These days there are so many different things a horse can be called, brilliant, beast, freak, but there is one word that defines a horse more than any other, great. After that you have different levels of great, starting with just great. Then you go into the realm of super horse great. The level most want more than anything, but is seldom ever reached is immortal greatness. This level is when a horse has literally set the standard for all other thoroughbreds. Secretariat did it in his Belmont, Man o War by his ever so easy and dominating wins, Ruffian by her speed and heart. These horses are immortals.
I was never around to see these greats compete. Instead I have entered the world of racing when potentially great horses are whisked away to a more profitable career, in the breeding shed. Today racing is so starved for a superstar that as soon as one brilliant performance comes along, the word great is bandied around, like a volleyball. Some people, protectors of the past greats, come out on the other side of the fence, claiming that these people are to quick to call a horse great, that this horse hasn't beaten so and so, hasn't done this, or hasn't done that, and can't be great until they do everything but beat Pegasus. Then you have the more reasonable people who will admit brilliance and potential greatness, but wait cautiously while the horse proves themselves a couple more times.
In my short time watching racing I've seen brilliance, displayed by horses such as the ill fated Barbaro, Bernardini, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Hard Spun, Street Sense, and Big Brown. Some of these horses did things that stood above all the rest, but never came back to prove themselves great. Barbaro, die tragically before having the chance to show his true greatness. Bernardini was whisked away to stud, as were Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Hard Spun, Street Sense and Big Brown. Many of these horses displayed greatness at one point, Street Sense did by becoming the only horse to ever win the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Derby. Hard Spun could run any distance from 6-10 furlongs, Afleet won the Preakness, while recovering from almost going to his knees at the top of the stretch. My point is these horses all showed the potential to become some of the greats of the modern era, and demonstrated greatness on occasion, but were never given time to show if they could carry that spark any further.
In my time I have also seen great horses, those being Curlin, Zenyatta, and Invasor. Invasor came to America and dominated, winning the Breeders Cup Classic, beating the brilliant Bernardini, the going on to win the Dubai World Cup. Zenyatta, a monster in size, is brilliant among those of her own sex, and has yet to be beaten. Her sights are set on beating the great Personal Ensign's unbeaten record of 13 for 13 against the top completion in the country. Curlin, was one step from becoming a super horse, even possible immortality, but in the end a synthetic track and a long tiresome campaign ended those hopes. Winning the Breeders Cup Classic, Preakness, and Jockey's Club Gold Cup earned him his first Horse of the Year award, in only his first season of racing. Wins in the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward, and Jockey's Club Gold Cup, again, while finishing second in the Man o War on turf and fourth in the Classic on synthetics earned him his second Horse of the Year.
This year I believe we have seen a horse who can take that final step, into immortality, and for once, it is not a colt. This filly has done the unthinkable by winning three starts against males, in as many, all being grade ones, and one was against older males. When racing against her own sex she dominated with Ruffian like ease winning her last two races against fillies by a combine total of 39 1/2 lengths. She has set two stakes records this year, beaten two record margins, and has come close to beating two stakes records and track records. She has had one of the best seasons by a 3yr old filly ever, and has likely locked up Horse of the Year honors, which only two other fillies have ever done. Rachel Alexandra you are great.