored Seabiscuit at that time because, like their situation, the horse was considered an underdog. War Admiral had far better records than Seabiscuit. He was pegged by many to win, despite a big favor swinging towards Seabiscuit.

At first, Seabiscuit’s reputation for being a stiff, hard-headed racehorse made rounds in the entire racing community. It wasn’t when trainer Tom Smith began doing work with Seabiscuit. Together with jockey Red Pollard, Seabiscuit showed leaps of improvement and went on to garner records. The life and story of Seabiscuit are well documented in books and major films.

Although Seabiscuit defeated War Admiral, their rivalry would become set in stone, becoming a favorite classic for sports aficionados all over the world.

Damascus v.s. Dr. Fager v.s. Buckpasser – 1967, 1968

It’s not rare for three parties to become rivals with each other. That’s precisely the case of these three strong horses in 1967. Although Damascus won two of the three races that the three participated in, Dr. Fager and Buckpasser were no pushovers. 

Dr. Fager and Buckpasser were pegged as two of the best horses in the last 60 years of the sport. Damascus had to be an underdog but proved otherwise as he edged out these two horses to win it all. 

Secretariat v.s. Sham – 1973

Although Sham was the fastest racehorse of his time, he would inevitably be pushed aside by one of the most famous horses in history. That horse is Secretariat. If Secretariat wouldn’t have come along, Sham could’ve been the better-known horse. When you base it by the book, Sham even had faster finishes than Secretariat.

It was their race that sealed Secretariat’s greatness. For over many years, Secretariat’s dominance over the race tracks proved to be too great, as he holds world records that remain unbeaten in today’s time. 

Summer Squall v.s. Unbridled – 1991

Summer Squall went on to win this rivalry, garnering a score of four wins and two losses against an equally strong horse in Unbridled. Their matches weren’t nail biters or close finishes, but they were enough to captivate crowds in the early 1990s. 

Their styles were made to clash with each other, making them the perfect rivals. The rivalry first began when Unbridled drew first blood at the 1990 Kentucky Derby. After that, Summer Squall proved superior and won the races. 

Lonhro v.s. Sunline – 2002

The match between Lonhro and Sunline was a classic David v.s. Goliath story. Sunline was a dominant force in the races at that time, a heavyweight champion dubbed by some. Lohnro was the young prodigy who was trailblazing raceways with his victories as he earned his nickname, “The Black Flash.”

In the Caulfield Stakes race, Sunline was expected to give it his best as this was his penultimate race. As the race went on, Sunline was expectedly dominating the field. All of a sudden, “The Black Flash” changed the course of the competition. With a change in speed, Lonhro went on to win the race and produced a record of 26 wins and 4 placings from 34 starts.

Blind Luck v.s. Havre de Grace – 2011

As the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is nearing, let’s pay homage to a classic rivalry between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. These two fillies were neck and neck in most of their meetings. In fact, this rivalry ended closely as Blind Luck won by a nose and went on to win the rivalry with a score of 3 wins against Havre de Grace’s 2 wins. 

Rivalries are what make sports better and interesting to watch. Just like basketball, football, boxing, or any other sport, Race Horsing also has its rivalries that are legendary in their own way.

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