12/29/2011 5:47PM

The 10 most unbreakable records in racing

Barbara Livingston
Rapid Redux tied a record with his 19th win of 2011, but confusion over what kind of mark he tied underscored the inconsistencies in racing’s record keeping.

Rapid Redux won another race Dec. 13 at Laurel Park.

"Rapid Redux," the Associated Press dispatch began," tied a North American Thoroughbred record for most victories in a calendar year, winning his 19th straight race Tuesday to match the mark set by Citation in 1948."

The Reuters version: "Rapid Redux entered rarefied air in U.S. Thoroughbred racing on Tuesday by winning his 19th race in 2011, equaling the modern-day single-season record shared by Triple Crown winner Citation."

And Blood-Horse.com: "Rapid Redux tied the modern-day United States record for wins in a single season Dec. 13."

What's wrong with all this?


Racing records can be contradictory, misleading, and even incorrect, and when writing about them, care needs to be taken at every turn. When Cigar was going for his 17th straight win in the 1996 Pacific Classic, it was frequently written that he was shooting for a record. Well, he was going for Citation's record, not the record. Any story to the contrary was off base.

Jon White said it best a couple of days after Rapid Redux's latest win. "There often is a lack of clarity in terms of records in horse racing," he wrote. "Just what kind of record did Rapid Redux tie? Was it a 'modern-day North American record?' Was it a 'modern-day U.S. record?' In my view, in order to be accurate, it was neither. I believe this is the most accurate way to put it: 'By winning 19 races in 2011, Rapid Redux achieved the most victories in a calendar year by a horse based in the continental U.S. since Citation in 1948.'"

As White pointed out, Camarero, running in Puerto Rico, won 29 races in 1955; Luke Blackburn (1880) and Donald Macdonald (1913) won 22 apiece in a year while running in the U.S. Roseben, an American horse, won 19 times in 1905. Even if you throw out Blackburn and Roseben as not having run in "modern day" − whatever that is − you can't discount Camarero. His 29-race season came seven years after Citation's 19-win year. Even allowing the "modern day" qualifier, if you throw Citation into that hopper, you also have to include Camarero. By any account, Puerto Rico is in North America, and 1955 is "modern day."

When Daily Racing Form asked me to narrow down all of racing's records to the 10 that would be hardest to break, my first problem was getting agreement on just what some of those records were. One place, it says the record for a $2 win payoff is held by Wishing Ring at the old Latonia track, now Turfway Park, in 1912; another place it says the high belongs to Power To Geaux, at the Fair Grounds in 1989. The Thoroughbred Racing Associations' 2011 Directory and Record Book says the record for stakes wins by a jockey in one day is four, Jerry Bailey in 1995 being the most recent of four riders listed, but the 2007 Hollywood Park media guide said the record was five, set by Laffit Pincay in 2000.

I just wish that these were isolated examples.

Racing's inability to balance its books was a singular inspiration for an entire book about the game's statistical history. Richard Sowers, one-time turf writer for the Louisville Courier Journal, published "The Abstract Primer of Thoroughbred Racing" in 2004. "The genesis of this book," Sowers said, "was that I was considered an 'expert' on the sport, yet I knew so much more about so many other sports. Eventually I realized that, regardless of the intense desire that I or anyone else has to learn about the history of racing, and then try to objectively measure racing's truly outstanding performers, there simply were no outstanding reference materials that made that possible. In few sports have our mythic performers been simply that − mythic − because of the lack of truly meaningful data that made valid comparisons possible."

When he was at the Thoroughbred Times, Don Clippinger burned the midnight oil to produce an annual almanac that tried to be all things to all racing buffs, but the book hasn't been published since 2009. The American Racing Manual, published annually with few exceptions by Daily Racing Form, ran to 1,953 pages in 2011, but Clippinger included tidbits that the manual lacks. If you're looking for more complete histories of stakes races, however, the manual is the place to be. Sowers's abstract, awfully well intended, was uneven because it virtually ignored statistics before 1946. One of the problems Sowers must have had was researching the game before that year. At one time, the Racing Form and the newly conceived company called Equibase competed as racing's record keepers; now, Equibase, an outgrowth of efforts by The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, sells its data to the Form.

Iconic numbers are a dish best served up by Major League Baseball. Mention these digits to even casual baseball fans, and they will be able to tell you what many of them mean:









(See end of article for what the numbers represent).

Baseball record books, the gold standard of which is published by the Elias Sports Bureau and its ageless editor, Seymour Siwoff, include records that even rabid fans might not have thought of. There is a category for home runs in both games of a doubleheader; for most times hitting a home run in a 1-0 game; for batters who hit a home run on their first major league pitch; for home runs by father and son, and brothers, in the same game; and for pitchers whose career lasted 10 or more years and never had a losing record. Want to know what Jewish batsman has hit the most homers on Wednesday nights with a full moon? If it's not in the record book, give Siwoff a day and he'll tell you. By contrast, I'm not really sure whether Native Diver holds the record for most stakes in a career, or shares it with Exterminator.

It depends on the source.

Racing's 10 most unbreakable records »

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