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Hi, I'm Brad! I love the great outdoors and enjoy skiing. This blog is inspired by some of my many life experiences and world travels. I have a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis and work to find solutions to some of the world's challenging energy and environmental problems. In 2011, I went back into competitive snow ski racing and won the USSA National Speed Series (Downhill and Super G) title for my class (M5). It was an amazing and fun year of skiing. I also enjoy being around all kinds of animals from horses to dogs and love to spend time at Tahoe, my little farm near Cool or traveling somewhere new around the world. I have been to Nepal and seen Mount Everest, to Alaska's Denali, the Matterhorn in Switzerland and even Maroon Bells near Aspen, CO. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my website.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tribute to the Great Thoroughbred Racehorse - Sham

Sham and his trainer Pancho Martin
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

This is a very small tribute to Sham, the amazing thoroughbred race horse.  Sham was foaled in April of 1970 and is probably best known as the horse that raced against Secretariat in the 1973 Triple Crown.  In the first two races of the Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes) Sham broke previous track records.  He was the only horse that was close to Secretariat in those two races.  In both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Sham finished eight lengths ahead of third place finisher, Our Native.  Sham lived until April of 1993 and was the sire of many future stakes winners.  I believe that many of us feel that Secretariat and Man O' War were the greatest of all race horses.  Some may argue that Man O' War was better but certainly Secretariat captured our hearts at a time when the Country needed a Triple Crown Champion.  Sham and Secretariat’s dams shared the same sire. 

This tribute is to remember the Great Sham – a magnificent horse.  I believe he had all the right ingredients to be a Hall of Fame horse.  This tribute is in no way intended to detract from Secretariat’s greatness.  As an athlete, I do believe other competitors can inspire us to dig deeper and push harder.  I have to believe that Sham may have inspired Secretariat to run just a little faster…but that is my opinion.  It is well known that when these two horses competed on the same race track, records were set – records that still stand to this day.

Anyway, these are my memories of Sham.

Some of Sham's fastest times:

1973 Santa Anita Derby:  1:47 flat (shares record for fastest winning time)
1973 Kentucky Derby:  1:59 4/5*
1973 Preakness Stakes:  153 2/5* (After June 2012 Maryland Racing Commission Ruling adjusting Secretariat's time to 1:53 flat)

*Unofficial.  In 1973,  they didn't record the times of non-winning horses, so nobody knows the exact time that Sham ran that day.  But time can be closely estimated by 2 1/2 lengths.

According to Steve Haskins (, June 20, 2012).  "Sham, now has set two track records in the Triple Crown and didn't win either time."

Sportswriter Mike Sullivan’s comments from 1973:  The thing you have to understand is that Sham was fast, a beautiful horse. He would have had the Triple Crown in another year. And it just didn't seem like there could be anything faster than that. Everybody was watching him.” 1

Sham thunders along in the Preakness Stakes
breaking the former Stakes record

The Great Sham
By Bradley Meister

Back in the 1970’s when I was just a young kid
A racing legend had been born in the land of thoroughbreds
His sire was Pretense and he was out of the Princequillo mare Sequoia
I hear the colt had nice conformation and was full of desire
He began in a famous horse place that we know as Kentucky’s Claiborne Farm
Then grew strong as he trained and Woody brought him along
He was destined for greatness, I bet they proclaimed
This is my tribute to Sham  - Oh, how I love that horse and his name

He was a dark seal brown beauty who stood 16.2
A handsome, eloquent athlete whose build was sleek and true
His style was a stalker who could come from behind
He was fast and courageous but with a kind gentle heart
And it was these things put together that set Sham apart

He ran like thunder and then took the world by storm
With green and yellow blinkers his jockey Pincay guided him along
He was one of the fastest horses the 20th century had seen
Do you remember his lightning fast thoroughbred speed
With his long powerful legs he could challenge any steed
His times can still cause awe as I remember with pride
He was known as the Great… the Magnificent…Sham

