I expected a few comments about the title of the book, and indeed, I’ve received a few about the subtitle, “The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century.”
“What about Cigar?”
Cigar was a horse best known for winning 16 races in a row from 1995-1996, including 10 Grade I stakes. Like Spectacular Bid in 1980, he went undefeated during the 1995 season, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There is no doubt that he was one of the best horses we’ve seen in the last 25-30 years.
But is he the last superhorse of the 20th century?
What’s a Superhorse?
It depends on where you draw the line in the definition of “superhorse.” yourdictionary.com defines superhorse as simply “An extremely famous or talented horse, especially a racehorse.” There are no qualifications. So I made up my own.
- There is a list created by the Blood-Horse of the Top 100 Thoroughbreds of the 20th Century. Yes, it’s subjective, but I’ve already admitted that defining superhorse is subjective. It places Spectacular Bid 10th on the list; Cigar is 18th. Not much of a difference, but where does one draw the line at being “super”? At Bold Ruler, who is #19? Or Swaps (#20)?
Ranking ahead of Cigar but behind Spectacular Bid are (in order): Tom Fool, Affirmed, War Admiral, Buckpasser, Colin, Damascus and Round Table – all great horses, but are they superhorses like Secretariat, Native Dancer and Spectacular Bid? I’d rank them as second-tier superhorses – great horses, and many, including Cigar, were the best of their generation. But I draw the line at Spectacular Bid on this list.
- In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rank Spectacular Bid ninth in the world among horses that lived during the 20th century and third in the United States, based on Timeform figures. Cigar is ranked 32nd in the world and 12th in the United States, behind Swaps, Alydar and Forego.
Spectacular Bid’s best Timeform rating was 141 in 1980; Cigar’s best was 136 in 1996. Timeform describes a horse with any Timeform rating over 140 as “an outstanding horse.” Ones with 136-139 are “almost outstanding.” That’s how I’d describe Cigar.
- Their records are vastly different. Spectacular Bid won 26 out of 30 races, an 86.67% winning percentage. That mark is topped only by Man o’ War (95.2%), Native Dancer (95.5%) and Colin (100%) among the Blood-Horse’s Top 20 Thoroughbreds. Cigar won only 19 of 33 races – a winning percentage of 57% – and 16 of those wins came during his streak.
Spectacular Bid finished out of the money only once; Cigar finished fourth or worse 5 different times. Granted, many of Cigar’s losses occurred when he was running on turf and before he was turned over to Bill Mott for training. But unfortunately, horses are judged on their entire record.
- Then there are the intangibles. Cigar’s 16-race winning streak is almost unfathomable. But Bid put two impressive streaks together as well – a 12-race and 10-race winning streak. Both horses retired as the leading money winners, and both won at tracks all over the country. Cigar even won in Dubai.
Spectacular Bid still holds the world record for 1 1/4 miles on dirt. He set or equaled eight track records. He was the last horse to win a major stakes race in a walkover (the 1980 Woodward Stakes), and he won two legs of the Triple Crown.
Cigar holds no world records and was not entered into any of the Triple Crown races. Only Dr. Fager and Kelso managed to miss the Triple Crown and still be Top 10 Thoroughbreds (Forego ran in the Kentucky Derby but was not a factor).
Others will disagree with my assessment, and that’s okay. I won’t argue with them. I have my opinion, and I hope they’ll read Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century and find out for themselves if the name fits.