Monday, December 28, 2009

A Decade To Remember: Ghostzapper vs Saint Liam

He ran like the wind, with the speed of lightning strike that would allow him to compete with some of the best sprinters of his generation. Unlike like the lightning his speed resembled he could do far more than flash his brilliance in a sprint, but proved his ability to carry it over distances up to 10 furlongs. He could close or lead, it didn't matter, either way he come down flying down the stretch, almost reaching the wire first. By many he is described as the most brilliant, the most talented, and the fastest horse of the decade. His name was Ghostzapper.

Bursting onto the scene late in his three year old year, Ghostzapper strutted his stuff against the Vosburgh field, displaying that raw speed that he is perhaps best know for. He returned six months later as a four year old in what was his best season of racing, despite the fact that battling quarter cracks limited his four year old season to only four starts. In this year Ghostzapper would go down in history as one of the fastest colts to grace the track in the modern era, winning the Tom Fool in a time only two fifths of a second off the track record, romping in a ten length run away in the Islin that landed him a mind boggling 128 Beyer Speed Figure, and his record breaking romp in the Breeders Cup Classic. The one race that was perhaps his most defining moment, however, seems to get lost in the shuffle when shown with all his other dominating, record breaking, romping performances. For it was the Woodward that we would all see what the brilliantly talented speedster would do when finally collard and looked in the eye.

It was supposed to set the stage for the talented four year old's race into history, his moment of crowning glory, but instead the 2004 Woodward would become that very race itself. Breaking from the gate it would be Ghostzapper and Presidentialaffair away the quickest, but Saint Liam soon shot up into contention to join the fray. After a first quarter in 23:3 it was still Saint Liam, Ghostzapper and Presidentialaffair leading the way, but when the tempo quickened, producing a blistering 45:3 half mile, and as second quarter in 22 flat, the 11/1 shot Saint Liam and favored Ghostzapper began to distance themselves from the field. It was the start of one of the best races of the decade, if not the most thrilling race of the decade.

Burning the first six furlongs in 1.08:3 the two battling colts rounded the far turn, with Saint Liam still holding a slight advantage, while pushing Ghostzapper nearly seven wide around the far turn. Entering the stretch Ghostzapper appeared to gain a narrow advantage, but it was short lived as Saint Liam, stubbornly, came right back at him. The length of the stretch was turned into a battlefield as both colts eyed each other, each refusing to give way. It was a heart wrenching stretch duel as the two courageous colts neared the wire, but in the final yards, Ghostzapper finally found another gear to cross the line a fully extended head in front of his rival.

In a race that was truly a test of champions and a battle for the ages Ghostzapper displayed his heart and courage, pouring everything he could give into nosing out the 2005 Breeders Cup Classic Champion and Horse of the Year, Saint Liam. In a race that saw a wicked pace where the three quarters went in a scorching sub 1.09 and the mile split in 1.33:1, neither colt backed down, neither relented, and in doing so gave America one the most heart pounding and thrilling performances in the history of racing. It was a battle of the champions, a true battle of wills, that demonstrated the very reason we all fell in love with the sport. Despite the fact that there were so many other gut wrenching, heart pounding, and pulsating finishes this decade, this race tops them all. The 2004 Woodward is, hands down, the most thrilling race of the decade.

1 comment:

  1. The '04 Horse of the Year ding-donging it with the '05 Horse of the Year...what a race! I like your choices, so far!