Through the hundreds of years and thousands of Thoroughbred races in this country, few horses were considered more unbeatable than MAN O'WAR - in 21 career starts through 1919 and 1920 he was always the odds-on favorite and won 20 of those races. His only loss was a second-place finish in the 1919 Sanford Stakes to a horse name, "UPSET". Due to circumstances and bad racing luck, that result many believe defines the term, "upset" in the world of sports; see rare film footage of MAN O'WAR wearing his racing cooler and of his match race with SIR BARTON in 1920.
Some of Thoroughbred racing's greatest upsets are re-visited:
Saratoga Race Course is America's oldest track dating back to 1863 and has been the site of some of the greatest upsets. Over the years it has earned its reputation as, "the graveyard of favorites". One of the biggest surprises that made headlines in the 1930 Travers Stakes was the 100-1 California invader and long-shot, JIM DANDY, who beat that years Triple Crown winner, GALLANT FOX by eight lengths!
More than 50 years later there was another shocking upset in this same race in the 1982 Travers -the field of five included that years three Triple Crown winners: 3-5 favorite CONQUISTADOR CIELO, GATO DEL SOL and ALOMA'S RULER and an unheralded Canadian outsider, RUNAWAY GROOM who would go from last to first to spoil America's best!
But Saratoga's "graveyard of favorites" had a much more famous victim...he was the cover-boy of the racing world...he was America's top sports personality of 1973...racing's first Triple Crown winner in 25 years...SECRETARIAT. Fress off a 9-length victory in the Arlington Invitational that followed his smashing Triple Crown sweep, SECRETARIAT came to Saratoga as the 1-10 favorite for the Whitney - his first test against older horses on 8/4/73. The race is shown halfway into the race and then untouched all the way to the finish line - so about 45 seconds is shaved off the entire race featuring WEST COAST SCOUT, RULE BY REASON and TRUE KNIGHT! ONION left tears in a lot of eyes that afternoon with his wire-to-wire victory; so how could it happen...how could a non-stakes winning four-year-old upset, "The Legend". Several factors may have contributed to his loss but many pointed to a 7/27/73 mile workout in record time that jockey, RON TURCOTTE, says caused his dull performance in addition to a low-grade fever he was running. Certain trainers seem to have a knack for pulling the upset...one of the all-time best is Hall of Famer, Allen Jerkens...known in racing circles as, "The Giant Killer". In addition to his horse, ONION, beating SECRETARIAT, there are many other examples in the Jerkens' stable:
Watch highlights of the 1962 Suburban Handicap as front-running BEAU PURPLE upsets the mega-star, KELSO...and HANDSOME BOY stuns the great BUCKPASSER in the 1967 Brooklyn Handicap.
But once again, Jerkens would go after SECRETARIAT in the 9/29/73 Woodward Stakes a Belmont Park...the same track and 1-1/2 mile distance where SECRETARIAT had romped to a 31-length win to clinch the Triple Crown. SECRETARIAT was the 3-10 favorite on a sloppy track...the longest price in the field of five was the Jerkens-trained Hobeau Farms, PROVE OUT - the only non-stakes winner in the race (also features COUGAR II, SUMMER GUEST and AMEN). WATCH THE ENTIRE RACE FROM START TO FINISH (except for the first 20 seconds of the race as it is cut short) as PROVE OUT hands SECRETARIAT the worst loss of his career...losing by 4-1/2 lengths!
Other famous shocking upsets that are shown include NATIVE DANCER's only loss of 21 career starts in the 1953 Kentucky Derby to DARK STAR, SPECTACULAR BID's loss in the 1979 Belmont. Several Breeders' Cup upsets are also showcased: MANILLA upsetting the great European Horse-of-the-Year, DANCING BRAVE in the 1986 Breeders' Cup Turf; the 1984 Breeders' Cup Classic was to be the crowning moment for the heavily favored SLEW O'GOLD...champion at three-years-old and unbeaten in five starts at four-years-old...the main challenger was expected to come from that years Preakness winner, GATE DANCER, the 31-1 WILD AGAIN would grind it out and survive an inquiry to pull a classic upset!
A look back at some of racing's greatest payoffs...they provide us with a lesson that is as old as racing itself - that there's no such thing as a sure thing...no horse is an absolute cinch...no champion so great that he can't be beaten...no matter how great the odds are... there can always be an upset!
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|