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Dr. Fager: The World’s Greatest Racehorse?

Last updated: May 10, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

One day, while reminiscing with my son about the legendary racehorses that have graced the tracks. We discussed the likes of Secretariat and Man o’ War when I mentioned Dr. Fager. To my surprise, he had never heard of him and thought I was bringing up a horse from the 1800s.

Despite being the 1968 Horse of the Year, setting a world record for the mile, and uniquely holding four titles in a single year, Dr. Fager has seemingly vanished from public memory. Such an exceptional horse undoubtedly warrants admiration and acclaim.

Motivated by this conversation, I wrote this article to spotlight Dr. Fager’s remarkable legacy and, hopefully, ignite curiosity in readers. Please join me as we delve into the life, achievements, and undeniable greatness of a horse worthy of the title The World’s Greatest Racehorse.

Dr. Fager’s Pedigree

Picture of Dr. Fager's grandsire, Man o War.

Dr. Fager’s pedigree includes some of the most influential sires in thoroughbred history. To find these notable sires, we need to delve deep into his ancestry. His sire was Rough’n Tumble, whose grandsire was the legendary Man o’ War.

Man o’ War was not only an outstanding racehorse but also a highly influential sire. He sired many exceptional racehorses, including the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, and his bloodline continues to impact thoroughbred breeding today.

Dr. Fager’s dam, Aspidistra, traces back to the famous sire Phalaris through her grandsire, the great stallion Sir Gallahad III. Phalaris was a dominant sire in the early 20th century and is the foundation stallion for many of today’s champion bloodlines. His descendants include prominent sires such as Nearco, Nasrullah, and Native Dancer.

By having such notable sires in his pedigree, Dr. Fager inherited exceptional racing genes that contributed to his extraordinary talent, speed, and stamina. This strong lineage was crucial in shaping Dr. Fager into the legendary racehorse he became.

Highlights from his racing career

Impressive victories and dominant performances marked Dr. Fager’s racing career. He started showing his exceptional talent right from the beginning, winning his first race in July 1966 by an astonishing seven lengths. This triumph was just the beginning of a series of remarkable victories.

During his three-year-old season in 1967, Dr. Fager won prestigious races like the Arlington Classic, where he defeated a strong field of competitors and displayed his exceptional speed. Later that year, he added the Hawthorne Gold Cup to his list of accomplishments, solidifying his position as one of the top horses of his generation.

Dr. Fager dominated his four-year-old season with impressive wins in the 1968 Suburban Handicap and the prestigious Whitney Stakes. In both races, he showcased his speed and power, tactical intelligence, and adaptability on the track.

One of Dr. Fager’s most exceptional performances came in the 1968 Washington Park Handicap. In this race, he carried a staggering 134 pounds, the heaviest weight ever assigned to a horse in a mile race. Despite the burden, he managed to win the race with a time of 1:32.8, just 0.7 seconds off the world record he would later set.

Dr. Fager’s victories were often accompanied by impressive times and large winning margins, proving his superiority on the track. His consistent dominance throughout his career and ability to win under challenging conditions made him an unforgettable racehorse and a true testament to his incredible talent.

Picture of horse racing on a muddy track.

Notable rivalries

Dr. Fager and Damascus were two of the most talented racehorses of their time, and their rivalry became one of the most celebrated in horse racing history. Both horses had unique strengths and impressive records, making their confrontations on the track thrilling and highly anticipated.

One of their most memorable clashes took place in the 1967 Woodward Stakes. In this race, Dr. Fager and Damascus faced off against another talented horse, Buckpasser, in what came to be known as the “Race of the Century.” Despite Dr. Fager setting a rapid pace, Damascus demonstrated his exceptional closing speed and won the race by an impressive ten lengths. This victory further intensified the rivalry between Dr. Fager and Damascus.

In 1968, the two rivals met again in the Suburban Handicap. Dr. Fager emerged victorious this time, showcasing his incredible speed and determination. He defeated Damascus by a margin of 6 lengths, demonstrating his ability to adapt and learn from previous encounters.

Their final meeting occurred in the 1968 Aqueduct Stakes, where Dr. Fager, carrying 139 pounds, and Damascus, carrying 130 pounds, battled it out again. Dr. Fager prevailed, winning by 2 ½ lengths and proving himself a formidable competitor.

The rivalry between Dr. Fager and Damascus captivated racing fans and brought excitement to the sport. Their thrilling duels showcased both horses’ remarkable skills and hearts, leaving an indelible mark on horse racing history.

Check out this YouTube video of Dr. Fager’s record-setting mile.

YouTube video

World record achievements

Dr. Fager’s world record-setting performance in 1968 was a remarkable feat that solidified his status as one of the fastest and most talented racehorses in history. This extraordinary accomplishment occurred during the 1968 Arlington Park meeting in the prestigious Washington Park Handicap.

On August 24, 1968, Dr. Fager faced a strong field of competitors, but he was determined to make history. Carrying 134 pounds and guided by jockey Braulio Baeza, Dr. Fager broke quickly from the starting gate and immediately took control of the race. With his powerful strides and exceptional speed, he led the field from start to finish.

As he approached the finish line, the anticipation in the crowd was palpable. When the final time of 1:32.1 flashed on the board, the audience erupted in cheers and applause. Dr. Fager had shattered the previous world record for the mile, which had been set by Swaps in 1955 with a time of 1:33.1. This extraordinary achievement was a testament to his unparalleled speed and talent.

