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Sports Then and Now



Two Big Reds That Lost Big at Saratoga 6

Posted on August 11, 2014 by Martin Banks

Now that the calendar has turned to August, the eyes of the racing world have turned to the historic Saratoga Race Course in beautiful Saratoga Springs, N.Y. This town is wonderful to visit any time of the year, but it really springs to life during the summer racing meet, when top thoroughbreds converge to compete in top-quality races.

Saratoga has been hosting summer races since 1863, and over the years it has become known as the “graveyard of champions.” This refers to the fact that many times, horses that seemed invincible went down in stunning defeat. Although races like these can lead to huge payoffs for bettors, it comes at great expense to champion horses. Two of these horses share that history and also the nickname of Big Red. They were Man ‘o War and Secretariat.

Man o’ War Melts

 

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Man o’ War was a stunning chestnut colt who raced in the years 1919 and 1920. When he competed in the Sanford Stakes for 2-year-olds on Aug. 13, 1919, his reputation was already such that he seemed a lock to win. His previous six victories were so impressive that it seemed it was impossible for him to lose. In fact, this was the only race that he ever would lose in his entire racing career.

Starting gates were not used at this time, and starters had to make sure horses were properly lined up behind a tape barrier and ready to race. Unfortunately for Man o’ War, the tape was sprung when he was apparently backing up. Essentially, he was left at the start. Read the rest of this entry →

Does Horse Racing’s Triple Crown Still Matter? 16

Posted on May 05, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Secretariat dominated thoroughbred racing in 1973 and was named as the 35th greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

There was a time when the most important sporting event on the first weekend of May wasn’t the NBA or NHL Playoffs, but rather a two minute race between the fastest three-year-olds on four legs.  While still an exciting event for those lucky enough to make it to Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and thoroughbred racing in general isn’t quite the national obsession that it once was.

However, the history of this regal sport is laced with many great champions, some of whom captured the spirit and hearts of the American public.

While greatness for a thoroughbred is often identified with winning the famed Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes), only some of the best known horses actually claimed that distinguished honor.

Chances are you have never heard of the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, in 1919, but may have heard about the legendary Man O’War, who many consider the greatest horse of all-time with victories in 20 of his 21 races. However, Man O’War did not follow Sir Barton as a Triple Crown winner during his three-year old year of 1920 as his owner held him out of the Kentucky Derby. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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