It’s Post Time by Jon White: Who is the Best Racehorse of This Century So Far?

There is something of a lull going on right now during this year’s Triple Crown series before it concludes with the Grade I Belmont Stakes on June 5. I will have my Belmont selections and analysis for next week.


I thought this would be a good time to go over my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America to determine if it needed updating.


Years ago for, I came up with my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries. I have tweaked the list from time to time. The inspiration was BloodHorse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.


Because we now are in the 21st year of this century, it’s become increasingly difficult to continually make room on my list of 100 to include racehorses from this century. Consequently, I have decided the time has come to make two lists, one for the 20st century and another for the 21st century so far.


Below is my list of the Top 25 Racehorses of the 21st Century so far:


  1. American Pharoah*
  2. Zenyatta
  3. Justify*
  4. Curlin
  5. Arrogate
  6. Shared Belief
  7. California Chrome
  8. Rachel Alexandra
  9. Barbaro
  10. Tiznow
  11. Wise Dan
  12. Ghostzapper
  13. Point Given
  14. Invasor
  15. Gun Runner
  16. Beholder
  17. Smarty Jones
  18. Azeri
  19. Lava Man
  20. Goldikova
  21. Bernardini
  22. Rags to Riches
  23. Candy Ride
  24. Kona Gold
  25. Xtra Heat


*Triple Crown winner


Below is my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century (in parentheses, when applicable, is where the horse ranked on BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century):


  1. Man o’ War (1)
  2. Secretariat* (2)
  3. Citation* (3)
  4. Kelso (4)
  5. Spectacular Bid (10)
  6. Native Dancer (7)
  7. Dr. Fager (6)
  8. Seattle Slew* (9)
  9. Count Fleet* (5)
  10. Affirmed* (12)
  11. Ruffian (35)
  12. Swaps (20)
  13. Forego (8)
  14. Phar Lap (22)
  15. Buckpasser (14)
  16. Damascus (16)
  17. Round Table (17)
  18. Seabiscuit (25)
  19. War Admiral* (13)
  20. Tom Fool (11)
  21. Colin (15)
  22. John Henry (23)
  23. Regret (71)
  24. Exterminator (29)
  25. Whirlaway* (26)
  26. Sunday Silence (31)
  27. Cigar (18)
  28. Nashua (24)
  29. Alydar (27)
  30. Easy Goer (34)
  31. Alysheba (42)
  32. Bold Ruler (19)
  33. Personal Ensign (48)
  34. All Along (68)
  35. Equipoise (21)
  36. Gallant Fox* (28)
  37. Sysonby (30)
  38. Gallant Man (36)
  39. Assault* (33)
  40. Armed (39)
  41. Sir Barton* (49)
  42. Northern Dancer (43)
  43. Omaha* (61)
  44. Ack Ack (44)
  45. Discovery (37)
  46. Majestic Prince (46)
  47. Arts and Letters (67)
  48. Stymie (41)
  49. Challedon (38)
  50. Pan Zareta
  51. Noor (69)
  52. Busher (40)
  53. Gallorette (45)
  54. Coaltown (47)
  55. Sword Dancer (53)
  56. Grey Lag (54)
  57. Devil Diver (55)
  58. Dahlia (50)
  59. Zev (56)
  60. Ta Wee (80)
  61. Twilight Tear (59)
  62. Riva Ridge (57)
  63. Native Diver (60)
  64. Holy Bull (64)
  65. Precisionist
  66. Inside Information
  67. Shuvee (70)
  68. Twenty Grand (52)
  69. Skip Away (32)
  70. Sham
  71. Alsab (65)
  72. Lady’s Secret (76)
  73. Genuine Risk (91)
  74. A.P. Indy
  75. Landaluce
  76. Silver Charm (63)
  77. Susan’s Girl (51)
  78. Cicada (62)
  79. Go for Wand (72)
  80. Slew o’ Gold (58)
  81. Bald Eagle (74)
  82. Exceller (96)
  83. Tim Tam
  84. Top Flight (66)
  85. Manila
  86. Johnstown (73)
  87. Lure (85)
  88. Princess Rooney
  89. Two Lea (77)
  90. Gallant Bloom (79)
  91. Miesque (82)
  92. Eight Thirty (78)
  93. Fort Marcy (86)
  94. Hoist the Flag
  95. Cougar II
  96. Gamely (87)
  97. Carry Back (83)
  98. Ancient Title
  99. Bayakoa (95)
  100. Formal Gold


*Triple Crown winner




Last Saturday marked the 47th anniversary of when Ruffian burst on the American racing scene in maiden race at Belmont Park.


