Does Flightline make horse racing’s Mount Rushmore?

One of the trendy things these days on social media is picking a sport and selecting a Mount Rushmore for MLB, the NFL, the NBA, et al.

For instance, a Mount Rushmore for MLB could include Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Willie Mays. A Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches might be made up of John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight. But you get the idea.

This week, we’re going to pick a Mount Rushmore of great thoroughbred race horses, the four best during my lifetime. It’s a fun exercise, and one that is bound to spark debate because they’ve have been so many great horses the past 50 years.

Ready? Buckle up and let’s get started.


Any Mount Rushmore of horse racing without this guy is a farce. Set track records in all three 1973 Triple Crown races, capping if off with the record 31-length Belmont romp in which iconic race caller Chic Anderson told us, “Secretariat is widening now. He is moving like a tremendous machine.”

Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, told Thoroughbred Daily News this week that, while he’s a fan of Flightline, he believes Big Red would have beaten last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.

“He hasn’t done enough for me to say he is better than Secretariat,” he said.

Fair enough.

Secretariat was a two-time Horse of the Year, won 16 of 21 starts and concluded his brilliant career by winning twice on the grass to prove he wasn’t just a dirt sensation. Turcotte says he would have loved to see Secretariat run as a 4-year-old.

“Secretariat was just maturing when he was retired,” Turcotte said. “His last two races were just unbelievable.”


The greatest filly ever. She won 10 consecutive races, including the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. She was in the lead at every point of call in every race she ran and set records in all eight stakes races she won.

How good was Ruffian?

Lucien Lauren, who trained Secretariat, said of the great filly: “As God is my judge, she might be better than Secretariat.”

The 11th race of her brilliant career in 1975 was the ill-fated match race against that year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure, in which she broke down and had to be euthanized. No surprise, she was in front of Foolish Pleasure when she broke down.

Bloodhorse magazine ranked Ruffian as the top filly or mare of the 20th century in its list of the top 100 American race horses and No. 35 overall. Much too low, because she just might have been the best ever.

Spectacular Bid

No horse on our Mount Rushmore had a more colorful trainer than the Bid’s Bud Delp, who once called Spectacular Bid “the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle.” Bud could talk as fast as the Bid ran.

Spectacular Bid, who unlike Secretariat ran as a 4-year-old, won 26 of 30 lifetime starts and still holds the record for the fastest mile and a quarter on dirt. He beat a good horse in his own right, Flying Paster, by 3¼ lengths in the 1980 Strub Stakes in the eye-popping time of 1:57 4/5.

Leave it to Delp to sum it up when he told The Desert Sun, “How fast can a horse run? We’re working on a set of wings now.”

The black mark on Spectacular Bid’s career came in the 1979 Belmont when he failed to complete his quest for the Triple Crown by finishing a shocking third. Later it was revealed he’d stepped on a safety pin the morning of the race. It became embedded in his hoof, later leading to an infection.

Still, the Bid truly was one of the greatest to ever look through a bridle.


No, now that he’s retired, the 4-year-old Tapit colt will never pass the test of time that Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott says is a necessity in order to be crowned one of the best ever. But we think six victories by a combined 71 lengths, including a record 8¼ lengths in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, is enough to put him right up there with the aforementioned trio.

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There have been some other outstandings horses that didn’t pass the test of time, including Ghostzapper (11 races), American Pharoah (11) and Justify (six). As much as we all would have loved to see Flightline race at age 5, breeding rights are just too lucrative and the decision was really a no-brainer.

Too bad, because losing these horses after only a few races is really hurting the sport.

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

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