A few weeks ago we explored the Undefeated Champions, those rare equine immortals who never tasted defeat. Only 23 thoroughbreds have raced 10 or more times and retired Unbeaten led by the incomparable KINCSEM (54/54) and our own BLACK CAVIAR (25/25). But what about those ‘greats’ who were defeated just the once? There are 34 thoroughbreds who have raced 10 or more times and been beaten just the once…and some of the horses on this list are regarded as the best of all time even though beaten. The top 3 on the ‘once beaten’ list (MAN O’WAR, NATIVE DANCER and ZENYATTA), are rated 1st, 7th and 12th respectively on the 100 Greatest Horses of All Time List.
Sadly horses such as Wheel of Fortune, Barbaro, Ruffian and Vanity sustained injury or broke down in their only defeat.
So what makes a horse Never or Only Once Beaten? Are they truly absolutely dominant or just well placed by their connections? Who knows…interestingly, dominant horses usually scare away their opposition once their dominance is established like Hartnell avoiding Winx this Spring. Does that then mean because the Champion defeats ‘weaker’ and smaller fields that they are beating ‘nothing’ or they are a ‘powder puff’ Champion? It’s usually only AFTER the great horse retires that we truly appreciate how great they were.
The Greats Beaten just Once:
- Native Dancer – the ‘Grey Ghost’ raced 22 times and was beaten only once when 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. He was the first true television star Race Horse, as he raced from 1952 when tv’s became common in most houses. He raced 9 times at 2 and won them all claiming both Champion 2yo and Horse of the Year Honours. At 3 he won the Gotham and Wood on route to the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby he was fouled twice and poorly ridden resulting in a close defeat by Dark Star. He then rounded out his 3yo season with wins in the; Preakness, Belmont, Travers and everything else he ran in. 10 starts in all for 9 wins and Champion 3yo. At 4 he went 3 for 3 and again was Horse of the Year. At stud he sired 43 Stakes Winners amongst them the Sire of Sea Bird and Dam of Northern Dancer, 2 immortals themselves.
- Man O’ War – is widely regarded as the best American horse of all time. Raced by Samuel Riddle, Man O’ War was a big boy standing 16.2 hands. ‘Big Red’ ran 10 times at 2 and won 9 of them. He was inexplicably beaten by the well named ‘Upset’ at Saratoga. Not entered for the Kentucky Derby, Man O’ War won all 11 starts at 3 including; Preakness, Belmont, Travers, Dwyer and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Retired at the end of the season, Man O’ War had started Odds on Favourite every start and won races by up to 100 lengths. He won in Track and World Record time regularly and often led and destroyed his opposition. At stud he sired 62 Stakes Winners from only 381 foals including Champion War Admiral. Through his sons and daughters, Man O’ War is found in almost all modern American pedigrees.
The Man O’ War Story below, click to enjoy the great horse
- Zenyatta – was a big Filly by Street Cry, also sire of Australian heroine WINX. She won her first 19 starts over 4 years and went into her final start attempting to be the ONLY American horse to win 20 times and remain undefeated. History shows she failed by a mere short head after conceding the winner Blame up to 16 lengths head start at the 1000m mark. Zenyatta became the darling of American racing mainly due to her enormous size and also her racing style of being well back then charging home and often just getting there on the line. She was the US Horse of the Year in 2010 and was narrowly beaten by skier Lyndsey Vonn as American Female Athlete of the Year. He first 2 foals died at or shortly after birth.
Breeders Cup 2009…Un-bee-lievable…
- Ruffian – was also a darling of the American Racing scene in the 1970’s. She raced at a time when Horse Racing was on a high and widely watched at the track and in homes. Secretariat, Kelso and Dr Fager were Champions of the era but it was Ruffian who captured the fans imagination. Like Zenyatta, Ruffian was a big Filly standing 16.1 hands. She made her debut at 2 in an 1100m Maiden. She went straight to the front and won by 15 lengths in Track Record time ~ a star was born. She blazed her way through her next 4 starts winning by 7 lengths, 9 lengths, 3 lengths and 12 lengths to be named Champion 2yo. At 3 she had 5 more starts for 5 easy victories. In all, her 10 starts had been from 1100m to 2400m and she had broken a track or stakes records in all of them. A match race against Champion 3yo Colt Foolish Pleasure was arranged at Belmont Park in front of 50,000 spectators and an estimated 20 Million television viewers. Ruffian breezed through the first 600m leading the Colt by ½ length when she changed stride. Apparently the crack of bones was clearly audible as the Filly faltered in her action having smashed both sesamoids in her off front leg. Her jockey tried valiantly to pull her up but Ruffian was having none of that and she forged on. She went on running, pulverizing her sesamoids, ripping the skin of her fetlock and tearing her ligaments until her hoof was flopping uselessly. Jockey Vasquez said it was impossible for him to stop her. She still tried to run and finish the race. Video showed Ruffian was startled by a bird in the infield and took a bad step. The tragedy was felt right across America as the horror unfolded on the small screens. Ruffian was taken to the horse hospital and operated on but she reacted violently to anaesthetic and smashed her legs further. She was then humanely euthanized.
Watch one of her great wins below
- Other greats to lose once include Champion English horses Hambletonian (19/18) and Brigadier Gerard (18/17) and also great American horse Sysonby (15/14). Recent Australian star Atlantic Jewel also makes the list (11/10).
Below is a list of Leading Thoroughbred Racehorses who were defeated once.
|22:21–1–0||Native Dancer||United States||Gr.h. 1950||Kentucky Derby 2nd|
|21:20–1–0||Man o’ War||United States||Ch.h. 1917||Sanford Stakes 2nd|
|20:19–1–0||Zenyatta||United States||B/br.f. 2004||2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic 2nd|
|19:18–0–0||Hambletonian||Great Britain||B.h. 1792|
|18:17–1–0||Brigadier Gerard||Great Britain||1968||1972 Benson & Hedges Gold Cup 2nd|
|16:15–1–0||The Flying Dutchman||Great Britain||1846||1850 Doncaster Cup 2nd|
|15:14–0–1||Sysonby||United States||1902||Sheepshead Bay Futurity 3rd|
|14:13–1–0||Camarine||Great Britain||1828||Maiden race 2nd|
|14:13–0–1||Faugheen*||Ireland||B.g. 2008||2015 Morgiana Hurdle 2nd|
|13:12-1-0||Songbird*||United States||2013||2016 Breeders cup Distaff 2nd|
|12:11–0–0||Invasor||Argentina||B.h 2002||2005 UAE Derby 4th|
|12:11–1–0||Isinglass||Great Britain||1890||Lancashire Plate 2nd|
|11:10–1–0||Queen of Trumps||Great Britain||br. f. 1832||1835 Scarborough Stakes (attacked by dog)|
|11:10–0–1||Wheel of Fortune||Great Britain||f. 1869||1879 Great Yorkshire Stakes|
|11:10–0–1||Galopin||Great Britain||1872||1874 Middle Park Plate 3rd|
|11:10–0–0||Ruffian||United States||f. 1972||Match race against Foolish PleasureDNF|
|11:10-1-0||Atlantic Jewel||Australia||b. f. 2008||2013 Underwood Stakes|
|11:10-0-0||Awesome Feather||United States||2008|
Until Next Week…Good Punting