As the long, gray Winter of 1991-1992 began to yield to the renewing light of early Spring, a colt named Arazi conjured visions of Secretariat.


Twenty one years ago, Arazi thrilled the racing world with a devastating winning move in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs under jockey Patrick Valenzuela that is still talked about. I can vividly recall the buzz in the crowd as announcer Tom Durkin reported on Arazi’s explosive move on the backstretch, a back-to-front offensive that made the other thirteen entries look like they were in slow motion.

Arazi had a blueblood pedigree, being by Blushing Groom and out of the Northern Dancer mare Danseur Fabuleux. (The well-bred dam, however, had a poor race record, winless in thirteen tries, with $25, 353 in earnings.)

Bred by Ralph Wilson, then as now the owner of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, Arazi was sold as a weanling in 1989 at Keeneland for $350,000. The buyer was Allen Paulson, who founded Gulfstream American Corporation (jets). Prior to the 1991 Breeders’ Cup, Paulson sold 50% of Arazi to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai for $9 million.

Arazi came to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off six wins from seven starts in Europe, and went off as the slight favorite over Bertrando—in spite of the fact that, previously, no European runner had won a Breeders’ Cup race on dirt.

No sooner than Arazi had completed his conquest of some of the best two-year-olds in the world than the speculation and anticipation began about his return to Churchill Downs in six months for the Kentucky Derby, followed perhaps by the English Derby a month later.

Arazi was named European and American 2-year-old colt of the year and also as the European horse of the year.

Soon after the Breeders’ Cup, Arazi was operated on for removal of bone chips in both knees. His trainer, the legendary Francois Boutin, was reportedly opposed to the operation.

Arazi returned to the 1992 Kentucky Derby off a one-mile prep on the turf. Despite the obviously inadequate preparation for a grueling 1 ¼ mile dirt race, Arazi was viewed by many to be such a super horse that he would overcome the odds against him.

In an eighteen-horse Derby field, Arazi briefly looked like he would repeat his sensational move in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. After coming from the back of the pack to reach third place at the top of the stretch, Arazi faded to finish in eighth place. (The other disappointment was that the magnificent A. P. Indy was scratched from the Derby on the morning of the race.)

Arazi continued to race after the Derby, winning a Group II event in Europe and then culminating his career with a disappointing eleventh place finish in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Mile. The colt was retired with a stellar record of 9 wins, 1 second, and a third from 14 starts and earnings of $1,213,307.

Had Arazi been retired, owing to bone chips, after his 1991 Breeders’ Cup performance, he would to this day and beyond be hailed as possibly one of the best racehorses in history. To what extent Arazi’s regression as a three-year-old was due to the operation on his knees is, of course, impossible to know.

Arazi’s performance under the Twin Spires in the Autumn of 1991 was scintillating and would receive a lot of fan votes as the most thrilling in Breeders’ Cup history.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business


  1. Mickey Green says

    I remember this race well. It was incredible! Arazi could have been the greatest. But young Racehorses with injuries very rarely come back as good.
    Slip Anchor won the Epsom Derby in 1985 . He destroyed the field, leading from start to finish over 12 furlongs, and running away from them in the straight. Steve Cauthen said he was the best horse he had ever ridden.
    The horse then sustained an injury and was never the same.
    Best to remember them for their ” super ” performance.

  2. Solon Lechonitis says

    Just read this very interesting article.I believe Arazi will remain one of the Greatest Champions of the century.Maybe without his injury he would have remained unbeatable.

  3. Elwyn Richards says

    There are no superlatives that can do justice to describe Arazi’s performance in the 1991 Breeders Cup Juvenile. I have been involved in horse racing since 1961 and I can say without any exaggeration that Arazi’s was the greatest performance I have ever witnessed by a thoroughbred on any racecourse anywhere in the world.

  4. Meh, Arazi was overrated. Just another example of why people shouldn’t fool themselves praising a horse until its form is proven. A handful of races at 2? Blah. Prove it at 3 and preferably also older.

  5. I watched Arazi – clearly a brilliant horse at 2 we will never know how brilliant he might have been at three. Maybe the knee operation took its toll

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