Ruffian sped 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03 flat to win by 15 lengths. She tied the track record set 11 years earlier by Raise a Native. Ruffian’s odds were 4-1. She would be the favorite in all of her subsequent starts, never going off higher than 2-5.


To prove her dazzling debut was not a fluke, she won Belmont’s Grade III Fashion Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on June 12 in her second start. Her final time again equaled the track record.


How great was Ruffian? When running in a stakes race, she broke or tied a track or stakes record each time.


Another example of Ruffian’s greatness was she won from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles.


When Ruffian won the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks by 2 3/4 lengths as a 1-20 favorite in 1975, it was a 1 1/2-mile race.


Ruffian won the CCA Oaks under confident handling. Even though she was far from all out, she tied the stakes record. Moreover, when she won the CCA Oaks in 2:27 4/5, it was faster than Avatar’s final time of 2:28 1/5 when he prevailed by a neck over Foolish Pleasure in the Grade I Belmont Stakes that year.


The tremendous respect I have for Ruffian is reflected by the fact I rank her No. 11 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century to have raced in North America. BloodHorse ranked her No. 35 on their list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.


Ruffian is by far the highest-ranking female on my list. The second-highest is Regret, who won the 1915 Kentucky Derby in her 3-year-old debut and. Regret won nine of 11 career starts.


I have Personal Ensign ranked No. 40. BloodHorse put her at No. 48. Personal Ensign retired from racing undefeated in 13 lifetime starts.


Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 career starts, ranks No. 2, behind only American Pharoah, on my list of the Top 25 Racehorses of the 20th Century so far. Zenyatta had ranked No. 24 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries.


No filly or mare ever beat Ruffian, Regret, Personal Ensign or Zenyatta. That would make for a pretty darn good Mount Rushmore in terms of America’s greatest female Thoroughbreds of all time.




Dr. Manual Gilman, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 91, spent 32 years as the chief examining veterinarian at New York tracks. During those 32 years, Gilman anatomically measured many of the finest Thoroughbreds to ever race in America.


I became familiar with Gilman’s work when his measurements frequently were featured in many of the profiles of the best horses of the year written by Charles Hatton in the American Racing Manual.


Paula Prather currently is the editor of the American Racing Manual. One day in the late 1990s, she showed me copies of Gilman’s actual conformation sheets. In Gilman’s handwriting on those sheets are the measurements of numerous equine champions, such as Affirmed, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, John Henry, Kelso, Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid. I made copies of these sheets.


Thus, I have a copy of Gilman’s actual sheet showing Ruffian’s measurements taken on Sept. 3, 1974.


Many connoisseurs of conformation consider Secretariat to be faultless in this regard. It is interesting to compare Gilman’s measurements of Ruffian at 2 with those he took of Secretariat at 2 on Sept. 6, 1972.


Here is the tale of the tape for the two champions:


Height: Secretariat, 16 hands, 3/4 inch. Ruffian, 16 hands, 1 1/4 inch.


Shoulder to Shoulder: Secretariat, 16 inches. Ruffian, 17 inches.


Girth: Secretariat, 74 inches. Ruffian, 75 1/2 inches.


Withers to Shoulder: Secretariat, 28 inches. Ruffian, 29 inches.


Elbow to Ground: Secretariat, 37 1/2 inches. Ruffian, 38 1/2 inches.


Shoulder to Hip: Secretariat, 46 inches. Ruffian, 46 1/2 inches.


Hip to Hip: Secretariat, 25 inches. Ruffian, 25 inches.


Hip to Hock: Secretariat, 40 inches. Ruffian, 43 inches.


Hip to Buttock: Secretariat, 24 inches. Ruffian, 25 inches.


Poll to Withers: Secretariat, 40 inches. Ruffian, 40 1/2 inches.


Buttock to Ground: Secretariat, 53 1/2 inches. Ruffian, 57 inches.


Shoulder to Buttock: Secretariat, 68 inches. Ruffian, 69 inches.


Circumference of Cannon Bone: Secretariat, 8 1/4 inches. Ruffian, 8 1/2 inches.




