Tier II: Breeding Suggested More
30. Jazil (2006 Belmont)
Other wins of note: None.
Other placings of note: 2nd Wood Memorial, 4th Kentucky Derby (G1s).
One of the best-bred horses we'll see in this series, Jazil was out of the dam Better Than Honour, who was the mother of 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches, the useful Casino Drive, and BC Marathon winner Man of Iron. This guy was the first of those horses to be born, and despite costing $725k at auction, he was not exactly highly regarded before the Belmont, having been under 7-1 once before the big race, and that was in an off-the-turf maiden race at Aqueduct in December.
As a horse with absolutely no early speed, Jazil was always dependent on the pace and racing luck. He looked okay in his first start as a three-year old, where he lost to the underrated Corinthian, then did nothing in the Fountain of Youth, where he lost by 23 lengths and was never a factor. He rebounded in the Wood Memorial, closing from 20+ lengths out to run second by 2 lengths while never really threatening the winner. Come Derby day, he seemed like a perfect candidate to "clunk up" for a piece, which he did, dead-heating for 4th at 24-1 while still losing by almost 10 lengths.
After skipping the Preakness, he was entered in the Belmont and was now 9-2. Why? Well his breeding suggested he'd like the distance. It was also one of the worst Belmont fields in memory, as the Derby and Preakness winners were both out, and the favorites were the Todd Pletcher trained Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver. Somebody had to be the third choice. It was him.
And Jazil did about what you'd expect, rallied into a fairly strong pace and kept going at the top of the stretch. While he looked good that day on Big Sandy, it was his second and last victory, as he was injured and out for the rest of the year, was completely unimpressive in his two dirt starts the following year, then finished DAFL in his lone turf start. He was then retired and is now standing at Shadwell Farm.
Should he have been a better horse? Based on breeding yes, but he was a stone closer and a plodder. Those types of horses will cash a fair amount of checks but not win often (like Giacomo). Still, this guy had more latent talent than the six upsetters, and we think that if he had been healthy, he could have done a little more damage. Random prediction--this guy will sire a couple of Grade 1 winners.
29. Grindstone (1996 Derby)
Other wins of note: Louisiana Derby (G3)
Other placings of note: None.
The horse with the shortest resume of the bunch (6 total starts), Grindstone looked to be coming into his own when he nipped Cavonnier at the wire to win the '96 Derby. Unfortunately, that was his final start as he was found to have knee chips and was retired 5 days later. It's tough to say how good this guy was, given that he made all of 6 starts. He did beat a nice field in the Derby--in addition to Cavonnier and the winners of the Preakness and Belmont, the field included Skip Away, albeit on a track he didn't like--but really didn't accomplish much, so we'll slot him here.
28. Super Saver (2010 Derby)
Other wins of note: Kentucky Jockey Club (G2)
Other placings of note: 2nd Arkansas Derby (G1); 3rd Tampa Bay Derby (G3)
Beats out Grindstone because he won a stakes race as a 2 year old. This guy ran about 2 good races in his career and was bred to the wazoo, but never really showed it. In fact, he went backwards after the Derby pretty badly, as he completely no-showed in the Preakness, Haskell and Travers. Maybe he just liked Churchill Downs.
Tier III: Things Fell Apart
27. Editor's Note (1996 Belmont)
Other wins of note: Super Derby (G1); Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3)
Other placings of note: 2nd in Florida Derby (G1), Holy Bull and Kentucky Jockey Club (G3s); 3rd in Preakness, BC Juvenile and Blue Grass (G1s)
I have a soft spot for this horse because I cashed a nice ticket on him in the 1996 Belmont, but he did not have a great career. When you're a classic winner and start 31--yes, thirty-one--times, you should win more than 6 races. Hell, you should finish in the money more than 13 times.
After a stout 9-race campaign as a two year old--the type of campaign that no longer exists--this guy came back and ran 12 times as a 3 year old, dancing in every major dance (he ran in 8 Grade 1's), finishing in the money half the time with victories in the Belmont and Super Derby as his coups. What's now forgotten is that after the Belmont, this guy had a sneaky-decent fall campaign: after a horrible Jim Dandy, he ran a decent 4th in the Travers with a bad trip, won the Super Derby with ease, and was only 3 lengths behind Skip Away and Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
At that point, it looked like this guy was a sleeper pick for the Breeders Cup Classic and would be a force the next year. It never happened. He finished next to last in the Breeders Cup Classic, went 1-for-9 as a 4 year old with his only win coming in allowance company, and losing his 8 starts in stakes races by a total of 170 lengths. In his final start, the '97 Woodward that featured a fantastic showing by Formal Gold and Skip Away, he finished last in a 5-horse field and lost by 58 lengths, running an embarassing 27 GSF. He was retired thereafter.
