Forty years ago today, Spectacular Bid wowed the Keeneland crowd in the Blue Grass Stakes, cruising to a 7-length win over Lot o’Gold.
Overcast skies threatened rain that day. As had been the case in several races that year, Bid’s workouts had scared away most horses. By post time, only three other horses dared to challenge him: Lot o’ Gold, a horse Bid had soundly defeated three times already, Bishop’s Choice, another colt he had beaten, and a horse named Pianist.
The horses walked through the post parade and into the starting gate, and when the bell clanged and the gates opened, all four leaped out together.
The pack went four wide around the clubhouse turn, with Bid, in the number four position, on the outside. Although Franklin urged Bid on from the start, Bid did not respond. Once they reached the backstretch, Bid, by way of his outside position, was last.
On the backstretch, Pianist held the lead, and Lot o’ Gold made a move on the inside to challenge. Finally, Bid decided it was time to run and made a move for the leaders on the outside. For a moment, Lot o’ Gold held the lead by a neck.
Then Franklin whipped Bid twice, and that was all the gray colt needed. Routinely, almost effortlessly, he responded, passing Lot o’ Gold, increasing his lead to two lengths. Seeing as no one was challenging him, he loafed out of the far turn and into the homestretch—so much that Franklin had to hit him with the whip a few times again.
The final margin of victory was 7 lengths; the time for the 1 1/8-mile race was 1:50, two seconds slower than the time for the Flamingo Stakes. He took 13 4/5 seconds to cover the last furlong when a good training time for a furlong is 12 seconds. He had no competition, but spectators began to wonder, “What’s wrong with Spectacular Bid?”
He would show them two weeks later that nothing was wrong.