2004 Eclipse Horse of the Year/Older Male: Ghostzapper

There was nothing flashy about Ghostzapper's appearance, and nothing flamboyant about his personality. You certainly wouldn't pick him out in a crowd. In the barn, you wouldn't even know he was around, especially considering his favorite pastime is sleeping.

But he did possess a single physical trait that told more about him than beauty and conformation. The Adena Springs homebred son of Awesome Again  was branded at birth with a small, perfectly shaped diamond star on his forehead. In simple terms, that was Ghostzapper--a precious, perfect gem that outshone everything around him.

Once on the racetrack, his demeanor changed dramatically. The sleepy-eyed colt who inhabited trainer Bobby Frankel's barn was now a fiery-eyed competitor who sent speed figures soaring into orbit. Thoro-Graph and the Ragozin Sheets called him the fastest horse ever since the advent of speed figures. The voters called him champion older male and Horse of the Year.

No matter what he was asked to do, he answered in resounding fashion. He had the ability to impersonate any past superstar, while retaining an identity all his own. Put him in a sprint (the 2003 Vosburgh, gr. I) and he turned into Forego, coming from far back with a devastating move around horses and blowing them away in the stretch, winning in blazing time. Or he could stalk his opponents (the 2004 Tom Fool Handicap, gr. II) like a Cigar or Spectacular Bid and run them into the ground anytime he wanted, again winning in blazing time. Put him around two turns for the first time in the slop (the grade III Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap) and he skipped along like a Dr. Fager or Seattle Slew, then turned the race into a procession, winning in blazing time. Put him eyeball to eyeball with a tough opponent running the race of his life (the grade I Woodward Stakes) and he was Affirmed, digging in gamely and refusing to be beaten, winning in, what else, blazing time.

But put him in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) against a deep, star-studded field, and stick him down on the rail, and he became...well, Ghostzapper. For what he accomplished in the 2004 Classic, there is no comparison. In his first-ever attempt at 1 1/4 miles, he rated kindly on the lead, despite being hounded by a classy grade I winner in Roses in May. When it came time to run, boy did he run, closing his final two quarters in :24.06 and :23.64. You just don't see horses running on the lead the whole way close in those kind of fractions. And, oh yes, he won in blazing time, covering the 10 furlongs in 1:59.02, breaking Skip Away's Classic record.

Stronach Stables' Ghostzapper not only broke records and recorded astounding speed figures, he usually did it while attempting something he'd never done before, whether it be coming from last (13 lengths back), stalking the pace, going two turns, running on a sloppy track, running on a muddy track, running a one-turn 1 1/8 miles, setting the pace, or going 1 1/4 miles.

The only question one can possibly have about Ghostzapper is, is there anything he can't do? His exercise rider, Nuno Santos, who also exercised Horse of the Year Azeri and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus , said, "Riding him is better than sex. They're going to have to wait years and years to see another horse like this."

Going into the Classic, Ghostzapper's doubters questioned the competition he'd been running against. So, he goes out there and wins by three lengths, defeating the winners of the grade I Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Breeders' Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Whitney Handicap, Breeders' Cup Distaff, and Stephen Foster Handicap.

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