In the history of horse racing there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of great stretch drives. Some will be forgotten given the class level of the race, but many stakes races have produced stretch runs that are memorable and exciting to watch again even today.
Whether you are a casual race fan or you make your money playing the races, you have to respect some of the great races that we have been lucky enough to witness. Here are some of the most memorable stretch drives that I can remember watching live:
Tiznow-Giant’s Causeway (Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Churchill Downs, Nov. 4, 2000)
Also voted NTRA Moment of the Year in 2000, I can remember this race vividly. I was on the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand simulcasting the Breeders’ Cup. I had four of the first five races in my Pick 6 ticket and needed Tiznow to win so I could cash on the five-of-six payout. With his victory I claimed the consolation five-of-six payout — twice!
Tiznow and Albert the Great went to the lead early, battling most of the way. By the stretch Albert the Great was fading and Giant’s Causeway was starting to come on. The rest is history!
Calidoscopio (Brooklyn Handicap (G2), Belmont Park, June 7, 2013)
I remember simulcasting this race from Monmouth Park. I had figured the pace was not going to hold up at all and I figured a closer would take the race. I knew this horse had the class, but could he mount his usual run from another time zone to win?
The first Argentinian horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) at age 9 in 2012, came back from about 25 lengths back to pass front-running Percussion and win by a length at the wire as a 10-year old! It would be his last race as he was retired shortly after this win due to a minor tendon injury.
Rachel Alexandra (Preakness Stakes (G1), Pimlico Race Course, May 16, 2009)
The great filly romped for fun in the Kentucky Oaks winning by 20 1/4 lengths. How would she do against the boys including the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird?
Rachel Alexandra went wide early to get to the lead to take the race wire-to-wire and was able to hold off a huge late run by Mine That Bird to win by three-quarters of a length. She made a lot of history that day as the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924, first horse to win from post 13, and the first Kentucky Oaks winner to win the Preakness.
Unbridled’s Song (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Belmont Park, Oct. 28, 1995)
Two-year olds are hard to handicap and unpredictable at times. Unbridled’s Song and Hennessey gave us an exciting stretch drive with Unbridled’s Song winning by a “hard-fought head”. I remember watching this race thinking that Hennessey was coming back at some point, but Unbridled’s Song was too strong this day over the Belmont main track.
Silver Charm (Preakness Stakes (G1), Pimlico Race Course, May 17, 1997)
The Preakness has had many great finishes. In 1997, I was still wagering on a limited college student’s budget, but I can remember putting down a win bet that was a little larger than good money management would suggest on the gray Silver Charm. I can remember making my annual phone call to my late grandmother, who was 90 at the time, only for her to remark “thank goodness you finally like a nice gray horse”.
This “nice gray horse” would provide one of the most exciting stretch drives that I saw live on television as he won by a head over Free House and Captain Bodgit.
These great stretch drives are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll have more memorable stretch drives in the second installment.
What are some of your most memorable stretch drives and finishes? Send me an email with what you’ve ingrained in your memory for inclusion in an upcoming article.