It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Point Given’s tour de force in the Belmont Stakes.


As a 3-year-old in 2001, Point Given won six graded stakes races in seven starts His lone defeat at 3 came when he ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby, the only time he finished worse than second in his 13-race career.


Monarchos won the 2001 Run for the Roses by 4 3/4 lengths. Point Given finished fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 17.


Point Given then won the Preakness Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths and the Belmont Stakes by 12 1/4 lengths. Monarchos finished 7 1/2 lengths behind Point Given in the Preakness and 13 lengths behind him in the Belmont.


Point Given became the first Thoroughbred in history to win four consecutive races worth $1 million or more when he followed his Preakness and Belmont victories with wins in the Grade I Haskell Invitational Handicap and Grade I Travers Stakes. Unfortunately, Point Given was retired from racing following the Travers because of a strain in a tendon in his left front leg.


After Point Given’s retirement was announced, Joe Hirsch wrote in the Daily Racing Form: “His place in racing history, as one of the outstanding 3-year-olds of our times, is assured. Point Given was brilliant in winning the Santa Anita Derby and, with the exception of the Kentucky Derby, when flawed tactics may have contributed to his defeat, every succeeding appearance added to his stature. Those who saw him win the Travers left with a keen anticipation of his next triumph, never guessing that an injury would force him into retirement so soon.”


Point Given won nine of 13 career starts and earned $3,968,500. He was voted 2001 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male. Point Given was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.


Gary Stevens rode Point Given throughout the colt’s 3-year-old campaign.


Point Given “should have a Triple Crown next to his name,” Stevens said to Jay Privman in the Daily Racing Form book “Champions.”


Point taken. After all, Point Given’s clocking of 2:26 2/5 was faster in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont than that for all of the 13 Triple Crown winners other than Secretariat’s other-worldly 2:24 flat in his spectacular 31-length triumph for the ages.


These are the fastest final times for the Belmont in fifths (when it has been run at 1 1/2 miles):


2:24 flat   Secretariat (1973)

2:26 flat   Easy Goer (1989)

2:26 flat   A.P. Indy (1992)

2:26 2/5   Point Given (2001)

2:26 2/5   Risen Star (1988)

2:26 3/5   American Pharoah (2015)

2:26 4/5   Affirmed (1978)


Point Given was credited with a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Belmont.


According to the American Racing Manual, which is now digital only and available for free on The Jockey Club’s website, the Beyers for the Belmont go back to 1990.


Point Given’s 114 Beyer has the distinction of being the highest figure for the Belmont. The Beyers of 107 or higher for Belmont winners are listed below:


BSF Belmont Winner (Year)


114 Point Given (2001)

111 A.P. Indy (1992)

111 Hansel (1991)

111 Go and Go (1990)

110 Empire Maker

110 Victory Gallop (1998)

110 Touch Gold (1997)

109 Lemon Drop Kid (1999)

107 Rags to Riches (2007)


Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont predates Beyer Speed Figures. But Andrew Beyer, the father of these figures, once wrote that he retroactively calculated what Secretariat’s Beyer Speed Figure would have been for the Belmont. It would have been a 139!




There are no newcomers in the Top 10 of the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll this week. This poll concludes on Nov. 8 (after the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on Nov. 6 and 7).


The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)


  1. 334 Mystic Guide (31)
  2. 219 Charlatan (1)
  3. 218 Knicks Go (2)
  4. 217 Colonel Liam
  5. 189 Monomoy Girl
  6. 148 Letruska
  7. 142 Gamine (1)
  8. 141 Maxfield (1)
  9. 96 Shedaresthedevil
  10. 55 Domestic Spending


There likewise are no newcomers in the Top 10 of the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll this week. This poll concludes on June 7 (after the Belmont Stakes on June 5).


The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll:


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)


  1. 300 Rombauer (12)
  2. 292 Essential Quality (12)
  3. 262 Mandaloun (4)
  4. 221 Hot Rod Charlie
  5. 210 Medina Spirit (7)
  6. 186 Midnight Bourbon
  7. 171 Malathaat
  8.  72 Jackie’s Warrior
  9. 57 Life Is Good (1)
  10. 52 Rock Your World



It’s Post Time by Jon White: Who is the Best Racehorse of This Century So Far?

It’s Post Time by Jon White |