Photo Gallery: The Top Ten Race Horses of the 20th Century

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Browse these images of the most accomplished — and the most popular — American thoroughbreds of the 20th century, including Man o’ War, Secretariat, War Admiral and Seabiscuit.||

Man o’ War

1920 Horse of the Year, Earnings: $249,465 ($2.6 mill in 2009 dollars)

This leggy chestnut horse, known as “Big Red,” was born in 1917 and raced in the 1919 and 1920 seasons. He won 20 of his 21 races, smashing American records, and came in second just once, losing the Sanford Stakes to a horse named Upset. The wildly popular Man o’ War retired to a successful 27-year stud career.

|Kneeland Library/Cook;||


1972 and 1973 Horse of the Year, 1973 Triple Crown, Earnings: $1.3 mill ($6.3 mill in 2009 dollars)

Secretariat burst on the racing scene in 1972 with such success that his owners sold breeding rights for over $6 million. In 1973 the bold chestnut colt thundered to victory in the Belmont Stakes, breaking a world record and taking first place by an amazing 31 lengths. In 21 races over two years, he amassed 16 wins and 3 second place finishes. Odds for this popular favorite were never higher than 3-to-1.

|Bob Coglianese;||


1948 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown, Earnings: over $1 mill ($9.6 mill in 2009 dollars)

Thoroughbred racing’s first millionaire, Citation won 19 of 20 races in his best year, 1948. Leg injuries kept him off the track in 1949, but his career winnings topped $1 million in 1951, his fourth and last year of racing. His impressive stats include 32 wins in 45 starts.

|Kneeland Library/Morgan;||


Five-Time Horse of the Year (1960-1964), Earnings: $1.9 mill ($13.6 mill in 2009 dollars)

Though he had a notorious temper, Kelso’s achievements year after year earned him greatness — and a devoted fan club. The three-year-old gelding, great-grandson of Man o’ War, raced through eight seasons and claimed more top honors than any other horse before or since.

|Kneeland Library/J.C. Skeets Meadors;||

War Admiral

1937 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown, Earnings: $273,240 ($4 mill in 2009 dollars)

Son of the legendary Man o’ War, the small but regal War Admiral thrilled crowds and claimed top honors in 1937. He met — and lost to — his Western rival, Seabiscuit, in 1938 at Pimlico. In a stellar career, War Admiral won 21 of 26 races, guaranteeing his legacy.

|National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame;||


1938 Horse of the Year, Earnings: $437,730 ($6.6 mill in 2009 dollars)

The first horse to top $400,000 in winnings, this grandson of Man o’ War was a hard-luck hero for Depression-era America. An unlikely winner with short legs, perpetually-bent knees, and an oddball gait, Seabiscuit became a national celebrity. In six years of triumphs and disasters, Seabiscuit compiled 33 wins, 15 second places, and 13 thirds in an incredible 89 races.

|Barbara Livingston;||

Count Fleet

1943 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown, Earnings: $250,300 ($3.1 mill in 2009 dollars)

Owned by the Hertz family of rental car fame, the long-legged Count Fleet was so good at age two that he was assigned 132 pounds in The Jockey Club’s year-end handicap ranking of American two-year-olds, the largest impost ever assigned there. He left his competitors in the dust at the three Triple Crown contests. Retiring to stud, Count Fleet sired an impressive list of champions.

|Kneeland Library/Cook;||

Dr. Fager

1968 Horse of the Year, Earnings: over $1 mill ($6.1 mill in 2009 dollars)

Named after a Boston brain surgeon who’d operated on his trainer, the imposing Dr. Fager could trace his family tree back to War Admiral on his mother’s side. In 22 races, the great bay claimed first place 18 times and second twice. Dr. Fager was the rare versatile champion who could win on grass or dirt tracks, over a range of distances.

|Bob Coglianese;||


1978 and 1979 Horse of the Year, 1978 Triple Crown, Earnings: $2.4 mill ($7.8 mill in 2009 dollars)

This great-grandson of Native Dancer won 22 of his 29 starts, coming in second five times and becoming the first horse to break the $2 million mark. A Florida colt with a white blaze on his forehead, Affirmed came out on top to take the 1978 Triple Crown with superstar 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen in the stirrups.

|Barbara Livingston;||

Sir Barton

First Triple Crown winner, in 1919, Earnings: $116,857 ($1.4 mill in 2009 dollars)

Sir Barton swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in an era before the three races were known as the Triple Crown and sought as one of racing’s top honors. The fleet chestnut colt, who went 0 for 6 as a two-year-old in 1918, dominated American Thoroughbred racing the following year. Only eleven horses including Sir Barton have attained the Triple Crown.

|National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

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