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Spectacular Bid - 1979 Kentucky Derby Winner


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Spectacular Bid Hat


Pedigree: Bold Bidder - Spectacular (Promised Land)

Owner: Hawksworth Farm (Harry and Teresa Meyerhoff )

Trainer: Grover "Bud" Delp

1980 Horse of the Year, 1979 Kentucky Derby Winner, Set

Set or equaled 8 Track and American Records.

Year Age Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings
1978 2 9 7 1 0 384,484
1979 3 12 10 1 1 1,279,333
1980 4 9 9 0 0 1,117,790
total   30 26 2 1 2,781,607

Front    L-Side   R-Side


Spectacular Bid HorseThe gavel fell at $37,000 - Harry & Teresa Meyerhoff were now the owners of the steel grey yearling in the auction ring. They called their new colt Spectacular Bid, a name which would surely seem prophetic just a short year later.

"The Bid", as he was nicknamed, was "spectacular" from the moment he entered a starting gate. In his debut at 2, he ran just two-fifths of a second off the Pimlico track record for 5 1/2 furlongs. Three weeks later he came back in an allowance at the same distance, this time equaling the track record. Spectacular Bid won 5 more stakes that year on his way to being named Champion 2-yr-old colt, most notably the prestigeous Champagne Stakes and the Laurel Futurity, where he set a new track record of 1:41 3/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Carrying a 5-race win streak into his 3-yr-old season, Spectacular Bid immediately resumed his winning ways. He reeled off 5 straight wins and entered the Classics undefeated for the season. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and looked to be racing's third Triple Crown winner in as many years. But Bid ran a puzzling third in the 1 1/2 miles Belmont Stakes, losing to Coastal and Golden Act. After the race, trainer Grover "Buddy" Delp said there was a reason for his colt's loss - that a safety pin had been found in his foot the morning of the Belmont. Speculation swirled that this may not be the truth, but in any event, the colt was lame and given a break from racing.

Six weeks later, Spectacular Bid returned in a 1 1/16 miles allowance race at his home base, Delaware Park, setting his second track record. He followed that up with a win in Belmont Park's Marlboro Cup, then prepared for the Jockey Club Gold Cup and a meeting with his greatest challenger to date, 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. The two were to have met in the Marlboro but Affirmed's connections refused the 133 pound assignment by the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The 4-yr-old Affirmed proved too much for the 3-yr-old, and Bid recorded his second loss for the year. He raced one more time that season, taking the Meadowlands Cup in a new track record time, and was rewarded with his second championship, the Eclipse 3-yr-old colt.

Like Affirmed and Seattle Slew before him, Spectacular Bid grew stronger and better as he got older. His 4-yr-old season would be flawless and it launched him into racing immortality.

Starting the year in the January 5 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita, Bid was bet down to 3-10 and he rewarded the public's confidence. He ran the 7-furlongs in 1:20, slicing three-fifths of a second off Imbros' 26-yr-old track record. He came out of the race with a filling in his left foreleg, but his training went uninterrupted and he entered the gate two weeks later for the San Fernando Stakes. Flying Paster challenged Bid at the top of the stretch, but Bid pulled away to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Next on the schedule was the third and final leg of the Strub series, the Feb. 3 Charles H. Strub Stakes. Flying Paster, second to Spectacular Bid in both races, was also entered and his form indicated he may pull off an upset. The Tuesday prior to the Strub, Flying Paster worked a blazing 1:33 2/5 mile - a time two-fifths faster than the track record and within the realm of Dr. Fager's world record of 1:32 1/5.

But the only track record that day would belong to the Champion. Relaunch sprang from the gate, taking a :22 first quarter and ten-length lead. Bid caught him with a quarter-mile to run and pulled away as Relaunch threw in the towel. Flying Paster came on from the back but was of no consequence. Spectacular Bid crossed the finish line 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Flying Paster, stopping the clock in a new Track and American record of 1:57 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles.

In recognition of Bid's west-coast dominance, officials assigned him an impost of 130 pounds for his next start, the Santa Anita Handicap. Despite the dreary, rainy day, 49,285 fans showed up to cheer on the fast grey.

