Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century

Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century

by Peter Lee


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A safety pin was all that kept Spectacular Bid from becoming the eleventh Thoroughbred to take the Triple Crown. This work examines Spectacular Bid from his humble beginnings — he was born in a mud puddle on a horse farm in Versailles, Kentucky — to his recognition as one of the greatest American racehorses.

On the morning of the 1979 Belmont Stakes, Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin in his stall, injuring his foot. He had impressively won the first two races — the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — but finished third in the Belmont, most likely due to his injury, making him one win shy of becoming the sport's third straight Triple Crown champion.

But that loss did not prevent him from becoming one of horse racing's greatest competitors. After taking two months to recover, the battleship gray colt would go on to win 26 of 30 races during his career, with two second-place finishes and one third. He was voted the tenth greatest Thoroughbred of the twentieth century according to Blood-Horse magazine, and A Century of Champions places him ninth in the world and third among North American horses — even ahead of the renowned Man o' War.

This horse biography tells the story of the honest and not-so-glamorous colorful characters surrounding the champion — including Bud Delp, the brash and cocky trainer who was distrustful of the Kentucky establishment, and Ron Franklin, the nineteen-year-old jockey who buckled under the stress and pressure associated with fame — and how they witnessed firsthand the splendor and triumphs of Spectacular Bid. Including contemporary newspaper accounts of Bid's exploits and interviews with key players in his story, this is an encompassing look into the legacy of one of horse racing's true champions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813177809
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Series: Horses in History Series
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 377,091
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Peter Lee, a former journalist, maintains the blog The Way to Churchill Downs, which reports on Derby hopefuls for the coming year. He is the author of The Death and Life of Mal Evans and is a regular contributor to www.pastthewire.com.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Beginnings 4

2 Sold 13

3 Potential 30

4 The Field Shapes Up 50

5 Derby Fever 76

6 Home Again 95

7 One More for the Crown 109

8 Growing Pains 130

9 The Streak 156

Epilogue 187

Acknowledgments 207

Appendix A Spectacular Bid's Pedigree 210

Appendix B Spectacular Bid's Record 212

Glossary 214

Notes 217

Index 255

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Peter Lee has written a fast-paced and exciting look at the life and times of one of the modern era's most impactful horses. Even though I chronicled the Bid's career as a reporter, I learned a lot of things about the horse in this all-encompassing book." — Barry Irwin, owner of and former writer for the Blood-Horse

"Despite missing out on the elusive Triple Crown, Spectacular Bid, along with Secretariat, was one of the two greatest racehorses I've ever seen. We now have the definitive story on this great horse and his colorful connections. In Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century, Peter Lee does a masterful job of telling the entire and real story of a racing star who overcame numerous obstacles. From beginning to end, it's a book that you cannot put down!" — Brian Zipse, managing partner of Derby Day Racing

"No chronicle of racing's Golden Age of the 1970s, with one superstar after another, would be complete without the story of the $37,000 yearling purchase Spectacular Bid, who rose from the barn of Maryland hardboot Buddy Delp to become one the greatest superstars of all time. Peter Lee does a masterful job telling the back story of how "The Bid," despite controversy and an ill-timed injury that cost him the Triple Crown, developed into what many still call "The perfect racehorse." — Steve Haskin, Blood Horse Senior Correspondent

"When I started Peter Lee's book, I knew of Spectacular Bid: the safety pin, the world record, and the failed Triple Crown run were the oft-repeated narrative about this dynamite gray champion. This book showed me that the story of "The Bid" was much more: a horse with an average pedigree and superior talent; a blue-collar trainer who proved he could compete with the sport's elite; owners that genuinely loved and enjoyed their remarkable horse; and a jockey whose burning passion for horses and the sport of horse racing could not outrun the demons of success. I highly recommend this book to any reader who loves horse racing and wants to learn the full story of this champion." — Jennifer S. Kelly, author of Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown

"Winning a Triple Crown is an automatic stamp of immortality — think Secretariat, Citation, and the others — but what about those horses that didn't quite make it? Where do they fit in the hierarchy of Thoroughbred racing's history? Author Peter Lee makes a strong argument that Spectacular Bid deserves a place among the sport's elite despite coming up short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A once-in-a-lifetime horse for his owners, for a veteran trainer best known for his success with claimers, and for an inexperienced jockey beset with problems, Spectacular Bid was the best of his generation. He swept the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and almost certainly would have won the Triple Crown except for a bizarre accident that likely cost him the Belmont Stakes. Was Spectacular Bid really the last superhorse of the twentieth century? It's difficult to say, but Lee's well written and thoroughly researched book is excellent fodder for the argument." — Milton C. Toby, author of Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing's Most Famous Cold Case

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