Top ten lists of the decade are so everywhere. But, heck I think they are cool and I like reading them. It was a wonderful decade to watch racing, and we were blessed with some great horses. I will do my best to count down who I think were the top ten. It is only my opinion, and as always, I look at performance ahead of record. A horses talent tells us where he fits in the history of racing, a horses record is simply a snapshot about how he/she fits in a crop.
So, here goes.
#10 - Gallo Blue Chip (133-53-19-9 $4.3M) - It is impossible for me to leave the all time leading money winner off this list. He won everywhere, and raced for years. He was not the fastest, was not the most durable horse of the decade, but he deserves his due for a marvelous stakes career.
#9 - Rock n Roll Hanover (26-15-5-5 $3.0M) - Brett Pelling did a masterful job with this horse and he responded. He was born to be a champion and he was. He set a world record at two and went on to win the big three at three. At the end of his 3YO year he looked done, but he was not. His win in the Breeders Crown was as good as his win in the North America Cup.
#8 - Mr. Big (85-34-20-11 $4.1M) - He is probably the most accomplished older horse of the decade, but he was not bad as a two and three year old either. He lost a teeny step this year at age 6, but he still won some races, including the Ben Franklin in a sparkling 148. He is now retired, but I have a sneaky feeling with last years less than stellar three year old crop, he could give them a run for another year.
#7 - Snow White (19-14-0-1 $1.4M) - She is a filly that is generational. Her 152.4 world record at the Red Mile (below) is the stuff of trotting legend. How good was she as a two year old? Her dominant effort in the Breeders Crown would have easily won the sophomore division, which never happens. If we look, the same night the two year old colt Crown (won by Deweycheatumnhowe) went 157, she crushed in 55. Truly one of the greatest freshman, male or female, to strap on a bridle.
#6 - Art Major (49-32-7-2 $3.3M) - If there was a match race tomorrow between Art Major and Somebeachsomewhere, I believe that he would be 7 or 8 to 5 because he was that good a pacer. During his three year old year I had the feeling that each win would be an open length one and its was not will he win, but how much will he win by. That is a mark of greatness, especially when his crop included horses like Mach Three and Red River Hanover. His win over McArdle in the US Pacing Championship at 4 was breathless. I do not think that there are many horses alive who could have won that race off that trip, against those tough horses.
#5 - Muscle Hill (21-20-1-0 $3.3M) - Muscle Hill was one of those transitional figures, as well, which it tends to take to make my list. There have been fast trotters to step on the track before. Sometimes they get a flyer and win easily, however often times this is never repeated, nor can they last doing it. This horse was the first trotter that reminded me of a pacer - push button speed, can go a quarter in 26 then back it down with a 30, and finish strong. Although he did not accomplish it, to me he is the first real 149 trotter. We have never see a horse win the Hambo in 150 with so much left. A true superstar.
#4 - Eternal Camnation (101-47-18-5 $4.2M) - The winningest mare in harness history is here for many reasons, the most of which might be her longevity. I do not think she could have beaten Rainbow Blue, but boy could she have given her a tussle. I sincerely wish her Classic Series win at Dover was on Youtube. In it she proved she belongs on anyone’s list. She was in a no win spot and driver Eric Ledford had to tip her three wide extremely prematurely. That would have stopped virtually any horse, but not horses who make this list. She continued to surge, and surge and surge; and she won. She was another who broke down barriers and was mentioned as perhaps a starter in some races against the boys. She might have had a tough time beating the Free for Allers, but she would have tried her butt off, because that is who she was.
#3 - Peaceful Way (52-33-3-2 $3.2M) - She won $3M, and probably beat herself (not many could beat her when she stayed flat) out of another million or so. She crushed male free for all superstars in the Maple Leaf Trot, she was constantly talked about as being able to possibly beat Mr. Muscleman. It will take many, many years to forget this mare and I don’t know if we’ll see another one like her. During her heyday she was always compared to the greatest trotters ever, which happens only to the true greats. For a race that sends chills up ones spine, remember her performance in the Classic Series at the Meadowlands below. She was awesome.
#2 - Rainbow Blue (32-30-0-1 $1.6M) - Words do not do this beast of a mare justice. Does anyone have any doubt that in the ten seasons of this millenium she would have beat any filly foaled? I don’t. In her Roses are Red elimination at Woodbine she won in a hand drive in 49.2. There is a chance she could have set the all age track record that evening. In the final, on a soupy track, she proved her talent even more, going three high at the half, surging to the lead and winning with ease. This was the three year old year of horses like Metropolitan and Modern Art. Not only was she argued as being one of the best fillies in history, there were many observers who felt that she, if entered in the Pace or North America Cup would have won. That has not happened with a three year old filly since perhaps Fan Hanover 30 years ago. She stands at number two, but could easily be number one.
#1 - Somebeachsomewhere (21-20-1-0 $3.4M) - I constantly am looking for kinks in an armor of horses, but with this colt I can not find one. He represented a sea-change in racing in 2008 - a horse built for pure speed, but with a toughness and constitution that we will have a hard time seeing moving forward. There is one three year old colt in modern history who would have been 3-5 racing free for allers, him. Only a few horses can stand the rigor of modern racing for two full seasons, and those did not set four world records in the process. Fans for his two years of racing tried to bring him down. He was never challenged, he only raced in Canada as a two year old, he could not handle heats, just wait for a sloppy track, wait til he meets Shadow Play on a half, he won't last the season going that speed they said. He answered every criticism, game set and match. He won on a half, and set a world record. He went heats and won both. He paced first over to a half mile track world champion, locked wheels and still won in a rainstorm. He set a world record all by himself, in less than ideal conditions. From the moment he set foot on the track, til the moment he left it, he dominated, while making other world champions look like they were not in the same species. In 21 races (by my count) he was tapped with the whip no more than a half dozen times, and it was not because of sub-par competition, it was because he was faster than any horse alive.
In the end I guess it can be summed up like this: Throughout his career the "Beach" was compared to Nihilator and Niatross, while horses like Rock n Roll Hanover, Art Major and this years star Well Said, were compared to Somebeachsomewhere. It is why he is number one my list.