Breeders’ Cup Photo ©
The results are in! After polling a wide range of horse racing enthusiasts, including writers, handicappers, and fans, the results of The Turf Board’s poll to determine the Top 10 U.S.-based Racehorses from 2000-2015 have been compiled!
I would like to thank everyone that contributed their Top 10 rankings–I enjoyed reading your lists! All told, 44 different horses received mentions, a testament to the number of talented horses that we have seen over the last sixteen years.
Voter’s were asked to rank their Top 10 horses based on a blend of raw talent and achievements. Ranking a horse #1 earned that horse 10 points; ranking a horse #2 earned that horse 9 points; etc. After tallying the point totals, the Top 10 horses were as follows:
1. American Pharoah (267 points / 15 first-place votes)
The first Triple Crown winner since 1978 and the first horse to sweep the “Grand Slam” by adding a Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) victory to his record, American Pharoah was voted a clear-cut winner as the best U.S.-based horse from 2000-2015. All told, he retired with a record of nine wins (including eight grade Is) from 11 starts and won three Eclipse awards, including the 2015 Horse of the Year title.
2. Zenyatta (225 / 8)
The legendary 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, who went unbeaten in her first nineteen races, compiled both the second-highest point total and the second-highest number of first place votes. On the track, she won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) in 2008 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in 2009, becoming the first filly or mare ever to win the Classic. In her twentieth and final start, she fell a head short of catching Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
3. Curlin (181 / 1)
Curlin won back-to-back Horse of the Year titles in 2007 and 2008 on the merit of victories in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), Woodward Stakes (gr. I), and two renewals of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). He retired as the richest U.S.-based racehorse of all time with more than $10.5 million in earnings.
4. Wise Dan (164)
Another two-time Horse of the Year, Wise Dan was at his best on turf, over which he won a staggering 15 of 16 starts, but he was almost as good on dirt and synthetic tracks, winning graded stakes races on both and ending his career with 23 wins from 31 starts. In the final 19 starts of his career from October 2011 through October 2014, he won 17 times and ran second in his two defeats while earning six Eclipse awards and winning two Breeders’ Cup Miles.
5. Ghostzapper (137 / 5)
The brilliant Ghostzapper was almost unbeatable from his debut in 2002 through his retirement in 2005, winning nine of his 11 races, including the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic in the record time of 1:59.02. In terms of Beyer speed figures, he was perhaps the fastest horse since 2000, earning figures of 116, 120, 128, 114, 124, and 122 in the final six starts of his career. Although he finished fifth overall on The Turf Board’s Top 10 list, he received the third-highest number of first-place votes.
6. Rachel Alexandra (129)
Rachel Alexandra had a year for the ages in 2009, going 8-for-8 while winning the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Haskell Invitational (gr. I), and Woodward Stakes (gr. I) against males to earn recognition as Horse of the Year. She also won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by 20 1/4 lengths and the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) by 19 3/4 lengths, stamping herself as one of the greatest three-year-old fillies of all time.
7. Tiznow (105 / 1)
Over the course of 2000 and 2001, Tiznow won a number of major stakes races, including the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Super Derby (gr. I), and Goodwood Handicap (gr. I), but it was his unmatched feat of winning back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classics that stamped him as one of the greatest champions of the last sixteen years. Adding to his legacy is the fact that he won those Classics by a neck and a nose, showing unwavering determination to prevail after long stretch battles. His achievements earned him three Eclipse awards, including the 2000 Horse of the Year title.
8. California Chrome (57)
The 2014 Horse of the Year captured the hearts of racing fans with his wins in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and although he failed in his bid to win the Triple Crown, he ended 2014 on a high note with a close third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a win in the Hollywood Derby (gr. I). After a brief campaign in 2015 that included a runner-up effort in the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome is back in action this year and targeting another run in the Dubai World Cup, which could allow him to further stamp his legacy and move up the rankings in future polls!
9. Point Given (53)
Few horses have ever enjoyed such a financial rewarding four-race winning streak as Point Given, who swept the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Haskell Invitational (gr. I), and Travers Stakes (gr. I) in 2001 on his way to being honored as Horse of the Year. He was also a top-notch two-year-old, winning the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and finishing second by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and if not for an unexpected defeat in the Kentucky Derby, he would have been a Triple Crown winner.
10. Smarty Jones (51)
Like California Chrome, Smarty Jones captured the hearts of racing fans with his easy wins in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), which brought his record at that point to a perfect 8-for-8. He seemed poised to become the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years, but after getting sucked into a fast pace in the Belmont Stakes–including six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 and ten furlongs in an incredible 2:00 2/5–he couldn’t sustain his speed in the final furlong and finished second by a length to Birdstone. He was later honored as the champion three-year-old of 2004.
Earning honorable mentions were the three-time Eclipse award-winning mare Beholder (36 points) and the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Invasor (28 points). Thanks again for voting!
American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Curlin, and Wise Dan photos courtesy Breeders’ Cup Photo; California Chrome photo courtesy Benoit Photo
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board! Also, if you’re a fan of horse racing history, please check out my upcoming book Lost to the Ages: 10 Forgotten Champions of U.S. Horse Racing, scheduled for release later this year!