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Misconceptions surround racing's longest win streaks
On this week in 1994, Cigar scored his first stakes victory in the NYRA Mile at Aqueduct. It was his second win in a row in a streak that extended to 16 before it came to an end at Del Mar in 1996.
The NYRA Mile, renamed the Cigar Mile in 1997, will be contested Saturday for the 17th time.
As Cigar approached his 16th win in a row, he generated a great deal of publicity in the trades and the general media - some of it misleading.
Some in the media compared his streak to Citation's "record" 16 wins in a row from 1948-50. When informed that a number of 19th century American horses and 20th century European horses won 16 or more races in a row, some in the media began using the terms "modern record" or "North American record." Both of those were not correct, either.
In recent years, with the 16-race win streak by the American runner Hallowed Dreams and the 17-race win streak by the Asian sprinter Silent Witness, the media has on occasion fallen into the same old traps.
Test your knowledge of North American win streaks.
1. On May 10, 1842, one of the 19th century's greatest match races took place at the Union Course in New York. It pitted a 5-year-old mare known as the "Queen of the Turf" against a 9-year-old male who had dominated the sport for seven years.
During one stretch of her career, the mare won 20 races in a row. The male star won 19 races in a row during one period. (Note: Races during this era were run in heats - best two out of three - with only the final outcome being counted.) Name the two who are among the leaders on the list of all-time win streaks by American horses.
2. Several Thoroughbreds racing exclusively against suspect fields in Puerto Rico have amassed win streaks of 22 to 56 races in a row.
Camarero won a world-record 56 races in a row in Puerto Rico from 1953 to 1955. He is the namesake today of Puerto Rico's equivalent of the Eclipse Award.
One Puerto Rican star took his streak to the United States, where he won three major stakes races and entered the Kentucky Derby undefeated in 16 lifetime starts. Name him.
3. At the end of the 19th century, most horsemen were of the opinion that this bay colt was the greatest American horse of the 1800's.
As a 3-year-old, he won his first 18 starts. Only one was run in heats, and he won both heats, thus giving him 19 straight wins in modern terms.
He won 31 of 36 lifetime starts, was champion at ages 2, 3, and 4, and never finished worse than third. Name him.
4. During the four-year period of 1965-68, three titans - Buckpasser, Damascus, and Dr. Fager - won an almost unbelievable 64 races in their combined 85 lifetime starts. Their in-the-money record was 82 out of 85, each finishing worse than third only one time (Dr. Fager on a questionable disqualification from first to fourth).
Which of the three Hall of Famers had the longest win streak?
5. In the 131-year history of the Kentucky Derby, only five horses have entered the race undefeated and kept their record intact on Derby Day. The most recent was Smarty Jones, who had a streak of six wins coming into the 2004 Derby.
Regret won all three of her starts before she became the first filly to win the Louisville classic in 1915. In 1969, Majestic Prince had seven straight wins before he captured the Derby, and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in 1977 had won six straight.
Name the undefeated horse whose Kentucky Derby win was his 12th in a row.
HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS
1. More than 70,000 spectators showed up for the match race between the mare Fashion and the horse Boston on May 10, 1842. Newspapers reported that as many as 40 members of Congress were on hand for the event.
Raced in four-mile heats, the match was won by Fashion, who collected an almost unheard-of sum of $20,000.
Fashion raced for nine seasons and won 32 of 36 races - 20 in a row during one period. Boston raced for eight seasons and won 40 of 45 races - 19 in a row during one period.
In his last year at stud, 1849, Boston was blind and barely able to stand, but managed to sire two of the century's greats: Lecomte and Lexington, the latter America's all-time sire leader.
(Note: America's all-time win-streak leader is believed to be Leviathan, a gelding foaled in 1793. He won 23 races in a row before tasting defeat.)
2. Mister Frisky, a Florida-bred, rattled off 13 wins in a row in Puerto Rico before coming to the United States in the winter of 1990. He then proceeded to win the graded San Vicente and San Rafael stakes and the Santa Anita Derby.
Mister Frisky was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the 116th Kentucky Derby, but he showed only brief speed before fading to eighth, some 20 lengths behind the winner, Unbridled.
Since Mister Frisky was from the modern era in North America, and won three stakes in the United States, he threw a cog in the works of those trying to hype the Citation-Cigar "record" later that decade. Reporters also found little comfort in using the phrase "horses who raced exclusively in North America," because one of Cigar's wins was in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
3. A few old-time horsemen can still be found using the phrase, "the second coming of Hindoo," to describe a potentially great horse. The phrase was common in racing circles 100 years ago.
A foal of 1878, Hindoo won his first seven starts and lost his last two at age 2. At age 3, he won his first 18 races and lost his last two. At age 4, he lost his first start and then won the final five races of his career.
Hindoo's victories during his amazing 3-year-old season included the Kentucky Derby, Clark Stakes, and Travers Stakes.
Hindoo retired to a very successful stud career.
4. Despite their brilliant lifetime records, Damascus and Dr. Fager were never able to win more than six races in a row.
Buckpasser, however, amassed a win streak of 15 consecutive races. He began the streak in the Everglades Stakes at Hialeah on Feb. 23, 1966, and ended it with a win in the Metropolitan Handicap at Aqueduct on May 30, 1967.
An injury forced Buckpasser to the sidelines for three months after he won the 1966 Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah, causing him to miss the Triple Crown series.
5. Morvich, the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, was undefeated in 11 starts when he entered the starting gate for the 48th Derby in 1922. It was his first start at age 3.
At age 2, Morvich's victories included the Saratoga Special, Hopeful Stakes, and Pimlico Futurity.
Morvich never won another race after the Derby.
No horse has ever entered the Derby starting gate with more consecutive wins than Morvich and come out victorious. The next closest was 1979 winner Spectacular Bid, who entered the Derby off a 10-race win streak.