He had started to come on as a two year old colt
Then training under Pancho Martin, he started to win
In Aqueduct he demolished the field and clearly led the results
He was fast in allowance races where his margin of victory was wide
He won the west’s best races with a powerful stride
There was Santa Catalina on a thick muddy track
And then the prestigious Santa Anita
Equaling the stakes record at a 1:47 flat
He was second in the Wood Memorial beating the great Secretariat that day
And now ready for the Classics
And ready to bring the thunder in the storm

The Triple Crown was waiting we thought it wouldn’t be long
In a springtime filled with hope when equine athletes can unleash their spectacular form
In a historical magical time when Sham was on a quest
But when true greatness wasn’t quite good enough
It was only second best

I watched as Sham pushed a world record race horse to outperform all the rest
In a three event race that has stood the test of time
In the Spring of 1973 as Sham beat two previous record times
It was Churchill Downs, then Pimlico which put him in the books
Just give him his head and he’ll do all the rest

At the start of the Derby after the commotion had settled down
He stood in the gate and waited all alone
Then after banging his head and ripping out two teeth
He still pushed himself to a time that nearly couldn’t be beat
The two minute time had finally been broken
And it was an injured Sham on the heels of the record setting motion
He had inspired Big Red to dig down deeper inside
And put it all on the line in that now famous race
As they ran for the roses in a winning performance that would stand to this day
It was Sham on the rail and it was Secretariat that he inspired

In the Preakness he started third but was banged pretty hard on the rail
in the clubhouse turn
And then pushed himself to new levels as he pursued Secretariat’s trail
Down the back stretch and into the final turn
Again on his heels, as he tried to prevail
It was Sham who lit the fire that drove up the stakes
And saw the big Chestnut again take the record setting first place
Who was this horse, so close to the win
It was… the Great… the Magnificent…Sham

But Sham was in the shadow of his larger than life “half cousin”
Whose super horse winning times were unreal and clearly even unthought-of
What were the chances of being foaled in the very same year
Of a super winning horse that we all hold so dear
But a God’s near perfect creation who may never be bested
In a world filled with Champions that can’t come close to their times
It was Sham on the rail and it was Secretariat that he inspired

Before the Belmont, Sham's jockey warned he wasn't 100 percent
The jockey knew the horse and something was wrong
He was nervous and sweaty but still got in the gate
Sham did as they asked and then started off strong
He gave chase to Secretariat and they both moved along
A match race ensued as they left the others ten lengths behind
They traded lead positions as they thundered along
And Sham did the first three quarter mile in an unbelievable 1:09 4/5
But Sham rode on the outside at a fast pace for almost too long
His legs began to splay and he started to swim
His jockey Pincay backed him off and they gave up any hope of a win
The great Sham had made a gallant effort to outrun the tremendous machine
But still finished the race and saw it through to the end

Sham, when you ran, the world was inspired and we stood still in time
You pushed the greatest of horses to new record lines
Even forty years later, classic race champions can’t come close to your times
You’ve earned your place in history and set yourself apart
A magnificent champion firmly etched in our minds
You will never be forgotten  -  forever with us in time

Thanks for the inspiration Sham!

Sham at the start of the Belmont

Sham in retirement at Walmac Farm, Kentucky
23 years old
Photo Credit:  Internet Sham Fan

1.  Sullivan, John Jeremiah. Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004, pp. 19-20.


  1. Beautiful horse with plenty of heart...Could have been Hall of Fame if he had ran longer....Had Hall of Fame written all over him.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes indeed! Sham was amazing.

  2. The last photo above was Sham at Walmac, not long before heart disease layed him to rest. He had a brilliant stud career at Spendthrift, sired many winners. He was boodmare sire to the filly Owsley who won several graded races back in 2000 or so. She has foaled several times and through her, God willing, Sham's blood will flow through a potent line. God rest old boy, you did well...

    1. Thank you for the details on the last photo and his stud career at Spendthrift. I see Owsley had
      23 Starts, 8 Wins, 4 Places, 1 Shows
      Career Earnings: $865,705
      Very nice.
      I too echo your thoughts on a future Sham traced line.

  3. Thanks for the tribute to Sham, He holds a special place in my heart. A great one, unfortunately born in 1970. But great achievments are borne from great challenges...and that is what Sham gave Secretariate in the Triple Crown.

