Analysis. History. Perspective.

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

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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