Computer Simulation: Greatest Horse Race of All Time Part 1 History

About the computer simulated horse race that pitted the greatest horses of all time against each other, history of the race.


The announcer's voice droned on in a familiar monotone, as thousands of race fans strained to hear the words:

"They're off! Buckpasser is going to the front, Citation is 2nd . . . Man o' War is 3rd . . ."

But the drumming hooves existed only in the listeners' minds. The horses were illusion. The track that thousands "watched" was deserted.

The race at Gulfstream Park in Florida, which matched the greatest horses of all time, was the product of a computer. It was being broadcast as a promotional gimmick by a Miami radio station, whose call letters stood for "Wonderful Isle of Dreams."

Staged in 1968, radio station WIOD's "Race of the Century" compared the records of the premier runners of our time electronically, in an attempt to answer an age-old question: Which was the greatest horse of all? Was it Man o' War, the fabled "Big Red," who lost only one race in his career? What about Citation, Count Fleet and War Admiral, all winners of the Triple Crown--the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes? How would the computer sort out the incredible histories of such champions as Native Dancer, Kelso, Exterminator, Equipoise? Could any of these animals run last?

The Super Race began when radio station representatives asked a group of sportswriters and broadcasters to pick a field of the greatest horses in American track history. Their concensus:

Horse Owner

Count Fleet Mrs. John D. Hertz

Exterminator W. S. Kilmer

Man O' War Glen Riddle Farm

War Admiral Samuel D. Riddle

Nashua Belair Stud

Citation Calumet Farm

Tom Fool Greentree Stable

Kelso Bohemia Stable

Buckpasser Ogden Phipps

Equipoise H. P. Whitney

Swaps R. C. Ellsworth

Native Dancer A. G. Vanderbilt

A computer at the University of Liverpool in England was used to determine horse-by-horse positions. The criteria fed into the machine emphasized class of competition, weight-carrying ability and the overall records of each horse. Less importance was given to speed records, margins of victory, and total earnings. Digesting all of these facts, the computer printed out the entire race, showing margins between horses at 5-second intervals.

Juggling the qualifications in their own minds, racing experts came up with varying predictions about which champion could not possibly be beaten. Max Hirsch, dean of American trainers, who had seen all 12 horses in action, took Man o' War, with Count Fleet 2nd and Buckpasser 3rd. Louis Feustel, Man o' War's trainer, agreed.

"I'd have to fear Buckpasser a little, and maybe Citation," he said. "But Man o' War was the greatest. Even when he was walking or jogging, he wanted to get there 1st."

"Big Red" set 5 world records as a 3-year-old and lost only one time in his 21-race career. Hirsch always felt that it was because his horse, Donnacona, accidentally blocked the great champion in a 1919 race at Saratoga, allowing Man o' War to be upset by Upset.

Each horse was to carry 126 lbs. for the simulated race, which was to go a mile-and-a-quarter.

Count Fleet got the inside pole position, with jockey Johnny Longden up. Next came Exterminator, with Albert Johnson; Man o' War, Clarence Kummer; War Admiral, Charley Kurtsinger; Nashua, Eddie Arcaro; Citation, Steve Brooks; Tom Fool, Ted Atkinson; Kelso, Ismael Valenzuela; Buckpasser, Braulio Baeza; Equipoise, Sonny Workman; Swaps, Willie Shoemaker; and finally Native Dancer, under Eric Guerin.

The illusory gates clanged open and announcer Joe Tanenbaum began to read the race over the public address system and the radio.

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