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. Beautifully said..."great achievements are borne from great challenges". Have a great day.

  4. It is great to see SHAM's Tribute here. He gave it his all. My wife and I are the proud owners of Sham Fast. She is the Great Grand Daughter of Sham. What a wonderful Horse, she is. He must have been a pleasure to be around, if he was anything like our Sham Fast. Thanks for the Tribute and the Photos.

    1. nice to hear from you. It was my pleasure writing the Tribute to Sham. I will have to read more about Sham Fast. It must be wonderful having a Great Grand Daughter of the legend Sham! Thanks again.

  5. Dear Shamfan
    I think we should get a petition going for Sham to get in the hall of fame.

    1. Well, one thing is for sure. Sham is remembered and loved by many around the world. My counter says that nearly two thousand have looked at Sham’s Tribute in the past year.

      I think Mike Sullivan’s words as a Sportswriter in 1973 say a great deal.

      “The thing you have to understand is that Sham was fast, a beautiful horse. He would have had the Triple Crown in another year. And it just didn't seem like there could be anything faster than that.”

      I’m not sure what the process or politics is of recognizing a horse of Sham’s caliber and including him in the Hall of Fame. Sham did not have a long career but his times are blazing fast!

      He was a special thoroughbred and I know many would love to see him recognized. This would possibly fall under the auspices of a historic review committee.

      1973 Santa Anita Derby: 1:47 flat (shares record for fastest winning time)
      1973 Kentucky Derby: 1:59 4/5*
      1973 Preakness Stakes: 153 2/5* (After June 2012 Maryland Racing Commission Ruling adjusting Secretariat's time to 1:53 flat)

      *Unofficial. In 1973, they didn't record the times of non-winning horses, so nobody knows the exact time that Sham ran that day. But time can be closely estimated by 2 1/2 lengths.

  6. Thank you for this well deserved tribute for such a beautiful horse!

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. You are very welcome! My pleasure.

  7. Nice tribute to Sham. He was a great horse in his own right.

    1. Thank you kc. I appreciate you taking the time to send me a nice note. Sham was a great horse! Enjoy your day.

  8. ..Great Sham tribute

    1. Thank you very much! I really like the Facebook link you posted above. Some great memories and photos of Sham. Thanks again for your kind words.

  9. Sham was a awesome horse. I remember watching him race. Was most of the time always on the heels of Secretariat, making him move faster. Sham was a great horse. He has more than earn his place in the horse's hall of fame.

    1. Thanks Ramona for your nice comment. I agree...Sham was a great horse! Over 5,000 people have now viewed this tribute and so there is a world that remembers and loves The Great Sham! He didn't run long but he made a lasting impression on many and I too think he should be in the Hall of Fame. Like Sportswriter Mike Sullivan said in 1973... "He would have had the Triple Crown in another year."

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  11. A nice tribute to a horse who many casual racing fans have forgotten. He was not Secretariat. He might have won the Triple Crown in another field, although I'm not sure about the long distance at Belmont, but one thing is certain. He was the fastest runner-up at Churchill Downs and Pimlico and one hell of a horse. I agree he should be in the Hall of Fame.

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. It means a lot to me that others like my tribute to Sham. Have a great day!

  12. I think two and a half lengths is .40, that would give him 1-59.8

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  14. A great horse who in any other year may have been the triple crown champion. He raced hard but had the misfortune of being born in the wrong year. Nice piece.

    1. Hi Gary. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to write on my blog. Have a great day!

  15. I have always said that Sham was born in the wrong year. One year earlier or later and he would have been a Triple Crown winner himself. By shear numbers he was the second greatest race horse of all times. The was unfortunate to be born in the same year as the greatest race horse of all time.
    Sham should be in the hall of fame, he was one of the greatest horses of all times.

    1. Sorry for my late response. Thanks so much for your comment. I agree that Sham should be in the hall of fame. Sham was amazing!

