Six of the Best Moments in Horse Racing History

With horse racing being one of most popular sports in world history, there certainly have plenty of shocking moments and happenings that have made newspaper headlines around the world. Some of these moments are mind-blowing, some were shocking enough to surprises the masses and some were so mysterious that they could never be explained.

  1. On June 9th, 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths, an unparalleled feat in horse racing history. This spectacular display was considered to be the best moment in the Secretariat’s glorious career and arguably the best out of any horse’s career.
  2. article-2302059-1906B8B1000005DC-296_964x600The horse Devon Loch became famous for a mystery that was never solved. He was fifty yards from winning the 1956 Grand National when he crashed to the ground; his legs sprawled in every direction, and his belly touched the ground before he jerked upright again.

 For some unknown reason, his legs stiffened and were completely unable to function.  Within seconds, E.S.B. came flying past him, securing the title. After the race, it was determined that Devon Loch was uninjured, but the only explanations for his sudden fall were speculative in nature.

  1. MineThatBird_2009Derby_615x400_origWhen Mine That Bird took to the horseracing track at the Kentucky Derby in 2009, conditions were anything but ideal. The rain from the previous night had left the ground extremely wet and soggy. Mine That Bird went in to the race with the odds stacked against him 50 to 1.

As predicted, Mine That Bird started off poorly out of the gate and within moments, the horse was already eight lengths behind the rest of the competitors. At some point though, something switched and the horse and the jockey became unstoppable. They caught up quickly, powered past their opponents, and established a lead of almost seven lengths by the final furlong.  Mine That Bird ran the fastest quarter mile in the in the Kentucky Derby since Secretariat’s win in 1973.

  1. Esha Ness in 1993 became known as the race that never was. If you googled the race in an effort to find the winner, you wouldn’t find one. It went down as the only race in history that was declared void. The starter Keith Brown called a false start twice.


On the second false start, the flag did not unfurl. More than thirty racers set out to race the four and a half miles, completely unaware of the fact that the flag had never unfurled. At the end of the race, seven runners had completed the track and there was mass confusion everywhere.  At this point, the race was declared null and void.

  1. On June 10th, 1978, two of the country’s fastest thoroughbreds were racing at Belmont. There was a crowd of 65,000 watching the historic race. In the final stretches, Affirmed (who was the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness) was well on his way to securing his place in history. He was neck and neck with the horse Alydar, who had finished second in those previously mentioned races.

It was one of the closest recorded finishes, but Affirmed prevailed to the Winner’s Circle, becoming the 11th and last horse to win the Triple Crown. The neck and neck finish was described as one of the most thrilling moments in horse racing history.

  1. In one of the more recent comeback stories in horse racing history, two-time Horse of the Year winner Wise Dan, developed colic via a potentially 121006WiseDanwwew-2364-650x433fatal twist in his gut. Nobody thought he would be able to return to the track at all, let alone return to the top of standings. In 2014, Wise Dan was out of the gate and soon in the winner’s circle at Saratoga Springs just two short months after his stomach surgery.

Growing up in Louisville, it was hard for me to escape all things horse racing. With a father who made it his yearly tradition to go out and bet on the Kentucky Derby and his weekly tradition to sip on some honey and bourbon, play the guitar and talk about all of the horse races happening throughout the year with his drinking buddies, I grew up with the talk of horse racing in my blood. This tradition and culture has followed me in to my thirties.