Skiing at the World Criterium Races

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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.