    2. Not to discredit Sham as he was a great horse...and i know fillies weren't run against colts but as far as the second greatest race horse of all vote goes to Ruffian

  16. I have a horse who is one of Sham's great grand sons. He was a national champion in Europe in jumping and has been in semi-retirement with us for 11 years. He is also a bay, though bigger than Sham at 17.3HH. He does have a very similar face though, especially through the eyes. And yes, he's fast :)

    1. Thanks for writing. Wow...17.3HH. That is a big horse. That is really exciting to have a great grandson of Sham's. Another person who wrote to me has a great grand daughter named Sham Fast. How lucky you are to have such a horse. Thank you for sharing and have a great day.

  17. Hall of Fame for Sham! Impossible to forget him in the great year of 1973. Second only to one.

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. Definitely impossible to forget him. The great sham in the great year of 1973! Have a great day.

  18. Great tribute to Sham. I was trying to find his offspring. He was a great horse and I know he had to have had an impact on breeding. I was 13 when I watched secretariat and sham do battle. Best time ever !!!!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I love your enthusiasm! Some of the posts are by owners of Sham's offspring. Even today Sham has an amazing following of admirers. Over 8,200 people have viewed this post since I first wrote it. Thank you again for taking the time to make a post.

  19. I love Sham. I watched the Triple Crown from my home. I was in awe of both Super Horses. I am so happy to see that Sham has so many fans. I will always consider Sham as a Champion. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Just watch the first turn of the 73 Belmont. There's 2 tremendous machines running on the track!

    1. Thanks Ricardo. I enjoyed reading your post today. Yes, two Super Horses...equine perfection! Sham did the first three quarter mile of the Belmont in an unbelievable 1:09 4/5. It really is touching to see how many people remember and admire the Great Sham! He left such a positive and indelible impression on so many of us. Enjoy your day and thanks again for the post!

  20. What a great site! Sham was my favorite race horse as a little kid. When Secretariat drew off from him in the Belmont I was crushed! Fast forward forty four years and I now have my own little yearling filly descendant of Sham on the ground in Pennsylvania - by Tizdejavu out of Malibu Love. I want to name her Malibu Shamavu but am getting push back from my partners!

    1. Hi Chris. This is awesome. Wow. A wonderful gift and a legacy of the Great Sham. I like the name you have picked out. Maybe your partners will come around. Enjoy that beautiful filly and keep the memories of "the Legend" in mind every time you see her. Should be fun watching her grow up. Wonderful to hear Sham's line continues. Thanks for taking the time to post about such an exciting subject! Enjoy the rest of January 2017!

  21. Sham was always my favorite. He had heart and soul that was easy to love. He was a beautiful horse, perfection. I remember watching all 3 races when I was a kid. I was crushed each time he was beat. For Secretariat, Sham was the horse to beat. Was very upset to hear of his passing. In my mind, he'll always be the great race horse that Secretariat had to beat. You did great Sham, and i'll always remember you. Rest in peace. In your own right you are a champion.

    1. Hi Ramona. That's a beautiful tribute to Sham you have written in that nice paragraph of February 7, 2017. I agree, and in my opinion, he was equine perfection - beauty, grace, speed, heart...he had it all. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful note on your memories of Sham.

  22. What a wonderful tribute to a very fine equine athlete, in Sham. I was too young to remember both of these horses, even though I was about 5 1/2, at the time of the 1973 Triple Crown. However, I didn't start following racing closely, until Seattle Slew. My all time favorite horse, now, and forever is ALYDAR, so Brad, I do have a great sense of what huge fans of Sham, like yourself, went through as fans of a great horse that was "born in the wrong year." Of course, for me, I wished Alydar had changed his leads, especially in that epic Belmont. Oh well. AT any rate, I have learned to love Sham, and I loved your work, Brad. Long live Sham.

    1. Wow...thanks Terri - made my day. Sorry for late reply here. Yes, the Belmont was especially close for Alydar (by a head). He was a beautiful horse too with 10 major wins and a close second in those three very famous classics. I love the story of Seattle Slew too (rags to riches). Thank you for taking the time to write and for the complements Terri. It is so nice to hear from wonderful people from many different places who all love horses and the lifelong memories and thrills they give us. Thanks for recognizing Sham here in your post. Have a great day.

