The 10 Most Epic Moments of Horse Racing History

Horse racing has long history of great triumphs, fantastic feats of athleticism, and startling upsets. With every race, every jockey and horse pair has a chance to make history. The potential for eternal fame, the chance to beat records, and the possibility of becoming a true champion are just part of the thrill of the races. Throughout the many years these distinguished races have been run, there are some truly remarkable memories. From races during which the underdog beat the champion, or a special horse astounded the world, or rivals faced off in an epic showdown, horse racing has it all. Below we've compiled our list of our favorite races in horse racing history.

10. 2016 Belmont Stakes

While there was no Triple Crown on the line during the 2016 Belmont Race, the win by Creator was a huge upset for the favorites. For the duration of the race, Creator was not in the first four positions, until the very end when he sprinted past the leaders. The favorites for the race, Exaggerator and Stradivari, failed to finish in the top three. Despite his initial position at the back of the track, Creator’s outstanding finish earned him the Belmont victory by a nose in an epic sprint out with Destin.

9. 2002 Belmont Stakes

The 2002 Belmont Stakes was another racing upset. Leading up to the race, War Emblem had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, meaning a Triple Crown victory was on the line. However, War Emblem stumbled at the start and effectively eliminated his shot at victory, ultimately finishing eighth. The greatest surprise of the race was the victorious run of Sarava, who chased down Medaglia d’Oro after trailing the main pack. At odds of 70-1, he is the biggest long shot in history to win the Belmont.

8. 1998 Belmont Stakes

Another race with a Triple Crown victory on the line, the epic finish to the 1998 Belmont Stakes is one of the closest races in history. The ultimate leader, Victory Gallop, narrowly beat out the favorite, and winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Real Quiet. It was Bob Baffert’s second shot at a Triple Crown, and his horse Real Quiet lost by the smallest margin in Belmont history. The two had come head to head at the Derby and Preakness, with Victory Gallop coming in second both times. The exhilarating finish at the end solidified the loss of another potential Triple Crown victor.

7. 1971 Kentucky Derby

The 1971 Kentucky Derby winner Canonero II was a long shot. After his birth in Kentucky, he was shipped to race in Venezuela before coming back to Kentucky for the Derby. With impossible odds, he managed to surprise everyone with a three length victory at the Derby. While not considered an outstanding horse, his victory is one of a true underdog overcoming the challenges put in his way.

6. 1989 Belmont Stakes

During the 1989 Belmont Stakes, Easy Goer defeated the Horse of the Year Sunday Silence by eight lengths. Easy Goer had previously lost to Sunday Silence in the Derby and Preakness, but managed to win the Belmont and deny Sunday Silence the Triple Crown. He posted the second fastest Belmont time in history at 2:26.1, behind Secretariat’s 2:24. Interestingly, Easy Goer was the son of Alydar, the only horse in history to finish in second place for all three Triple Crown races. It was thought that perhaps Easy Goer would follow in his footsteps, but his upset at the Belmont separated him from that legacy.

5. 1993 Breeder’s Cup Classic

The Breeder’s Cup Classic, while not a major Triple Crown race, is widely considered to be the premier horseracing event in North America. Due to the intense, competitive nature of the race, predictions are quite volatile. With odds of 133-1, the 1993 victory by Arcangue is the biggest upset by an underdog in the history of the Cup. A French horse, Arcangue had previously only raced on grass tracks in Europe, and the Classic was his debut in American racing. The five year old horse was trailing for most of the race before sprinting past the leaders to win in the last strides. To this day, he’s famous for managing to beat out the favorite Bertrando in what is one of the greatest upsets in horseracing history.

4. 2009 Kentucky Derby

With odds of 50-1, the nearly seven length victory of Mine That Bird was shocking to most watchers. Though he ran nearly dead last for most of the race, in the final turn shot past the leading Pioneerof the Mile for an outstanding victory. Mine That Bird set records for the longest-odds horse to win the Derby in 85 years, and the biggest lead in a Derby win in more than 60 years. It is still considered one of the most epic finishes to a Derby race, as no one predicted such a performance from the horse.

3. 2015 Belmont Stakes

After 37 years, American Pharoah broke the Triple Crown dry spell in a remarkable Belmont Stakes performance. He currently posts the second fasted Belmont time in history at 2:26.65. While his start was less than ideal, he quickly came to the first position, and ultimately won by five and a half lengths. His time is the second fastest Belmont time in Triple Crown winners’ history behind Secretariat. The most remarkable aspect of his Belmont performance, however, is that American Pharoah finally achieved a Triple Crown victory in an era when most believed it could never be done again.

2. 1978 Belmont Stakes

The 1978 Belmont Stakes was the close to one of the greatest horse racing rivalries in history: Affirmed and Alydar. After coming in second at both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Alydar made a bid for the last leg of the Triple Crown races. However, Affirmed led the pack for the whole race and managed to win by a nose. The pair kicked away from the rest of the pack in a neck to neck race that’s still considered one of the greatest showdowns in racing history. While Affirmed’s victory meant he secured the 11th Triple Crown in history, it’s quite remarkable that Alydar is the only horse in history to come in second at every Triple Crown race. We haven’t seen such a pair of horses rival since this epic faceoff.

1. 1973 Belmont Stakes

Secretariat is widely regarded as the second best racehorse of all time behind Man-O-War, but his epic finish at the 1973 Belmont Stakes has remained the best Belmont time of any horse in history. He won by a remarkable 31 lengths- absolutely blowing his competition out of the water. His grand story is amazing, not just because he still hold the track record for the Belmont, but because he still has set the records for every Triple Crown race. In his epic Belmont finish, he solidifies his position as a true champion racer with an outstanding victory.