Incredible Moments From Horse Racing History

min read
Two jocks during a horse race head toward the finish line.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jul 28, 2022, 3:26 PM

Horse racing is founded on betting, and the industry is growing fast as people from all walks of life become interested in how to bet on horse racing. Horse betting at racetracks became official in the last century, while online sports betting has made it possible to bet on races anywhere in the world. You can even bet on the go with a mobile sports betting app. But it’s the power and the spirit of the race horses themselves that make betting a satisfying activity: it’s hard not to be inspired by the thrilling performances that these noble creatures deliver – or by the jockeys and trainers who partner with them. Let’s take a look at some of the most incredible moments in the history of horse racing.

The immortal race horse: Secretariat

Secretariat was known as one of the all-time greats of horse racing. Then he became immortal. This happened in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, where he blew the competition out of the water to win by an incredible 31 lengths. He was so far ahead that his jockey, Ron Turcotte, looked over his shoulder for other horses nearby – and found none. It’s one of the most iconic images of the sport.

This remarkable race horse finished the race so powerfully that it took Turcotte two furlongs to pull him up. His performance made him the first Triple Crown winner since 1948. It was so awesome that fans didn’t cash in their winning tote tickets, preferring to keep them as souvenirs of an historic achievement.

Secretariat also set the speed record for the Belmont Stakes as well as the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Let’s hope we meet another horse like him again. Imagine how it’d galvanize NYRA horse racing.

Denied by a nostril: Victory Gallop

Many fans were stunned by the outcome of the 1998 Belmont Stakes, and many more were thrilled as Victory Gallop caused a tremendous upset in one of the race’s most dramatic iterations ever.

Victory Gallop had been playing second fiddle to Real Quiet, who’d won the Derby and the Preakness and was all set to take the Triple Crown. It seemed such a shoe-in that his sports betting odds were 500, compared to +350 for Victory Gallop.

Belmont Park was Victory Gallop’s chance for revenge, but it seemed unlikely to happen as Real Quiet opened up a four-length advantage in the stretch.

The Triple Crown seemed as good as won, but Victory Gallop didn’t give up. Bit by bit he chased Real Quiet until they came level in mid-stretch. Neither horse gave an inch. They bumped each other and kept going until Victory Gallop won – literally by a nostril.

The first female Triple Crown champ: Julie Krone

Sometimes tragedy also leads to something good. Fans were devastated at the 1993 Belmont Stakes when Prairie Bayou broke down, but there was a silver lining to the affair. Jockey Julie Krone succeeded in riding long-shot Colonial Affair to victory.

Krone rated Colonial Affair from off the pace, then let him take control at the top of the stretch. He drew off to win by 2 ¼ lengths. It was the first time a woman jockey ever partnered with a Triple Crown race winner.

It wasn’t the last time Krone would win a marquee stake, either. She’s considered the all-time leading female rider, with a resume that includes the Breeder’s Cup. But it was Colonial Affair’s win that earned Krone a permanent place in Triple Crown history.

Trainer’s five year winning streak: Woody Stephens

Race horses can’t win races without great trainers. One of the best trainers in the sport was Woody Stephens. He had a five-year winning streak with different horses at the Belmont Stakes. Conquistador Cielo won the title in 1982. He was followed by Caveat (1983), Swale (1984) and Creme Fraiche (1985).

Then came the 1986 Belmont Stakes. Stephens had trained a colt named Danzig Connection for victory. The conditioning paid off, because Danzig Connection peaked at just the right time to take the title. Now the legendary “Mr Belmont Stakes” had an astounding 5 consecutive victories. He certainly deserves his place in the Hall of Fame.

Epic rivals: Alydar and Affirmed

Great rivalries are the stuff of sporting legend. Think of the Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears, Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali, or Arnold Palmer versus Jack Nicklaus.

Race horses can be rivals too, and Affirmed and Alydar were the greatest horse racing rivals of all time.

The arena for this epic struggle was the Triple Crown of 1978. Affirmed kicked it off by winning the Kentucky Derby, where he beat Alydar by a length and a half. Alydar was determined to have his revenge at the Preakness Stakes, but his efforts only pushed Affirmed to greater efforts, and Alydar lost by a neck. This meant the stakes at the Belmont Stakes were higher than ever before, because Affirmed now had a shot at the Triple Crown. The two horses were like gladiators locked in combat as they raced neck-and-neck ahead of the pack the whole race. Alydar pulled ahead by a nose on the final stretch as Affirmed started getting peaky.

But it was not to be. Affirmed’s jockey used his whip, and he edged back with a final burst of energy to claim the Triple Crown.

Breaking the Triple Crown drought: American Pharaoh

The world waited 37 years after Affirmed’s victory for another Triple Crown winner. Many people started doubting whether it was still possible for a single horse to win all three races in one season. It took American Pharaoh to restore their faith.

The season started with a narrow win for American Pharaoh at the Kentucky Derby. He followed this up with a convincing win on very soft going at the Preakness Stakes. Suddenly the possibility of Triple Crown glory was staring him in the face.

At first it seemed like the doubters would be proved right, as American Pharaoh leaned back in the gate for a poor start. But he wasn’t going to let victory slip away. He summoned the energy to surge into first position and stayed there throughout the race. He eventually won by 5 ½ lengths, finishing in the second-fastest time at Belmont ever. Only the immortal Secretariat ran a faster race.

The most incredible win: Conor Murphy

No history of horse racing would be complete without mentioning the biggest win from a single bet on horses. It was 2012 and stable boy Conor Murphy was working at the racetrack in Cheltenham, UK. He was devoted to his boss’s 5 horses and decided to bet $75 on them all. The sports betting odds of all 5 horses winning were not very good, but they did, and Murphy won $1.5 million in an accumulator.

Murphy had placed the bet online 3 months ahead of time. This increased his odds and boosted his winning potential. He wouldn’t have won as much as $1.5 million without this online horse racing innovation.

Murphy stayed true to his love for the sport and used his earnings to move to Louisville and work as a horse trainer. That’s the circle of horse racing.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.