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Sea Some Perspective!

Check out this absurdity from Time Magazine:

Man o’War in the 1920s. Phar Lap in the ’30s. Secretariat in the ’70s. Dancing Brave in the ’80s. The debate over horse racing’s greatest ever flat runner has always been as contested as a Breeders’ Cup — and it just got hotter. Sea the Stars, an Irish-trained colt that darted to victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 4, might just be the greatest of them all.

And there are plenty more like it. Do a search for “Sea The Stars” + “Greatest Ever” and you’ll find countless articles proclaiming Sea The Stars the best horse to ever race.

Look – he’s a superstar…no argument…but unequivocably the best ever? Better than Secretariat? Better than Man O’ War? Better than Mill Reef, Sea Bird, Ribot, Nijinsky, Alleged, & Dancing Brave? Based on what exactly?

His record isn’t superior to countless other top horses. He’s 8 for 9 – which is great – but hardly historically significant.

Certainly not his margins of victory. Sea The Stars has never won a race by more than 2 1/2 lengths. Margins of victory tend to be smaller in European grass races than in the US, but it’s hard to believe that the greatest horse in history was never more than 2 lengths better than his competition. Never. I’m not talking about winning by 31 like Secretariat did, or winning by 100 like Man O’War did, but not even once did he blow the doors off the competition and gallop away to even win by 6.

The nature and style of European racing makes speed figures (or any adjusted final time figures) a slightly less meaningful tool for measuring comparative ability than here in the US. Nevertheless, in assessing his figures Thorograph creator Jerry Brown recently wrote on his forum: “STS is a very good grass 3yo. Period (so far).” So he’s certainly not running significantly faster than any other horse in history.

Interestingly, Brown also goes on to say: “At 1 1/2 miles 8 pounds is worth 4 lengths. It’s not a coincidence that the greatest horse that ever lived this year is almost always a European 3yo– the scale of weights is different than here.

And yes, there certainly does seem to be a “latest and greatest ever” almost every single year in Europe. Just a year ago, Zarkava punctuated a perfect 7-for-7 career with a win in the ARC by 2 lengths over the same Youmzain that Sea The Stars just beat by 2. Why isn’t she the greatest ever? If Sea The Stars is the best ever and she had a better record, also won the ARC, and beat the same horse by the same margin then certainly she has to be close, no? How about some other recent European superstars:
* Dubai Millenium – 9 for 10. A 6 length winner of the Dubai World Cup on dirt and multiple G1 winner on turf including a 6 length win in the Queen Elizabeth and 8 length win in the Prince of Wales.
* Sinndar – 7 for 8 including wins in the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby (by 9) and Arc in 2:25 and change.
* Lammtarra – Just 4 for 4 but won the Epsom Derby off a 10 month layoff and won the Arc over Freedom Cry and Swain to end his career.
* Dalakhani – 8 for 9 just like Sea The stars. Won the French Derby & Arc.
* Peintre Celebre – 5 for 7 in 1997. Won the French Derby and concluded his career with a 5 length win over Pilsudski (BC Turf winner) in 2:24 3/5.
* Nashwan – Really considered a superstar in 1989 after winning the Epsom Derby by 5 and the Coral Eclipse by 5 until he lost his Arc prep and was retired.

It just seems like every year Europe is annointing a new superstar – and as Jerry Brown pointed out, it’s usually a 3 year old who is getting an advantageous weight break on their weight-for-age scale. Sea The Stars is a phenomenal horse and he’s made some historic achievements, but this “best horse ever” nonsense is just silly. Might he be one of the greats? Sure. But best ever? It’s cool to get caught up in the excitement of the moment but there’s nothing in his record, figures, accomplishments, or margins of victory that supports such a contention or establishes a clear level of superiority and dominance over some of the recent “greats,” let alone historical figures like Secretariat or Man O’ War or Dr Fager, or European legends Ribot, Mill Reef and Sea Bird.

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Posted in Breeders' Cup, General Racing Discussion.

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4 Responses

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  1. elerbitrark says

    Other variant is possible also

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Past Performances of Recent European Superstars | Farewell To Kings linked to this post on October 9, 2009

    […] a follow-up to yesterday’s post I thought it would be interesting to include the PP’s of some of those recent European […]

  2. Sea The Stars - Some Passing Thoughts | Farewell To Kings linked to this post on October 13, 2009

    […] So See The Stars is done.  Great horse – no doubt – but as I covered here in a previous post I still don’t quite get why he’s greater than the “latest and […]

  3. Just How Fast Was Sea The Stars? | Farewell To Kings linked to this post on October 14, 2009

    […] quite a bit about Sea The Stars recently, so hopefully you can tolerate one last post on…Sea The Stars!   I didn’t intend to write any further about him but today Thorograph put up Sea The […]