A Hypothetical Milers Summit

“A half century later, the Blood-Horse polled several experts to determine the best 100 horses of the 20th Century. One voter placed Secretariat 13th. You realize what this moron was saying: if a typical race were held between his first 13 horses, Secretariat would finish dead last. The only serious race I can come up with where Secretariat would have even the SLIGHTEST chance of finishing last would be at a mile against Man o’ War, Count Fleet, Swaps, and Dr. Fager. And, I repeat, only the SLIGHTEST chance. The odds are Dr. Fager would amazingly finish last and it would be a desperate fight at the wire between Secretariat and Count Fleet. I’d pay five figures to see that race–OK, maybe six.”

This comment was received in response to my recent post on One Count (and tangentially to the commentator on Native Dancer and Secretariat). The “half-century later” referred to was the time gap between Native Dancer’s two-year-old year (1952) and the Bland-Horse‘s poll on the 100 best North American racehorses of the 20th century.

I responded to this comment by asking if Frankel belonged in this race, this hypothetical meeting of the world’s best milers. The commentator responded affirmatively (along with some cogent observations about the difference between North American and European breeders, to the detriment of the former).

So right now we have a hypothetical race at one mile among Secretariat, Man o’ War, Frankel, Count Fleet, Dr. Fager, and Swaps. Since this is a hypothetical race, let us stipulate that the track surface (dirt, turf, whatever) and configuration (straight, one turn, two turns) are NOT a factor. It is a simple question of which horse is BEST at this distance.

So I hereby invite responses to this question. Responses might include other steeds you think “belong” in this mythical race. I can think of at least three (two European and one North American) in that category.

Or of course you can simply state your opinion as to who would win this race and WHY. Just keep in mind that since this is a HYPOTHETICAL race, it is all a matter of OPINION. And as John Madden said, “Records live; opinions die.”

Nevertheless, let me know what you think about this hypothetical proposition if you feel so inclined.

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8 Responses to A Hypothetical Milers Summit

  1. Barry L Tannenholz says:

    The object of my hypothetical proposition was to create a race in which Secretariat had at least a sliver of a chance of finishing last. The more horses you add (e.g., Bold Ruler, Brigadier Gerard), the probability of Secretariat finishing last becomes vanishingly small.

    If all I were looking for were great milers, I would have chosen Bold Ruler over Dr. Fager. The best statistical analyses I have seen show him to be at his best about 2 to 3 Beyer-type points better than Dr. Fager at a mile. But we’re talking about the best milers ever FACING EACH OTHER. Bold Ruler never showed the ability to handle the kind of pressure Dr. Fager did. Think of Dr. Fager going head to head at a mile and a quarter against Damascus in a virtual match race and drawing off. Bold Ruler would have wilted. But in a time trial, Bold Ruler would probably go 1 to 2 fifths faster than Dr. Fager.

    As Jimmy Jones said of Bold Ruler: “He scares me. He scares me when he works out. He scares me when he races. He just plain scares me.” Eddie Arcaro, who rode Jimmy Jones’s Citation, said that Bold Ruler was the fastest horse he ever rode and the fastest horse he ever saw. Whatever the magic was that Bold Ruler had–transcendent speed–he was able to pass it on to his offspring better than any other horse was ever able to pass on anything. If I’m not mistaken, his AEI is the highest of any sire since AEIs have been calculated.

    Put a 22 pound heart in Bold Ruler’s body and you know what you get? Secretariat.

    Everyone has his own idea of the Race to End All Races. You know what mine is:

    Bold Ruler vs. Raise a Native at 5 1/2 furlongs. And they’re off!

    Isn’t this fun?

    P.S. Don’t forget Conquistador Cielo’s Metropolitan Mile at three. He broke the track record on a track that wasn’t especially fast, won by 7, with his last two quarters in 24 flat each. Five days later he wins the Belmont Stakes by 14 lengths (the track announcer said 20). Two seconds later he was syndicated for almost $40 million. When did we lose the ability to breed horses like this? I can’t believe that was more than 30 years ago. It seems like only yesterday. I’ll think I’ll watch those two races now on youtube.

    Good night.

    • ddink55 says:

      See Racehorse Breeding Theories, page 72, for a list of all-time leading sires by AEI. Only four sires were higher than 5.00: Bold Ruler (7.73), Alydar (5.21), Nasrullah (5.16), and Northern Dancer (5.14).

  2. Barry L Tannenholz says:

    AMAZING! Bold Ruler’s in one class and the other three are in another. The difference between Bold Ruler and the average of the other three is 2.56, a pretty good sire in its own right

    Would it be exaggerating too much to say that the two horses that have had the greatest impact on the modern thoroughbred as a physical specimen are Nearco and Native Dancer, and that the true foundation sire of thoroughbred as we now know it is Phalaris?

  3. Jesse Livermore says:

    Bold Ruler lost 10 rtaces.Make that 11 if he ever was foolish enough to face the Dr

    • Barry L Tannenholz says:

      Jesse,
      In the second paragraph of my first response above you will see that I agree with you, which is why I chose Dr.Fager over Bold Ruler. In his influential book “Thoroughbred Handicapping: State of the Art,” Dr.William L.Quirin has a chapter headed (and I’m doing this from memory) “From Native Dancer to Conquistador Cielo.” He calculated the speed ratings for all the races of every horse who had even the slightest claim to greatness between 1950 and the early 1980’s. He produced two numbers for each horse: the average of their three highest ratings and their highest rating. I cannot recommend this book too highly. I think you will find the speed ratings of Dr.Fager vs.Bold Ruler to be very provocative. Dr.Quirin is a reasonably accomplished statiistician, mathematician, and computer scientist. He also has a great love of thoroughbred racing. This combination of competence and love is rare among people writing on the subject of handicapping–most of whom are long on opinion and emotion and short on evidence and analytics, and whenever they produce evidence it invariably winds up being highly selective and carefully cherry-picked.

  4. marc m says:

    idiocy.. completely.. what you do not factor in , well i was there at his mile at AP.. you need to understand ..not only did he carry 134 lbs.. he was EASED up at the eighth pole. He could have gone in 131 had he been pushed by Baeza.. even the chart says “won with something,left. I loved Bold Ruler, but none of these animals should be mentioned in the same breath as the Doctor.. He galloped out the 9 furlongs after his mile record in 145 and change.. he would have smashed Secretariats world record for 9 furlongs had he tried. This horse ran 3 sub 2 minute mile and a quarters on Eastern tracks, twice while carrying over 130 lbs.. he equaled the ten furlong track record in a losing effort under 135 lbs after running in 109s for six f.. Unfortunately.. most people who were not there have adopted this mantra that Dr Fager was “the greatest miler”.. you could easily make the case it wasn’t even his best distance. This “glorified sprinter” never even RAN 6 furlongs and in his mile record run , he ran a middle quarter in 20 and 2/5 seconds “while under restraint” the fastest middle fraction at a mile or over ever recorded..

  5. marc m says:

    and Quirin, lord love him, his speed figures never were the detailed Beyer type that used a real track variant .. and again.. these “figures” gave no weight at all to the ease with which he traversed these distances

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