12/29/2011 5:03PM

10 most unbreakable records (5-1)


On the heels of Rapid Redux’s 19th win of 2011, Bill Christine ranks the 10 racing records that will never be matched (view 10-6)

5. Kelso’s five straight Horse of the Years (1960-64)

The skinny: From 1960 through 1964, Kelso won 35 out of 53 starts, finished first 10 times carrying 130 pounds or more, and earned close to $1.9 million. Affectionately known as "Kelly," he was voted Horse of the Year all five years. The first title and the fifth title were the hardest. Voters oft-times look to the Triple Crown for their Horse of the Year, and Kelso, after a three-race campaign as a 2-year-old, didn't get back to the races until June 1960. But he finished the year with six straight wins, the cherry on top being the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. In 1964, Gun Bow won eight races, splitting four with Kelso, and appeared on his way to stopping his rival's title reign. Their fifth meeting came on grass at Laurel in the D.C. International, a race Kelso had failed to win in three tries. But this time he beat Gun Bow by 4 1/2 lengths and set an American record for the clock to sway the voters again.

Why this is unbreakable: Few horses even run for five seasons. John Henry, who ran through his 9-year-old season, won two Horse of the Year titles. The only horse since Kelso to win more than two titles was Forego, who cobbled together three championships in the 1970's. Secretariat and Affirmed won two titles each in the 1970's, but since then only two horses − Cigar in 1995-96 and Curlin in 2007-08 − have won consecutive crowns.

4. Woody Stephens’s five straight Belmont victories (1982-86)

The skinny: Before 1982, Woody Stephens had saddled only one horse in the Belmont. Then he won with Conquistador Cielo, unleashing a five-race streak that carried through to Danzig Connection's win in 1986. In between, Stephens's winners were Caveat, Swale, and Creme Fraiche. Stephens won with colts, he won with a gelding (Creme Fraiche), he won on fast tracks, he won on sloppy tracks, he won for four owners, and he won with three jockeys. Of the quintet, only Creme Fraiche was favored, partly because he ran coupled with Stephan's Odyssey, who finished second. The formula was to generally not subject Stephens's 3-year-olds to the rigors of the other Triple Crown races. Only Swale ran in the first two legs, winning the Derby. Caveat was the only other horse to run in a Triple Crown race.

Why this is unbreakable: Stephens himself said it best: "Who expects to run in five Belmonts in a row, much less win them?" Stephens said after Danzig Connection capped the run. Just winning the Belmont once can take time. Nick Zito, one of New York's premier trainers, ran 11 horses in the 1 1/2-mile race before he won it. After Wayne Lukas saddled three straight winners in the 1990's − Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch, and Editor's Note − Stephens said: "That's well and good. But it still ain't five, is it?"

3. Kingston’s 89 career victories (1886-1894)

The skinny: Kingston didn't have a name until four days after he won one of his early races. Around the track, everybody knew him as "The Brown Whirlwind." In logging 89 wins from 1886 through 1894, there were only four times when he didn't run first, second, or third. He started 138 times and had 33 seconds and 12 thirds. His purses of $140,195 were the most a horse had ever earned. Bankrupt, who had the same sire as Kingston, Spendthrift, was a contemporary and racked up 86 wins, but he needed 348 starts. The first horse from the 20th century to crack the list was Hiblaze, who's in fifth place.

Why this is unbreakable: Kingston raced for nine years, with no letup. Horses aren't built to do that anymore. Animal-rights groups might interfere, anyway. Sam and Dorothy Rubin were bombarded with negative letters when they suggested that John Henry might be brought back for his 10-year-old season. John Henry ran 83 times. Before it was decided to abandon plans to race him again, an ominous letter arrived. "They thought it was another letter of intimidation," trainer Ron McAnally said. "But it was a form letter, asking for a donation."

2. Camarero’s 56-race winning streak (1952-55)

The skinny: In 1941, Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees hit safely in 56 straight games, which is still the record. So is the 56-race winning streak that Camarero assembled between April 1953 through August 1955. Camarero weighed well under 1,000 pounds, but he was a sturdy colt. According to the Thoroughbred Times, he ran 77 times, winning all but four. He died Aug. 27, 1956, the day after his last race, from complications caused by peritonitis. He was five years old. Top racing honors in Puerto Rico are called the Camarero Awards. Camarero's remains were buried in the infield at the old El Comandante track, which has been renamed Hipodromo Camarero.

Why this is unbreakable: "These days, we're talking about Rapid Redux winning 21 in a row," Jon White said. "That was very hard to do, and it emphasizes how much harder it would be to ring up 56 in a row." There have been other long streaks in Puerto Rico, but nothing close to Camarero. According to the old Thoroughbred Times Almanac, the longest streak in the continental U.S. is Leviathan's 23 races at the end of the 18th century.

1. Wishing Ring’s $1,885.50 win payout (June 17, 1912)

The skinny: Bob McMillan, Wishing Ring's owner, did not bet her in the sixth and last race on the card at the old Latonia track in Latonia, Ky., on June 17, 1912. Neither did Colonel E.R. Bradley, his wife would remind him later. Mrs. Bradley had a standing request for her husband to bet $2 to win on every horse in every race, whenever he went to the races. Consequently, wrote James C. Claypool in "The Tradition Continues" in 1997, the colonel had to pony up $1,885.50 out of his own pocket when Wishing Ring came home by a half-length and won. Only four $2 win tickets were sold on the 4-year-old filly, who was ridden by Roy Estep. One was held by a woman from Glencoe, Ill., who liked the sound of her name. Another ticket was held by a whiskey salesman from Cincinnati. Wishing Ring paid $644.40 to place and $174.40 to show. Four dollars was bet on Wishing Ring to place and $10 to show. "The filly's owner was probably the most chagrined person at the course," one news dispatch said. "The lucky ones with win tickets were mere tyros in racing."

Why this is unbreakable: Horses don't go off at 941-1, at least not very often. In the long parimutuel history of the Kentucky Derby, the longest-priced horses have been Chance It Tony and A Dragon Killer, who both ran in 1958. Chance It Tony, 245-1, finished sixth, and A Dragon Killer, 294-1, ran seventh. There have been many longshot winners over the years in the Breeders' Cup, but the biggest win payoff is still $269.20, set by the French invader Arcangues when he won the Classic in 1993.

Note: A few publications, including a 1993 article in the New York Times, say the win payout record belongs to Power To Geaux, $2,922, at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 8, 1989. Sorry, but this is one time when The Times is not the paper of record. If you were at the Fair Grounds that day, all you got was $96.60. The $2,922 payoff came at the now-defunct Ak-Sar-Ben, in Lincoln, Neb., where there was simulcast betting on the Fair Grounds race with separate pools. Only one win ticket was sold on Power To Geaux at Ak-Sar-Ben. A gentleman would say, "Put both records in the book, with a qualifier," which is what the American Racing Manual has done. I say leave the record alone and give it to Wishing Ring. Let those in love with simulcast records start a record book of their own.

Which racing records will never be broken? Join the discussion at DRF Now.

(An explanation of the baseball numbers, top to bottom: Pete Rose’s career hits; Cy Young’s career pitching wins; Ty Cobb’s career batting average; Barry Bonds’s home runs, 2001; Roger Maris’s home runs, 1961; Hank Aaron’s career home runs; the 1941 average of Ted Williams, last batter to hit .400; Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive games played.)