Maybe this guy was just overworked in his career. By the time he started in the '96 Breeders Cup Classic, he had already made 20 career starts. While that was something of the norm in the 80's, it is close to unheard of in the modern era. For example, Lemon Drop Kid was aggressively placed and "only" ran 14 times before the BC Classic his 3yo season. Point Given made all of 13 starts through the Travers. Those extra 5-6 starts Editor's Note made may have been the end of him. Which is too bad, because when on, this guy was actually a pretty good horse.
26. Red Bullet (2000 Preakness)
Other wins of note: Gotham Stakes (G3)
Other placings of note: 2nd in Wood Memorial (G1) and Skip Away Handicap (G3); 3rd in Cigar Mile (G1) and Dwyer Stakes (G3)
In early 2000, there were a few horses getting a ton of chatter, namely Fusaichi Pegasus, War Chant and The Deputy in the west and the prior year's top juvenile, More Than Ready, in Florida. Late arriving on the scene was this son of Unbridled, who didn't make his first start until he was a 3 year old, when he won his first three races, including the Gotham, Aqueduct's prep for the Wood. Fusaichi Pegasus then shipped east for the Wood, and while everyone was dazzled by FuPeg's victory, eagle-eyed race watchers knew that Red Bullet's runner up finish was quite good, especially for a horse in his fourth start. Then the connections did something nobody thought anyone with a top 3 year old would ever do:
They voluntarily skipped the Kentucky Derby.
The world's collective reaction was WTF? Trainer Joe Orseno summed up their reasoning at the time:
''We looked at everything and decided to do what is best for the horse and not to just follow our hearts,'' Orseno said. ''I think it says a lot about the Stronachs. How many people would pass on a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby in order to preserve the welfare and the longevity of a horse?'' He added: ''Our goal is to win the 3-year-old championship. If Fusaichi Pegasus wins the Kentucky Derby, and that's not to say he will, then we'll be waiting for him at Pimlico.''
He skipped the Belmont.
Now go back to that prior quote. If the goal was really to win the Eclipse Award for top 3 year old...how on earth do you skip the Belmont? Orseno acknowledged that they would be behind FuPeg if he won the Belmont instead, but thought skipping the race was the right thing to do:
"We don't want to squeeze the lemon," trainer Joe Orseno said Sunday at Belmont Park of the decision to withhold Red Bullet from the 1 1/2-mile finale of the Triple Crown. "We've already won the Preakness with a horse that didn't run as a 2-year-old, and we think it's best to give him more time in between in races right now. If you run in a mile-and-a-half race, that knocks you out for three months. It's pointless."Baloney. The obvious truth is that Red Bullet had health issues. He didn't start again until he was 4 years old, and from that point on, won a meaningless ungraded stakes race and never looked remotely as good. That's why the horse didn't start as a 2-year old and why he was on such a spaced, abbreviated schedule as a Triple Crown contender. When healthy, this guy was as good as the top 10 horses on this list. The problem is that he was that healthy for about a 3 month span in the spring of 2000.
Side note: what happened to trainer Joe Orseno? He won the Preakness, BC Juvenile and BC F&M Turf in 2000, training this guy, Macho Uno and Perfect Sting. Those were the last good horses he ever trained. Further proof that often at the top level of the sport, the horses make the trainer, not the reverse.
25. Louis Quatorze (1996 Preakness)
Other wins of note: Jim Dandy (G2); Ben Ali and Creme Fraiche (G3s)
Other placings of note: 2nd in '96 Breeders Cup Classic and Travers (G1s), Blue Grass and Hopeful (G2s), Futurity (G3); 3rd in Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)
Louis Quatorze is something of the Johnny Vander Meer of horse racing--his name pops up every time a horse runs badly in the Derby and runs back in the Preakness, much like Vander Meer's name comes up every time a no-hitter is thrown because he was the only guy to throw consecutive no-hitters. Why do hear about Louis Q every year or so? Because this guy ran an absolutely horrible Kentucky Derby--something of a wise-guy horse at 13-1 off his decent second in the Blue Grass--he finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and lost by over 26 lengths.
