Sham (horse)

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Sire Pretense
Grandsire Endeavour
Dam Seqoia
Damsire Princequillo
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1970
Country USA
Colour Dark Bay
Breeder Claiborne Farm
Owner Claiborne Farm
Sigmund Sommer
Trainer Frank "Pancho" Martin
Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr
Record 13: 5-5-1
Earnings $204,808
Major wins

Santa Catalina Stakes (1973)
Santa Anita Derby (1973)

American Classic Race placing:
Kentucky Derby 2nd (1973)
Preakness Stakes 2nd (1973)
Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park
Last updated on January 22,

Sham (April 9, 1970 – April 3, 1993), an American thoroughbred race horse, was one of the leading racehorses of the 20th century but was overshadowed by his more famous peer, Secretariat. Sham was a dark seal brown in color. While racing, he wore green and yellow blinkers. His preferred running style was that of a closer, stalking from behind to make a late rally.

Sham was a large horse at 16.2hh.[1] He also had a very large heart, about twice the size of the average horse's, according to Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a University of Kentucky veterinary scientist.[1]

Kentucky Derby preparation[edit]

In 1973 at the age of three, Sham won the Santa Catalina Stakes (G2) and took second place in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) beating Secretariat, who finished third. Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, he was easily beaten by Linda's Chief in the San Felipe.

On March 31, 1973, in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), California's primary Kentucky Derby prep race, Sham under jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. scored a 2 ½ length surprise victory over 1-2 favorite Linda's Chief. Sham's winning time equalled the Santa Anita Derby record for the 118 miles of 1:47, set in 1965 by Lucky Debonair. Sham provided Pincay with his third win in the Santa Anita Derby.

1973 Triple Crown chase[edit]

99th running of the Kentucky Derby, May 5, 1973[edit]

Main article: 1973 Kentucky Derby

Before 134,476 fans, the largest crowd to see a horse race in the United States to that date, Sham ripped two teeth out on the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. Although bleeding from the start, Sham finished second behind Secretariat, who came away with a 2 ½ length victory running 1:59 2/5 for the 114 miles, the first horse to break two minutes in the Kentucky Derby. (The previous record was 2:00, set by Northern Dancer in 1964.) When asked about the effect of Sham's start, Laffit Pincay said, "It's difficult to see how he could have run much better than almost 1:59 4/5, and yet, logically, hitting his head on the gate and losing the teeth couldn't have helped him." By running 212 lengths behind Secretariat, Sham ran the distance in either 1:5945 to 2:00 1/5. As races were not timed to 1/100th of a second at the time, and non-winning times were not taken, no exact time is available.

It wasn't until 2001 that another horse won the Derby with a time under two minutes. Monarchos won it in 2001 in an electronically timed 1:59.97, which is by convention converted to 1:5945. No other horse, through the 2015 running of the Kentucky Derby, has ever been below two minutes. Sham's Derby time was thus no worse than the fourth fastest time in history (behind Secretariat, Monarchos, and Northern Dancer), and may have been the second fastest time in history, with the only faster time run by another horse in the same race.

Sham's individual time of 2335s in the closing quarter of the race puts him into company with an elite group of horses that closed under 24 seconds: Whirlaway whose closing time of 2335s stood for 32 years; and Secretariat, who closed it in 23 seconds flat. Whirlaway won the Triple Crown in 1941.

The 98th running of the Preakness Stakes, May 19, 1973[edit]

Main article: 1973 Preakness Stakes

With a Maryland racing record audience of 61,653 looking on, Secretariat defeated Sham for the second time in two weeks in the 98th running of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes. In a field of six horses, Sham finished second to Secretariat by 2-½ lengths again. Before the race, Sham was given only bottled water to drink. Sham's time of 1:53 3/5 is tied for the fifth fastest in Preakness history.

The 105th running of the Belmont Stakes, June 9, 1973[edit]

Main article: 1973 Belmont Stakes

Under orders, Pincay was to keep Sham with Secretariat from the start. Sham was on the outside throughout, which cost an insignificant amount of endurance more than Secretariat on the rail. This strategy worked through the first turn and into the backstretch as Secretariat and Sham led the field and then pulled away by a half-dozen lengths with Sham taking a brief lead at several points. After about half a mile, a third of the way through the race, Secretariat increased his pace and pulled ahead rapidly as Sham began to tire, and fell back. With Pincay easing back to protect the exhausted horse, Sham ultimately finished last as Secretariat pulled away to a win recorded at 31 lengths. The time of 2:24 flat remains a world record for 112 miles on a dirt track.

Stud career[edit]

While Sham did not race again after the Belmont Stakes, he was not retired until July 1973. A hairline fracture of his leg was discovered while he was being prepared to meet Secretariat again at Saratoga, and his racing career officially ended.[2] Sham was first sent to stud duty at Spendthrift Farm and later to Walmac International near Lexington, Kentucky. His progeny included stakes winners Arewehavingfunyet (f), Jaazeiro, and Safe Play, the dam of stakes winner Defensive Play.

Sham died of a heart attack on April 3, 1993, at the age 23. At the necropsy, his heart weighed in at 18 pounds, about twice the size of the average thoroughbred heart. He is buried on the Walmac farm.


  1. ^ a b "Sham: In the Shadow of a Superhorse". California Thoroughbred Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  2. ^ Sham Rocks

External links[edit]