Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Shame About Sham

The Kentucky Derby will be here in about six weeks.  Horse racing history is so interesting and as you know with horses, nothing is predictable, so it was with the great racehorse, Sham.  Bet you never heard of him.  It is a shame you haven't.  In any other year in history, except 1973, he would have won the Triple Crown and would be part of history.  He would have been a great race horse in any other year

In 1973, at three, Sham won the Santa Catalina Stakes and was second in the Wood Memorial.  He beat Secretariat in that race, who ended up third.  At the Santa Anita Derby he scored a 2 1/2 length victory over the favorite Linda's Chief and equaled the race record which had been set in 1965.  Sham had not been expected to win that race. 

At the start of the 1973 Derby Sham ripped two teeth when he hit his head on the starting gate.  He still managed to finish second to Secretariat in what would have been record time in any other year.  Secretariat shattered the Derby record (which still stands today). In any other year other than 1973, Sham would have won the race based on his time, which was under two minutes!  Only Monarchos has had a time also under two minutes. He won the Derby in 2001. 
Secretariat defeated Sham a second time in Baltimore at the 98th running of the Preakness. Sham came in second again.

At the Belmont Stakes, Sham's jockey was instructed to keep up with Secretariat from the start and he was forced to be on the outside which cost him more endurance. Halfway through the race Secretariat pulled ahead and Sham began to tire and fell back.  Sham ultimately finished last as Secretariat went on to win the race by an incredible 31 lengths and break a world record that remains today.
Sham did not race again.  He was supposed to race at Saratoga later that year against Secretariat, but a hairline fracture was discovered in his leg.  He was sent to stud at Spendthrift Farm and later to Walmac International near Lexington, KY.  He died of a heart attack in April 1993 at the age of 23.  An autopsy was performed and his heart was found to weigh 18 pounds, about the twice the average size for a Thoroughbred (like Secretariat). He is buried on the Walmac Farm. 
A book was released in 2010 called Sham: Great Was Second Best written by Phil Dandrea.  I have not read it but it sounds intriguing.  Not only do you need have speed and endurance to be a great race horse but you also need to be born in the right year!


  1. Sham had the strength and stamina to be a great distance runner, a classic runner. His shortened career kept him from developing his credentials and establishing his true place in history. He was a hall of fame specimen.

  2. Secretariat and Sham have the biggest hearts on record and when you consider they are both out of Princequillo mares how good a dam sire was he. Sham will be best remembered for his rivalry with Secretariat, but how many horses were good enough to begin a rivalry with him. Im suprised Sham hasnt done better as a broodmare sire as he obviously has the heart gene but has maybe not passed it on.

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