  23. Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute. I have always felt that Sham deserves more credit and respect than he recieved. I also believe that every horse that earns a spot in any triple crown race deserves a lot of credit, given the 23-24000 thoroughbreds that are born each year that want those spots. Sham truly had the heart of a champion. Beautiful horse with a beautiful soul.

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. So wonderful to continue to hear from a world that remembers and loved Sham. You're so right about the Triple Crown races...just to be in one of those races is an amazing feat. Yes...Beautiful horse with a beautiful soul! Thanks for posting.

  24. While watching the 3 legs of the Triple Crown live in 1973 (I was 12 years old),I admired Big Red, but I really had a "horse crush" on Sham. I always wondered what happened to him. My heart is warmed by the fact that many others also loved Sham and will not forget him. Thank you for the lovely tribute.

    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for the nice post. Sham was the kind of horse that was easy to have a "horse crush" on. Since I posted this tribute, about 10,000 people have viewed it so Sham definitely had a loyal following of admirers. Thank you again for sharing some thoughts on Sham and writing such a complimentary note that I truly appreciate.

  25. Loved reading this. Thank you for writing it! I watched that triple crown and while Big Red demanded your attention (he was magnificent), I remember the Belmont best, mostly because I became angry watching Sham run his heart out and the way he was being "played with" by Secretariat. To watch a horse's heart being broken, no, shattered, was just sickening. At 14, I was yelling at the TV for Turcotte (Red's jockey) to stop holding him back. I recognized it for what it was, cruelty. It came as no surprise to me that he never raced again. How a jockey could deliberately break another horse is beyond me.
    As much as I love Secretariat, I always loved Sham, too. Any other year...

    1. Glad you liked it - thanks for your post. Well, something was definitely off with Sham on the day of the Belmont. In addition, maybe he pushed too hard too soon – I can only speculate. The bottom line is that’s racing. We know big red had one heck of a day – the 2:24 time in the Belmont still stands today. A time like that makes a horse a legend. I think Sham ran the races as he was asked to do and then, in part, because of a fracture in his leg spotted sometime after the Belmont, went on to other things in life. Sham did break two previous track records in the Triple Crown races of 1973. The good news is… there can be a chapter after racing. Horses, in my experience, are probably thinking about comfort, food and play! I think being a stud in retirement was a happy place for Sham where his admirers could actually touch their hero and feed him peppermints and bananas. What I would have given though to have even 1/10th of his “heart”. Inspiration knows no bounds.

  26. Anonymous is spot on, I had read somewhere where the POA that day at Belmont was to allow Sham to get ahead early on. Trainer Laurin felt that the full fury of the Superhorse would be ignited once he saw his rival inch ahead. Both of these horses should have been brought to the White House to graze on the front lawn in honor of their historic battles. But no, it was not to be with the Watergate Saga in full rage. Even though Secretariat was bestowed with destiny, and Sham dealt the hand of fate, a NY Ticker Tape Parade should have happened also for the two rivals. Sham gets the Equine Purple Heart for the Kentucky Derby conflagration courtesy of Twice A Prince, who had it handed to him in the Belmont. That 31 length margin is on him, too bad nemesis Angle Light did not run, owners knew a similar fate was waiting.

    I speculate that Sham was already hurt before that race. He was observed to be sweating and nervous, clearly he had lost his confidence and never had a chance with that breakneck pace.

    Much Respect for you fine blog, MD - Ventura CA

    1. Hi MD and thanks for the nice note – you are a good writer who is able to choose words that really convey a picture. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. A good reminder on the perspective at the time of the race and I agree on the honor that could have been bestowed on these two amazing horses for such a historic battle. It really never ceases to amaze me how many people remember the details of this time. Thank you again.

  27. Without Sham, I doubt Secretariat would have run the record times he did. Sham pushed Secretariat to run the way he did. Secretariat would still have been a winner, but not the champion he ended up becoming. As was said, Sham would have been a Triple Crown winner in any other year.Every time I watch the replays of all three races it brings tears to my eyes watching two great horses dueling to the finish line.