Shergar

Shergar Shergar is remembered for winning the 1981 Derby by 10 lengths – still the widest winning margin in the history of the Epsom Classic – and his later abduction, probably by Irish Republican terrorists, whose bungled ransom attempt led to his brutal death.

 

An attractive bay colt, with a distinctive white blaze and four white socks, Shergar first rose to prominence when winning the Guardian Classic Trial at Sandown by 10 lengths on his seasonal reappearance in April, 1981. Advising Shergar for the Derby, Observer racing correspondent Richard Baerlain wrote, “Now is the time to bet like men.” His confidence wasn’t misplaced, either; following a 12-length win in the Chester Vase, Shergar was sent off 10/11 favourite for the Derby and never gave his supporters an anxious moment.

 

Ridden by 19-year-old Walter Swinburn – nicknamed “The Choirboy” because of his angelic looks – Shergar swept into the lead shortly after Tattenham Corner and soon spreadeagled the field. BBC radio commentator Peter Bromley exclaimed, “Two furlongs out, the Derby is a procession. There’s only one horse in it – you need a telescope to see the rest.” Shergar crossed the line 10 lengths ahead of Glint Of Gold, who’d won his last two starts, including the Italian Derby, with Swinburn looking over his shoulder for non-existent dangers.

 

Further success followed, with victories in the Irish Sweeps Derby at the Curragh and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. At the end of his three-year-old campaign, Shergar had won six of his eight races and over £430,000 in prize money. He was retired to Ballmany Stud in Co. Kildare but, less than two years later, on a foggy evening in February, 1983, he was abducted by a gang of at least half a dozen masked, armed men and never seen again. His remains have never been found and his kidnappers have never been officially identified.

Citation

Citation In 1948, Citation became the eighth horse to win the American Triple Crown and, in a 45-race career between 1947 and 1951, became the first horse in history to win over $1 million in prize money. Bred and owned by Warren Wright Snr., under the name Calumet Farm, Citation was by Bull Lea, leading sire in North America five times between 1947 and 1953, out of Hydroplane, a mare by Hyperion, leading sire in Great Britain six times between 1940 and 1954.

 

Trained by Horace A. “Jimmy” Jones, Citation won eight of his nine races as a juvenile and was named American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse in 1947. Citation also won 19 of his 20 races in 1948. His sole defeat that year came in the Chesapeake Trial Stakes, run over 6 furlongs at Havre de Grace Race Track in Maryland. Sent off at odds of 1/4, on a muddy track, he was beaten by Saggy, a “baggy-legged auction colt” who never won another race. Eddie Arcano – having his first ride on Citation after the tragic drowning of his previous jockey, Al Snider – said afterwards, “I could have caught him, but I wasn’t about to burn up that horse for an $8300 pot with all those $100,000 races laying ahead of us.”

 

In any event, Citation went on to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes – by an aggregate of 17 lengths – as part of a 16-race winning streak that would last until January 1950. In fact, prior to the Kentucky Derby, Jimmy Jones stepped aside to allow his father, Ben, to be named as the official trainer of Citation and, afterwards, jockey Eddie Arcano donated a share of his prize money to the widow of Al Snider.

 

Citation was named American Horse of the Year in 1948 but, having developed arthritis in the fetlock of his near front leg, didn’t race again for 13 months. On his return, at Santa Anita, he won an allowance race to extend his winning streak to 16 consecutive races. When the proprietor of Calumet Farm, Warren Wright, died in December 1950, he specified that Citation remain in training long enough to earn over $1 million in prize money. So he did, winning the Hollywood Gold Cup in July 1951 to take his career earnings to $1,085,760.

Zenyatta

Zenyatta Zenyatta had the distinction of being named American Horse of the Year in 2010, but was also named American Champion Older Female in 2008, 2009 and 2010. In a four-year career between 2007 and 2010, she won 19 consecutive races – including 13 Grade 1 events – and earned over $7.3 million in prize money.

 

Zenyatta was owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, trained by John Shirreffs in California and ridden, for most of her career, by Mike Smith. She was, or is, a daughter of 2002 Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry, but owes her name to “Zenyatta Mondatta”, a studio album by English band The Police, whom Jerry Moss apparently signed to A&M records.

 

Zenyatta recorded her first Grade 1 win in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, on just her fourth start, in April 2008. Indeed, her seven victories in 2008 included the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar and the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Santa Anita – all races that she would win for the next two years running – and culminated in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, also at Santa Anita.

 

Zenyatta returned to Santa Anita in 2009 for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which she faced 11 rivals, including the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner, Rip Van Winkle, who started 2/1 favourite. She missed the break but, although only sixth turning into the straight, was angled to the outside with a furlong to run and swept by the leader, Gio Ponti, in the closing stages to win by a length.

 

In fact, it was in the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year, at Churchill Downs, where Zenyatta met her Waterloo, so to speak, although her final defeat was hardly as crushing or decisive as that suffered by Napoleon Bonaparte. She once again missed by break, but this time trailed the field by 5 lengths in the early stages. She took closer in the back straight and, once again, switched outside in the final furlong and a half, set off in pursuit of the leader, Blame. Zenyatta made up the best part of 2½ lengths in the final half a furlong, but Blame kept on gamely to win by a head. The narrow defeat was selected as the Moment of the Year by the National Thoroughbred Racing Authority (NTRA) and Zenyatta was named American Horse of the Year for 2010.