Dr. Fager’s world record for the mile remained unbroken for almost three decades, highlighting the significance and rarity of his accomplishment. The record was finally broken in 1998 by Najran, who completed the mile in 1:32.00. However, Dr. Fager’s incredible feat continues to be remembered and celebrated, showcasing the exceptional talent and speed that made him one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Note: During Dr. Fager’s record-setting mile race, he showcased his exceptional speed and talent by running the fastest quarter-mile split ever seen on a racetrack. Although he wasn’t in the lead at the first quarter-mile, Dr. Fager took control at the half-mile pole. He ran the second quarter in an astonishing 20. 3/5 seconds, setting a new benchmark for speed in horse racing. Truly, he was an incredible horse.

Picture of a turf horse race.

Dr. Fager’s Unique Abilities

One of the most remarkable aspects of Dr. Fager’s racing career was his rare combination of speed and stamina. This unique blend of attributes allowed him to excel in races of various distances, from sprints to longer races.

His powerful strides and swift acceleration enabled him to take command of the race early on. At the same time, his endurance allowed him to maintain a high pace throughout, often pulling away from the competition in the final stretch. In addition, he could win racing over any surface, dirt, mud, or grass.

Racing Tactics and Strategy

Dr. Fager’s racing tactics and strategy also significantly influenced his success. He was known for his versatility on the track, as he could adapt to different racing situations and respond to the tactics employed by his competitors.

Dr. Fager was not just a front-runner; he could also stalk the pace or come from behind when needed. His ability to adjust his running style according to the race conditions and the competition made him a formidable competitor and a difficult horse to beat.

The impact of his trainer, John Nerud

The influence of Dr. Fager’s trainer, John Nerud, cannot be overstated. A seasoned and successful horseman, Nerud understood Dr. Fager’s potential from the beginning and carefully crafted a training regimen to maximize his strengths. Under Nerud’s guidance, he developed into a well-rounded racehorse, honing his tactical intelligence and refining his racing strategy.

Nerud’s expertise and dedication played a crucial role in Dr. Fager’s development as a racehorse, as he knew when to push his charge and when to give him a break. He also carefully selected the races Dr. Fager would enter, ensuring he would face the right competition and be prepared for the challenges ahead.

Dr. Fager’s unique abilities, racing tactics, and the impact of his trainer, John Nerud, combined to create a legendary racehorse that left an indelible mark on the sport and remains a testament to the heights that talent, dedication, and determination can reach.

Picture of Seabiscuit and his trainer.

Comparisons to Other Legendary Racehorses

Dr. Fager is often compared to legendary racehorses like Secretariat, Man o’ War, and Seabiscuit. Each of these horses has left a lasting impact on the sport, with their respective records, racing styles, and accomplishments earning them a place in the annals of horse racing history. These comparisons help to highlight Dr. Fager’s unique strengths and showcase his rightful place among the greatest racehorses of all time.

When comparing Dr. Fager to other legendary racehorses, it’s essential to consider their records, racing styles, and achievements. Secretariat, for example, is known for his remarkable Triple Crown victory in 1973, setting records in each race that still stands today.

Man o’ War, on the other hand, dominated his era, winning 20 of his 21 races and becoming an influential sire. Dr. Fager’s accomplishments include setting the world record for the mile and being the only horse to hold four titles in a single year.

While he didn’t have the opportunity to compete in the Triple Crown races, his impressive achievements and unique combination of speed and stamina set him apart from other racing greats. Dr. Fager’s incredible talent and accomplishments earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of racing greats.

While it’s challenging to rank these legendary horses definitively, Dr. Fager’s contributions to the sport are undeniable. His world record, multiple titles, and consistent dominance on the track make him an exceptional racehorse that will be remembered and admired for generations to come.

YouTube video

Legacy and Influence

Dr. Fager’s success on the racetrack translated into a significant impact on thoroughbred breeding. His strong pedigree, which included influential sires like Man o’ War, Phalaris, and Sir Gallahad III, allowed him to pass on his exceptional racing genes to future generations. As a sire, Dr. Fager produced numerous stakes winners and successful racehorses, cementing his influence on the breed and contributing to the continued success of his bloodline.

Dr. Fager’s remarkable achievements have earned him numerous honors and recognition in horse racing history. In 1968, he was named Horse of the Year, an accolade that signifies the pinnacle of success for a racehorse. He was also inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1971, further solidifying his status as one of the sport’s greatest athletes.

Additionally, Dr. Fager has been commemorated in various ways within the racing community, including the annual running of the Dr. Fager Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a race that pays tribute to his extraordinary career and lasting impact on the sport.


Dr. Fager’s remarkable career as a racehorse showcases his exceptional talent, versatility, and determination. Despite facing stiff competition from legendary horses like Damascus, his unique blend of speed and stamina allowed him to triumph and set a world record for the fastest mile. Dr. Fager earned $1,002,642 with a record of 22: 18-2-1.

His impact on thoroughbred breeding, the numerous honors and recognitions he has received, and the lasting memory of his achievements in the racing community all contribute to a rich legacy that will be cherished for future generations.

Dr. Fager may not be as widely known as some other racing greats, but his extraordinary accomplishments and indelible mark on the sport warrant him being in the conversation for “The World’s Greatest Racehorse.” I hope this article sparks an appreciation for the incredible feats of this remarkable horse and that Dr. Fager’s legacy will continue to inspire awe and admiration in racing enthusiasts.


How did Dr. Fager get his name?

Dr. Fager was named after Dr. Charles Fager, a prominent neurosurgeon who saved the life of the horse’s trainer, John Nerud. After Dr. Fager successfully treated Nerud for a life-threatening brain injury, Nerud named the colt in the doctor’s honor as a gesture of gratitude.

Who was the jockey for Dr. Fager?

Braulio Baeza was the primary jockey for Dr. Fager throughout most of his racing career. Baeza, a talented Panamanian jockey, is considered one of the greatest jockeys in horse racing history. He won numerous prestigious races and rode Dr. Fager to many of his significant victories, including the record-breaking mile race in 1968.