Two weeks later, aided by a slightly damp track and a profound lack of early speed, Louis Quatorze went to the front at the beginning of the Preakness and never looked back under a fantastic ride by Pat Day, drawing off to win handily in record time. (Yes, he has the fastest official Preakness time, because the clock malfunctioned Secretariat's year.) It looked like this guy had turned the corner and was primed to become a division leader. Did that happen?
Of course not, otherwise he'd be higher on this list. He ran indifferently in the Belmont, came back to win the Jim Dandy later that year, but his best races were actually losses--a sneaky good 3rd to Skip Away and Cigar in the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup and losing the BC Classic by a nose to Alphabet Soup (beating Cigar). His older horse seasons were the definition of indifferent, as he knocked around in the handicap division without making a dent.
This guy didn't necessarily have a bad career, but on review, his career was anything but special. He had one Grade 1 win--the Preakness. He became more defined by the races he lost, namely, his finishes in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the BC Classic. And of course, his Derby flop. Which is why you keep hearing about him.
24. Monarchos (2001 Derby)
Other wins of note: Florida Derby (G1)
Other placings of note: 2nd in Wood Memorial (G1); 3rd in Belmont (G1)
Pop quiz: name the only three horses to have run a sub-2 minute Kentucky Derby. Everyone knows that one is Secretariat, and wise-guys know that the second horse to do it was Sham, when he ran a close second to Secretariat in 1973. Monarchos is the third.
For a 4-month stretch in early 2001, Monarchos was one of the best 3 year olds we've seen. Exiting a forgettable 2 year old campaign, the stoutly bred son of Maria's Mon won his third start in a sharp 7-furlong performance at Gulfstream. He did that one better in an allowance race next out, sitting off a moderate pace in his first two-turn race and drawing off to win easily. Made the 7-5 favorite in the Florida Derby--which was then a prep for Derby preps--he fell off a strong pace and made a titanic move on the far turn to take the lead at the top of the stretch, pulling away to an emphatic 5-length win. The move looked exactly like the type of big turn move you see out of a Derby winner, and the racing press took note, hyping up the Derby as an East versus West battle of the new shooter Monarchos versus the titan Point Given.
Except there was another round of prep races to go. Monarchos entered the Wood Memorial as the 9-10 favorite with his only main competition being the fairly untested Congaree, who came into the racing having made a whopping 3 starts, but also being a Bob Baffert horse, needed to get away from Point Given. Monarchos assume his usual position at the back of the pack of a pretty small field (6 horses), while Congaree sat just off the hapless pacesetter. Come the far turn, Congaree had first run and was full of run and never looked back, winning by 2 1/2. Lost in all the hullabaloo over Baffert's talented new shooter, however, was that Monarchos actually ran a perfect Derby prep--he closed well into Congaree and by John Ward's own admission wasn't fully geared to run on Derby day.
Come Derby day, there was no reason to not like Monarchos. Sure, Point Given looked tough but the rest of the competition...not so much. Congaree had only 4 career starts, a no-no that wasn't broken until Big Brown in 2008. The other major prep winners were Millennium Wind and Balto Star, horses with clear limitations. Despite this, based on his loss in the Wood, the general public forgot about Monarchos and sent him off as the 6th choice at 10-1. In a word, whoops.
Monarchos' win yielded him a 116 GSF, a fabulous figure that he would never remotely approach again. In the Preakness he was the 5-2 second choice behind Point Given and ran a flat sixth, never in contention. He was the 5-1 third choice in the Belmont, and while he ran 3rd, he lost by almost 14 lengths. He was off for the rest of the year, then came back in an allowance race, where he ran third to the horrible Mongoose and Watch Your Pennies. He was promptly retired.
Monarchos didn't have the longest or most prosperous career--he only won two stakes races, for crying out loud--but when he was on, he was tremendous. If we ranked the 15 Derby winners by best performance, his is either first or second with Barbaro. It's hard to say what went wrong after the Derby, clearly that race took something out of him that he never got back. But based on his brief brilliance, he's worthy of #24 on our list.
Coming up next week: Four horses that were memorable, but in our opinion, weren't as good as everyone believes.