Spectacular Bid (KY)

An Eclipse Award winner in each of his three seasons, Spectacular Bid won at 15 different racetracks in nine different states, broke seven track records, had win streaks of 12 and 10, respectively, and was described by his trainer as “the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle.”

Spectacular Bid (Bill Shoemaker up) sets a new world record while winning the 1980 Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita (Bill Mochon/Museum Collection)





Bold Bidder




Promised Land


Mrs. William Jason
Mrs. William Gilmore


Hawksworth Farm


Grover G. "Bud" Delp





Racing Record



Year Starts First Second Third Earnings
Year Sts 1 2 3 $
1978 9 7 1 0 $384484 $384,484
1979 12 10 1 1 $1279333 $1,279,333
1980 9 9 0 0 $1117790 $1,117,790


An Eclipse Award winner in each of his three seasons, Spectacular Bid won at 15 different racetracks in nine different states, broke seven track records, had win streaks of 12 and 10, respectively, and was described by his trainer as “the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle.”

A son of Bold Bidder, Spectacular Bid was purchased for $37,000 by Harry Meyerhoff as a yearling and sent to Hall of Fame trainer Grover “Bud” Delp. He broke his maiden in his career debut on June 30, 1978, at Pimlico and equaled a track record there in his subsequent allowance start. Delp moved quickly to place Spectacular Bid in stakes company. He then finished fourth in the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth and second in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park.

Following the Dover, Spectacular Bid delivered a remarkable performance in winning the World’s Playground Stakes by 15 lengths at Atlantic City, covering the seven furlongs in 1:20⅘. Two weeks later, he defeated General Assembly in the one-mile Champagne Stakes at Belmont, running a near-stakes-record 1:34⅘. Spectacular Bid then added wins in the Young America Stakes, Laurel Futurity (by 8½ lengths) and the Heritage Stakes (by six lengths) to wrap up the Eclipse Award for Champion 2-Year-Old Male with a record of 7-1-0 from nine starts and earnings of $384,484.

Spectacular Bid began his 3-year-old campaign in 1979 with five consecutive wins: the Hutcheson, Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby, Flamingo, and Blue Grass. As the odds-on favorite in the Kentucky Derby, Spectacular Bid was restrained by jockey Ron Franklin in the early stages before moving up on the outside to take the lead on the far turn. He drew clear in the straight and won by 2¾ lengths over General Assembly before a crowd of 125,000.

In the Preakness, Spectacular Bid was bumped early and ran wide before taking command in the stretch to defeat Golden Act by 5½ lengths in 1:54.20, faster than that of Seattle Slew or Affirmed, and by official time faster than Secretariat (though Secretariat’s time in this race was disputed and in 2012 changed to 1:53).

On the morning of the Belmont Stakes, a freak mishap took place — Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin. The pin become embedded in his hoof, later leading to an infection that required the hoof to be drilled to cure the problem. However, after the discovery of the injury, Spectacular Bid did not seem lame and remained in the Belmont. Franklin rode Spectacular Bid aggressively early in the race, and he owned a clear lead entering the stretch, but he began to struggle and was overtaken by Coastal, who challenged along the inside rail. The favorite faded in the closing stages and lost second place to Golden Act near the finish. 

Following the Belmont Stakes, Spectacular Bid took two months off to recover from the injury. He returned with new rider Bill Shoemaker, who rode him through most of the remainder of his career. His first race back was in August in an allowance at Delaware Park. He won by more than 17 lengths and set a new track record for nine furlongs, 1:41.60. Spectacular Bid followed this performance with a win at the Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park, beating both horses he had lost to in the Belmont Stakes, Coastal and Golden Act. He was scheduled to race in the Marlboro against 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, but Affirmed’s owners bowed out of the race in reaction to a 133-pound impost assignment to Affirmed.

Spectacular Bid did meet Affirmed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in October, where he made repeated challenges and finished second to the Triple Crown winner. This was the last race Spectacular Bid lost. He finished the year with one more race, the Meadowlands Cup, again setting a track record at 1¼​ miles, 2:01.20. At the end of the year, he was unanimously voted the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male and was runner-up to Affirmed for Horse of the Year.

As a 4-year-old, Spectacular Bid won all nine of his races and set five track records at distances of seven furlongs, one mile, 1¼ miles, and twice at 1⅛ miles. His first three races were part of the “Strub Series,” at Santa Anita Park. Spectacular Bid carried 126 pounds in each race and defeated Flying Paster each time. The first race in the series was the Grade 2 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs. Spectacular Bid ran the distance in 1:20. He next won the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes before an incredible performance in the Grade 1 Strub Stakes at 1¼ miles, running the fastest time for the distance ever on a dirt track, 1:57.80, and breaking the 30-year-old record of 1:58.20 set by Hall of Famer Noor in 1950.

Spectacular Bid also won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap (carrying 130 pounds) on a sloppy track March 2. Then he moved to Hollywood Park, where he won the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap under 132 pounds and the Grade 1 Californian Stakes, carrying 130 pounds in a track-record time of 1:45.80. He then shipped to Arlington Park to win the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap by 10 lengths under 130 lbs. His time of 1:46.20 for 1⅛ miles broke the track record. Then it was on to Monmouth Park for the Grade 1 Monmouth Handicap, which he won under 132 pounds, defeating champion filly Glorious Song.

Spectacular Bid concluded his career with a walkover in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 20, 1980. A plan to race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was aborted on the day of the race when an injury to the horse's left front ankle flared up. Delp thereafter announced Spectacular Bid's retirement.

Retired with a career record of 26-2-1 from 30 starts, Spectacular Bid’s earnings were a record $2,781,607. He was named Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male in 1980.

Following his last race, Spectacular Bid was syndicated for a then-record $22 million and stood stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, where his initial stud fee was $150,000. He made a promising start to his breeding career, but his later record was disappointing. The quality of mares he attracted fell, and his stud fees steadily declined. Spectacular Bid was eventually sold and moved in 1991 to Milfer Farms in Unadilla, New York, where he lived out the remainder of his years, continuing to attract visits and letters from admirers. He was never pensioned from stud duty, covering 10 mares at a fee of $3,500 in the final year of his life.

Spectacular Bid sired 253 winners, including 47 stakes winners. He died on June 9, 2003, at the age of 27 and was buried at Milfer Farms.


Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Male — 1978
Eclipse Award Champion 3-Year-Old Male — 1979
Eclipse Award Horse of the Year — 1980
Eclipse Award Champion Older Male — 1980

Triple Crown Highlights

Won the Kentucky Derby — 1979
Won the Preakness Stakes — 1979


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