12/29/2011 5:25PM

10 most unbreakable records (10-6)


On the heels of Rapid Redux’s 19th win of 2011, Bill Christine ranks the 10 racing records that will never be matched (view the top 5)

10. Dr. Fager’s four titles in one year: Handicap, turf, sprinter, horse of the year (1968)

The skinny: If there was an iconic set of numbers in racing, it would have been 1:32 1/5, the world-record time for the mile that Dr. Fager set at Arlington Park in 1968 while carrying 134 pounds. But then Najran, a 4-year-old gray colt who had been beaten by 34 lengths in his previous start, came along in 2003 and won a mile race at Belmont Park in 1:32.24. Najran is credited with tying the record, although Dr. Fager could have run his race in 1:32.20. We'll never know − races were timed in fifths of a second in Dr. Fager's day. The record for Dr. Fager in the exercise at hand also came in 1968: He swept the board by winning the Horse of the Year title and also being voted best older horse on dirt, best turf horse, and best sprinter. But no one's perfect − Bon Nouvel was best steeplechaser.

Why this is unbreakable: "I would bet a bunch that those four titles in one year will never be duplicated," said John McEvoy, who used to work for Daily Racing Form but now writes mystery novels. Sprinter will always be the hangup division for a horse who might win the other three titles. It used to be that Eclipse Awards voters had a tough time evaluating sprinters and might vote for a router who seldom sprinted, but the running of the Breeders' Cup Sprint at year's end has made that possibility unlikely.

9. Kent Desormeaux’s 598 wins in one year (1989)

The skinny: In 1974, Chris McCarron, only an apprentice, set the record for most riding wins in a year when he booted home 546 horses. McCarron didn't think his record was going to be long for the books, but it was 1989 before it fell. Maryland-based Kent Desormeaux, a 19-year-old who already had won 924 races in leading the country the two previous years, set his sights on 600 wins in 1989, and while he was two short, he shattered McCarron's mark with a month to go.

Why this is unbreakable: Desormeaux was willing to leave his home base throughout 1989, riding wherever he could find live mounts. For five weeks in May and June, he would ride in the afternoons at Pimlico, then take the train to Philadelphia so he could ride the night cards at nearby Garden State Park. He rode in 2,312 races; only one national leader has ridden in more than 2,000 since then. Only one jockey since 1989 has cleared the 500 mark − Edgar Prado with 536 in 1997. From 1990 through 2010, the average number of wins for the national leader has been 420.

8. D. Wayne Lukas’s six straight Triple Crown victories (1994-96)

The skinny: Trainer Wayne Lukas won the 1994 Preakness and Belmont with Tabasco Cat. In 1995, he won the Kentucky Derby with Thunder Gulch, the Preakness with Timber Country, and the Belmont with Thunder Gulch. When he won the 1996 Derby with Grindstone, it meant that Lukas had salted away six straight Triple Crown wins. Grindstone, injured in the Derby, was retired and missed the Preakness. Lukas ran three horses anyway, the best of whom, Editor's Note, finished third before winning the Belmont, giving Lukas seven wins in eight tries in the Triple Crown.

Why this is unbreakable: "There was a Triple Crown drought between 1949 and 1972," Jon White said. "Now, starting in 1979, we have yet to have another Triple Crown winner. This shows how difficult it is to win any of the Triple Crown races. It's awfully hard for me to believe we are going to see another trainer win six straight races." The Lukas barn was incredibly deep during those years. He started four other horses in the Grindstone Derby. Timber Country, who would have been favored, was scratched from the Belmont the day before, but Lukas had Thunder Gulch in reserve.

7. Secretariat’s time of 2:24 and 31-length win in the Belmont (1973)

The skinny: Gallant Man held the record for the Belmont Stakes, a clocking of 2:26 3/5 in 1957. Gallant Man ran second to Iron Liege in the Derby on a day when Bill Shoemaker, rider of the runner-up, misjudged the finish line and prematurely stood up in the irons. The Belmont record stood until Secretariat, clinching the first Triple Crown in 25 years, not only bettered the record by 2 3/5 seconds with a time of 2:24, but finished 31 lengths − another record − ahead of Twice a Prince, who was second, somewhere in Queens, when Secretariat and Ron Turcotte hit the wire. The Racing Form chart footnotes were unusually opinionated: "Secretariat, sent up along the inside to vie for the early lead . . . drew off at will rounding the far turn and was under a hand ride from Turcotte to establish a record in a tremendous performance." Said the Form's Charlie Hatton: "You couldn't find the other horses with two pair of binoculars."

Why this is unbreakable: No one has come close to 2:24 in the Belmont since Secretariat. The best time since 1973 has been 2:26, by Easy Goer in 1989 and A.P. Indy in 1992. Secretariat's opening 1 1/4 miles in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont was run in 1:59, faster than the record time he posted in the Derby. In 1988, Risen Star won the Belmont by 14 3/4 lengths, the largest margin since Secretariat. "There's probably a better chance that the 31-length record can be broken rather than the time record," Jon White said, "but I think both of them are safe. The only way the time record could be beaten would be if they ran the race on an extraordinarily fast − probably a sealed − track."

6. Eddie Castro’s nine wins in one day (June 4, 2005)

The skinny: Two jockeys, Chris Antley and Eddie Castro, have won nine races in one day, but the unvarnished record belongs to Castro. Antley needed a day and a night to win his nine, at Aqueduct and the Meadowlands in 1987. He rode in 14 races overall. On June 4, 2005, Castro won nine races and finished second and fourth in two others while riding 11 times on a 13-race card at Calder. Castro, 20, had come from his native Panama to win the Eclipse Award for apprentices two years before. On his big day at Calder, he finished second in the first race, won the second through the fourth, skipped the fifth, won the sixth, skipped the seventh, finished fourth in the eighth, then won the last five. None of his winners paid more than $13 for a $2 win ticket. His ninth winner, Ben's Advantage, returned $3.80. By then, everybody in the joint wanted to bet on Castro.

Why this is unbreakable: According to the American Racing Manual, nine jockeys have had eight-win days, three of them pulling a Chris Antley and riding at two tracks. But there hasn't been an eight-bagger at one track since Pat Day went 8 for 9 at Arlington Park in 1989. The first jockey to win eight was Hubert Jones, at Agua Caliente in 1944. I once asked Jones what he remembered most about that day. "All the cigarettes I smoked," he said. "The more I won, the more nervous I got."

Racing's top 5 unbreakable records »

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