Visiting Spectacular Bid’s Grave

The marvelous madness of Manhattan seemed to be in another time zone as my wife and I drove toward Unadilla, N.Y., population 4,392. The air was crisp and clear, and the trees’ colors were peaking. It was a breathtaking ride and a far cry from the 95-degree steambath we left back in Georgia.

Milfer Farm signWe got to Milfer Farm, the final resting place of Spectacular Bid, around 12:40 p.m. It’s a plain, unassuming lot with a house near the road; a sign in the front yard showed that it was indeed a farm. There was a barn behind the house with several paddocks nearby, but a farmhand told me Spectacular Bid’s grave was on the other side of County Road 3. Apparently Milfer Farm was bigger than I originally thought.

Finding the Grave

We bounced our way over to the other side of the farm, dodging potholes and mud puddles on the old dirt road. We passed the stallion barn, and in the distance I saw a circle of paving stones with a medium-sized headstone in the middle. This had to be it.

It was. Here was the grave of my favorite horse, the horse that I had picked to win the Kentucky Derby at the age of 10 because I liked his name, the horse over whom I had obsessed for the past three and a half years of my life.

And the tears came.

I cried for Spectacular Bid and the safety pin that hurt more than his forefoot – it took away his immortality as he lost the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.

I cried for his decline in stature as his stud career went south, with precious few foals becoming stakes winners.

I cried for Ron Franklin and a life beaten down by drugs.

I cried for Bud Delp as he fought for legitimacy against the Establishment.

I cried for all my cast of characters. But especially Bid.

Spectacular Bid's graveI stood there for what seemed like an hour, thinking of all that Bid had done in his lifetime. I never got to see him live – he was only a ghostly, gray horse on my black and white TV in 1979. I knew nothing of his exploits at 4, of his world record or undefeated season then. After the Belmont failure, I had gone on to other horses, having forgotten about him.

A Good Life

But he lived on and had a good retirement, first running around with elites such as Secretariat at Claiborne Farm, and then being the big fish in the small pond and Milfer – just like his trainer was in Maryland. I hope he remembered his races with fondness. He loved to run, and did it well – as good as any horse who ever looked through a bridle.

I finally moved toward the grave, laid flowers at the foot of his headstone, and put a chocolate donut (his favorite) on top. I think he would have gobbled it up in two bites.

I kissed the gravestone and said, “Goodbye Bid. I hope I made you proud.” And we got in our car and drove back down the dirt road.


  1. Mary Perdue
    • October 12, 2019
    • 6:57 pm

    Beautiful tribute. I’m sure he heard you

  2. Helvetian
    • October 27, 2020
    • 5:54 pm

    Thank you for a nice eulogy of one of America’s greatest athletes. Sounds like quite an experience for you. But I have to say I don’t agree with the Belmont Stakes loss robbing him of his immortality. Spectacular Bid achieved immortality anyway. I believe he was so great that 41 years later, the triple crown is almost irrelevant in the overall scope of his career. In fact, when the Bid enters any conversation, I believe the Belmont is rarely a topic and light years from defining him.

    • Peter Lee
      • October 27, 2020
      • 6:51 pm

      I agree, but to casual horse racing fans it’ll always be the Belmont, the safety pin, Franklin’s ride, etc. We know the facts: An undefeated 4-year-old season, a world record, a walkover – that’s what makes him a superhorse. But most people haven’t even heard of him – I get blank stares when I tell people what horse I wrote about. That’s why I say he was robbed of immortality. They know Secretariat and Seattle Slew but sadly have never heard Bid’s story.

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