The race course at Saratoga is referred to as “The Graveyard of Favorites”. But a more apt name might be “The Graveyard of Champions”. Throughout the history of horse racing, some of the worlds most amazing thoroughbreds have humbly learned how the track earned that sobriquet.
One of the earliest unforeseen victories took place in August 1919 when MAN O’ WAR raced as the heavy favorite in the Sanford Stakes. The big chestnut horse was the sensation of that summer, winning six straight races, including one at Saratoga. It was a photo finish that afternoon, and the results showed that MAN O’ WAR had lost by half a length. The only loss of his storied career was to an appropriately named colt called UPSET.
That defeat was the first of many famous Saratoga upsets. In 1930 America’s 2nd Triple Crown winner GALLANT FOX, was denied a win there, when he lost the Travers Stakes. It was his only loss as a three year-old, and it came courtesy of 100-1 long-shot JIM DANDY. As now part of Saratoga’s six week meet they feature the grade 2, Jim Dandy Stakes in honor of that historic August surprise.
One of the best known Saratoga upsets of the 20th century occurred in the 1973 Whitney Stakes. SECRETARIAT won the Triple Crown that year in paramount fashion, set records (that still stand) in all three legs of the series, and dominated the Belmont Stakes, winning by 31 lengths. He lost that Saturday afternoon to a horse named ONION. A long-since-gone eatery in town- ‘Mother Goldsmiths’ came up with a new menu item after that race; THE SECRETARIAT BURGER- Topped Only By Onion.
The most recent champion sent back to the barn with his tail between his legs was Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH. It was the 2015 Travers Stakes and he lost to 17-1 long-shot KEEN ICE. The two faced each other 3 times prior to The Travers, with AMERICAN PHAROAH winning each time. It was the Triple Crown winner’s final race, as he was retired and put out to stud.
So if you find yourself at ‘The Spa’ this summer (and why wouldn’t ya?) and one of your friends, or a complete stranger for that matter, tells you a certain horse is a dead-bolt lock to win a race, just smile and ask them if they’ve ever had a SECRETARIAT BURGER.