Laffit Pincay, aboard Beau's Eagle, took right to the lead and tried to slow it down on the front, setting fractions of :24 2/5 for the quarter and :48 3/5 for the half-mile. Down the backstretch, Beau's Eagle had a 4-length lead over Spectacular Bid and the crowd surely wondered if Bid, the only horse not wearing stickers, was handling the sloppy going. But when jockey Bill Shoemaker asked Bid to run, he did, and took command at the mile. Flying Paster would make his run but to no avail, as Bid pulled away by 5 lengths.

Spectacular Bid then moved over to neighboring Hollywood Park to take two victories - the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap while carrying 132 pounds, then the Californian Stakes, carrying 130 pounds and setting yet another track record. Delp announced that his colt would bypass the Hollywood Gold Cup and instead ship to Chicago for the Washington Park Stakes at Arlington Park, citing his concern over the fast times being recorded on the Hollywood Park strip.

The 130-pound highweight, Bid was sent off the 1-20 favorite. He easily dispatched of the field, winning by ten lengths in his fourth track record time of the year. He then went to Monmouth Park for the Amory L. Haskell Handicap, where he met up with Canadian Horse of the Year and Eclipse Handicap Female, Glorious Song. In receipt of 15 pounds to Bid's 132, Glorious Song gave all she had but could only manage 2nd place. Spectacular Bid was now 8 for 8, from west coast to the east.

Delp had a couple of choices where next to race. The premier race at the time was The Marlboro Cup, but Bid was assigned to carry 136 pounds in the race, two more pounds than Seattle Slew had ever carried to victory. Delp let his disappointment for the assignment be known but seemed to be considering the race nonetheless. However, on entry-day the Thursday of the race, Spectacular Bid wasn't entered. Delp lashed out at NYRA to the press, accusing them of ruining the race with their weight assignments of his colt this year and Affirmed the year before.

Bid would sit out the Marlboro Cup while the nice Mack Miller-trained colt, Winter's Tale, won the coveted race. Next on both's schedule was the Woodward. Winter's Tale won the Marlboro in commanding fashion and was working beautifully leading up to the Woodward - again, the press and fans wondered if an upset of the great Spectacular Bid was possible. But the Friday before the race, Miller felt something wrong with his charge and x-rays showed a chip in his leg. Winter's Tale was scratched from the race, leaving only a three-horse field of Spectacular Bid, Temperence Hill, and Dr. Patches. On Saturday morning of the Woodward, NYRA officials met with the trainers and owners of Temperence Hill and Dr. Patches, and the two horses were scratched from the field. Spectacular Bid, in what some deem racing's greatest honor from other trainers, was granted a walkover.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup a month later was to be Spectacular Bid's last race, but curious circumstances kept him in the barn. The day before the Gold Cup, Delp felt heat in Bid's left foreleg, the same leg injured in the Malibu, and ordered x-rays. Saturday morning, he was taken out to gallop and his exercise rider reported back to Delp that the horse seemed fine. Delp returned to his hotel, planning a nap before returning to the races later that day.

In the meanting, track vet Dr. Manuel Gilman was on his customary rounds, giving pre-race exams to all the horses in that day's race. At 9:00am, Gilman arrived at the Delp barn to examine Spectacular Bid but was told he could not, that the horse was knee-deep in ice water and could not be moved. Gilman scheduled to return at 10:00am. Upon arrival, Bid's left foreleg was being x-rayed and his right foreleg was carefully bandaged. Delp's assistant refused to allow the removal of the bandages, thus Gilman couldn't perform his exam. Gilman scheduled to return once more - at 11:00am. This time he was told he could remove the bandages, but that Bid wasn't allowed out of his stall nor was Gilman allowed to flex either of his forelegs. Gilman reported his inability to properly exam the horse to NYRA officials.

At 4:00pm, less than two hours from post-time, there was a circus-like atmosphere of press and others at the Delp barn as NYRA officials and Delp arrived. Delp had the colt brought out and walked in the shedrow, and to observers, Spectacular Bid seemed a shell of his former self. Delp turned from his horse to his audience and announced that Spectacular Bid would not run again.

"The greatest horse to ever look through a bridle," was how Delp frequently described his horse. Coming on the heels of a decade which saw such champions as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, it was a bold and controversial statement.

In all, Spectacular Bid won 13 Gr. I stakes at 10 different tracks, and won 10 other stakes. He was assigned 130 or more pounds on 5 occasions and won all five. He set or equaled eight Track and American records at seven different tracks, at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. He twice set Track records while carrying 130 pounds. In all, Spectacular Bid's actions spoke louder than his trainer's words.

By Victoria Keith