Ryan Patterson, of Graded Stakes, gave us his list of the top 10 Preakness Stakes-winning horses of the past 50 years. His list includes: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Northern Dancer, Sunday Silence, Smarty Jones, Point Given, Risen Star, and Damascus.
Countless champions have entered the starting gate for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse since its inception in 1873. Among these horses are eleven Triple Crown winners and countless Kentucky Derby winners. Deciding which the best horses to have won the Preakness Stakes are is far from an easy task; but I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s take a look at the top ten Preakness Stakes winners since 1959.
#1 Secretariat- What could I possibly say about Big Red that hasn’t already been said? He is easily one of the best horses to have ever lived, Preakness winner or not. The Triple Crown winning son of Bold Ruler had a heart that weighed a massive 22 pounds. He broke the track record in all three Triple Crown races, but due to a timing malfunction his Preakness time was not considered to be official. Secretariat went on to win the Marlboro Cup in a world record time of 1:45 2/5 for nine furlongs. In his first start on the turf, Secretariat won the Grade I Man O’ War Stakes en route to a track record time of 2:24 4/5. Some of his best progeny include Risen Star, and Lady’s Secret. It is my opinion, and the opinion of many experts, that Secretariat is the greatest horse who ever lived.
#2 Seattle Slew- The son of Bold Reasoning is the only colt to ever win the Triple Crown while maintaining an undefeated record. His Preakness Stakes win came over the highly regarded Cormorant, who dueled with Seattle Slew before fading. Slew managed to hold off the second place finisher Iron Constitution to win by 1 ½ lengths. Other wins for Seattle Slew include a triumph in the Marlboro Cup, and a win in the Woodward Stakes. His stud career was also stellar. He produced the prolific sire A.P. Indy, and Kentucky Derby winner Swale.
#3 Spectacular Bid- The “Bid” as his connections affectionately referred to him, boasts a record of 26 wins from 30 starts. The legendary Bill Shoemaker says he is the best horse he ever rode. Spectacular Bid won the Preakness Stakes by 5 ½ lengths in a time faster than Seattle Slew or Affirmed. The Belmont Stakes saw a freak accident in which the son of Bold Bidder stepped on a pin, jeopardizing his career and causing him to lose the Belmont and miss the Triple Crown. He would’ve almost assuredly won the Triple Crown had it not been for this. His career would continue to flourish, as he won the Strub Series, and took the Santa Anita Handicap. His progeny would go on to win more than 47 stakes races.
#4 Affirmed- This son of Exclusive Native became the last colt to win the Triple Crown in 1978. He is well known for his epic rivalry with the brilliant Alydar. They finished 1-2 in each of the Triple Crown races, and Affirmed held him off by just a neck when he won the Preakness Stakes. Affirmed would go on to win races such as the Strub Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Woodward Stakes. Affirmed was a success at stud, and his progeny include 11 champions and over 80 stakes winners. With the young and brilliant Steve Cauthen aboard, Affirmed has gone down as one of the greatest horses of the twentieth century.
#5 Northern Dancer-From the sire Neartic, this colt went unsold as a yearling with a reserve price of $25,000. He won many races, including the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes. His race record of 18-14-2-2 speaks to his ability as a racehorse. He is remembered today as one of the best Canadian bred horses of all time, and as a prolific sire. He sired over 140 stakes winners, and produced the first $10,000,000 yearling, Snaafi Dancer. His best son is undoubtedly Epsom Derby winner Nijinksky II.
#6 Sunday Silence- Sired by Halo, this colt had quite a three-year-old campaign. He won the Santa Anita Derby, and Kentucky Derby before winning one of the most exciting Preakness Stakes in the history of the event. After beating the highly regarded Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby, he was tasked with doing so again in the Preakness. He was able to get the job done, but won by a mere nose! Sunday Silence never finished worse than second in his career, and went on to win the Super Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic over none other than Easy Goer. His career as a stud in Japan was highly successful.
#7 Smarty Jones- Many thought this colt would become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed did it in 1979. He won the Kentucky Derby, and then powered home to win the Preakness Stakes by a record margin of 11 ½ lengths. His task proved too tough in the Belmont Stakes as he yielded to Birdstone in the stretch while finishing second. His career earnings of $7,613,155 are astonishing considering that he only raced nine times.
#8 Point Given- After running poorly in the Kentucky Derby, Point Given returned to the winners circle in style when he won the Preakness. Fans referred to the son of Thunder Gulch as “The Big Red Train” and “T-Rex.” After his racing career concluded, he was syndicated for the massive price of $50 million.
#9 Risen Star- Sired by the great Secretariat, this colt had a great career. After finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, he ran the fastest winning time in the Preakness since his sire in 1973. He returned to take the Belmont Stakes, but was subsequently retired due to an injury.
#10 Damascus- He won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes before running third in the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps his best moment came when he won the Woodward Stakes by 10 lengths over Dr. Fager and Buckpasser. He lived to the ripe old age of 31, and sired 71 stakes winners.
*The criteria I used looked for the best horses through the span of their career, not necessarily the best Preakness wins.
Ryan Patterson writes regularly at www.gradedstakes.com. He has also contributed to Horse Player Magazine.